Every soccer player practices..... but true athletes train. And that difference is a big deal! Every week on fields across the nation, hundreds of thousands of players put on their shin guards and cleats to go to weekly practice with their teams. They dribble through cones, learn new moves and get the chance to scrimmage at the end to mimic game application. As players get older, their teams may become more skilled, have coaches with years of coaching experience and play against better competition..... but how many of those players have truly trained?
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TRAINING AND TEAM PRACTICE?
Team practice is an integral part of developing as a player. As a club coach AND professional trainer, I see the multiple benefits of this aspect of a player's development. At team practice, players learn general knowledge of the game; learning foundational movements, foot skills, passing & receiving with teammates, small sided application, team formations and more. Those ARE all crucial to improving as a player; especially in a sport that requires team oriented knowledge. So why is training still so important when players can "just go to practice"?
The problem is the lack of true individual development. While team practice can help players learn general aspects of training, most players do not gain the individual development needed to truly improve. Here's why:
Comfort Zones - Many players struggle at practice to step outside their comfort zones; usually due to fear of failure (peer or coach related).
Coach Focus - Coaches focusing on team oriented development with 12-18 athletes cannot give each individual the instruction and help they need without losing focus on others or the team.
Limited Practice Time - Most teams only practice 2-3 times a week or approximately 4.5 hours. If a teacher asked your child to become proficient in calculus with only 4.5 hours spent a week, that would be unrealistic. Soccer is the same. If you want to become proficient, you must do the homework to pass the test.
This is where training becomes critical to improvement! Private training or self training serves the purpose of focusing exclusively on your athlete. Athletes are able to break down each of their individual strengths and weaknesses in order to improve. Training helps athletes to develop mental focus & determination, improving small but important technical details ....... and most importantly is a venue to work on creativity. Many players lack creativity due to fear of failure or feeling like they have to accomplish "exactly" what their coaches tell them. Soccer doesn't do well with "by the book" players. It is not forgiving to players unable to think outside the box and be creative when needed. Adjust!
"90% of soccer is technical adherence. The other 10%?
You have to critically think on your feet; using instinct and creativity!"
Great trainers will push your athlete to step outside of what they think is possible; a feat not comfortable but one that is critical to fully develop. Additionally, great trainers will push your individual development to reflect the ideas taught in team practice; allowing for a seamless merging of development at practice and in games. If your training does not reflect what is needed in games, then your are not training properly (or with the right trainer).
WHY IS THIS A BIG DEAL?
To become a completely developed athlete, you must focus on every aspect of your skill set; both individually and as a teammate. That includes:
Individual & team tactics
Decision making and critical thinking
Knowledge and understanding of the game (formations, team tactics, etc.)
If players focus on the team aspect of development, they will not develop fully as an individual. On the other hand, if players only individually train, they will not be able to adjust to their team required demands of the game. Team practice and individual training go hand in hand. Think of it this way:
Individual Training + Team Practice = Complete Athlete
If one part of the development equation gets out of balance, the end results does not happen. In order to become the best player you can be, you must spend time both with your team and as an individual.
SO WHAT IS PROPER TRAINING?
Simply put, training is working individually (or with a couple teammates) on aspects that directly affect your sport. You must make sure that the exercises and drills you working on reflect what soccer demands from athletes. There are many personal trainers that utilize drills from their playing days or that are "flashy" in their training sessions; only to have players not able to execute to translate to their gameplay. The problem is soccer is constantly evolving and requires proper training to reflect what is needed; not just what "looks cool". Not all soccer training is created equal.
Critically evaluate your training to see if it is required to succeed at the game or is it an "extra"? Is your training all finishing and 1v1 moves? Or does your training cover the nuances of soccer; i.e. balance distribution, passing weight and control, heads up awareness when turning, distribution to create an assist, etc.?
At Quick Touch Soccer Development (QTSD©), our training approach is 100% built on developing players completely so they can take their lessons directly to the field; merging training with team practice curriculum. We make sure our athletes not only know how techniques work but more importantly understand how and why to apply them. Whether mentally, physically or technically, players must fully develop in order to succeed. Can you improve not only at team practice but more so as an individual? Players are only as strong as their weaknesses but if you can push your development to be constantly improving, you may be surprised how proficient you can become!