The Game of Soccer is Bigger, Faster and Stronger Than Ever Before.

You better buy into a strength and conditioning program or you will be left behind.

I don’t want to get too big.
If I get too big I will get slow.
I just need to work on fitness.
I just need core work.
I don’t want players to test, I don’t want them to get hurt.
(please feel free to add to this list).

I am not supporting that soccer players should train like American football players, but I am advocating a program that focuses on strength, power, speed/agility, conditioning and injury prevention. Yes, strength and power are major focuses of our programs. I can’t control the skill level of the teams or athletes that I get, but I am committed to making them as strong, fast and fit as possible. And you know what? I’m okay if they get a little bigger because when we test, they are faster, they are more fit, they move better and they are absolute athletic freaks.

One of my favorite testimonials in this sport is Keith Buckley from Rollins College. About 10 years ago Tony Amato brought me in to talk about implementing S/C with the women’s soccer program at Rollins and invited Keith in to hear my pitch. Keith was quite skeptical about the whole idea of S/C for soccer players, but went ahead and trusted Tony’s intuition.

A quick recap of the last nine seasons:
2004 – first conference championship
2009 – programs best with 17 wins, co-conference champions, ranked 3rd in the nation
2010 – most successful season in program history, runner up in NCAA Division II National Championship
2011 – 3rd straight bid to NCAA Regional Tournament
2012 – 6th in the nation and second straight conference tournament title
2013 – spent most of the season ranked in the top 3 of the nation
“The Strength and Conditioning Program that Will and SSP have put into place in our program has, hands down, been one of the most influential factors in our success. “
–Keith Buckley, Rollins College Men’s Soccer

On the professional level, we have developed an incredible working relationship with Orlando City and Head Coach, Adrian Heath. I remember being extremely impressed on how quickly Adrian wanted to implement S/C when the team was moved here and how committed he was to it throughout the entire year. He doesn’t just look at it as a pre-season or an off-season thing. It is part of his program that players are held accountable to all year round. As a result, we have now been apart of three championships with the club in the last three years. I do want to be very clear, Adrian is a first class coach and has an incredible support team. His championships are truly a reflection of his organization and skills as a manager and I am just simply pointing out his commitment to S/C. I would never try to take credit for his success, but rather my point is to commend him on his support and educate others on how S/C can compliment your program.

A.S. Roma was here several years ago and everyone who watched their training sessions were so impressed in the physical nature of these players and how explosive they were during their plyometrics. That’s what I’m talking about. They were doing strength and power work daily in the middle of a grueling pre-season. And that is sport. Sport or movement is a series of plyometric movement repeated over and over.

Athletes in this sport should be fit; there is absolutely no question about that. Aside from skill, when people talk about other physical attributes of a player, they talk about how fast they are, how quick, how powerful, how strong they are. So lets train those qualities. Yes, I Back Squat soccer players, I track and I require them to get stronger, and guest what? I do if for Bench Press also. Depending on the individual we also may Clean, Deadlift and/or a number of other “big lifts.” Don’t freak out, we also do “core work” and stabilization. They too are important and a major part of my programs.

The last part I want to touch on is performance testing. We typically test a linear speed test (20m, 30m, 40yrd), agility (5.10.5 shuttle, arrowhead agility), power (vertical jump, broad jump) and conditioning (yo-yo intermittent recovery test, 300yrd shuttles). I am not going to get into the frequency or timing because there are too many variables to consider for the sake of this article.

1. Evaluation – Testing allows the athletes and coaches to evaluate progress and what changes to make.

2. Accountability – Did the athletes return in a physical manner that was expected?

3. Injury – If an athlete has experience an injury we can test them to see where they are in relation to their last test.

4. Comparison – Testing provides the ability to compare players within a team, a club, a league, or when signing.

One of my most frustrating discussions with a coach is when the coach is concerned about players getting injured during testing. I have a coach that I have worked very closely with over the years and he is very quick to say if an athlete was injured during testing or workouts, then they probably would have gotten injured sooner or later at practice or in a game. Testing is such a controlled environment that with properly trained professionals there should be very little fear of testing and injuries.

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