Column 26 - Be Ready for Soccer

Original publication date: February 29, 1984

While out for a walk I spotted a young man kicking a soccer ball up and down the road. Practicing some pretty fancy footwork, he guided the ball around the icy patches and up and down the snowbanks.

Soccer is one of the world's most demanding sports. Its origins are found in 19th-century England, where villages played games of kickball against each other with limitless numbers of players. The object was to drive the ball into the opponent's village. The game has since evolved into a highly sophisticated sport which can be played at all levels by both sexes.

Upper body weight training and strengthening is not as important in soccer as it is in many other sports. It does, however, require strength and flexibility of the entire spine from neck to lower back.

The powerful neck muscles are used for good heading of the ball, and a strong flexible back is needed for the sudden twists and kicking. Resistance exercises will increase the neck muscles. Place your hand at the side of your head. Push with your hand and resist with your head. You should feel a pull in the neck. Change postioning of the hand on the head, beside the head and under the head to strengthen all areas of the neck. The back can be strengthened with a simple pelvic tilt. Lie on the floor on your back with knees bent. Flatten the small of your back into the floor, pushing hard for six seconds. Relax and repeat 10 times.

Another important requirement is strength and flexibility of the legs. The large thigh muscles in the front of the legs provide the strength for sudden bursts of power and speed, while the hamstrings at the back of the thighs, in addition to powering kicks and jumps, must be flexible enough to endure the extreme stretching while kicking.

A series of pre-season exercises can get you in shape in six to eight weeks even if you've done nothing to train all winter. Working with repetitons of 30: bounce on toes, throw the ball up, leap and catch and repeat.

Throw the ball up every third bounce; jacknife jumps - touch the ball in outstretched arms to feet; leg-raisers. From a sitting position with the ball between your feet, lift your legs 12 inches from the floor and down again without touching the floor; running on the spot, lean back and bring knees up high to chest; lie on your stomach on the floor holding the ball in outstretched arms, raise both arms and legs off the floor; hop over the ball from side to side; hop over the ball from front to back.

Ankle injuries are the most common in soccer due to poor strength of both the foot and the ankle. Ankle sprains can keep a player out of the game for several weeks. The old reliable ankle circles and flex and point exercises will reduce the risk of sprains. Practice picking marbles or stones off the floor with your toes for one or two minutes each day. This gives individual attention to the weak muscles of the foot.

Soccer consists of running, kicking, jumping, running and running and more running. Needless to say the aerobic benefits are tremendous. To stay in the game for the whole game sprinting should be done every day. Go outside and throw the ball. Sprint to get the ball and sprint to return to the starting position. At least 10 times each day increasing the distance each week.

Whether you're an avid soccer player or a park player this program requires dedication and should be done everyday until game time.

Copyright 2021 K.L. McCluskey, all rights reserved.