Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Agility in Soccer

Agility refers to the ability to change direction quickly without losing balance. It is an important attribute of good soccer players, both when dribbling a ball past an opponent and countering the movements of an opponent in possession of the ball. On comparing elite 15–16-year old players with age matched sub-elite soccer players, found that performance in an agility run test was the best distinguishing feature of the elite individuals. Agility is a function of the nervous system, incorporating proprioception and co-ordination of muscle activity in both lower limbs and in upper body for control of balance. There has not been comprehensive research investigations of agility training due to the difficulty of identifying the mechanisms of adaptation. Nevertheless it is clear that top soccer players perform well on tests of agility and that this function is amenable to training.

Various drills can be designed for the improvement of agility. Typically they entail zig-zag runs, fast tracks through a maze of obstacles or negotiating low hurdles in alternating directions. Partners may be included with the object of mimicking the shuffling actions of the opposing player. Activities may be specific to soccer, as in getting up quickly from sitting on the ground, or performing zig-zag runs with the ball.

Agility may be combined with fast-feet drills in movements specific to soccer. A series of cones may be placed over 10–12 m with players first manoeuvring their way through with strides shorter but faster than normal. The movements are then performed backwards, sideways to the right and sideways to the left. Players can do the sequences in pairs to provide an element of competition between them. A whole variety of such drills can be designed by the trainer.

Pearson (2001) described a range of drills that might be used for agility training using various items of portable equipment. These items included roped ladders for ‘fast-feet’ work, cones and poles for marking turning points in a run and belts or harnesses for assistance or resistance work. Plyometrics and speed work are included as components of the exercises recommended. Many of the coaching drills used in small-group work incorporate agility exercises whereby players are required to change direction abruptly. Exercises for agility are best incorporated early in the training session when players are still relatively fresh.

Use these sample soccer agility drills to improve your balance, body control, foot speed and co-ordination.

Like speed drills, agility drills should not be physically exhausting... A slow jog or walk between each drill should allow complete recovery. The emphasis must be on quality and form.

Because these soccer agility drills are not physically demanding, you can perform them any time during the week and on any day.

1. Weave In - Weave Out

1. Place 4 markers out in a straight line approximately 3 yards apart.

2. In between each set of markers place another marker only 3 yards to the left. (see diagram)

3. Sprint from one marker to the next bending down to touch each one with your hand.

4. The emphasis is on taking quick side steps, rather than turning to face the marker and sprinting forward - that takes more time (which don't have in a game).

2. Follow the Leader

1. Mark out a large area - 20 yards by 20 yards for example.

2. Pair up with a team mate and have them run randomly within the area.

3. Try to maintain 2 yards distance from them at all times. Your team mate should be changing direction and pace constantly.

3. Box Drill

1. Use 4 cones or markers to mark out a square approximately 5 yards by 5 yards.

2. Place a cone in the center of the square. This is your starting position.

3. Give each corner a number and remember it! Have a team mate (or your coach) call numbers at random.

4. Sprint to the corner shouted and return to the middle.

4. Mini Shuttle

1. Place 2 markers 20 yards apart. Place marker in the middle only 3 yards to the side. (see diagram)

2. Starting from the middle marker sprint to one end (10 yards), turn and immediately sprint to the other end (20 yards) and then back to the start (10 yards).

3. Turn on a different foot at each marker and try to touch the ground with your hand.

5. Super Shuttle

1. Set a series of cones out in a cross formation. (see diagram)

2. Run backwards to the center cone, side step to the right cone (or your left if you are performing the drill), side step back to the center cone still facing the same way.

3. At the center cone turn and sprint forward to the end cone. Now run back to the center cone, side step to the left, side step back to the center, then turn and sprint back to the start.

4. Phew! Sounds complicated - it's not - the diagram explains it quicker than I can!

6. Slalom

1. Place 10 shuttles in a line 5 yards apart.

2. Weave in and out as fast as possible and walk back to the start.

3. This exercise is often performed much more slowly with a ball. The goal here is to develop speed of leg movement so no ball is used.

Use the soccer agility drills above as they are or adapt them to fit your individual or team's needs.
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