If you’re serious about being the best you can be on the football pitch, you need to put in the hours on the practice pitch. The best players make the very best of their natural talents. They do this by adopting an holistic approach. They eat right, stay fit, work on their strength and conditioning and practice. They practice a lot!
By committing to 10 relatively simple tasks, you should be able to fully exploit your footballing potential.
1. I’ll Practise Keep-Ups for at Least 60 Minutes a Week
Practising keep-ups is a great way to develop your touch and control. And it can also help you to hone your reactions. The great thing about this particular commitment is that it’s very easy to achieve. All you need is a quality football and a little space — your garden is probably sufficient. Aim for 60 minutes of keep-ups every week. Break this down into daily chunks, and this is a commitment that’s very easy to stick to.
Tip: Push yourself harder by using a rebounder. You can kick balls against the elasticated netting so the ball flies back to you with a degree of unpredictability.
2. I’ll Develop My Body Strength
Power and acceleration rely on good core body strength. And the same can be said for mastering the physical element of the world’s most popular contact sport. You’ll need to put the hours in off the pitch to get the best results, however. This might involve lifting weights at the local gym. But you can develop your strength and conditioning almost anywhere if you have the right equipment.
3. I’ll Improve My Passing
Passing is probably the single most important skill any outfield footballer needs. Whether you’re a classic centre back or a playmaking number 10, the ability to pass accurately under pressure is crucial. But you don’t need to wait for training matches to get the practice you need. Set up some training cones and markers in your own garden to give yourself some passing targets when you’re alone.
4. I’ll Practise Skills in My Garden or Yard
Every spare minute you have represents an opportunity to develop your footballing skills. Whether you’re working on passing, close control or cardiovascular fitness, there’s an awful lot you can do in your own garden. Just always have a football at hand.
5. I’ll Improve and Maintain My Fitness Levels
You’ll never maximise your footballing talents if you aren’t fit and conditioned. You might struggle to keep pace with the opposition. And let’s face it, if you’re struggling to breathe, you’re not fully concentrating on the basics of the game. But if you work on general fitness levels on a day-to-day basis, you’ll always be ready to put in your very best performance.
Running, cycling and swimming are great cardiovascular activities. But if you really want to push yourself, using speed and agility ladders, bounce-back hurdles and boundary poles gives you the opportunity to combine running and dribbling with tight twists and turns.
6. I’ll Pursue a Healthy Lifestyle
What is a healthy lifestyle? Well, it’s mostly about moderation. You don’t need to give up all the foods you love, you just need to be sensible about how often you eat them. And if you enjoy the odd tipple every now and then, do so — but don’t drink to excess.
A healthy lifestyle involves getting at least seven hours of sleep a night, drinking lots of water, adhering to a nutritious, well balanced diet and moderating your alcohol intake. And it goes without saying that a healthy lifestyle should never involve smoking or drugs.
7. I’ll Improve My Shooting
All outfield players need to devote at least some of their training time to shooting. Even if you’re a defensive-minded centre-back, you’re always going to be presented with scoring chances. The only thing that will deliver significant improvements is practice — and lots of it.
But don’t simply shoot in the general direction of the goal. Work on picking out very specific spots. Work on guiding the ball home, rather than simply swinging your leg at it at every opportunity. There’s a great bit of kit that helps you to work on precision shooting, and it’s called a target net. This handy item attaches to existing goalposts, and gives the shooter at least two (sometimes as many as six) clearly defined targets to hit.
8. I’ll Learn from the Pros
If you’re trying to maximise your footballing potential, take a lead from the pros who’ve done just that. Read articles and books they’ve written about how they train, rest and live their daily lives. How do they stay fit during the summer and Christmas breaks? How do they practice away from the training pitch? What sacrifices do they make? The best pros squeeze every last drop of potential out of themselves – you should do the same.
9. I’ll Have More Fun with My Football
No one who wasn’t passionate about their vocation or hobby ever excelled at it. And it’s hard to remain passionate about something if it isn’t either fun or rewarding. The best way to keep yourself motivated to improve is by keeping football fun. It doesn’t all have to be about incessant training, practice, fitness and sacrifice.
Take pop-up Samba goals everywhere you go, and you can set up impromptu matches with friends at every opportunity. Try the short-sided versions of the game, such as five-a-side and futsal. Play singles, doubles or winner stays on. Do whatever it takes to make the sport you love stay fresh and exciting.