The Dutch say the only way to become a good soccer player is to touch the ball 10,000 times a day. And the Dutch, well, they know a thing or two about soccer, having produced legendary superstar footballers such as Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben. That number -10,000 -was first introduced in Malcolm Gladwell’s bestselling book “Outliers,” in which he claimed the key to achieving world-class expertise in any sport is to practice for 10,000 hours. Functional repetitions build a strong foundation for soccer players, but it’s not the only factor that contributes to a high level of success.
In soccer, you need to be able to bend it like Beckham, take a shot on goal with the pinpoint accuracy and power of Lionel Messi (in fact, the sheer velocity of a Messi thunderbolt recently broke a spectator’s arm), and have the finesse and balletic control of Christiano Ronaldo. And in order to do all that consistently, you need to be practicing agility workouts.
Bending the Pitch: Agility Workouts and Your Soccer Game
According to Jose Mourinho, the manager of Chelsea and a man known for his tactical prowess and game management, “Drills are never mindless. There will always be some element of decision making in them.” This is especially true when it comes to agility drills. Agility workouts are designed to improve balance, foot speed, and coordination. These drills are not supposed to be physically demanding; the emphasis is on form, which is another word for body control. Without body control, you won’t have the ability to stop, change direction, sprint, change direction again, and then find the balance to put an accurate shot on goal. Soccer is a game of short, sudden bursts of speed. Agility workouts fine tune your coordination, enabling your body to match the pace of the game. Popular soccer agility workouts include the following:
- Forward/Backward Drill
- Lateral Cut Drill
- Weave In/Weave Out
- Multidirectional Cut Drill
Agility drills improve your overall performance on the pitch. While knowing how to make a succinct lateral or multidirectional cut is important, it’s also important to know when to make those cuts. This is the element of “decision making” that Jose Mourinho is talking about. The wrong cut at the wrong time may result in your opponent stealing the ball, or worse, breaking away and bending a shot into the corner of the net. Making 10,000 ball touches a day may help you achieve world class expertise, but a game is won when players make the right decisions.