Playing soccer involves mental, physical and technical skills. To improve your game, it is not enough to just focus on one of these aspects, as it will not matter that you have the best skills to handle the ball if you are not well conditioned and start panting 10 minutes after the game starts. Similarly, if you are a skilled and well-conditioned player, you will not be successful if you do not have the right strategy and approach. If you want to improve your game substantially, you must establish a training program that addresses technical skills, soccer strategy, general fitness, and mental focus.
Method 1 of 4: Hone Technical Skills
Step 1. Practice juggling to improve your control over the ball
To work on juggling, you don't need to have a lot of space. You may not specifically juggle the ball during matches, but if you have the skill to juggle the ball, you will gain more solid control over the ball and better handling skills.
- Each time, push yourself to juggle for a little longer without losing control of the ball. If you can do it consistently for 5 minutes, then aim for 10 minutes. You can set a timer on your smartphone or use an analog kitchen timer.
- Juggling is also helpful in getting better at catching and stopping the ball.
Step 2. Set up cones or flags for dribbling exercises
Exercise cones or flags can be found at any sporting goods store or through an online retailer. You can do these exercises in a small area of your garden, even if you don't have a lot of space. You should arrange the cones or flags to form a line and dribble through and around them as you move forward.
If you have the possibility to do so, you could also practice dribbling inside your home, although it may not be recommended that you use your soccer cleats for it. When dribbling indoors, you will have a lot of obstacles and opportunities to change direction
Step 3. Kick the ball against a wall to improve your first touch
You should put in a solid brick or concrete wall so that you don't damage it by repeatedly kicking the ball. To start, stand about 2 feet from the wall and kick the ball as hard as you can against it. Then position yourself to receive the ball, control it, and immediately kick it back against the wall.
As you improve, you should gradually move away from the wall and try to kick the ball with the same force that you used before but from that greater distance
Step 4. Establish a regular workout schedule
Although you already train with your team on a regular basis, you also need to train on your own in order to really improve your game. Therefore, you should find a time when you can spend between 20 and 30 minutes a day practicing your soccer skills.
- You should allow a minimum of 5 minutes both at the beginning and at the end of the workout for the warm-up and cool-down. In this way, you will avoid injuring yourself.
- You may need to schedule different exercises so that you can practice different skills consistently. Consider how you can adapt the exercises you learn in training with your team so that you can perform them on your own.
- In case a friend on your team lives near you, you could plan training sessions together with them.
Step 5. Develop a specialized skill
Consider an aspect of football that you like very much and can perform relatively well or that seems natural to you. Then focus on that skill in your personal training sessions so that it becomes your signature move.
- By honing a skill, you gain greater value as a player and any coach will have a reason to have you on their team. For example, if you are a defender, you could work on your defensive head shots.
- Also, by looking for opportunities to put into practice the specialized skill you have honed, you can boost your self-esteem and build confidence as a player.
Method 2 of 4: Increase Your Fitness and Conditioning
Step 1. Use dynamic stretching to improve your range of motion
These stretches (for example, walking lunges and bodyweight squats) are a good warm-up before a workout or a good conditioning routine, while improving joint flexibility and range of motion.
Before stretching, warm up your muscles by jumping or jogging in place. Move your arms in wide circles to get your blood flowing. Then before a workout or game, spend 5 minutes doing dynamic stretches as a warm-up
Step 2. Build endurance through interval training
In many cases, soccer players increase their cardiovascular endurance by either jogging or running, but although it is true that you run a lot during a soccer game, this does not constitute a continuous race but you start and stop, jog, run At full speed, you walk and change direction frequently. Therefore, interval training will prepare you for it.
- By nature, interval training encompasses high- and low-intensity activity that resembles the way you move during a game.
- When choosing interval exercises, you should focus on those that mimic the movements you are likely to use during a soccer game. When it's not training season, it may help to do a 30-minute interval training session 3-4 times a week to stay in shape.
Step 3. Incorporate compound exercises for strength training
Compound exercises include squats, lunges, and push-ups, among others, and they work various joints and muscle groups, automatically balancing the strength of opposing muscle groups. This can help you avoid injury.
- For the most part, you should do bodyweight exercises or use free weights for resistance. When it's not training season, you should strive to do strength training 2-3 times per week, whereas when it's training season, while you can still do at least one strength training session per week, you should avoid overdoing it.
- You must move your whole body in order to strengthen all muscle groups, but focusing mainly on the lower part of your body and the muscles of the torso.
Step 4. Develop foot coordination and speed by jumping rope
You can alternate between jumping on two feet and on one foot and performing cross jumps, gradually increasing the speed at which you jump. You can also mimic the movement even if you don't have a jump rope.
- Using a weighted jump rope can help you build strength and balance in your upper body and torso muscles.
- You can start jumping rope 3-4 times a week for 15 minutes and gradually increase the duration. Also, if you're doing interval training, you could incorporate jumping rope as an interval.
Step 5. Perform plyometrics to develop speed and agility
Exercises of this type use explosive movements, such as jumping jacks, to develop fast-twitch muscle fibers. In this way, you acquire greater power and speed. Basic plyometric exercises include jump squats and burpees.
- Aside from plyometrics, you can improve your speed by practicing sprinting as well. Professional soccer players can run 30 yards (27 m) in about 4 seconds.
- When it's not training season, you should do speed and plyometrics at least once a week for 20 to 30 minutes. When it's training season, you can cut down on this session.
Method 3 of 4: Develop Tactics and Strategy
Step 1. Watch professional and national matches
You must carefully study the movements of the elite players and analyze how they maintain possession of the ball and position the players to score. Consider opportunities when you can employ similar strategies in your own game.
- Look at teams that have a wide variety of playing styles instead of just focusing on one or two teams that you personally like. You may also want to conduct a study of the same team against many different teams to determine how you tailor your strategy to make the most of your opponents' weaknesses.
- The games that would be good to look at in terms of strategy are those in which a team that has the losers has beaten a team of a high level.
Step 2. Use the width of the field when playing offense
When your team is in possession of the ball, they must spread out and use the size of the field to disintegrate the other team's defense and create opportunities to score a goal. Keep the ball moving with long and short runs and passes.
- By keeping the ball moving, the defense won't have a chance to surround you and make it difficult for you to pass.
- Pass the ball to the players who are on the outside so that the defense is diluted and spaces are opened so that one of your teammates can be positioned in an advantageous way.
Step 3. Brace yourselves to defend as a unit
At times when the other team is in possession of the ball, your overall strategy should be the opposite of your strategy when in possession. In this case, they must move further towards the center of the field and move together as if they were an impenetrable mass.
Keep in mind that the opposing team will try to dilute them, but they must maintain their position, especially when the other team passes the ball to a player on the outside. For example, if a pass is made to the right lane, your entire team must move to the right as one unit
Step 4. Put your team's strategy into practice on a consistent basis
The coach will inform both you and your teammates about the general strategy of the team. If at any time you are in doubt, you should resort to this default strategy regardless of the relative abilities of the opposing team.
- Your team's strategy should maximize its strengths and minimize its weaknesses. In case you perceive any way in which this strategy could be improved, you should discuss it with your coach and your teammates.
- Work closely with your coach to understand the role you play in the overall strategy of the team, especially if you move to another position.
Step 5. Study the strengths and weaknesses of your opponents
You must adapt your general strategy before each match so that you can limit the strengths of your opponents and exploit their weaknesses. Study their game carefully, noting the individual players and also how they play together.
If you can understand how your opponents tend to act in different types of situations, you can anticipate how they will react and thus be proactive on the field of play
Step 6. Communicate with your teammates
When you are on the field of play, you should talk to them and listen to them when they speak to you. Let them know if there are any players coming towards them to put pressure on them or if you are free. In case the opportunity presents itself, ask for the ball to get into the game.
- Use not only your voice but also body language to communicate. Turn your head while you play to know where the ball is and you can anticipate what can happen anywhere on the field.
- You can also communicate through the strength of your passes. For example, with a softer pass, you generally indicate that the receiver has more time, while with a more marked pass, you could indicate that the receiver is under pressure.
Method 4 of 4: Developing the Right Mindset
Step 1. Play for your team
Don't forget that soccer is a team sport. You will not do well if you play only for yourself. All the movements you make on the field of play should be designed so that your team is better positioned for the attack, not so that you look good.
In case you have a personal problem with another member of your team, you should avoid taking him with you to the field of play. When the game starts, you should put aside all personal hostility and focus on the team as a whole
Step 2. Stay focused through encouraging self-talk
Constantly repeating an encouraging mantra in your mind can improve your confidence and help you stay present. In case you feel the need to criticize yourself, you should let it go and come back to cheer yourself up.
For example, you can repeat the following to yourself: "Nothing's wrong. You're doing great. Just take a single kick, you've done it before. Good clean kick."
Step 3. Visualize your best game
You can help yourself through visualization and meditation to build your confidence and improve your self-image. Every day, allot between 5 and 10 minutes to sit quietly and visualize yourself playing your best or scoring a goal that wins the game.
Think about the way the movements feel and how your body feels. Position yourself in the moment by playing the visualization in your mind
Step 4. Improve your control through breathing and relaxation techniques
You can help yourself stay calm under pressure by doing deep breathing exercises. Because soccer can become an intensely personal sport, your opponents will often try to trigger your emotions to distract you.
Practice positive and helpful reactions to match events that would normally make you react in anger or annoyance, just stay calm and move on
Step 5. Learn from your mistakes and let them go
You won't be able to improve your game in soccer (or any other sport) if you don't make mistakes in the process. The moment the inevitable happens, you must take a deep breath and return to the present.
When the match or training is over, you will have time to analyze your mistakes and learn from them, but in the moment, you should not think about them. If you are obsessed with your mistakes, your mind will stop being in the game and this will affect your performance
- When you play soccer, you should stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, as if you become dehydrated, you could become fatigued and injured.
- To train, you must wear the appropriate equipment, including soccer cleats, shin guards, and socks. This way, you will get used to wearing the right gear and will also avoid injuring yourself.