Youth soccer fitness is a large area. Soccer coaches and parents are looking for ways to improve their kids skills and fitness.
And there isn’t a lot of time to do it in. Typically, a U8 soccer practice is 45 to 60 minutes. Not much time to teach ball skills, team skills, soccer fitness and have fun.
But there are ways. The best coaches and teams do it. Here is my advice from working with kids for over 30 years.
1. Always put fun first
Having fun to kids is more important that winning. It’s more important than getting better. It’s the most important thing in the world for kids.
There’s lots of ways to have fun during practice…and a few ways that can wreck it. Keep things short and simple. Allow kids to experiment and make mistakes. And the big mistake coaches make is they yell and threaten.
Screaming is not fun for anyone. It just means that you’re frustrated. So go play.
2. Combine Skills, Fitness and Fun
Since there are so many things to work on, put them together and work on them at the same time. For instance, combine a ball control drill with running. And at the end of the run, players have to do a jump bump. The jump bump makes it fun and goofy (also working on the physical aspect of soccer) and the rest develops fitness and skills.
The more you can combine kids soccer fitness, the better it is.
3. Teach Running Mechanics
Too many kids are overweight, don’t run enough at home and run poorly. Kids have to be taught how to run correctly or they will have no chance at being successful at higher levels of soccer.
And running poorly, besides being slow, hurts. Good running technique is faster, easier, and less likely to cause injuries.
So add a running technique drill like arm pumps to a conditioning and footwork drill. The benefits to your team will be seen very quickly.
4. Youth Soccer Fitness: Full Body Strength
Kids need to have their whole bodies developed for soccer. True, it’s mostly in the legs but if their back and core is under developed, then their legs will never be fully utilized.
Push-ups, sit-ups, planks, burpees, pull-ups, bear crawls…all these exercises develop the whole body. They will give kids the full body strength needed for soccer and will make them all around better athletes.
5. Secret to Successful Youth Soccer Teams: Mental Training
Call it mental toughness training, sports psychology, or whatever. However you want to call it, it should be done. This includes visualizations and team bonding. Anything you do to improve the mental state of the soccer team is going to help greatly.
The best time to do this is throughout the practice. Before you start, tell them what you’re going to work on, why you’re doing it and how it will make them better. This might take one minute.
Not a lot of time out of the practice but critical time for developing complete athletes.
Do the same during drills and scrimmages as well as at the end of practice. Let them know what they did, why it made them better soccer players and a better team.
By working on these five areas of soccer fitness, your players will be better athletes and better soccer players.
Coach Ron Usher helps coaches, parents and kids bring out their athletic skills. To learn more about how you can improve your child’s or team’s fitness for soccer, click the link.