Rhythm from Greek ῥυθμός – rhythmos, “any regular recurring motion, symmetry”

-Wikipedia.com

Rhythm is typically referred in the contexts of music or dance, as in the timing of musical sounds or movements. Just as a song is unrecognizable when played out of rhythm, a soccer athlete cannot move with grace and precision without the proper rhythm in their steps.

When I refer to a soccer athlete, I am defining a player that can execute the complex movements with the least amount of energy, and make it look easy. However, a soccer player, in this regard, does not encompass the full nature of what physical characteristics are needed to achieve success at any level. When you watch Wayne Rooney’s bicycle kick to win the Manchester derby against rivals Manchester City above, you are not seeing a player that is struggling to make this play. It is a smooth, purposeful, seemingly effortless and easy acrobatic effort that created an absolute amazing goal. It was created because Rooney was able to react to the cross in his position with the most efficient and effective movement possible. He was on rhythm!

A true soccer athlete that moves on rhythm is one that only uses purposeful energy to execute a necessary part of the game. This can be as simple as a jog to position himself/herself to receive a pass or as complex as the bicycle kick from Rooney. Also, these players understand the importance of how and when to best change speeds and direction, when to stop or move slowly, and when and how to move quickly. Most players and coaches are only focused on how to move at the highest speeds, however if a player understands rhythmic movement better, he is able to grasp how to be elusive by changing tempo and how to work at the highest capacity for the 90 minute duration.

In order to find rhythm during competition, a foundation of movement skills must be developed through the early years of training. A soccer athlete does not instantly move with precision and grace necessary to perform the feats at a high level. Most players have to learn how to move efficiently. This is usually achieved through years of athletic development from playing multiple sports or being blessed with a natural sense of movement; however this can also be coached. Implementing drills and progressions into a young players training routine that preach rhythmic movement will create a much smaller learning curve to reaching athletic potential, as well as to avoid most non contact injuries.

To show best how a proper rhythm in movement creates a better athlete, in the next section I will refer to drills that are inspired or created by Jeremy Boone (www.athletebydesign.com) and Scott Moody (www.soccerfitacademy.com).

When changing directions, many soccer players use numerous techniques that may be effective but lack efficiency, or lack both effectiveness and efficiency. There are countless situations where changing directions are a vital part of soccer and any player could undoubtedly utilize these drills to make themselves better. The examples below are just a sample of drills that I use in my work to develop young soccer athletes.

Using a simple progression, like the run to shuffle below is a fantastic way to have a player become clear on how to make a movement absent of wasted steps. Only then can they begin to react accordingly when in a competitive environment where movement surely could not be the focus. With these drills, we are trying to accomplish an ability to accelerate as hard as possible to a point where the player must break as quickly as possible, yet maintain the posture to move again. Repetition in this movement will allow for her to move the same way unconsciously while reacting to the play. Too many players have to slow down well before reaching the point of change so that they are not as effective in the movement. Likewise, players tend to break (stop) off of the outside foot or do not keep their center of gravity inside their body so they are not able to immediately work in the desired direction. Finally, when a competence in the isolated movement is reached, we can translate this into the game by simulating a need to close down an attacker and force them into a direction, using the same movements. She is now able to close hard, change quick, and defend effectively. We are now ready to move to a 1 on 1 scenario that is at game speed.

Not only do most young players, without proper training,  lack the cognitive ability to create rhythm in their movements, but they lack the strength and power necessary to manipulate their bodies at the highest velocity without collapse. As you can see, there is a big need for hip strength and power to change direction in the best rhythm. Implementing strength training into a young soccer athletes programs is extremely important for their success. Make sure that you are including essential single leg and core strengthening exercises that replicate the game’s movement demands and is proper for the age and training history. You can see some of the examples that we use, at Performance Unlimited here: http://www.youtube.com/user/theperformanceu

Till Next Time

John