How the Physical Improves the Technical and Tactical Components of Soccer

How the Physical Improves the Technical and Tactical Components of Soccer

Let’s take a look at this simple truth: everything is connected.


The human body. A math equation. The universe. The constellations. The spider web in your backyard. The online world. The electrical waves from your heart to someone else’s.

Wow. Sorry if this post got deep too soon.

To add levity to the conversation, there’s nothing more connected than the beautiful game of soccer.

The individual players on the pitch must be well rounded enough to complete the squad. They must flow together like water, so they can create, expand, adapt and transform in the midst of competition. Hell, even the ball is round. If the ball isn’t a metaphor for connection, I don’t know what is. ;-O

Looking at the performance side, we can divide it into physical, technical and tactical. Although, mental is a critical component, that piece is the scope for a separate article. So cut me some slack. I’ll write on it at some point.

So what do the physical, technical, and tactical components entail? Let’s take a look:

Physical – an individual player’s fitness level

Technical – an individual player’s adeptness with the ball
First Touch
1v1 Capability

Tactical – an individual player’s ability to make decisions, as well as the team as a collective group
Decision Making
Style of Play
Movement off Ball
Transition Play
Defensive Principles (pressing, cover, balance, shape, etc.)
Attacking Principles (wide play, building, playing through midfield, etc.)

Okay, got it? Good.

Now this may not be a surprise, but all these components are connected.

Mind fuck, I know.

If a team sucks physically – out of shape or weak – they will not reach their technical or tactical potential. If they’re out of shape, they’ll fatigue faster, thus screwing up their ball technique, they may even trip over themselves when dribbling,  and or they may be slow when making decisions off the ball.

^ And that’s just the short answer to all this.

So here. Do me a favor.

Take a couple deep breaths. Because this article is about to turn into a dissertation.

Oddly enough, I feel the world of soccer has been a mixed bag when it comes to the physical side of the game. Either coaches love strength and conditioning, or they see it as useless as decaf coffee.

“Why weight train when we can just practice with the ball?”
“That’s the problem with American soccer…they just want to be fit and big and they don’t do any real tactics or practice with the ball.”
“We need to focus on tactics and not strength.”
“Plyometrics and bodyweight training will ensure our players don’t get too bulky.”
“Strength training slows our players down.”
“That’s why Brazil is so good. They play in the streets with the ball and never hit the gym.”

My reaction:

I plead the fifth. I’m a biased soccer fitness coach. Big whoop.

I’m not trying to blow sunshine up my own ass, but strength and conditioning coaches in the professional world, namely, those who are ahead of the game, would agree that improving the physical side of soccer makes everything better. Players must be strong, powerful, resilient, and be able to change direction like a wizard version of Messi.

Messi hits the gym, as well as Ronaldo, Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, Neymar, and Zlatan. I mean, how can we argue with these studs? Come ON.

Also, we have to remember, everything is connected. And we certainly can’t argue with that.

1. So how does the physical component improve the technical component?

Right off the bat, I’m going to name several:

– Improved ankle strength improves passing technique
– Improved hip flexor strength improves the follow through for a shot

– Improved balance improves balance of the plant foot for a better shot
– Improved transfer of power from the upper extremity to the lower extremity improves throw-in distance and shooting power
– Improved lateral power improves 1v1 capability and explosiveness out of a move to beat a defender

– Improved lateral power also improves change of direction and agility
– Improved upper body strength improves ability to hold off defenders
– Improved jumping power improves ability to jump for 50/50 balls

– Improved core strength improves running mechanics and posture
– Improved total body strength reduces chance of injury so that you can roster a full squad
– Improved total body strength makes your players feel ripped, decreases body fat which increases speed and did I mention…makes your players feel ripped?

It’s science.

Want me to continue? I’ll list more for $10 a piece. Kidding. ;-O

2. So how does the physical component improve the tactical component?

Here’s where soccer gets so fucking cool.

Improving the physical components listed above improves tactics.

So you want your #10 to swirl, twirl and maneuver around the opponent? Work on their lateral power and strength, reactive agility, and creativity.

You want your #4 and #5 to be able to hold off the opponent’s #9 and prevent him from breaking through the gaps? Get them strong as fuck.

You want to play a 4-3-3 with attacking play and involvement from the #2 and #3 and #7 and #11? Get them strong, powerful, and work on their repeated sprint ability so they can withstand the demands of running up and down the field and gassing the opponent.

Or you want your #9 to make fast diagonal runs between the other team’s defensive lines to create scoring opportunities? Maximize their speed potential so they can accelerate 10-15 yards faster than a beam of light. <– hint: speed is developed in the gym.

Or maybe you want to play a “total soccer” style and switch from a 4-3-3 to a 3-4-3? You can either go to church and say prayers because this is extremely hard to execute, OR you can get your players more strong, agile and conditioned in order to enhance their ability to transition and swap positions quickly.

Or you want to start off a match high pressing and want your #6 to being able to jump for 50/50 balls and direct them out of the midfield, without getting injured when landing on one foot. Work on jumping power and landing mechanics in all planes of motion.

And this is just glossing over the tip of the iceberg. To that end, I’m curious to see what you all have to say about how everything is connected. Happy to talk shop on it and nerd out.

One more thing before I bounce and go to happy hour: it’s important to keep in mind, however, that a team can’t just focus on ONE component alone. It ALL is critical. So please don’t think I’m Miss Only-Train-Strength-And-Drink-Protein-Shakes-And-Get-Players-Ripper over here. I’m not.

There needs to be a balance of physical, technical and tactical so teams aren’t selling themselves short and aren’t one-sided. Rather, they’re well-rounded, creative, malleable and unpredictable.

With that said, I think we all can agree that soccer is connected. And it’s beautiful.

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