Soccer depends on agility, strength, quickness, flexibility and, most of all, in this nonstop game of 90 minutes or more, endurance. You need to be able to run six or more miles, sprinting, jogging and sometimes going backwards at full speed if you are a defender. Endurance will enable you to keep your focus, your jumping ability and the capacity for bursts of speed on the dribble. Endurance exercises that mimic game conditions offer the best preparation.
Working on anaerobic endurance pays off in sprints, jumps and contested balls during an actual game. Set out five cones on the yard lines of the 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50, or 10 yards apart in a straight line. Start at cone 1, jog to cone 4 and sprint to cone 5. Turn around and jog to cone 3 and spring to cone 1. Jog to cone 2 and sprint to cone 5. Turn immediately and sprint to cone 1. After resting for a minute, repeat three to five times. After the first set, complete two to three more sets.
During the season, players get plenty of aerobic conditioning from running during practices and games. In the off-season, run up to 30 minutes a day or participate in swimming, basketball or recreational soccer, recommend Siegfried Schmid and Robert Alejo in “Complete Conditioning for Soccer.” Or employ a treadmill or StairMaster, aiming for 20 to 40 minutes of uninterrupted movement at a heart rate between 60 and 80 percent of maximum.
Tight Space Dribbling
After warming up and before undertaking tougher drills, try tight space dribbling to work on endurance and ball skills simultaneously. Place cones to mark a space of 20 square yards. Try turns, fakes and tricks, changing direction constantly and randomly. Decrease the size of the area after one minute. Repeat for five or six intervals with a 20- to 30-second break in-between.
Set up a line of six cones spaced 2 yards apart, recommends soccer coach Joseph A. Luxbacher, author of “Soccer: Steps to Success.” Enlist a teammate as your partner. Dribble in and out of the cones until you reach the last one and return to the start. Closely control the ball and go as quickly as you can. Let your partner do the slalom dribble and rest. Repeat 20 times each. For a tougher workout that will really test your endurance, place the cones a yard apart or in a random pattern. For an easier workout, increase the distance between cones or use fewer cones.