2024 is nearly here and if you are looking to accelerate your game, I’ve laid out some practical tips for you!
In my (humble) opinion, I think it takes more than skills to succeed in today’s game. You have to not only get better technically, but you also have to prioritize your physical and mental health. Players who can lock in on themselves without caving into bad habits, junk food, and excessive screen time will give themselves a better chance to win in 2024.
Let’s dive into some of the things you can do to achieve your goals this year!
- Master the fundamentals of soccer before moving on to advanced techniques and strategies.
- Focus on physical conditioning to be in top shape for the demands of the game.
- Prioritize mental and psychological preparation to stay focused, motivated, and mentally tough on the field.
- Don’t compare yourself to anyone other than YOU.
Focus on the Fundamentals (Rinse & Repeat)
To succeed as a player in 2024, you must master the fundamentals and practice the mundane. In this section, we will discuss the three most important fundamentals of soccer: ball control, passing skills, and tactical awareness.
Mastering Ball Control
Ball control is the foundation of soccer. It is the ability to receive, control, and manipulate the ball with your feet.
To master ball control, you need to practice dribbling, juggling, and trapping. Dribbling is the skill of moving the ball with your feet while maintaining control.
Juggling is the skill of keeping the ball in the air using your feet, knees, and head. Trapping is the skill of stopping the ball and bringing it under control.
To improve your ball control, you should practice these skills every day. Start with basic drills and gradually increase the difficulty level. Use cones and other objects to create obstacles and practice dribbling around them. Juggle the ball in different ways to improve your touch and coordination. Practice trapping the ball from different angles and heights to improve your reaction time.
Perfecting Passing Skills
Passing is the most important soccer skill. In my opinion, it’s more important than dribbling and shooting. You can become an elite player simply by making smart passes that lead to scoring opportunities.
To perfect your passing skills, you need to practice accuracy, power, and technique. Accuracy is the ability to pass the ball to your teammate’s feet. Power is the ability to pass the ball over longer distances. Technique is the ability to pass the ball using different parts of your feet.
To improve your passing skills, you should practice passing drills with your teammates or a rebounder.
Start with short passes and gradually increase the distance. Practice passing with both feet to improve your versatility. Use different techniques such as the inside of your foot, the outside of your foot, and the instep to improve your passing accuracy.
Developing Tactical Awareness
Tactical awareness is the ability to understand the game and make decisions based on the situation. Your ability to see and read the game will put you at a mental advantage. Making sound and quick decisions will eliminate any physical disadvantages as well.
To improve your tactical awareness, you should watch as many soccer games as you can. Focus in on one or two players and study their movements. Learn how they communicate, their body language, and where they gravitate towards on the field. Develop your situational awareness by analyzing the game and anticipating your opponent’s moves.
Also, outside of playing and watching soccer, try to make as many decisions as possible. Decide what you’ll have for lunch on the spot. Deciding between a mint chocolate chip and vanilla ice cream? Choose one.
Soccer players are some of the best athletes on this planet. To be a complete player, you need to work on your strength, endurance, speed, agility, and injury prevention. Here are some tips on how to do that:
Strength and Endurance Training
Strength and endurance training are crucial for soccer players. You need to be able to run for a long time without getting tired, and you need to be able to change direction, sprint, tackle, etc. To do this, you should focus on exercises that target your legs, core, and upper body.
Some good exercises for strength and endurance training include:
To get the most out of your strength and endurance training, you should aim to do it at least three times a week. For any player 14 and older, you should also gradually increase the weight or resistance you use as you get stronger.
Speed and Agility Drills
In soccer, speed and agility are essential. You need to be able to change direction quickly, accelerate and decelerate, and sprint with speed. To improve your speed and agility, you should focus on drills that work on your footwork, reaction time, and explosiveness.
Some good drills for speed and agility training include:
- Cone drills
- Ladder drills
- Plyometric exercises
- Shuttle runs
- Reaction drills
To get the most out of your speed and agility training, you should aim to do it at least twice a week. You should also focus on proper form and technique to avoid injury.
Injury Prevention and Recovery
As much as you probably want to get bigger, stronger, and faster, injuries can happen. Injuries can hold you back and prevent you from getting better.
To prevent injuries, you should focus on exercises that strengthen your muscles and improve your flexibility. You should also make sure to warm up properly before games and practices.
Some good exercises for injury prevention and recovery include:
- Foam rolling
- Resistance band exercises
- Balance exercises
If you do get injured, it’s important to take the time to recover properly. This means resting, icing, and seeing a doctor if necessary. Remember to listen to your body in 2024. This is often overlooked but your body is the engine that makes everything go.
Mental and Psychological Preparation
Building a competitive mindset, coping with pressure and setbacks, and goal-setting and self-motivation are all essential components of mental and psychological preparation.
Building a Competitive Mindset
To succeed in 2024, you need to have a competitive mindset. This means that you are always striving to improve and be the best player you can be. You should try not to compare yourself to anyone including Messi, your teammates, or your opponents. Focus on yourself and keep becoming the better version.
Focus on your strengths and punt your weaknesses.
Every player has their own unique strengths and weaknesses, and it’s important to know what yours are. By focusing on your strengths, you can develop a sense of confidence and belief in your abilities, which will help you perform at your best on the field.
Coping with Pressure and Setbacks
As a youth soccer player, I understand how much pressure soccer can be. You have your coaches and parents who have set a high bar and it can be intimidating to meet it.
There’s no doubt that you will face pressure and setbacks both on and off the field. Learning how to cope with these challenges is essential for your mental and psychological preparation. One way to cope with pressure is to practice mindfulness and relaxation techniques. This can help you stay calm and focused even in high-pressure situations.
Another way to cope with setbacks is to develop a growth mindset. This means that you view setbacks as opportunities for learning and growth, rather than as failures. By adopting a growth mindset, you can bounce back from setbacks more quickly and continue to improve as a player.
Goal-Setting and Self-Motivation
Finally, goal-setting and self-motivation are essential components of mental and psychological preparation for soccer players. Setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals can help you stay motivated and focused on your training.
It’s also important to develop a sense of self-motivation, so that you can push yourself to achieve your goals even when faced with challenges or setbacks. In my experience, the players who improve the quickest over a year are the ones who train outside of their team’s practices. This means putting in hours in the backyard or at a local school.
Prioritizing Getting Better Over Everything
Regardless of your current level, there is always room for improvement, and you should strive to be better every day.
Learn to love the process of getting better. This is how good athletes become great. When young athletes prioritize their development over winning, social media, and everything else, they make significant progress.
If you are a player reading this, make this your year to be the best version of yourself! Train hard, eat healthy, recover properly, and strive to become the best you.