Soccer: Functional Fitness Training - Harry Dost - ebook

Soccer: Functional Fitness Training ebook

Harry Dost



The world's best soccer players are incredibly fit, fast, lean, and strong. Achieving this level of athleticism requires a rigorous soccer fitness training program applying the most effective drills, exercises, and core training methods. In Soccer: Functional Fitness Training, the authors present numerous drills for this training. Based on the latest the findings in sports science and on the authors' long-term coaching experience, they present an extensive practical guide to help you improve your team's performance through core training, soccer specific exercises, and drills. The exercises can be used for amateurs and professional players, youth and adults alike. Your players can learn how to score the most exciting and acrobatic goals, how to tackle without fouling, and how to avoid injuries. The drills in the book create typical match situations to help your team prepare for the game and stay motivated. Many of the fitness exercises require no extra equipment and rely only on bodyweight, thus targeting many different muscles at once. The book is easy to use on the pitch and the ideal tool to turn youth players into the next Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, or Bastian Schweinsteiger.

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Harry Dost / Peter Hyballa / Hans-Dieter te Poel

Soccer: Functional Fitness Training

Strength | Motor Skills | Speed | Endurance

Meyer & Meyer Fachverlag & Buchhandel GmbH


DISCLAIMERACKNOWLEDGMENTSPREFACEINTRODUCTION1 VERSALITY AS THE FOUNDATION FOR AN ASPIRING TOP SOCCER PLAYER2 FROM 0 TO 60! CREATING FOUNDATIONS TO GET TO THE TOP3 WHAT ARE COORDINATION ABILITIES AND VERSATILITY IN SOCCER?4 WHICH FACTORS INFLUENCE COORDINATION ABILITIES IN SOCCER?5 TALENT SUPPORT AS MISSION AND GOAL OF YOUTH DEVELOPMENT IN SOCCER6 YOUTH TRAINING – VERSATILE, DEVELOPMENTAL, AND VARIED7 DO SOCCER FITNESS AND SOCCER PLAYING HAVE TO BE SEPARATE?8 FROM SOFT SKILLS TO TRAINING DIFFERENT AGE GROUPS9 Running, jumping, and throwing – A soccer player’s basic motor abilities9.1 Forms of introducing a training unit9.2 Categories of warm-up or cool-down games9.2.1 Specifying the running lane – Catching games9.2.2 Forms of teamwork – Catching games9.2.3 Skillfully overcoming obstacles – Catching games10 RUNNING GAMES WITHOUT A BALL10.1 Chasing games10.2 Change of location10.3 Bases10.4 Rollercoaster10.5 Speed train10.6 Paintball10.7 Mimicry10.8 Super sprint10.9 Soccer quiz10.10 The mission10.11 Speed king10.12 Orbit10.13 The clock is running11 RUNNING GAMES WITH A BALL12 LITTLE RUNNING SCHOOL FOR SOCCER PLAYERS13 JUMPING GAMES FOR SOCCER PLAYERS14 JUMPING EXERCISES FOR SOCCER PLAYERS14.1 Jumping exercises without aids into open space14.2 Jumping exercises with gymnastics hoops14.3 Jumping exercises with ropes and poles14.4 Jumping exercises with mini hurdles15 WHY SHOULD SOCCER PLAYERS TURN TO THROWING GAMES?16 STRENGTH AND ATHLETIC TRAINING IN YOUTH SOCCER16.1 Athletic training in game form16.2 Training strength and balance16.2.1 Individual strength and balance training16.2.2 Partner strength and balance training16.2.3 Three-man strength and balance training16.2.4 Individual athletic training with an “all-rounder” medicine ball16.2.5 Partner athletic training with an “all-rounder” medicine ball16.2.6 Individual athletic training with a kettlebell16.2.7 Individual athletic training throughsling training16.2.8 Individual athletic training throughcore exercises and mobility training16.3 A different approach to fair tackling and whole-body training in soccer17 Coordination and speed training for soccer players – From multitasking strategy to battle training17.1 Systematic coordination training for soccer players17.2 Sport-specific coordination training – The ABCs of running17.3 Sport-specific coordination training for soccer players17.4 Acquiring a soccer-specific running technique17.5 Four-week coordination and speed training without a ball17.6 Examples of specialized coordination training17.7 Battle forms – Supplemental technical-coordinatedtraining with spirit17.8 Specialized training content and methods – What else works?18 SOCCER FITNESS TODAY –HIIT BLOCKS, HIT PROGRAM, OR EMPHASIS ON INTERMITTENT LOADING?19 EXAMPLES OF SOCCER FITNESS TRAINING DRILLS IN THE CONTEXT OF PERIODIZATION TAKEN FROM MEN’S BUNDESLIGA SOCCER20 CLOSING REMARKSAPPENDIXREFERENCESCREDITS


The contents of this book were carefully researched. However, all information is supplied without liability. Neither the author nor the publisher will be liable for possible disadvantages or damages resulting from this book.


A huge thank-you to the many coaches and especially the experts Hans Meyer, Fred Rutten, and Erik ten Hag (all with FC Twente). Their needs and many questions helped me optimize the fitness requirements of the players entrusted to me in terms of professional soccer. The teamwork with Hans-Dieter and Peter was more than excellent. Harteliijk, thank you!

–Harry Dost

I would like to dedicate this book particularly to my supporters and companions Dr. J. Eulering (North Rhine-Westphalia/LSBNRW), Dr. K. Paul (Hesse), Dr. R. Naul (Essen- Duisburg/Münster), Dr. A. Neumaier (DSHS Cologne/Bochum), Dr. W. Kuhn (DSHS Cologne/Berlin), Dr. D. Teipel (DHS Cologne/Jena), Dr. St. Starischka (Dortmund), Dr. M. Grosser (Munich), R. Fuchs (Munich), Paul Wagner (Olympic base camp Rhein-Ruhr), R. Herings (1.FC Cologne), K.H. Drygalsky (Borussia Mönchengladbach), the colleagues at the state training centers in Straelen and Essen and the national training center in Dortmund, former coaches, all of the German-Dutch coaches, and the German Sports University Cologne. A heartfelt thank-you to my friends and superb experts and human beings: my colleagues Harry, Peter, and Eduard. The teamwork was simply outstanding: “Here is to an even better (human) sport!”

–Hans-Dieter te Poel

I dedicate this book to all German-Dutch soccer coaches, and a great big thankyou to my two top-coaching colleagues, Hans-Dieter and Harry, for the awesome and interesting collaboration!

–Peter Hyballa

Assisted by Eduard Feldbusch

(Sport and Performance Science major at the German Sports University Cologne; [email protected])


Many textbooks have been written about soccer. It is common knowledge that the game has changed tremendously in recent decades. It has become faster;tackling has become tougher; and physical demands have increased significantly. This also brings into question the traditional schools of thought.

When should youth training begin, and what should an approach that is developmental, sports-scientific, and soccer-specific look like? This book tries to provide answers to these questions.

In doing so, the authors place special emphasis on the coupling of existing textbook knowledge and current international research literature that is based on soccer-specific issues. Nowadays, it is no longer enough to advocate the age-old soccer wisdoms of “it matters on the field” or “the round must go into the square.”

Anyone expecting “recipes” in this book will be disappointed. That expectation is unrealistic at a time when the peak of performance in soccer, too, is determined by the top 3 to 5 % of all fitness-related, technical–tactical, and mental abilities.

On the contrary, today, and in the future, an active, interested, and engaged reader with known and solid findings in the light of new scientific research results is absolutely essential.

This book offers a very good foundation.

I hope all of the readers will not only enjoy reading this book, but also feel motivated to try out and further develop its suggestions.

–Dr. Holger Broich

Director of Health and Fitness, FC Bayern Munich

Munich, Germany, March 2015


"Yes. There are more objectives after winning the title, whereby I have always evaluated my work and myself independent of any titles. …How is world soccer evolving and where do we want to be in 2016? How do we want our team to play?” (DFB national team coach, Joachim Löw, quoted in kicker, 104, p. 13, December 22, 2014)

Young soccer players, coaches, and instructors often ask when they should introduce physical training in their soccer instruction, how to integrate fitness or athletic training into soccer training, and which types of drills and games to use as a basis for training. Due to frequently limited training volume yet high competitive workload and demands, particularly in amateur soccer, there is the additional issue ofplanned and organized fitness or athletic training usually not starting until players have moved up to the men’s or women’s leagues. In addition, with the start of puberty, ambitious youth and men and women players often do individual at home or fitness facility training that is rarely coordinated or discussed with the team coach with respect to content and methodology. Often well-intended individual measures result in a conglomeration of training loads that are, in part, contrary to the intentions of modern soccer training and have not been correlated with a soccer player’s demand profile.

Building too much muscle mass accompanied by decreased flexibility (also in the area of technical motor skills), decreased endurance, and higher frequency of injuries are just a few of the ascertainable negative side effects.

When asked about the previous topics, the authors always issue the following statement:

Physical training begins with youth players, and training of fitness-related performance factors in soccer differs from adult training in quantity and quality.

But what is physical training in the sense of modern fitness or athletic training in soccer?

The subject discipline generally defines a player’s physical performance capacity as the fitness-related performance factors endurance, strength, speed, and agility (Weineck, 2004, p. 11). Since agility is not only correlative to endurance ability, but also impacts particularly coordination and technique (here with respect to an optimally dynamic spatial–temporal execution), the authors will also address optimal coordination training in soccer in subsequent chapters (see chapters 3, 4, and 17; compare Weineck, Memmert, and Uhin, 2012). We, thereby, also follow the current curricula and study regulations for the sports discipline, which is giving the area of coordination and technique increasingly more room for theoretical contemplation and practical implementation during classes and in courses.

The authors chose a structure that applies to the well-known image of the hardware store, i.e. the reader may arrange his materials as required for his team. He has free choice. Since there is no general theory for soccer functional fitness training, at some points the authors deliberately offer theoretical set pieces to the reader. However, those were all carefully researched from primary sources from Germany and abroad and highlighted in the text passages concerned. In this way, our standards for scientific work shall be maintained in the whole book.

Photo 1: Game-like development of trunk stability

Because, without an adequately developed coordinationfoundation, we soccer players have trouble with the ball. We want to be boss on the ball!

Furthermore, in this book, the authors focus on the basicforms of movement, the skills. This generally includes instruction in athletic movement in the form of running, skipping, and throwing (compare chapters 9-15). Elements of strength training that are completed in almost game-like form on the practice field are covered in chapter 16.

Once soccer performance increases during training and in competition, more specific training methods are introduced more frequently to raise the soccer player’s performance level. Because, in general, top soccer players like Cristiano Ronaldo are characterized by their extremely high athletic performance capacity. That is why general and specific strength training (with a view to elite soccer) takes on an important role in soccer instruction overall.

Some authors differentiate between the terms strength training and athletic training (Wirth et al., 2012, p. 33-39). When following this differentiation, and the authors wish to do so here, general strength training with medium and high loading intensities targets the development of maximum and explosive strength in the weight room. Athletic training uses a number of drills and types of games for the purpose of developing high-quality jumps, throws, and sprints. This is meant to help facilitate the transfer of the increased strength to the target movements in soccer (compare to Wirth et al., 2012, p. 39).

Therefore, athletic training should occupy a hinge function between strength abilities and target movements by means of quick movements and low resistance at the highest technical level.[1] It is geared toward the adequate adaptation of the player’s functional system and follows the specific adaptation to imposed demand principle, also referred to as SAID principle, which, from a biological and sports scientific perspective, is beyond dispute (compare in particular Gambetta, 2007; Steinhöfer, 2008; and Issurin, 2013).

To continue to captivate youth players during long-term performance development strength training, in particular, that does not have a playful character and in the mid- and long-term requires a high degree of behavior control by all involved and should be constantly modified, presented, and implemented in an attractive manner. This presupposes creativity and inventiveness from coaches and instructors. This book is meant to inspire the same—a matter of great concern to the authors. The theoretical reference framework is chosen and presented in such a way as to refer to already existing findings using literary references. The authors hereby make room for the detailed, precise, and pictorial representation of the content of individual chapters that can then be put intopractice individually, group, and teamspecifically on the practice field. The authors provide additional suggestions for in-depth analyses and interpretation through corresponding literary references (see the references).

Anyone who works on his physical deficiencies without overdoing it will become a better player. The chain is as strong as its weakest link! However, this trite insight elucidates that a soccer player’s weaknesses will surface, at the latest during competition. In chapters 9 through 20, the reader can find specific suggestions on how to eliminate them. At the same time, these practical suggestions are not “recipes.” Coaches, instructors, and players should always consider their institutional parameters, didactic and methodological prior knowledge, athletic objectives, and, especially in youth soccer, their social and educational intentions and use the presented drills and types of play accordingly.

"That is why I do a lot outside of practice as well. I go to the weight room or stay on the field longer. Players are getting younger and fitter. In the past we could solve problems visually. That is no longer possible today. To keep up at this high level you have to train intensively. But I feel good doing it." (Nelson Valdez, age 31, forward at Eintracht Frankfurt, in a kicker interview from February 23, 2015, 18, p. 78)

Photo 2: Absolute concentration in the battle for the ball


Germany is the 2014 World Champion:

"Mario Götze directs the rather horizontal trajectory of the ball forward into his running path with his slightly to the left facing chest, and after an intuitive right-left-right combination and a long step he slams the ball into the far corner with a left kick off the laces, next to the inside of the post, with centimeter precision." (Karlheinz Wild, in kicker, November 3, 2014, 90, p. 8)

Mario Götze scores against Hamburg SV

Photo 3: Friends playing together

Working versatilely with potential future top soccer players, especially in general and special instruction, is in many ways fascinating to dedicated coaches and instructors. Versatile people, in this case the coaches, instructors, and players, are open to just about anything and often impress their fellow human beings with their ability to effectively perceive and judge a situation, their ability to adapt to a situation appropriately and to quickly read a situation, and to act unexpectedly.

Addressing, refining, and developing these performance requirements in soccer to an individual’s optimal potential represents a major challenge for the authors.

The awareness of this great responsibility plays an important role in today’s modern soccer, which in recent years has rapidly evolved, particularly in the main areas of motor fitness: speed, coordination, strength, and endurance, even using different terminology:

“Soccer is a team sport, but in effect one must train like an individual sport. Tactics, technique, everything that happens on the field, happens within a team framework, but anything that happens before and after with respect to endurance, strength, speed, flexibility should be structured as individually as possible. Of course that is a major effort.” (Broich, July 8, 2013)[2]

Fig. 1: Should the coach and instructor wake “sleeping dogs?”

In this context the term versatility represents a performance component to be accessed that is substantiated in professional literature as follows:

Correspondence to the natural movement requirements of children and adolescents.

Requirements training as basic conceptual orientation in the sense of presence of multidimensional plasticity. For example,versatility also means optimal development of jumping and rotational movements (left/right), often combined with spatial orientation.

Development and maintenance of muscle balance (prevention of muscular imbalance).

Prevention of structural uniformity of training content and thereby premature and unintentional stagnation of performance development (particularly in advanced and high-performance training; see Martin et al., 1999, p. 253-259).

Creating a foundation of motor skills to facilitate top performances in soccer.

Photo 4: Controlling the ball while “floating” in the air and tackling without injuring each other[3]

Unfamiliar movement situations are resolved quicker and easier with a large repertoire of movements at one’s disposal (i.e., wealth of movements and movement experience). Even with increasing age, a versatile training process is always linked to the growing specialization process and should prevent players from specializing too soon and too narrowly in soccer.

But in the authors’ opinion, versatility does not stand for randomness, aimlessness, and moving for the sake of moving. On the contrary, ambitious coaches and instructors usually pay attention to the structure of loading and stress and the desired effective direction when they choose drills and types of play and principles. In this book, versatile training focuses on the structure of the projected objective of the competitive activity in soccer (Martin et al. 1999) and today’s developmental soccer instruction increasingly includes coordination abilities and skills, flexibility, strength, movement speed, and playing soccer.

Coordination training, under special consideration of empirical findings, should no longer be viewed and analyzed as conceptually separate from contemporary technical training in soccer (Hossner, 1995; Roth, 1996; Szymanski, 1997; Roth &Kröger, 2011; Weineck, Memmert and Uhing, 2012, p. 15).

This book shall contribute to expanding the individual’s versatility potential, particularly in youth players, through a “large supply” of easily and quickly implemented drills and types of play. The variety of chosen training content and implementation procedures represent an important factor in athletic training — the subject of this book—because that is how versatile training of the central nervous system in particular becomes effective. Increasing maximum and explosive strength through, for instance, training with free weights will not be addressed hereafter. That would be the primary goal of “classic” weight training (Zawieja, 2008; Zawieja and Oltmanns, 2011).

Photo 5: Discovering movement. Training can also be game-like.


“Games are won by athletes who concentrate on the playing field, not by those whose eyes are glued to the scoreboard.”

By now, it is a well-founded sports-scientific finding that a soccer player’s athletic performance is determined by many coordinated, technical, psychosocial, physical fitness, mental, tactical cognitive, constitutional, and health-related factors (Weineck, 2004, p. 7; Weineck, 2007; see fig. 2).

Fig. 2: The components of a soccer player’s performance (Weineck, Memmert,andUhing, 2012, p. 14)

When taking additional current research results (Di Salvo et al., 2007, p. 224; Patra, 2011, p. 70) as a basis for the demand profile in today’s elite soccer, it can be said with Weineck, Memmert, and Uhing (2012) that the coordinated, technical performance ability can be performance-limiting during the decisive phases of a competitive game “with the highest demands on acceleration/velocity and ball control” (p. 15).

Fig. 3: The growth pyramid. The width of the base decisively determines the development goal or level.[4]

Furthermore, the fitness-related demands on a professional soccer player are characterized by running distances of approximately 5.5 to 9 miles (depending on player and playing position) during a 90-minute game at a high “world competitive playing level” and hundreds of accelerations, jumps, passes, shots, headers, dribbles, and tackles. The fitness-related abilities determine a soccer player’s performance ability as they represent the physical foundation of the complex ability to act (Weineck, Memmert, and Uhing, 2012, p. 14).

Accordingly, soccer training must build a broad foundation so that upcoming youth players are prepared for the enormous coordinated technical, fitness-related, and mental and intellectual demands and stress parameters and are able to still meet their individual performance potential after ages 18 and 21 through further performance increases by appropriate training. Figure 3 visualizes and substantiates this fundamental goal using the growth pyramid.

Figure 3 shows that the breadth of the foundation, meaning all presently known components of a soccer player’s performance ability (Weineck, Memmert, and Uhing, 2012, p. 27; see fig. 2), determines the developmental goal and benefits a player’s ability to meet his individual performance potential (goal is to reach top playing level) so that premature performance stagnation and barriers can be avoided.Also performance dips caused by physical and mental development spurts or environmental factors can be negotiated responsibly and appropriately for performance.[5]

Taking a look at, for instance, the training of young children (ages 7 to 13), we can see that emphasizing coordinated technical abilities promotes especially cognitive abilities, information processing, attention span, and playful creativity. Moreover, children achieve 80 % of their permanent coordinated performance level by the end of elementary school age. Thus, it can be considered empirically substantiated that well-trained coordination abilities have an extremely positive effect on learning new things, their quality and variable and situational availability (Roth and Kröger, 2011).

Photo 6: As a pro, assessing risk and showing courage is one thing…

As coaches and instructors, when working with children and adolescents, the authors have experienced that premature soccer training often results in talented children remaining “perpetual talents.” Most of the time, they lack the sport motor skill foundation while developing their performance as a soccer player (see fig. 3) to be able to reach the top level. In addition, the frequently detected narrow foundation often results in stress intolerance and with increasing soccer-specific training volume and intensity, in motivational problems and premature performance barriers or academic difficulties, as well as psychological problems (te Poel & Hyballa, 2011).

The growth pyramid is also symbolic of the often not considered empirical fact that in today’s soccer it can be assumed that trainability of, for instance, technical optimization is possible between the ages of 10 and 59, and the rate of learning can be seen as consistent (Wollny, 2002). According to this, one learns far beyond one’s soccer career.The more motor skills one has “in the bag,” the better, quicker, more precisely, variably, and economically one approachesthe individual goal, the individual top performance level.

Photo 7: …and tolerating pain and enduring is the other! Does the player give up inside? It’s all about the attitude toward the game!

The golden age of learning in youth soccer does not exist because training spans the entire playing career; see the growth pyramid (Roth, 2005, p. 339).

A broad foundation, particularly with fitness-related and coordinated technical abilities, is a requirement for a soccer player to achieve his absolute performance ability.

The question of talent diagnostics is not discussed here because there has been much published on this topic in the past already (see Williams, Lee,and Reilly, 2000; Hohmann, 2001; Memmert and Roth, 2003; Neumann, 2009; Hyballa and te Poel, 2013). Instead, the authors will bring up a term here that plays an increasingly bigger role in today’s instruction of pro soccer players in training and competition: mindset.

To the authors, mindset is a way of thinking about the pressure components, which include the following:

Playing for a big club and a select team and their implicit and explicit demands

One’s own performance requirements

Solving developmental tasks[6]

The double stress and burden of competitive sport and school, college, job training, or profession

The often high training intensity and volume

The many competitions and routines

The increasing rivalry between top teams

The unforeseen behavior of opponents and teammates (e.g., during derby games and hard tackles; see chapter 16.3)

Dealing with pain, injuries, and rehab

Dealing with wins and losses

The amount of travel and constantly changing accommodations

Press reports and media coverage

Expectations of parents, relatives, partners, and friends

Difficult field and climate conditions

The soccer player should meet these head-on—anticipate them, recognize them, analyze them, and process them with attentiveness and concentration, emotional control, and frustration tolerance in a manner that benefits play and behavior. Because many a talent with aspirations of becoming a pro soccer player has foundered under these pressure components.

“There is no better recipe in soccer than work and faith in oneself. This combination will open any door. Everywhere. Kids need to internalize this. Of course there are players who possess fantastic skills, but they, too, have to work. You just don’t see it. And sometimes there are younger players who don’t get it. They think you either have it, or you don’t. Wrong! You have to prove yourself everyday, even at practice. To the coach, the teammates, but most of all to yourself.“ (FC Bayern Munich and Brazilian national team player Dante in a kicker interview with M. Zitouni, December 2, 2013, p. 13)

Photo 8: The joy over a mutual win outshines everything,especially when you have experienced the low points.


The components of coordination abilities have been sufficiently addressed and at this point will be only briefly outlined within the context of their soccer-specific importance (for in-depth comparison, see Weineck, Memmert, and Uhing, 2012, p. 17-29):

Spatial and temporal orientation: Sitting players in the space and quickly reading current and upcoming game situations (e.g., plays).

The differentiation of movement sense (differentiation ability): Finely-tuned and controlled (timed) movements and partial body movements to be able to, for instance, use the arms situationally during a game tackle in a way that makes it possible to see the teammate or opponent and the ball at the same time and to achieve and retain the control to pass, dribble, or shoot. In soccer this is usually linked with orientation.

Dynamic sense of balance (balance ability): Being able to quickly decelerate, twist, and turn without losing balance is a prerequisite for quick actions, especially in game situations. For beginners, but also for advanced players, jumping, fisting, heading, and throw-ins also require a well-developed dynamic sense of balance. In addition, when combined with technical training, it is possible to achieve sizeable progress in the coordinated technical optimization process. In youth and high-performance soccer, balance training is done specifically using game-specific drills and emphasized proprioceptive training.

Photo 9: Dynamic sense of balance, keeping balance, and avoiding physical contac.

Motor reaction—acoustic, tactile, and visual (reaction ability): The ability to quickly react to a signal with an appropriate motor action (e.g., a situation) is extremely important in soccer. Moreover, reaction ability is a subcomponent of the fitness skill speed.

Sense of rhythm and tempo during complex movement structures (ability to adjust and be rhythmic): Being able to adjust movement while performing an action (e.g., slowing down or accelerating) or even changing it completely (e.g., switching the playing foot) is very important in soccer. Constantly adapting to the opponent and his playing style (e.g., changing system of play, type of pressing), external conditions (e.g., ground and climate conditions), and adjusting individual behaviors during different game scores and standings are important parts of the competitive game of soccer and require the appropriate practice and training. The individual dispositions of players must be taken into consideration during the training process: Am I a sensitive (passing) player who likes to play with the ball and its movement speed, or am I a more agile and fast player who often performs directional changes on the field with and without the ball?

The ability to link motor movements (linking ability): Soccer techniques should be viewed as whole-body techniques. The ability to convert partial-body movements into an effective movement sequence during a target-oriented header requires early, intensive, and long-term practice and training (e.g., by means of Coerver Coaching).

But what the coordination ability components can accomplish in a soccer player’s training process and which factors they are affected by are key issues in soccer practice and training.


are the basis for effective sensorimotor learning ability;

determine the degree of use of fitness abilities;

promote the possibility of learning and relearning, even at an older age;

facilitate the acquisition of sports-technical skills from other sports; and

are the most valuable active injury prophylaxis.

Coordination abilities enable the player to confidently master the predictable and unpredictable in soccer (Weineck, Memmert, and Uhing, 2012, p. 17). Coordination abilities mesh particularly with physical performance factors, analyzing abilities, and already acquired movement skills, techniques (wealth of movements), and movement experiences with the implementation of the movement. They, thereby, represent a kind of vehicle for the progressive optimization of the depicted components of a soccer player’s performance within a long-term training structure (i.e., base, foundations, basic, advanced, and high-performance training) to be able to utilize, for instance, the following effectively and without injury during playing action:

Reacting and acting quickly

Reading and seeing the game

Acting early to stop a dangerous situation

Being able to fall or roll and get up quickly

Beingthe boss in the air and maintaining control

That means

having take off power, balance, and orientation ability and

being able to respond quickly, nimbly, and precisely in all situations.

The power component coordination (and agility) is extremely important to the desired training and playing philosophy. It acts as a kind of link between the main sports motor demands of speed, strength, and endurance and the technical and tactical abilities and skills on and off the ball. Precise and quick control of individual movements while using as much range of motion of the movement apparatus as possible may be viewed as the prerequisite for implementation of the own game concept.

As Weineck, Memmert, and Uhing (2012), in particular, were able to show theoretically and practically in their latest impressive publication on optimal coordination training in soccer based on sports-scientific principles, coordination training is based on the variation principle. It requires that the coach and instructor do the following during the practice and training process:

Offer situations with complex movements.

Be able to feel the sense of movement and its qualitative enhancement and completion from the player’s perspective.

Pick up on the player’s special needs (e.g., bodyawareness, generating own ideas, movement perception, versatility vs. specialization).

The coach’s and instructor’s behavioral role is guided by the complexity of the subject: versatile, enthusiastic, credible, and determined, always open to developments and issues that frequently go beyond “strictly soccer.” From this develops a kind of free thinking, in spite of the purposeful individual and communal training and practice and versatile and variable training of the different performance factors. In the authors’ estimation, the versatility concept in the training process of youth players, in particular, represents a stimulus for a significant transfer of learning.

Photo 10: Quickly learning new athletic skills andexpanding training content withcoordination training


"Coordination-technical abilities under extreme pressure of time, precision, and variability can be seen as the most important components in modern soccer." (Weineck, Memmert, and Uhing, 2012, p. 7)

As previously mentioned in chapter 3, coordination abilities are influenced by control and regulating processes during athletic action through the soccer player’s analytical abilities, the wealth of movements and experience, and the physical performance factors.

The physical performance factors, in particular, impact the level of coordination ability in soccer. In today’s modern competitive play and training, the performance factor of speed is of critical importance (see chapter 17). It is determined by subskills that should be optimally developed during a soccer player’s long-term training process (see table 1).

Table 1: Speed subskills of a soccer player (based on Weineck, 2004, p. 378)

Thus, being able to sprint fast is not just a matter of linking physical performance factors. Rather, the soccer player should possess strength, endurance, and the mindset (in terms of intrinsic motivation) to be able to, for instance, endure such a sprinting program in practice. Furthermore, he needs to have a sense of rhythm and tempo to be able to lengthen or shorten his stride. In a competitive game, this process must sometimes be executed with a low center of gravity since the player must anticipate a shove (shoulder to shoulder) at any moment (see chapter 16.3). Therefore, a soccer player should be able to execute a sprinting duelwith relaxed as well as flexedmuscles. At the same time this puts the player’s ability to link motor skills to the test. This reconfirms the high degree of complexity in soccer.

“Defensively I have a certain quality with my head, but offensively I have to hit the goal. But that’s not so easy. Sometimes I ask myself how the boys are even able to aim when it is so tight in the opposing penalty box…” (Nuri Sahin, Borussia Dortmund and player on the Turkish national team, in kicker, March 9, 2015, 22, p. 19)



"Based on prevailing opinion, coordination abilities form the basis for motor learning ability, athletic aptitude, or sports-related talent."(Roth, 2005, p. 327)

The comments in chapters 2, 3, and 4 emphasize that a versatile training of coordination abilities and factors that influence coordination abilities is of critical importance to individual and optimal performance development in soccer. In the authors’ estimation, talent support should follow the principles of goaldirectedness, systematics, continuity, immersion, and progression.[7] According to the current state of sports-science research, the preferred instruction method for the optimization of coordination abilities is through “ball schools,” meaning a playful approach combined with a differentiated learning method (Schöllhornet al., 2006; Roth and Kröger, 2011; König, Memmert, and Moosmann, 2012; Weineck, Memmert, and Uhing, 2012; Roth et al., 2013; Roth et al., 2014a; Roth andHegar, 2014b; Schöllhorn, Hegen, and Eckhoff, 2014). Taking into account educational perspectives and methodological suggestions, this can be summarized for basic soccer instructionas done in table 2.

Table 2: Basic soccer instruction in terms of learning by playing a variety of games with a ball[8]

During basic instruction, youth soccer players should possess technical, coordinated, and tactical skills and building blocks from a variety of sports games. Youth players should have the opportunity for communal, active, and successful participation in different games. For this reason,the nurturing of playing intelligence and creativity are at the heart of soccer training.

Playful implicit learning lends itself well.

Training tasks:

The goal of the following three approaches is the differentiated and isolated instruction of fundamental, basic tactical, coordinated, and sensorimotor content.

Instruction of offensive and defensive tactical modules from a variety of sports games[9]

Objective: To hit the target and to take the ball to the target (e.g., island game, numbers ball)

Partner aspect: Creating advantages and promoting team play (e.g., mat ball, wall ball)

Opponent aspect: Recognizing gaps and evading opponent interference (e.g., hand–foot ball game)

Environmental aspect: Signaling being open and orienting (e.g., contact ball and zone soccer)

The defensive modules result from reversing the offensive point of view (e.g., preventing hitting the target or closing a gap)

Improving overall ball coordination

Motor skills should hereby be learned quickly and precisely, be controlled purposefully and precisely, and be modified versatilely and appropriate situationally.

Practicing informational motor requirement modules (content) should follow the basic formula: Basic ball skills plus variety plus pressure conditions.

Improving basic ball skills

Establishing general skill modules should be at the center of training: controlling angles and direction of play, controlling exertion, determining the point of contact on the ball, determining running lanes and tempo to the ball, getting open, (anticipating passing), playing direction and distance, and anticipating defensive position.


Independently finding anappropriate solution and the ability to generate many solutions. Working on communication rules within the context of social interactions (e.g., listening and not interrupting, learning organizational forms [line-ups], learning to fix and recognize signals, setting up and dismantling equipment together).

At present, the many publications by Neumaier and Mechling (1999), Raab (2000), Schöllhorn et al. (2006), Roth and Kröger (2011), and Weineck, Memmert, and Uhing (2012) provide theorized models, drills, and forms of training to optimize coordination with the ball (undirected, across different sports games, and sport game specific).

In the following chapters, the authors will, therefore, focus primarily on the physical performance factors, including coordination training, in youth soccer instruction.

Photo 11: Jumping high is an acquired skill!

In performance-oriented soccer, the physical performance factors are increasingly integrated into soccer training in a performance-enhancing, preventative, and rehabilitative manner, most often by means of an athletic or fitness trainer orthrough additional training and practice units. To the authors’ knowledge, a compendium of youth soccer does not exist at this time. We intend to close that gap with this book. Executing techniques and tactics economically and effectively with playful ease to all of our delight and appreciation requires a substantial and broad foundation (see chapter 2, fig. 3).

Photo 12: Snapshot: Junior champions, but it’s still along way to the top!

This foundation builds on early learning experiences from a variety of movement requirements. In the authors’ opinion as well as that of present pertinent literature, insufficient coordination abilities do not result from inadequate abilities, but rather from a lack of encouragement at a young age. When schools and clubs are no longer able to provide the physical performance requirements for various reasons, then the responsible and goal-oriented development with a view to the future in terms of talent search and support and pro soccer instruction, in particular, can become a gamble, including chancefinds from among a quarter billion soccer-playing people worldwide. Reason enough to provide the interested reader this book, based on many years of experience and theoretical principles, for critical consideration.


“An optimal attention span, the phenomenon of laterality, of legpreference, directionality, execution sequence with weak and strong extremities, contralateral transfer, and versatility, are of critical importance to improving coordinated technical abilities in soccer.”(Weineck, Memmert, and Uhing, 2012, p. 73)

When looking at a soccer player’s individual development trajectory, one can see that the timing for optimal trainability of fitness-related abilities (i.e., physical performance factors) does not coincide with that of coordination abilities. Due to the quick development of neuromuscular and sensorimotor control and regulation,it is never too soon to begin the trainingof coordination abilities in soccer. It should already be addressed during preschool age by initiating and acquiring movement skills. In the authors’ estimation, this considerably increases learning effectiveness and is conducive to a sufficiently developed foundation (see chapter 2, fig. 3; Roth, Hegar, 2014b). Furthermore, Weineck, Memmert, and Uhing (2012, p. 41) point out that “learning perfect motion sequences is already possible during childhood.”

When choosing from our drills and forms of play, putting together teams and choosing talents, coaches, and instructors should, as a matter of principle, take into account the following parameters:

Biological age[10]

Relative training age


Performance level (test and ball control drills)



Below average andabove average tests and ball control drills

Photo 13: Be aware of biological acceleration. Small players are no less gifted!

The following criteria should be taken into account with respect to load and stress characteristics:

Stimulus intensity: How fast am I running?

Stimulus duration: How long am I playing?

Stimulus volume: How many miles am I running?

Stimulus density: