Being able to move fluently and efficiently at speed to find or create space in attack or rapid changes of direction to defend against an opponent or intercept a mis-placed pass are all dependent on how well you can co-ordinate and control the action of your feet, legs arms and trunk. It is about control and mastery of your body to create optimum angles to apply or absorb force, synchronising the action of muscles and joints to cover optimum distance with every step, come to an abrupt halt or seamlessly switch movement skills or direction with minimal loss of speed.
Mastery of starting, stopping and changing direction begins with developing fast, controlled and effective footwork in a variety of general patterns and different directions. Practicing and developing high levels of co-ordination provides an excellent base for building the more specialized speed & agility skills and will also help you develop the fluent footwork skills required for ball mastery and managing your balance and control in the many tight and awkward situations you can find yourself in on the pitch.
Outlined below is a progressive sequence of simple drills that can be done anywhere, anytime with minimal equipment (just a line or a couple of cones is all that is required)
1. Line Drills – Linear (forwards/backwards)
a) 2 step pattern. Start standing behind a line (or pair of spots/cones) facing forwards towards the line. Step one foot and then the other forwards and backwards over the line in a 1-2 1-2 rhythm. Begin at walking pace and gradually increase speed as your co-ordination becomes smoother. Repeat for 5-20s at a time for 2-5 reps.
b) Repeat this sequence but keeping upper body directly above the line whilst feet move forwards and backwards.
c) Change the step rhythm to a 1 1-2 pattern i.e. step one foot over the line then both feet step behind the line followed by the opposite foot stepping forwards.
2. Line Drills – Lateral (side to side)
a) 3 step pattern – inside leg lead. Start standing next to a line (or pair of spots/cones) facing side on to the line. Step the inside foot (foot nearest the line) over the line, followed by the other foot and then step again with the first foot that moved to step and push back over the line. Repeat with this 1-2-3 1-2-3 rhythm, beginning at walking pace and gradually increasing speed as your co-ordination becomes smoother. Repeat for 5-20s at a time for 2-5 reps.
b) Repeat this sequence but keeping upper body directly above the line whilst feet move side to side.
c) Change the step rhythm to a 1 1-2-3 pattern i.e. step inside foot over the line and immediately return back to the start position.
How can footwork & co-ordination exercises be integrated into team/individual training sessions?
- Integrate drills as 5-10 minute section towards the end of the warm-ups
- As players familiarize themselves with activities and find their appropriate level of challenge, set them 5-10 minute daily homework tasks to complete between club training sessions.
- Train to music to help build rhythm. Gradually increase the speed/tempo of music as the player’s co-ordination improves.
- Add drills as ‘filler’ activities within sessions e.g. if players are queuing to begin an activity, quick set of drills before they enter a game situation.