Functional Training

When I directed the National Soccer Coaches Association of America it occurred to me that many of our coaches used good passing drills and shooting drills etc. but not many were good at “Functional Training”. Functional training involves the training of players in the areas of the field where they function. So a right back, (RB) in the game of soccer, functions on the right hand side and at the back of the team.  A RB, actually, uses very different skills and tactics than, say, a central midfield player (CMF) who plays further up the field in a central position.

The RB receives the ball, much of the time, from a team mate who is in a central position and, consequently, the RB receives the ball facing forward and across his/her body.

CMF players, however, receive the ball, often times, from a central defender and, consequently facing away from the oppositions goal – which is a very different way of receiving the ball than the RB.

So coaches need an understanding of the skills players need to operate successfully in their part of the field – often times coaches lack this skill and can, no longer, contribute to the player’s developmental growth. There comes a stage where the player needs Functional Training. This is a weakness of many of our youth development coaches who have never been educated in the different skills which accompany the different areas of the field players function in.

This deficiency is, particularly, noticeable in the training of our strikers – a desperate need in the USA. I, often, train strikers individually, playing against mannequins. Teaching strikers how to move and operate in small spaces requires certain kinds of running and training players to make these runs works well against a static opponent to begin with. The fact that most American back 4’s play zonally makes the training of these runs transferable and realistic.
Striker training involves some vital (There are many more);

  1. You will be facing the wrong way much of the time. Try and get sideways on to the ball carrier whenever possible. Back into the defenders so you know where they are – you can feel them.
  2. Try and get into the penalty box as much as possible – defenders react differently when they know they are one mistimed tackle away from conceding a penalty kick.
  3. Learn how to get shots off from various running angles – especially diagonal runs which, actually, take you away from the goal. Practice foot placements which help you get your hips facing the goal.
  4. Understand how GK’s react to a striker with the ball – GK’s will shuffle in reaction to the lateral movement of the ball – consequently a shot between their legs often goes in because as they plant one foot the other is stepping away from the planted foot as they shuffle . In addition if forced to react to a shot they will protect the near post with their hands and the back post with their feet. Consequently they are vulnerable to an early shot at the near post and a “dink” shot over their feet at the back.
  5. Speed of changing of feet from receiving the ball and getting shot away.
  6. Make it difficult for defenders to look at the ball and you at the same time. Come off to the weak side of a defenders position on the other side than from where the ball is. When he looks away may be a good time to go.
  7. Toe poke the ball to surprise the GK.  GK’s can read that a shot is about to come in by the physical winding up of a strikers body.
  8. Try and make rebounding a shot from a team mate instinctual.
  9. You do not have to beat a defender to get a shot off.
  10. Learn to receive the ball with the outside of the foot – so your body is between you and the defender.
  11. If you have a computer go to “Youtube” and watch various players and how they move and score goals.