First, it is important to separate the ideas of “endurance training” and “conditioning“.
Endurance is very important in soccer, but it is just one aspect of successful soccer conditioning. Balance, speed, strength, flexibility, and agility are some of these.
So then, how should a coach prioritize these physical skills, particularly given practice time constraints?
- Endurance – Even the newest soccer coach no doubt realizes that soccer is a game that requires tremendous endurance. Players are rarely completely stationary during games, and therefore, they must maintain high levels of stamina. While agility, speed, and strength are important, the fact is even a slow-jogging player will beat the fastest, strongest walking player. Furthermore, physical fatigue will also lead to mental fatigue. Hence the reason endurance training takes priority.
- Agility – Soccer is a game of short, lateral movements. Agility is required for quick stops and starts. Agility also helps players turn more quickly. In short, agility helps attackers lose defenders and helps defenders keep from being beaten. Goal keepers must be particularly agile when making saves.
- Speed – Speed in soccer can refer to many things. However, since we are talking about physical conditioning, we’ll define speed as the ability to run fast in comparison to others. Speed is important for many reasons. For example, the first player to a ball nearly always wins possession. Given a 50/50 chance, the faster player should be the first player to the ball. For another example, a faster player can recover and get into a good defensive position more easily when beaten.
- Other – While balance, flexibility, and other physical skills are important, their roll is usually less prominent.