Conditioning More Important Than Skill?
By Sassan Panah
soccer fans we look at the likes of players
like Cristiano Ronaldo and think "wow he makes
it look so easy..." We admire the skill, the
timing, the footwork, and the uncanny acceleration
that the world's best players exhibit. It
takes God-given talent, countless hours of
practice, game-experience, and extraordinary
determination to play soccer at the professional
level. But sometimes skills are not enough
for players to shine; often the best-conditioned
players are the ones who prevail.
of a long twelve-round boxing match for a
moment. In round one both combatants punch
with good form and conviction, their jabs
and footwork are precise and they keep their
guard up high to protect their chin. Now imagine
a long grueling boxing match that continues
on into rounds eleven or twelve. By this point
both boxers are throwing punches that are
often sloppy and the fighters are struggling
to keep their gloves up to defend themselves.
We often see boxers throw very few punches
in the later rounds and they usually have
a tendency to clinch (for brief rest) when
they get close to one another. Boxing is very
different from soccer, but the point is that
fatigue can make technique sloppy, and to
the observer a tired athlete appears to lack
the desire to win.
let us return our train of thought to the
soccer pitch. Many players exhibit great tenacity
in the early stages of a ninety minute game,
but lack the speed burst to finish off a play
in the finals minutes of a game. The players
in the best cardiovascular shape are more
often than not the best difference-makers
in the second half of games. In fact, that
extra effort (thanks to being in better shape)
can even hide a lack of talent.
how does one go about getting in better shape
than other soccer players? The answer on paper
is quite simple; a player must be willing
to train more and harder than the competition.
But the process however, of attaining higher
fitness levels is an arduous one. No matter
what the level of a competitor, a player has
to decide he or she is going to partake in
extra training that other players are not
doing. Being the most fit player on the field
takes an extra level of desire; whether it's
putting on the iPod headphones and running
a few miles early in the morning, biking dozens
of miles per week, swimming hundreds of laps,
or staying after soccer practice and running
sprints, the most fit players find extra motivation
to do what others aren't willing to do.
these phenomena commonly known by most players?
Of course they are, but how many athletes
put in the extra work to attain the slight
edge that often sets them apart? Any skilled
player can look dynamic in the first half
of a soccer game, but it's the athletes who
train extra outside of their team's practice
sessions who have the conditioning advantage
and maintain their skill level late in games
when other players' impact on the game may
be fading away.
is one of the coaches and the co-founder of
Prep Stars, a youth athletic training company
in Orange County, CA.
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