By Justin Cresser Author of Total Soccer Conditioning: A Ball Orientated Approach
In last week’s article we spoke about the importance of developing foot speed and coordination in our players. We highlighted the need for these qualities by wing backs for example, who need to be able to jockey and defend fast wingers in 1 v 1 situations. Fast and coordinated footwork are also necessary for attacking players trying to dribble their way past one or two defenders, or for goalkeepers that constantly have to move across the face of the goal as the ball is passed around inside their penalty box.
Last week we presented a basic footwork exercise that can be used earlier in the season or by younger players that are being introduced to this type of training for the first time. However, as your players advance into the season or become comfortable with the basic exercises, it is important that you progress to more complex footwork exercises to continuously challenge and develop your players. The following is a more advanced footwork exercise that you can use:
Set-up and Directions: Divide your players into pairs. For each group, set up four small cones so that they make a diamond shape. The length of each side of the diamond must be 1.5 yards. Have a player stand on one leg in the centre of the diamond facing their partner who is standing 2 yards away from the top cone. The player on the outside should have a ball in their hands (Figure 1).
When ready, instruct the player standing on one leg to hop to the top cone and then back to the centre (Figures 2 and 3), hop to the cone on the right and then back to the centre, and then continue this process until they have hopped to all four cones and back.
As soon as they have completed the final hop, they must immediately return a ball tossed to them from their partner using a jumping header (Figure 4).
Have the player complete 4 repetitions (1 set) and then switch roles with their partner. However, have the player switch the hopping leg after each repetition. Each player should complete 3 to 4 sets.
This exercise is meant for developing foot speed and coordination, so instruct the player to perform the sequence as quickly as possible. They should focus on short ground-contact times. It is also important for the players to maintain good posture while jumping and use the arms for balance.
You can progress this exercise by switching from a diamond shape to a hexagon. This can be done by simply adding 2 cones as shown in Figure 5 below. The player now has to hop in 6 different directions before performing the jumping header. As before, the emphasis is to perform the sequence as quickly as possible by focusing on short ground-contact times.
Best of luck,
Justin Cresser has coached soccer at various levels both in North America and abroad (Hong Kong and Africa). He is currently the Assistant Technical Director at the Soccer Club of Toronto. He has his Advanced National Diploma from the NSCAA and is also a certified strength and conditioning coach. You can check out Justin's best-selling books here.