The key to athletic prowess is being quicker than your opponent. They might have a strong defensive set-up that is challenging to penetrate, but if your foot speed and agility is better than theirs, it’s only a matter of time before you pierce their defenses. This is true of all sports, whether it’s basketball, baseball, soccer, or hockey. For the purposes of this blog post we will focus on soccer, one of the most popular recreational youth sports in the country.
Foot Speed Starts with Strength Training
Explaining this to children will probably take some time. Sure they want to win, but do they want to put the extra work in to have that extra physical edge? Perhaps not.
That’s why it’s always best to begin with strength training or endurance activities. Things like group jogging sessions or a trip to the local cross-fit gym will inspire the kids to pay more attention to their own physical health.
Once you have the general fitness levels up to your standard, it’s time to get specific.
Here are 4 drills to choose from that will improve the foot speed of your soccer team:
1. The Slalom
This is a fun and challenging drill to try. All you need is a five orange cones and a at least two soccer balls.
Take the five orange cones and separate them by 8-10 yards or so. You want to put them in a diagonal formation going forward to make it challenging for the players to dribble through them all.
Make a start and a finish line, and let the slalom begin. Standard is five reps and two sets.
One side note: to increase the pressure, start timing the runs of each player. Then remind them of that time as they are going through to inspire them to do better.
2. The Crossover
An athlete’s foot speed is tied directly to the strength of their calves and hips. In this drill, called the crossover, you will focus their energy on strengthening the hip muscles. Doing the crossover is a pretty standard move on the pitch – but the players that can do it seamlessly will have a great advantage.
Line the players up facing you, the coach. When you shout go, the children should run forward will performing the crossover. Their upper body should not move, only their hips and legs. They will only change direction when you clap your hands. Finally, when you shout “turn and go” they are to sprint back to starting position. Perform this drill in two sets of three reps.
3. The Shuttle
This next one is quite straightforward. Have the children from a single line at the designated cone. Place five soccer balls 10 years away from the cone. The player must run out and dribble all five soccer balls back across the line as fast as possible.
Perform this drill three times in a row for each player.
4. The T-Drill
The T-Drill is all about endurance and quick feet. Sure some players may be quick out of the starting gate, but can they maintain the same level for most of the game? Probably not.
In the T-Drill, take four cones and position three cones in a line, roughly five yards between each cone. Take the fourth cone and place it 10 yards in front, thus making a t-shape. Have the player start at the first cone and sprint to the middle cone before shuffling to the right, shuffling all the way to the left, and then sprinting back to the starting point.
Foot Speed Takes Time, Not Extra Effort
As a coach, you have to know just how much strength and endurance training will be beneficial for your team. But gaining fitness and building foot speed is an incremental process that requires building blocks along the way to success – especially at the rec league level. Incorporate one of these four drills each training session but don’t overdo it just because you want them to have quick feet overnight!