Developing The Complete Soccer Athlete
Interactive eBook by Scott Lancaster
This e-book is for players and coaches. It is your guide to a more effective approach to developing a soccer athlete’s skills and performance.
For the first time you’ll have a cohesive set of movement tools necessary to execute and improve soccer skills.
This guide will serve as a vital resource for anyone who wishes to improve a soccer player’s athletic development (your own or ones you coach).
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A Bit About Scott
Over the past fifteen years I’ve embarked on studying the development of athletic performance. During that time I’ve trained, observed, and directly worked with thousands of athletes for tens of thousands of hours, primarily focusing on 12 to 22 year olds. A majority have numerous issues that impede their ability to improve. Some of those issues are fairly common:
Weak Core Strength & Poor Posture - affects their overall movement efficiency.
Playing Flat-Footed - prevents optimum acceleration and agility.
Poor Balance - limits the ability to maximize change of direction skills and execution of sport specific movements.
Hip Instability - causes knee & ankle injuries, and poor performance.
Weak Glutes & Hamstrings - limits speed, power production and increases the risk of lower extremity injuries.
Poor Running Form - limits speed, and all sports specific movement techniques.
Slow First Step Speed (with & without the ball)
During this period I’ve collected volumes of first-hand knowledge about human sports performance. But more importantly I’ve had the opportunity to train athletes using a combined knowledge of movement science, discovery, experimentation, and implementation of the best approaches to instruct movement skills. This has lead to a successful practice of improving an athlete’s performance and advancing them to their next level, while reducing their risk of injuries and avoiding years of chronic pain and discomfort.
A Look Inside The Book:
PART ONE: Preparation to Play
Chapter 1: Discovering Soccer Posture
Chapter 2: Developing Core and Dynamic Strength
Chapter 3: Cultivating Balance and Off-Balance Skills
PART TWO: Athletic Skill-Building
Chapter 4: Applying Athleticism to Technical Skills
Chapter 5: Learning to Move in 360 Degrees
PART THREE: Soccer Prehabilitation
Chapter 6: Learning to Leap, Land, and Fall
Chapter 7: Staying Healthy and Injury Free
Chapter 8: Focusing on Rest & Recovery
PART FOUR: Creativity & Focus
Chapter 9: Retraining Athletes as Creative Artist
Chapter 10: Building a Team of Self-Coaches
After observing thousands of hours of athletes performing and training it's apparent that many don't possess the proper postural development when performing dynamic movements during competition. A majority of young athletes I've observed have poor posture. Their shoulders hunch forward, their chests cave in, and they have difficulty maintaining a stable mid-section therefore causing their bodies to move/react during competition much slower than they should, placing themselves in unstable and unsafe positions.
Due to the constant movement of a soccer player throughout a game it's vital that they have and maintain proper dynamic posture at all times in order to execute strong and accurate shots, passes, tackles, headers, etc.
A player's overall speed, quickness, and explosiveness is compromised when he does not maintain a proper and strong postural position. This chapter and web video portion explains and shows in detail what proper posture is, how it feels, and how to develop it through specifically designed exercises and drills. We also distinguish how to develop female postures differently due to their body structures compared to males.
Postural corrections and a majority of injury prevention training can be achieved by focusing on core strength. Without proper core strength an athlete is seriously vulnerable to injuries. Core strength increases the body's overall stability, allowing an athlete to better sustain a blow, and decreases the chance of falling, through the ability to regain their balance more rapidly (or bring them-self back to a center/stable athletic position). This is accomplished through the development of balance & proper dynamic posture. A strong core also protects other parts of the body (head, neck, knees, ankles, shoulders, etc) through stabilization of the athlete's trunk area, therefore compensating and protecting other weaker or more vulnerable parts of the body.
From a functional soccer performance standpoint core strength plays an important role in the development of all soccer skills (shooting, passing, throw-ins, etc.) this chapter/video section will break down exercises and drills that develop the core as it directly relates to all soccer and athletic skills needed to perform at a high level and safely.
Dynamic Soccer Strength
Whether you're shooting, passing, tackling, or fending off an opponent using your body leverage, a soccer player needs to learn and develop strength in motion, otherwise referred to as dynamic strength. Rarely does a soccer player perform a skill in a stationary position. This chapter will breakdown particular soccer skills and focus on exercises and drills that strengthen and create more power behind each of those skills through text, photos, and video.
One of the most overlooked athletic skills in most any sport is the importance of balance development. Many players feel that balance is something they already have mastered, while coaches often will not dedicate the time to what may be the most important skill to continue to develop in soccer.
Due to the fact that soccer players are executing often with only one foot on the ground while shooting, ball-handling, passing, etc. it is necessity to perfect and strengthen a players balance in order to better execute soccer skills. This chapter provides a complete balance routine with a progression from establishing a baseline of balance skill scores that measures how effective a player is executing throughout a season.
How to Develop Effective Off-Balance Performance
Due to the fact that soccer players for the most part execute soccer skills while they and the ball are moving, and not always in the same direction, presents many ever changing ways players must execute a skill. Often that skill must be executed off-balance. This chapter breaks down those playing situations and provides exercises and drills to best stabilize and strengthen the overall execution of that particular skill off-balance (shooting, passing, heading, defending, one vs one challenges, etc).
Every soccer specific skill has an accompanied and unique set of movement skills. For example, a ball handling/dribbling skill requires agility through development of the following skills - change of direction, first step speed, balance (detailed in chapters 4 & 5), acceleration, deceleration, and coordination, etc. Without the knowledge and practice of these fundamental movement skills a soccer players will not maximize their fullest performance potential.
This chapter & video section engages the athlete by breaking down the unique movement patterns behind a soccer players specific skills through drills and fun self-measuring competitions that you can easily apply to practices or in your own backyard
The chapter provides a progression and development of basic movement skills: Agility, Acceleration, Deceleration, Change of Direction, First Step Speed, Form Running Techniques, Coordination (lower body/upper body/combination of both), with a progression that applies these skills to the soccer specific techniques of ball handling, shooting, throw-ins, passing, tackling, etc.
Another unique feature of this portion of the training package will be a focus on arm movement, something that is rarely brought up in soccer training, however it's vital when developing a player's speed, dynamic balance, agility/change of direction, transitions from top open field speed (longer strides) to a sudden deceleration and quick acceleration (quick feet). All these movements will addressed and taught along with the proper arm movement that makes more effective.
Most athletic development programs train athletes to move north to south or east to west, when in fact the reality is soccer players must have a spacial perimeter of 360 degrees to control. This 360 degree perimeter shrinks and expands according to the type of play they need to execute.
For example when attempting to get around an opponent, going one v one, a soccer player's perimeter of play is fairly small, ranging from 10 - 15 feet. However when coming upfield without being challenged his perimeter can be as large as 10 - 25 yards. As these perimeters fluctuate so do the movement patterns. A smaller perimeter demands quicker feet and different change of direction skills compared to controlling a larger perimeter of space.
In order to master a 360 degree perimeter the movement patterns by which the athlete actually must master is 180 degrees to each side. Most agility training focuses on moving in a direct linear or lateral plane. When in fact athletes for example may need to move 60 degrees to their right or left upfield or 135 degrees back downfield. This chapter and video training package will provide instruction and techniques on how to best make those moves effectively in smaller spaces at sharp angles as well as in larger spaces where the angles of movement consist of longer strides and a different set of explosive more wide open top speed techniques compared to quick acceleration.
This chapter will review and apply all the skills learned in Chapter 4 (different speed, agility, balance, range of motion, and coordination techniques) and apply them to the 360 perimeter training and movement patterns. The chapter will be supported with fun self measuring and small group competitions, that will measure an individual or teams progress throughout the season.
Many athletes ask me to improve the height of their jumps. Not a difficult task due to the fact that it's based on technique in combination with other strengthening and power exercises we introduce. My main concern and question is "Do you know how to land?" A question not often asked. A skill not often worked on especially in the sport of soccer where players leave their feet or are knocked off their feet quite often. This chapter introduces the proper techniques of not only jumping & leaping but also landing safely and recovering quickly. We introduce the proper way to fall safely and tumble when necessary through technique work that progresses to drill and fun competitions that replicate game like situations.
This chapter covers one of the most important aspects of a young athletes training - injury prevention. After working for several years with highly trained sport physical therapists, and sports medicine/orthopedic surgeons I better understand the importance of injury prevention. Though I've helped athletes get back into competition through a combined effort of rehabilitation, exercise, and conditioning, I've also focused on developing prehabilitation training into my athletic development sessions. Between overtraining through repetitive use, under developed muscle groups and poor movement techniques, young athletes are experiencing more injuries now than ever before. Soccer players in particular often visit our practice with knee, ankle, hip, and lower back injuries. And of course we see many players with head injuries.
As we learn more about brain injuries we need to also focus on the best ways to prevent/reduce such injuries from occurring. The most obvious body part to strengthen is the neck. Unfortunately many trainers, coaches, and medical experts have placed too much emphasis on the neck as a solution to preventing head injuries. Though important, strengthening that part of the body alone is not the answer. Without the development of a strong core the high possibility of head injuries will continue to occur no matter how strong an individual's neck has become. This chapter provides suggested workouts and training that go much further in not only improving the safety of a soccer player, but also compliment and improve overall performance at the same time.
While every athlete has a desire to compete at the highest level and achieve the best results, we as parents, coaches, and administrators have a responsibility to safeguard children from injuring themselves. Approximately 3.5 million kids under the age of 14 receive medical treatment for sports injuries each year. High school athletes account for an estimated 2 million injuries, 500,000 doctor visits, 30,000 hospitalizations each year. According to the Center for Disease and Control, more than half of all sports injuries in children are preventable and be accounted to overuse injuries.
Another major concern is the dropout rate of young players due to burnout, this continues to be driving many elite and talented players out of the game. This chapter provides a menu of active rest activities in the off-season that keep a player conditioned while resting and rebuilding their passion to play when they return.
I've studied and interviewed hundreds of collegiate coaches from numerous sports. One of the most common deficiencies they've witness in athletes they've looked to recruit is their lack of creativity. It often is a college coach's largest challenge: Force their hyper-trained, over-taught players to think on their feet. To play creatively. As one top-ranked women's lacrosse coach explained: “They are kind of like overbred dogs, mimicking the drills we run twice a week in practice. They do what they know. What’s safe. I’d much rather see them trying something totally outrageous and different. I want them to get creative on that field. Unless they had an amazingly creative youth sports coach—and most haven’t—kids simply aren’t wired to think creatively in game situations,” she says. “Starting at a very young age there’s always been an adult telling them what to do, where to stand, when to move. They may be talented, or physically fit, but if I want them to be creative, I have to retrain them.”
This chapters helps coaches or parents combat this dearth of creativity and adaptability. We show you how to change the rules and parameters of drills and games. Take your players out of their comfort zones and force them to adapt instantaneously to revised circumstances. For example one such creative game you'll find in this chapter is instead of scrimmaging and playing with two goals, set-up four or more - one at each traditional end of the field and one on each sideline at midfield. Suddenly players can score in different ways. More players become forwards and defenders at the same time. Or face each goal opening away from the field of play forcing them to chip the ball over the goal before shooting on goal. When you change the dynamics you force them to think differently, to adapt. To devise ways to adjust. Change the space. Change the equipment. Change the rules. Then do it again. The key is to switch things up on them so that they always feel a little bit uncomfortable and have to figure things out for themselves.
You will find a menu of different games (individual, small group, & team) throughout this chapter similar to one above that engages athletes in the creative process of learning and playing the game of soccer.
This chapter dives into the teaching strategy of self-coaching and problem solving as an individual player or team. Sports that flow without constant stoppage of play such as soccer command that a player not think too much during a game but let the game come to them and create their own opportunities while reacting and changing the flow of the game back to their control. The first step in achieving this is through a method of empowering your players by allowing them to take short bits of instruction before they go and experiment and adapt the instruction to the unique ways they move and are built as an athlete. Remember all your players are each built differently with varying levels of ability, there is no one set way to have them all execute exactly the same way. In order to incorporate this type of coaching, start by instructing your players briefly then ask them to go and work on that technique just taught individually by themselves, then progress to a partner, then into a small group. During this time of experiential practice a coach observes and takes mental and/or written notes before bringing the whole group back together after each portion (individual/partner/small group) of the experimentation/practice to first field questions before describing what he, the coach, observed. This method empowers athletes to learn on their own while applying their own style to the fundamentals and techniques that are needed to perform at a high level.
This chapter provides dozens of examples of different teaching techniques and experiences that enhance a player's self-coaching ability and problem solving on the field of play.