Soccer is a sport of speed and agility. Players must get their muscles, joints and cardiovascular systems used to lots of sprinting, frequent changes in direction, jumping and frequent blows from the soccer ball. Players also want to hone their ability to sweep the ball downfield, pass it across to their teammate or fire it into the goal. Conditioning is a very important step in staying injury free. Following a few basics can keep players limber and in top shape for this demanding sport.
Before participating in any organized sport, players should see their doctor for a pre-participation physical
- Allow plenty of warm-up time before practices and games. The body needs time to get blood flowing to cold muscles. Light jogging, followed by stretching can help prevent pulled muscles and soreness. An optimal warm up is one that incorporates dynamic and static stretches:
- Dynamic stretches involve taking the body through types of movement experienced during the activity. For example, kicking motions and lunges.
- Static stretches are held for 15 to 20 seconds. Muscles that should be stretched include calf, hamstring, thigh, groin, hips, lower back, shoulders and neck. Coaches should instruct players on proper form.
- To prevent injury, players should never be allowed to shoot the ball before stretching.
- Some short sprints and ball work should also be incorporated to sharpen the body and mind in preparation for the game.
- Allow time to cool down after practices and games. Perform long, slow stretches to keep the body from tightening up and to decrease stiffness and soreness.
- Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after practices and games to prevent dehydration. Players should drink an additional six to eight ounces for every 20 minutes of play. Games should be interrupted for mandatory water breaks.
On the Field
- Communicate with your team members.
- Be aware of where you can move or how you can position yourself to help your teammates.
- Stay focused—the ability to think fast will improve your reaction time.