Soccer is one of the world’s most popular sports — and one of the most physically demanding. This makes conditioning a key to excelling, whether you’re simply enjoying an afternoon pickup game with friends in the park or training for the FIFA World Cup.
“The sport requires a nice mix of speed, aerobic fitness, agility, coordination, and power,” says Scott Moody, founder and owner of SoccerFIT Academy in Overland Park, Kan., and creator of the RISE Elite Soccer app.
“Recreational sports that challenge our balance, agility, power, coordination, and fitness in a fun and competitive environment allow us to maintain strong physical confidence and lead to a more active and energetic lifestyle.”
If you’ve tried to jump into a match without baseline training or an extended dynamic warm-up, you’ve likely faced the consequences in the following days. Soreness in the lower body and feet, as well as shin splints, strained muscles, and other injuries, are common among weekend warriors, says Brandon Busbee, Life Time Sport’s national soccer manager.
Players often suffer when they focus on skill development and endurance training at the expense of other fitness components. Skidmore College women’s soccer coach Lacey Largeteau and Wellesley College soccer coach Missy Price, PhD, recommend that seasoned pros and recreational players alike include strength, speed, agility, and power drills in their training.
Building strength, agility, and power not only improves performance but also prevents injury and speeds recovery, explains Price. That can turn this hard-charging competitive sport into a fun, lifelong activity.
Try these tips and drills to improve your soccer game — and to experience the physical, mental, and social benefits that extend beyond the field.