Football is a game which many people love to watch and play. It can be so memorizing watching people such as Leo Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimović that make the game so enjoyable to watch. People that you can see that play with no pressure on their shoulders, being free to do what they want and express their key attributes that they bring to their teaming. This of course comes with years of experience and training, but the hard yards have been put in over that time to really make them perform at such high levels.
I want to leave you guys with 4 steps which I think can really help improve your game and make you become an overall better football player.
Step 1- Fitness
(Please advise, I am not a sports trainer, however, this is through years of experience as a professional footballer).
Football is a game played for 90 minutes and consists of short burst of sprints over the course of the game. In between making maximum effort sprints, there is consistency running during transition and defense. Becoming a better football is about having a balance on and off the park with training.
On the field your focus should be on improving aerobic fitness, which is relating to cardio. Fitness is all about raising your heart rate then lowering it again before making your next movement. This can be done through a moderate jogging speed for a period of time and running a longer distance keeping your heart rate at a moderate level. In my own personal training, I find doing 2 x 8 minutes with 2 minutes rest in between at a consistent pace around a football field is a great way to improve your cardiovascular system.
Off the field transfer your focus towards becoming stronger, known as anerobic fitness. Anerobic fitness is about building strength and giving maximum efforts so that you can’t do anymore. This can be done through weight training or weight training. Having a gym program which specifies different muscle categories allows for maximum strength and power when playing a game of football. The more consistent and efforts made, the more your body will eventually be able to endure showing your fitness levels. Interval training is a great way to improve power, fitness and strength because the body is working hard at each stage making your heart rate rise immensely. A great exercise/ drill that I find elevates the heart rate is 60 metre maximal sprints with 20 seconds break in between each sprint until no more can be achieved.
Step 2- Ball Work
There is a phrase in football which is very accurate by all means, ‘Let the ball do the work’. Letting the ball do the work and controlling the play is what individuals and teams do to dominate games. As individual players below are a list of techniques which should be improved to get the most out of your game. Please note, each drill and exercise should be focused on one at a time to get the most out of a single drill.
- Ball control- being able to control the ball with any part of your body allows you to have complete control when being played the ball. A great way to improve this is by passing a ball against a wall and controlling the rebound. Time and consistency are all it takes.
- Dribbling- by having great ball control, dribbling adds more dimension to your game. By lining up a few cones and practicing dribbling in, out, around, over, whatever you want, consistently moving the ball from side to side will develop overall dribbling skills
- Passing- keeping possession in a game of football is a great way to control the tempo of a game and make the other teamwork. Passing is an art form. There is so much to something so simple. Playing to the left foot, right foot, away from the defender, off the shoulder, weight of pass. There are so many forms of passes and techniques to account for. Similar to improving ball control against a wall, passing the ball in different ways off different parts of the foot will really help improve the nature of making a good pass in a game scenario.
- Shooting- Shooting is about knowing where the goal is and when to use power or placement. It is about picking a spot aiming for it and achieving that stroke. It’s as simple as going to the nearest park with goals with a bag of balls and repetitively aiming for the bottom corners (hardest part for the goalkeeper to dive for).
Try with focusing on one exercise/ technique at a time, that’s when the difference will begin to show.
Step 3- Study the Basics
Study the game. Listen, learn, watch then show. The basics to football are the most effective way to play. Having the basics down pat, means that it’s hard to stop. Have you ever heard of a saying ‘keep it simple stupid’? Take that into football. Gaining an understanding about positions and movement will come when gaining the experience from playing, but for what an individual can control should be contained and managed.
Step 4- Learning from Others
Learning from others is a great way expand your knowledge about football. Everyone learns in different ways, from different coaches and techniques. Be open to seeing what people have to say about parts of the game because trust me, there is always something new to learn anytime, anywhere. Be open, willing to learn and coachable, because having these trades will take your game to the next level.
Football is all about love and enjoyment. Without that, well football wouldn’t be football. But by getting to really understand the game and becoming consistent at the basics will really improve your overall skills and techniques. This makes the game more enjoyable because you can really express the way you play and the qualities you show. Look at it this way, practice make perfect. Things don’t come the first day, second day or first week. It comes with years and years of practice.