I had the opportunity to help assess one of the women’s soccer teams in the newly formed National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) on Wednesday. The players were humble, hard working, and I appreciate their willingness to cooperate with a some guy (aka myself) coming in to do a few basic assessments with them. With the help of their assistant coach Kris Ward (who gave me the opportunity to help out), I was able to learn a bit more about soccer drills, conditioning, organization, and movement patterns of the game. I encourage everyone that is a soccer enthusiast to check out a game if you in an area that has a club and hopefully there will be more opportunities to help them out!
In particular, viewing the dynamic warm-up provided me with a few ideas for plyometric power progressions for the soccer athlete. Once the pace of the warm-up is sped up, the activities becomes more multi-directional. In other words, besides linear (jogs, sprints, forward skips, back pedals, backward runs) and lateral movements (side shuffle, cariocas), the emphasis is more on multiple changes of direction and pace. A simple example would be a side shuffle into a 10 yard forward sprint. One of the most important aspects in change of direction drills is making sure the athlete “loads” or shifts weight quickly and efficiently on whichever leg is going to accelerate them forward. Loading the hips allows for proper deceleration in order to efficiently accelerate towards the next target (wherever that may be). We typically start most athletes off with linear hurdle hops (double or single leg) and 1-leg lateral/medial hurdle hops (left to right–and vice versa). It it with these basic progressions that we can coach the athletes how to start, load, and change direction safely and quickly.
After they have mastered these we can then progress to more difficult versions such as a rotational bound
With any change of direction work (plyometric or speed) we encourage our soccer athletes to first, lead with the eyes in the direction they are going to more efficiently turn their bodies. Second, we make sure they start and land in a low position with the hips back while preventing the knee from caving in. The rotational bound was an idea I first learned from Endeavor while training our hockey goalies. That same movement pattern can be seen with warm-up drills (what I saw in the warm-up with the girl’s team) where various changes in direction are needed. Here is one that I saw in the warm-up (notice I load on the left leg, get my eyes around quickly, and accelerate)…
Besides the more advanced variation I’ve shown here, linear and lateral variations are a great way to start off many athletes.