It's true. Not all training is created equal.
But what does that even mean? If you train, you are guaranteed to improve, right? Right? Not necessarily......
Training has many different meanings when it comes to soccer. Many coaches and players think that training means simply performing exercises with repetition. The longer you practice a certain skill set, the better you will become. For example, if you juggle for an hour every day, you will become proficient at juggling. While that is correct to a certain degree, there is much more to training than just repetition!
So then what is the difference between "Training" and "Effective Training"? Efective training places a high importance on correct execution and training purpose while typical training does not always. The goal behind training is to practice a skill set so that it is immediately applicable to game play. But true effective training is much more than just "completing the exercise". Players must put active thought and critical thinking into action when training the right way! Let's take a quick look at those two crucial differences:
Correct Execution - Repetition is pointless if you aren't executing the correct way! Let's take the basic idea of foot skills; specifically "Foundation Touches". This fundamental foot skill is described as touching a ball back and forth with the inside of your feet. Many players go in their back yard and execute this move over and over again, only to find it not coming naturally in their games. Why?? The reason is that there are many more factors to consider including body control, the mental focus, weight distribution, surface of the foot, etc.
This specific exercise was a personal lesson for myself when I was younger. Part of my training regiment included completing multiple sets of foot skills as quick as possible in order to develop my familiarity (or muscle memory) with the movement. My thought process was "If I can complete 100+ of these foot skills as quick as possible, then they will directly translate into my game play." Guess what? They didn't..... and I got frustrated as a player. Why was that?
It took a teammate to watch my foot skills one night and comment on how I was performing them. Even though I was quick and my body was getting used to the movement, it turns out I wasn't even performing the foot skill properly. I hadn't taken weight distribution into consideration, my body posture was off and I was tense the entire time. So, even though I was training, I wasn't training correctly. Once I started evaluating how and why I executed my training techniques, the application of it became much easier! Players must evaluate whether the training they are performing is correct; whether via a teammate, coach or professional trainer!
Training with Purpose - You must decided on the specific training goals or you risk wasting your valuable training time! As a coach and personal trainer, I hear a lot of different comments from my athletes about training. Some say they spend 15 minutes a day outside while others devote close to an hour a day training. My first question to them is "What are you training to improve?" That stumps a lot of them and tells me much about their training habits. How can you improve something if you don't have a goal in mind? Every single training session should have a specific goal in place to focus on AND players should try to measure their improvement! Just going out and juggling does not help you know if you are improving and neither does just hitting shots on goal for two hours. Set goals such as aiming for a certain percentage of accuracy or a juggle improvement each day.
Another aspect of training with purpose is deciding on the training focus. One thing I see a lot of players do during training is practicing the skills sets that they enjoy the most; usually striking shots or juggling. While those skills sets are important to the game, players must train to be well rounded athletes. That means training with a goal to improve your least favorite skills as well! If you constantly practice striking a ball, your finishing consistency may improve but what about the dribbling under control aspect that leads to goal scoring opportunities? What about the ability to win the ball off an opponent to gain possession first? You must consider every aspect of the game for your improvement as a player!
In summary, effective training is crucial to improving as a player. The difference between good players and great players is how they approach their training. Every training session should have a clear goal as well as be executed properly to develop the proper technique needed to succeed on the field. Think about what you want to accomplish and how you can ensure your are working towards that goal properly. Don't be afraid to ask a professional source for feedback and watch how the professional players execute the techniques in the games. In the end, training is crucial for a player's improvement. Just make sure when you put the effort in, that your training is as effective as possible!
by Joe Pennell, QTSD© Director of Marketing/ Senior Coach