Integrating Ball Control with Acceleration, Agility and Repeated Sprint Ability

By Justin Cresser

During the competitive season, the main conditioning goal is maintenance of fitness levels established in the pre- and off-seasons. With technical and tactical exercises a top priority, it can sometimes be difficult to include activities for all the different fitness components.

I like to include the following (and similar) exercises in my in-season training program, as it focuses on starting speed, acceleration, agility as well as repeated sprint ability; and also incorporates ball control.

Divide your players into groups of 4 and set up the following station for each group. Place 2 small cones 2 yards apart, and have one player stand with a ball in their hands (player 1) behind a cone, and the other three players (player 2 – 4) stand behind the other cone (Figure 1).

Set up 3 larger cones (A, B & C) 7 yards behind the cone where player 1 is standing. These 3 cones should be 2 yards apart and the middle cone (B) should be offset by 2 yards. Place a 4th large cone (D) 7 to 10 yards from Cone C (Figure 1).

The sequence starts with player 1 tossing a ball to player 2, who returns it with a side-footed volley using the right leg. Player 1 tosses the ball to player 2 a second time who again returns it again with a side-footed volley, this time using the left leg. This is repeated once. (So a total of 4 passes are completed)

As soon as the 4 passes are completed, player 1 turns and runs towards cone A (Figure 3) where they cut and side shuffle right towards cone B. At cone B they cut again and side shuffle left towards cone C. As soon as they reach cone C they accelerate and sprint towards cone D (Figure 4). Once player 1 reaches cone D, they must quickly job back and join the end of the line.

As soon as player 1 runs towards cone A, player 2 takes the position of player 1 and player 3 takes the position of player 2. This cycle continues for 3 minutes. Rest for 3 minutes and then complete 3 or 4 more cycles (resting for 3 minutes after every cycle) for a total of about 20 to 25 minutes.

You should also switch the technical element after every 3-minute sequence. Consider doing i) volleys with the laces/instep; ii) control with the chest then volley; and iii) control with the thigh then volley.

Coaching Points:

  • Players should be on their toes when passing. A soft first touch or volley is essential
  • When cutting (cones A, B) they should push off forcefully with the outside leg
  • When side shuffling, the feet are not allowed to cross each other, and the players should take small quick steps
  • Players must accelerate quickly at cone C using short, explosive steps. They should also keep the centre of gravity low and lean forwards slightly

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.

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