Monthly Archives: May 2012

May 17

Ten Tips for Improving Acceleration Skills for Youth Sports

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Picture of greyhound dog running

It's not how fast you are. It's how fast you get there.

Being able to run fast is important in soccer, basketball and for most sports.

Being able to accelerate quick is more important.

The first athlete to get to the ball is going to win the ball. It doesn’t matter if they don’t have the top speed of another player.

The athlete who can create distance between her opponent is going to get open more often.

That opening is created not by top speed, but by acceleration.

I see very few teams practicing accelerating. I see them run for distance. I see them run fast. But I don’t see drills being done for accelerating. This is a mistake.

Accelerating is a concept that has to be taught and trained. The best athletes do it naturally. If you want to be successful or if you want your kid to be successful then it’s time to get out and do some acceleration drills.

Acceleration Drills for Youth Sports

Here are ten drills for teaching kids to accelerate quickly. Do a few of them every day or every other day. Do not over do them. For acceleration, quality is better than quantity.

1. Forty yard runs. Number one you jog easy to the 30 yard line then sprint to the 40. Number two, easy jog to the 20 yard line then sprint to the 40. Number three, easy jog to the ten and then sprint to the 40.

2. Prone sprints. Start from a prone position. On the command, bring your feet up and sprint as fast as possible for ten to twenty yards.

3. Sit-up sprints. Start on your back. On the command, explode up with a situp and start sprinting.

4. Jog backwards, sprint to where you started. Be sure to turn in both directions.

5. Pass the ball and sprint to a cone.

6. Run in place, drop and sprint. Add a push-up to make it more difficult.

7. Stationary sprint against a wall or bench. Then sprint in the other direction. This can also work on good running form.

8. Jog backwards ten yards, turn and sprint another 20.

9. Accelerate on the whistle. Jog with the team. One first whistle, every one sprints as fast as possible. On second whistle, they go back to the jog. This is a great cardiovascular developer as well.

10. Accelerate against resistance. Wrap a towel around the waist of the sprinter A. Sprinter B holds the towel with both hands as sprinter A runs against the towel. After five seconds, release one end of the towel and have sprinter A accelerate five to ten yards.

As you can see there are many ways that acceleration can be taught and developed. Do one or two drills a few times a week. Teach the concept of accelerating and watch how much quicker your team is.

Coach Ron Usher believes every child should be an athlete. He helps coaches, parents and teachers bring out the athlete in every child. To find out how you can have your child or team be a better athlete, go to

May 16

Five Different Bench Push-ups for Youth Soccer Fitness

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Picture of soccer bench used for soccer fitness

Benches can be used for more than just storing equipment

I’m a big fan of using natural resources for equipment. I’m not a big fan of bringing a lot of exercise equipment.

I’m kinda disorganized and find that I end up having to bring everything from my car and then get stuck cleaning up and having to carry it back.

Maybe I’m just lazy.

But I do like using equipment. One great piece of equipment that is found on most soccer pitches is the bench. There are tons of exercises and modalities you can adapt them to.

Another advantage is that you can get a couple of kids using the same piece of equipment. There is nothing worse than having a bunch of kids standing around, waiting for some equipment.

Here we are going to go into some variations you can use for push-ups. I guess, I’m on a strength kick right now.

Push-up Variations for Soccer Fitness

Incline to make it easier: The first is to use them as an assist to make the push-ups easier. A lot of younger kids (and older players as well), can’t do good push-ups. They might not be able to do one good one. And some problems with modified push-ups is they are hard to do correctly, easy to cheat on, and most guys don’t like doing them because they are “girl” push-ups.

So have your soccer players use the bench. Typically, they will be at a 45 degree angle or less. My estimate is that it’s about 30% easier to than push-ups on the ground. Of course, it depends on how high the bench is and how tall your players are.

Decline to make the push-up more difficult. The second way to use them is to make it more difficult. On this variation, the team places their feet on the bench. This will make it about 50% harder.

When it’s more difficult the kids will not be able to go down as far. They also might start sticking their elbows out. Encourage them to keep the elbows in close to their rib cage to protect the shoulders.

Push-ups on the bench: The last variation is to do the push-up on the bench. This will make them grasp the bench so that their elbows must stay in. It also will be easier on their wrists.

There may be some balance gains as well. Typically, we think of balance as being on the feet, but there are all sorts of balances for different limbs. If the bench is a portable one, they have to work hard to stay on it. You may want to watch this soccer strength exercise a little more closely.

Leave a comment if you’ve tried these or used them with your team. Perhaps you have some other ideas to use benches for. I look forward to reading about how you creatively use the equipment around the soccer practice.

May 16

The Plank for Soccer Fitness for Kids: Part 2

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

One thing I’ve learned about kids is they thrive on new challenges and opportunities. Performing the same exercise all the time gets boring for them.

Bored kids either cause trouble or quit.

Plus, doing variations on exercises and performing new exercises is better for young soccer player’s bodies. It helps to prevent injury and develops better athletes. And if you can make the exercise more difficult it keeps their bodies getting stronger.

Plank Variations for Soccer Fitness for Kids

1. Raised Leg.

Picture of athlete performing a raised leg plank

A raised leg plank from a push-up position

While holding the plank position on the elbows, raise one foot. You can have the kids do leg raisers (good for glute and hamstring). Another variation is to have them make circles with their leg.

2. Rock and rolls. In the plank position, move forward and back a few inches. This really stresses the core stabilizer muscles. Give it a try and see for yourself!

Another variation is to roll the hips down. Drop the right hip to about 45 degrees, then drop the left. This gets the obliques a little bit more.


Picture of a side plank

Side planks develop the oblique muscles.

Side plank: Spread the legs wider for balance. Then support your weight on the left arm and reach up to the sky with the right. This really gets the obliques going. After ten seconds or so, replace the elbow and switch over to the other side.

There are many variations to have the kids try. Experiment and see which ones the kids like. They can even make up their own variations.

Don’t look for perfect form. As a matter of fact, the younger the kids the less focus on how they do the exercise and more on just doing it and having fun.

Developing a strong core is fundamental to be a good athlete and a good soccer player. A strong, stable core will not only help prevent injuries it will make kids faster, quicker and improve all of their soccer skills.

The team that is the most fit will win 90% of the time.



May 16

Using the Plank for Soccer Fitness for Kids

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

It’s been a while since I made a post on my blog. I got caught up in coaching my team and was feeling overwhelmed. With the season over and summer beginning it’s time to get started again.

My goal this week is for two postings a day only about soccer fitness for kids. I’m going to stay away from ball handling and coaching stuff and really focus on the fitness, conditioning and athletic skills issues.

Picture of an athlete performing a plank

Excellent form. Your kids probably won't be so straight

Let’s start off with one of the best exercises for core strength; the plank. We will look at the plank and some variations that make it very tough.

One of the great things about planks is that it doesn’t take a lot of time to get good results. One minute of them goes a long way to improving the midsection core strength.

They are better than sit-ups for improving strength. There’s nothing wrong with sit-ups but the core in soccer is used mostly for stability. Sit-ups improve flexion strength, but improving stability (needed for running, kicking and agility) is critical for soccer fitness.

Planks can be difficult on the elbows. That’s why they should be done on the grass or turf. At home, the carpet works and you might consider using a towel or even a yoga mat for the elbows and forearms.

Ideally, a plank has a straight line from the heels, through the hips and up through the shoulders and neck. My experience is that most kids will not be able to achieve this at the beginning. If you have the time, use a broomstick or a straight piece of PVC pipe to check for alignment. If not, just keep encouraging the kids to keep the head up and the hips down.

Start off with 15 to 20 seconds of holding the plank. Do sets of 5 to 10. You will see (or feel if you’re doing it yourself) the body shaking very quickly. I believe that shaking shows you’re using all the muscles to hold the position.

Increase the length of hold over the course of a few weeks. Shoot for 60 seconds as a goal. Longer than that and most kids will get bored. After 60 seconds it is time to add some variety and more challenging versions.

Just holding the position will have benefits. But it can be improved. Have the kids tighten their abdominal muscles as they are doing the plank. Also, have them squeeze their glutes together. By tightening the abs and squeezing the glutes you increase the use of the muscles in the entire body. This will improve their soccer skills.

There are lots of variations and my next post will look at three of them.

Be sure to order my ebook on how to work with your kid for soccer fitness. It’s loaded with tips, exercises and methods to give your child the athletic skills needed for soccer fitness. Click on the link to go to the order page.