Is working hard the best way to get in shape?
There is a lot of talk by coaches about working hard. The thought is the harder you work the better shape you will be in. The problem with this is when you have a long season or you have a short season with a lot of games in a short period of time players will get worn down by lot of hard work.
Instead, it’s best to think of how to create your fittest team in the least amount of work. This might mean instead of a 2 hour practice of hard work trying to go with 1 hour of extremely high intensity. Instead of 5 minute small sided games look to 30 second periods of extremely high pressure. This works best with a team that starts off in shape and this allows the team to maintain their shape without physically wearing down.
An example of a high intensity game working in 30 second periods can be seen below.
Start with a 60 x 40 field with full sized goals and a keeper in each goal. Two players start on the end line nearest the goal they are defending for each and a player from each team starts on the side line at midfield.
Each keeper starts with a ball at their feet. The two players at midfield start by sprinting toward the center of the field.
The coach calls out a color and that team starts with the ball. The player from midfield would check back to the ball and the keeper plays the ball into that player. The other 4 players join on.
At this point, the game is live and both teams are trying to score and defend. The “game” lasts for 30 seconds so there is an incentive to try to get to goal quickly, defend hard and when possession is lost, transition quickly.
When the 30 seconds is over, those 6 players leave the field and the next 6 start up in the same positions. This activity works best when there are 3 sets for each team so players work hard for 30 seconds and then rest for 60 seconds and then back again for 30 seconds.
Players should be encouraged to work at full speed and then when their time is up, get back to their spots quickly and then rest.
There are many variations to this type of activity and to see some of the variations and the build up to this check out the DVD, Soccer Condition With a Ball.