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Aerobic fitness lets you play soccer at full speed.
Soccer skills are important, but you'll have more opportunities to use your skills in a game if you maintain strong aerobic fitness. You won't score many second-half goals, for example, if you're too tired to get into scoring position or, worse, if you're on the bench because your coach sees that you can't keep up with the game's flow. Performing aerobic drills can improve your soccer skills while helping you build the aerobic conditioning you need to put those skills into action.
Ball drills on short fields can keep players in constant motion and improve their aerobic fitness. Use cones to mark off a section of the field, such as a 45-by-55-yard portion. Place two seven-player teams on the field and give them one ball each. Make sure the balls are different colors or have distinguishable markings. Each team tries to maintain possession of the ball and simultaneously tries to take the opposition's ball. Teams score one point each time they have possession of both balls. Increase the intensity by shortening the field, by giving each team two balls or by reducing the number of players.
Perform a six-ball drill by setting cones in the corners of a 25-by-40-yard area. Place nets in the middle of the 25-yard end lines and cones in the middle of the 40-yard sidelines. Place one ball next to each cone and use another ball to begin play of a five-on-five game. Play continues normally until one team either scores or shoots wide of the net. If the shot misses the net, the defending team immediately takes a ball from the nearest cone and begins an attack. One player from the shooting team must retrieve the missed shot and replace the ball taken by the opposition. When a team scores, it begins another attack by taking a ball from the middle of a sideline while a player from the defending team retrieves the ball from the net and replaces the ball taken by the opposition.
Drills using rope ladders develop agility and quick feet but can also be used as aerobic exercise. To combine aerobics with skill work, have two training partners sit or kneel on either side of a ladder's end and set the active participant at the opposite end. The active player begins within the ladder, then steps to the right, where a training partner rolls him the ball. The player kicks the ball back to the seated partner, steps both feet into the rope ladder and then steps out of the ladder to the left, where the other seated partner rolls him the ball. The pattern continues for several minutes. The active player can step into the ladder one foot at a time or hop in and out with both feet. The key is keeping the player in motion.
Four-on-Four Transition Drill
Mark off a 54-by-30-yard field with goals on the shorter end lines. Play an otherwise normal four-on-four game, but station observers with balls on the end lines and touchlines. When goals are scored or balls leave the field, the nearest observer immediately throws a new ball in and play continues. Players learn to transition quickly from offense to defense while building aerobic strength.