Today's article is by Justin Cresser.
Balance training should be a fundamental part of a soccer conditioning program, but it is a component of conditioning that is frequently neglected by coaches. Developing good balance is essential for soccer players as it improves co-ordination and body awareness that is required in many game situations such as changing direction quickly or receiving passes under pressure. Balance training is also very important in the prevention of injuries. Think of the many instances where a player lands awkwardly after jumping to make a header or after a poor challenge. Having good control of the body lessens the chances of a player getting hurt.
One good thing about balance training is that you don't need to do many exercises to get a beneficial effect. Doing a few sets of just one or two exercises at the start of your conditioning or regular training session will be sufficient. Consider doing the following simple exercise at your next practice to improve your player's dynamic balance.
You can progress this exercise by having the player hop laterally instead of just upwards, or by increasing the distance between the two so that a more forceful header is required.
The technical component of the exercise can also be varied.
Justin Cresser - Has coached soccer at various levels both in North America and abroad (Hong Kong and Africa). His most recent position was as the Assistant Technical Director at the Soccer Club of Toronto. He has his National Diploma from the NSCAA and is also a certified strength and conditioning coach.