How do you become a better football player? By working often and hard on various football exercises, of course!
But how do you know exactly which type of exercise to focus on? Many coaches struggle with this as they see their young players sometimes seemingly unlearning things they’ve done before.
The problem here is usually a somewhat flawed understanding of what soccer practice and soccer skills are from coaches and players alike. Although the terms are closely related, they are not the same. Simply put, the exercise you are working on maybe too complex to have any real effect on the subcomponent skills involved.
Classifying the different aspects of football training in a training framework is a useful starting point for solving the problem.
A wide classification of football skills
In very general terms, the art of playing football could be reduced to:
- Technical skills such as passing, dribbling, shooting, etc.
- Physical fitness, speed, endurance, injury prevention, etc.
- Football vision training includes understanding what’s going on and developing an “eye for the game.”
Especially in youth football, the emphasis should, of course, be on the former aspect. The world-renowned Cover coaching method portrays this fundamental aspect of football training as a pyramid.
From the bottom of the pyramid, they include:
- Ball control
- Receive and pass on
- Movements (one on one)
- group attack
This is a very useful approach, moving from practicing skills at an individual level to gradually involving more and more players. It’s also a very good infographic as it clearly shows how ball control is the foundation of everything. And it’s a natural way to work on both the second and third aspects of football simultaneously.
However, a football training framework can be broken down into even smaller sub-components.
Literally, everything is a separate skill
If you take only a small part of the Carver coaching pyramid from above, say bypassing, many smaller skills can be learned and practiced.
Are you going to make a simple step on the ground with the inside of your foot? A slightly lobed pass across the field? A cross in the penalty area from the wing position?
Each type of pass requires you to approach the ball and hit it a very specific way. And any footballer will learn how to do it much faster if they get a real and good lesson on how to do it – rather than expecting them to eventually pick it up by doing more complex drills with passes.
Even the most basic inside-foot pass can be broken down into properly learning where to place your supporting leg, exactly which part of your foot hits was on the ball, continuing with your kicking leg, etc.
This may sound ridiculously easy to experienced footballers. But for beginners (sometimes even adults!), it’s far from obvious. Many new footballers run into the ball more or less, as if that would make it go where they wanted.
And here’s the kicker: even moderately advanced players can have aspects of the game where they’ve never really progressed far above the beginner level. For one player, it could be heading, for another shooting with their weaker foot.
What’s the point of all this?
Any other part of football training can be broken down into smaller elements in the same way. For example, your soccer fitness training schedule can be broken down into (in no particular order): injury prevention, coordination, speed and strength, soccer-specific training, nutrition and wellness, and so on.
In my experience, thinking about football training and football drills in the above way is not just of the theoretical value.
Quite the opposite.
Having a clear roadmap of what you’re doing and where you’re going can be hugely helpful to you, both as a player and a coach.