Coaches, selectors, scouts, spectators/parents often remark about players not having a good enough touch, or they cant strike or pass a ball well, or they lack creativity and imagination, or they don't practice on their own. Players, coaches or parents who think greatness can be achieved with only 3 or 4x 1.5 hour team practices a week is misguided, being deceived or deceiving themselves. The best players put in significantly more time independent of team training. They tend to arrive at practice early, leave late or if they cant, they spend more time practicing and playing in the backyard, schoolyard or with siblings and friends or most often, alone.
Logically players need to be taught and at the same time self discover how to self practice and learn how enjoy training or develop a discipline for training and working alone with the ball or playing with friends and family. If it's a chore and players constantly need pushing to do it then players can find motivation from peers or siblings and parents if they dont have access to a coach or training environment. Self practice is is something great players or players with aspirations want to do and enjoy doing....for example, If a person goes to the gym 3 x/week and dependent on a gym instructor then its unlikely they will ever become very fit. A good gym instructor will tell their client that its important to work on the exercises as well as have good nutrition when they are on their own in order to become fitter. Musicians are no different. If a music student only uses their instrument in class but not on their own and does'nt have a passion for the instrument they play then they simply wont be great musicians. Good teachers will tell students to practice and master their instrument, to rehearse and even create their own music if the student is going to be great. Similarly, developing a relationship with the ball is like a musician mastering their instrument.
If a player is in a soccer/football rich environment and has the support and encouragement of coaches, parents and teammates (and opposition) and they dont find a wall, or basketball net/backboard or juggling or individual ballwork interesting then its a concern because the best players need no motivating are often told to stop practicing and playing! All of the best players play soccer tennis or kicked a ball alone for hours on end against a wall or found obstacles at home dodging furniture, keeping the ball off siblings and the family pet. Players nowdsays are often dependent of their coaches for instruction and motivation when they should be self reliant. Every coach and parent wants to see their player/child succeed and excel but far too many players dont take responsibility and often down know how, to depend on themselves.
We dont disagree that role models and imitation are powerful influencers, however, well before there existed live TV, Youtube, hand held devices, websites. apps, video and plethora of TV viewing options the top players spent more time practicing and honing their skills by actually doing and many didn't have time or opportunity to analyze video or watch live games as this didn't exist. The best players trained using their 'minds eye'. And while purposeful and deliberate, organized practice is beneficials, we firmly believe in the players journey of self discovery and self correction...'that didn't feel or sound right' ...
Being self reliant and taking responsibility for ones own development are the most important aspect of a players game. Players should'ntt wait for their coach, parent, teammate or opponent to drive or inspire them. Some of the best players in the world who grew up in pre-technology/social media generations had no or little access to film or video yet had better understanding of the game, were more creative and more skillful than players today, so having access to technology and information is fantastic but nothing beats actually doing it! See the content below for ideas and inspiration.
Lionel Messi self-training
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"Zidane received instructions as a teenager in one of the French federation’s regional training facilities-but no one, including Zizou, would suggest that the origins of his sorcery began there. His exquisite feel for the ball was developed years earlier in the crowded, government-built projects of Marseille, messing around on the gravel of his town’s central square and in the living room” (Farey). Most world famous players when they were young played in small dirt/concrete spaces similar to Zidane. It was in La Castellane that Zidane had his earliest introduction to football, joining in at the age of five in football games that the neighborhood's children played on the Place Tartane, an 80-by-12-yard plaza that served as the main square of the housing complex.
"Rooney wore an Everton shirt most days & every night from the age of 6, he kicked a ball about on the pitch at the housing estate’s sports center. When it closed for the night, he’d climb over the fence and keep playing, such a fixture that the caretaker would leave the floodlights on for him."
"We used to play a game called goal to goal and we would take maybe a couple of thousand shots every day. From the first time I saw him, I knew this would be a Superman. He would run to training from his house, juggling the ball all the way" Read article on Van Persie.
"I discovered a player that has the will that a champion needs Galanis says. It can be minus 20 degrees outside, and I have her do 15 400 metre runs. She will do it unhesitatingly, and is willing to do whatever needs to be done. Every time she is home (free of club and national team commitments) we work three to six hours a day. We train Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, all of them. Thats right, three to six hours a day.You know why? asks Galanis rhetorically. Because no one else is doing it. We clock in more hours than everyone else. And that is also a psychological thing for Carli" (James Galanis on Carli Lloyd)
Don Bradman, one of the world's greatest cricketers seen here hitting a golf ball with a cricket stump against a water tank & catching a golf ball coming back from a fence. No opponents, no video analysis or even the right bat & bal!
Ice Hockey great Wayne Gretzky had a way of never hitting the puck with the same rhythm twice, making his shots harder to time and block..."Winding up for the slapshot, he would stop for an almost imperceptible moment at the top of his arc, like a golfer with a rhythmic swing." ..."All I wanted to do in the winters was be on the ice. I'd get up in the morning, skate from 7:00 to 8:30, go to school, come home at 3:30, stay on the ice until my mom insisted I come in for dinner, eat in my skates, then go back out until 9:00. On Saturdays and Sundays we'd have huge games, but nighttime became my time. It was a sort of unwritten rule around the neighbourhood that I was to be out there myself or with my dad" Gretzky uses this room to insert an extra beat into his actions. In front of the net, eyeball to eyeball with the goaltender … he will … hold the puck one … extra instant, upsetting the anticipated rhythm of the game, extending the moment. … He distorts time, and not only by slowing it down. Sometimes he will release the puck before he appears to be ready...Gretzky would prod next-door neighbour to play in goal after sundown in order to practice his backhand. He not only enthusiastically practised long hours every day, but he also started working on his skills at an extraordinarily young age.
"..kids usually don't start playing hockey until they're six or seven. Ice isn't grass. It's a whole new surface and everybody starts from ground zero. … By the time I was ten, I had eight years on skates instead of four, and a few seasons' worth of ice time against ten-year-olds. So I had a long head start on everyone else" See article
Legendary Dennis Bergkamp on players not self training. "They know exactly what to do, what kind of exercises they have to do with the kids, and in a way they don't have to think for themselves any more. It is all done for them. It's a problem because they don't think for themselves. If they get a new situation, they look to someone as if to say, 'What do I have to do now?'" Control is so much his obsession that he is completely frank when he says he prefers the first touch that started any of his most memorable goals than the strike that finished them.
"I learned the most by playing in the backyard or at the local park with my brother Rod and my mates.Hitting a ball up against a wall for hours on end with different parts of my foot, juggling a soft drink can up against the backyard fence,that is what it's all about" Harry Kewell
Paul Scholes Autobiography 'My Story' "I was always football daft. When I went to junior school, I would leave home half an hour early in the mornings & spend the time before the bell went for the first lesson kicking the ball around the schoolyard. Occasionally some mates would be involved, but often I was on my own & that didn't bother me in the slightest.I was happy as long as I had that ball"
"Even when he didn't have a ball, he'd be doing keepie-ups with an orange...five-a-side pitch lined with dirt and discarded waste. This is where Firmino honed his skills, practised his stepovers and improved his close control....none who showed the same dedication as Roberto....Firmino's dedication sets him apart...." Roberto Firmino Article
Former Liverpool FC & legendary Australian Soccer player Craig Johnston's life story is considered one of the best animated cartoons and motivational videos ever made. Its a story about overcoming adversity & striving for and realizing a dream and encouraging self-training.
CLICK HERE TO JOIN GROUP ON SOCCERBOOK.COM for videos on Ronaldinho, Inesta, Muller, Pirlo, Xaxi, Marta, Cruyff, Zidane, Pele, Hoddle as well as legendary dribbling skills and more.
Quotes from UNC coach Anson Dorrance.
"The vision of a champion is someone who is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion when no one else is watching" Anson Dorrance
Sleep is extremely important to ensure optimal performance. Go to bed early and rise early, especially before games. Sleep/rest also helps muscles recover and is good for injury prevention and healing. A good workout must be combined with a good diet. Pre-hydrate to ensure optimal performance. Eating regularly is important to keeping high energy levels high to fuel your body for better performance.
Many top players developed their technique as youngsters on school playgrounds, driveways. concrete car parks, tennis courts, sports cages and dusty dirt patches such as the legendary Robin Van Persie, one of the worlds best ever strikers. See video
Van Persie said he took a few thousand shots a day. Players dont need to shoot at a big goal or go to practice to develop their shooting ability. Repetition against a wall or with friends in the key. Ideally a concrete handball court is the best type of facility to use. Van Persie had his cage.
Place ball on 18 yd line or arch of 'D' or juggle & volley or one bounce/half-volley against crossbar as Zidane shows below, or strike a rolling ball. Search "Crossbar Challenge" on Youtube for numerous examples such as:
Find a trash can and chip ball in!
Juggle or one-bounce ball into net or rebound off backboard. FC Bayern München stars show off their skills on the basketball court here
Playing with & against siblings in the back yard, the schoolyard or kicking the ball with parents and teammates in an impromptu setting is an incredibly important part of a players social and technical development. The varying levels of competence one finds in these situations allows for players to try new things and take risks without having to play for league points or tournament trophies. Players can make up their own world cup or championship in the backyard....like the old days. All of the greatest players have many backyard. neighborhood or school stories about their upbringing that played a major role in their development as soccer players. Players should train together with a teammate and spend time striking balls to one another- work on chipping, bending, driving, clipping, half volleys, lobbing. If thats not possible, find a wall, like Bradman, Kewell, Bergkamp and Cruyff.
Victor Ireland, Gary Ireland & Hubert Vogelsinger. SBC co-founder was lead demonstrator for Hubert over several summers after Hubert learned of Gary's role as assistant to Wiel Coerver at the Al Wasl Club in Dubai
SBC co-founder Carine Ireland (2nd row, 2nd from left) in Liverpool FC womens team photo at Anfield. Carine started and played every game in 2002 season, scoring both game winning goals vs. Wolves
Since 2003 Carine Ireland has been co-Director of Coaching & Managing Director of Silicon Valley based girls only club PSV Union FC, one of the most successful girls programs in the USA. Carine has run NPL, USSDA & ECNL clubs
In 1994 Pele needed a coach & clinic to film a pre-1994 Brazil vs USA 1/4 Final World Cup preview at Stanford Stadium. He chose the Ireland family and their youth club players as his guests.
Soccerbook Consulting has leased many facilities in the Northern California for day and residential camps: Menlo College, Woodside Priory & UC Santa Cruz & many other.
SBC co-founder Gary Ireland with his U11 boys team at end of season Academy on field day at Anfield.
Our staff are Sideline Concussion protocol Safesport Trained
"When I lived in Australia, I used to train alone mostly on the beach & in the car park and sometimes at the oval, 1/2 mile jog from my place. There were no apps or videos or book back then so I looked for anything I could do/use to test my skills and physical abilities. The oval was surrounded by 8 ft wooden barriers/fences approx. knee height, spaced 6 ft apart. I would run with the ball and pass it under the barrier and then leap to the other side using one or two legs (stepover & scissor form) while varying my stride. There were probably 100 of them over an 800m distance. I wouldn't stop until the end and they didn't move, so I made sure I really jumped!" Gary Ireland
General Fitness Ideas
The Cooper Test is a 12 min. run around a running track. Not as commonly used as it once was, its still a great indicator of basic conditioning. The beauty of a Cooper Test (otherwise known as a 12 min.run) is that anyone can do it anywhere and it's measurable. It's not recommended before or after training or games, especially on same day. Players should fuel and hydrate before exercising & avoid training during the hottest time of the day. Any signs of strain or injury they should not exert themselves. These fitness tests are commonly done pre & post-season or when returning from injury or if there are game and practice cancelations.
BLEEP TEST/YO-YO TEST:
These tests are common with college bound, college level and professional players and should be monitored by a coach or guardian. Players should have 2 scores- one without and one with the ball- with more importance being placed on the running with the ball. There are numerous fitness tests, but this 'straight-line' basic test is convenient & simple and easy to record/compare. Running without the ball is much harder than running without the ball, but its also much better for you technically as it allows a player to practice various forms of turning: stepover, cutting, chopping, cruyff, step-on, topping. Aplayer who can get 10 Stages without the ball may only be able to get 8 with the ball. Note-The ball must touch the line. See more info on the Beep Test here
(note-20m is approx. 5 yards beyond the penalty area-/21.9 yards or 65.5 ft). See example of USA mens team here
Not as commonly used as it once was, its still a great indicator of basic conditioning.The Cooper Test is a 12 min. run around a running track. The beauty of a Cooper Test/12 min. run is that anyone can do it anywhere and it's measurable. If a player cant do 7 laps of a 400m track comfortably it will be difficult to cover enough ground at a college level . If a player can get 9+ laps or more its not a differentiator other qualities come into play. Players who are reluctant to challenge themselves & test once in a while will only find other more challenging tests ahead which will require an equal amount of effort.
Depending on age, current fitness level, injury status using a measurable distance can help gauge improvement. A good place to start is the 6, and 18 yard of a soccer field, as these are constants lines., whereas, the half-way and end-line vary in distance. The number of repetitions a player should do depends on the age/level of a player and best done under the guidance of a coach/trainer/guardian. The best way to condition is to reduce the resting time between the sprints and for more serious players they can add juggling. while resting.
Turning and combination turns entails specific touches resulting in specific outcomes. First learn the turns & understand what they are & why they are used. Upper body movement is vitally important as the top players always have the best upper body posture & balance.
Common Turns: step-ons; chopping; cutting; topping; cruyff, pullbacks, step-over, rivelino
Combine turns with pressure from front & side. Combine frontal movements with turns. 'Coil', eye/head fake, wind up, 'snap' head, twist shoulders. Mix up the turns! Shield with the protected foot. Both feet pointed in attacking direction-no heels on ground! Bend knees & feet apart. All identical turns in terms of mechanics- i.e. preparation, taking a look & arm gesture to play ball long & high with upper body/head 'snapping' and twisting to create the movement required to rotate and pivot on the ball. Remember where to place/position the plant foot (turn it out). Use 2, 1 and no touches. turns and 'moves'. try to jump into position and 'split step' to give the impression you are going to pass the ball then pivot/sweep the ball (its not a cut!) then take away with opposite inside of foot. foot doesnt come off ball. laudrup, van persie add more of a sweep when doing this.
touch dribble and add turn. use both feet, double cuts/turns. same and opposite foot. freestyle-all turns etc.
lunge, sweep, scissor, matthews, heighway and combination and double movements.
Speed of Footwork
shuffle, squirt/slide, slide/touch, drag, shuffle-touch-drag, shuffle-drag, triangle. (pull back, tap to other foot, push diagonally back to start
'Hard Control' involves the use of all parts of the foot; sole, inside, outside and can incorporate thigh, chest & head using a 'half-volley' type touch.
'Soft Control' means that the ball makes contact with your body before touching the ground. It includes all parts of the surface of the foot, thigh, chest and head.
The soft/hard control combination is an extremely useful combination of techniques.
See Stojkovic vs. Spain video here for one of the best examples of controlling ball
'Vogelsinger's' are named after Austrian skills coach Hubert Vogelsinger who launched thousands of college & pro coaches careers. SBC co-founder Gary Ireland was lead demonstrator for Vogelsinger for 2 years. The material is is more important than static self-juggling as they are more applicable to the game, however juggling does help as there is a juggling component to it. 'Vogelsinger's' focuses on specific details of striking/shooting & first touch , instep, laces, thigh, thigh, chest, head with specific focus on timing, judging flight & anticipating the bounce of ball & reaction speed. These are done using 1 or 2 touches or combinations of any touches, serving from hands, on the juggle, adding hard & soft control, with partner, etc.
See these (limited) Vogelsinger videos:
Hill running is a great way to get fit as many world class athletes can attest to. When our coaches trained as players they would regularly run the Stanford Dish & Windy Hill doing wind sprints up & down the trailhead, sometimes with a with a medicine ball or while dribbling a soccer. Parents of younger players should take them on these types of trails to help socialize them to running hills. This can be a fun and healthy family event. See legendary SF49ers NFL legend Jerry Rice story on his hill running here
Juggling is an important part of a players' 'toolbox'. Juggling shows that a player has an interest in the ball like this 10 year old player juggling here. It strengthens players feet, ankle, knee and legs and improves motor skills, coordination, balance, timing, feel/touch and improves a players' confidence and affinity with the ball.
There is a broad spectrum of juggling: Individual juggling; total number of juggles, juggling using a variety of touches, manipulating the ball (with/without spin, higher or lower touches, etc.), juggling in motion; juggling with partners or groups etc.
Juggling on the run improves reaction, dexterity, balance and enable players to become fitter/stronger. Juggling is often used for recovery in between running & technical sessions. Players who cannot juggle well wont enjoy other forms of self training, such as aerial control, soccer tennis or wall training.
Seated juggling improving instep & volleys as well as strengthening abs & quad. Very good 100+; Good 50+; Above av. 20-50; Av. 10-20; Below Av. score 5-10 etc.(depending on age). *Be sure to change legs to avoid strains.
"great jugglers arent always going to be great players but I've never known a great player who is not a great juggler."
While freestyle juggling, pick ups and flicks & tricks are fun and builds affinity and confidence, equally impressive are players who work on 'practical' technical aspects of the game such as passing/shooting, receiving and dribbling which can go ignored by players who become enamored with fun flicks and tricks. Soccer tennis and other juggling games greatly improve technique and decision making (e.g 'Rondo' with a juggling/1 touch-1 bounce rule). Variation juggling or juggling with partners is far more beneficial than juggling alone so juggling to beat ones own (or others') record, however admirable, can have a negative impact due to lack of variation and touch as players tend to use their strongest touch when they try to better their record and are less willing to take risks. Once a player gets to a reasonable number its best to switch feet or use other parts of the bod otherwise juggling in the same methodical way can damage a players balance and not enhance fluidity which juggling is intended to derive.
A fantastic way to self improve and perhaps the most common pastime of most of the worlds best players is practicing using a wall. It develops first touch, helps judge flight of ball & improves anticipation and reaction. Numerous tales of kicking, shootiing, juggling, passing against a wall. Squash courts and handball courts provide the best environment because of the various angles presented to you. Uneven surfaces are perfectly fine as they present inconsistent returns. Pass & receive at various angles and make sure the passes are served at varying pace & distance-Use inside, outside of foot & heel and toe. Do as many as you can before you feel fatigue or until find your rhythm and coordination. Do half rhythm & V's + frontal moves (like this). Receive lateral etc. See link here
One of the worlds most famous cricketer Don Bradman seen here hitting a golf ball with a small stick against a water tank & catching a golf ball off a fence. No opponents, video analysis or even the right bat & ball!
"During those (street) games I’d use stone walls, teammates & even the curbs of the pavement. My favorite move was to kick the ball against a wall & control the rebound whilst running at speed, as this split second was often the crucial difference between a great goal or loss of possession" (Cruyff)
Dennis Bergkamp refined his technique with such precision he would aim for a corner of a particular brick, time and again, with different pace and power and spin to see how it changed the ball's trajectory and challenged his ability to tame it.
"Do something with the ball, let it bounce, back, back, back against the wall, left, right, that's the main thing" (Bergkamp)
'He would knock the ball against the walls for hours. Every time he hit the ball, he'd know whether it was a good touch or a bad touch. He'd do it over and over, trying to establish a rhythm'. See article on Bergkamp
"He worked his technique with such precision he would aim for a corner of a particular brick, time & again, with different pace & power & spin to see how it changed the ball's trajectory & challenged his ability to tame it" read
Soccer Tennis is a form of variation juggling so it helps players to be good at juggling in order to play soccer tennis. The best players often play soccer tennis. Without access to a tennis court instead put a pole or rope between 2 objects a few yards apart- e;g between 2 chairs using a broom
See former Soccerbook student & assistant coach Veronica Perez (Mexico Womens National Team) demonstrating warm ups she learned from Gary & Carine Ireland as a young player. Veronica demonstrates here and here with USA player Alex Morgan. These exercises & more are taught & trained by our coaches.
See SBC founder Carine Ireland here warming up with players she trained for 6 years who played at Stanford, USA youth WNT UCLA and USC.
This all helps posture, balance, preparedness, being on toes, knees bent, body angle fwd., gait (feet apart, staggered & offset), equilibrium, stance, fluidity on the ball, coordination, dexterity (split step, skipping, sliding). optimizing ones physical orientation is paramount as a players mobility is directly affected by their posture.
See Carine Ireland demonstrate agility exercises with/without the ball here
These all improve confidence balance, speed, ability to transfer & protect ball and help develop seamless explosive movement on the ball. Combine movements, vary the number of dribbling touches, use one or both feet, add double & triple movements & turnouts to improve balance, touch, movement, speed on the ball, setting up movements/moves; Focusing on carrying with protected foot, frontal movements; V's, turnouts, 2 & 3-'point' turns etc-
Frank Ribery (Bayern/France) 'cutting' here
Legendary Dutch/Bayern player Arjen Robben practicing dribbling/shooting practice here
Often referred to as 'pullbacks','V's' are useful to protect the ball, change direction, draw defenders towards the ball to 'bait' them and to shift the defenders balance.
Former Manchester United player and current coach Solskjaer showing youth players how to use a 'V' movement here
Working with a training partner is a good way to add motivation and competitiveness which helps pushing yourself. Whether or not you are being challenged by your training partner or if they are simply throwing you balls or keeping time, having someone watching you can be very motivating. Just going to the local park and practice various ways of shooting like former Liverpool FC player Gerrard here
Sleep is very important for getting the most out of training and performance. Go to bed and rise early especially before matches. Sleep helps muscles recovery which is really important. Warming up properly prevents injury.
If you get into a routine then it makes it easier as it will become a habit. Before each technical practice do a few laps of the pitch, stretch and do cardio warm up exercises. (skipping, crossovers, coordination). If you are in the gym, warm up on the treadmill or bike. Mix it up regimen. Hill running, track running, core, sprints, Strength training using own body weight while older players can do weight training to increase both strength and stamina. High intensity is important to get your blood pumping and to increase stamina. Include sprinting in every workout whether indoors or outdoors. Cardio sessions are also key for building up endurance and stamina, and to stay lean. Do periods of around 30 minutes, increasing the number of reps. as you get stronger. You can do abs & core workout in your room when you wake up in the morning or before you go to bed. You dont need to be at the field or gym. Jump rope is an excellent way to get fit.
content coming soon....
25 years ago we coined the phrase 'vitamins' which helps train players' touch using the entire body using single or multiple touches. These are best done with a training partner or someone serving balls, but players can self train using a wall. 'Vitamins' require service from the ground and the air and in all directions- forwards-backwards-sideways.
1) passing on the ground with feet
2) volleys served from hands to feet, thigh, chest, head
3) headers served from hands.
Former Liverpool FC Ladies Player & Co-Director of Coaching at PSV Union FC Carine Ireland partner juggling with former PSV Union FC player & Mexico Women's National Team player Veronica Perez
Bayern Munich Players juggling
10 year old juggling