With the Women’s World Cup going on, we would like to share some tips on how an aspiring female soccer player might prepare to compete at the highest level. While playing soccer everyday will absolutely improve a player’s technical abilities, it will only get her so far as a soccer player. To reach elite, national team status like the ones we are watching on TV, it is also important to include some form of strength, speed, and agility training.
Even the most elite players spend time in the gym to further improve their game. Strength training will help improve a player’s speed and quickness to get to a ball first, strength on the ball and in 50/50 challenges, and jumping ability to win aerial battles. These are all physical components that do not come naturally to most but will make a huge difference in a player’s game. Not only will strength training help improve physical characteristics to help stand out from the competition, but it will also help to reduce the risk of injury. Having a strong lower body and core will help a player be more stable and in control of her body on the field. Soccer includes frequent changes of directions, jumping and landing, and speeding up and slowing down. If a girl is weak, she will be at a much higher risk to injure herself performing any of these high speed, dynamic movements.
Speed and agility training are also important when it comes to reaching elite status. While playing will help expose an athlete to these dynamic movements, often the athlete will not know how to perform them correctly. Performing repetitions of movements such as jumping and landing, changes of direction, running form, and acceleration/deceleration without a ball will significantly improve efficiency of these movements when the girls get out on the field. As we mentioned before, off field training is also an important element of injury prevention. If an athlete is consistently getting hurt and watching from the sidelines, she is not getting better. Girls should not have to think twice about these movements, performing them with maximal efficiency.
It is important to understand that there is more to an elite soccer player than just playing soccer. Technical ability is only the start to reaching elite status. Improving a player’s strength, speed, and agility will help set them apart from their competition, but maybe even more importantly it will keep them healthy and on the field doing what they love.
Tim Kilpatrick is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist at Compete Sports Performance and Rehab in Lake Forest, CA.