You may be the most skilled player on the team, but ultimately, this counts for very little if you’re unable to cope with the physical and mental demands of the sport and last an entire match.
The importance of having a high level of stamina is a quality that’s often overlooked by soccer players, with dribbling and shooting skills a preferred and much more enjoyable method of training.
However, if you don’t have a solid foundation of stamina, then it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to maximize your ability in the other aspects of the game.
In this guide, I’ll take an in-depth look at exactly why endurance is so important in soccer, as well as explaining a few of the best training drills and lifestyle choices for improving stamina.
Why is stamina so important for soccer players?
Soccer, more so than the majority of other sports, demands a considerable amount of physical effort. It’s a fast-moving, open environment sport, where you’ll be expected to constantly keep running around the field for the duration of the game.
To put it simply, if you don’t build up sufficient levels of stamina, it’s likely that you’ll be suffering before the half hour mark.
Certain soccer players are often labelled the “engine of the team” or described as having “covered every blade of grass” during a match. These terms are used interchangeably to describe a player exhibiting impressive levels of stamina.
Take a player like N’Golo Kante or Georginio Wijnaldum for example. These two elite soccer players are tireless on the pitch.
In addition to their excellent all-round ability, one of their greatest strengths is their ability to consistently intercept passes, break up play, and advance forwards with the ball from the first minute to the 90th minute.
While it’s clear that there’s a lot more to being a good-level soccer player than being able to run a lot, endurance is a fundamental skill that’s essential for pretty much every position on the field.
Which position requires the most stamina?
Every single position on the soccer pitch requires a good level of endurance – even the goalkeeper.
While keepers may focus much of their training on quick movements to develop fast twitch muscle fibres, they still need to develop high levels of endurance to prepare their body for all eventualities.
Perhaps a couple of positions which require more stamina than others are the full-backs and central midfielders in a team. Full-backs are expected to constantly run up and down the line, tracking back defensively against the opposition winger, as well as contributing in attack when possible.
Central midfielders have different responsibilities but are equally as active. They have to dictate play in the middle of the pitch, pressurize opposition midfielders, close down space between the lines, contribute in both boxes, and much more.
Benefits of good stamina
By simply having greater stamina than other players, you’ll be sure to experience a number of benefits that’ll improve your overall game.
For example, you’ll be able to win more 50/50 duels across the pitch. This means more possession of the ball, and subsequently, a greater likelihood of winning.
Another benefit – and one that I believe to be one of the most important – is the ability to process situations clearly and make correct decisions in vital moments of a match.
Without good endurance, you’ll be tired and unable to think of ideas, or execute your decisions correctly in the heat of the moment.
Furthermore, in the last 15 minutes of a match, both teams are usually tiring and running out of energy.
So, if you have superior levels of stamina and still feel reasonably fresh, you can use this to your advantage to elevate your game when it matters most.
This is often why in soccer matches where one of the biggest teams faces an underdog, it’s the bigger side with access to more advanced facilities and specialist training regimes that exhibit greater fitness levels and pull through in the end.
Training exercises for improving stamina
If you’re looking for training exercises to improve your stamina for soccer, then you’re in luck. There are countless exercises that are quick and easy to set up, as well as being extremely effective.
Moreover, you won’t need to buy any expensive gear for most of them. I’ll now take a look at three of the best and most popular exercises you can try.
1). Interval sprints
This exercise is great for simulating the exact type of fitness you’ll need in a soccer game. With this drill you’ll never be running at a constant rate, instead you’ll be regularly changing speed.
For example, some of the time you’ll be sprinting near to your max, and other times you’ll be casually jogging for recovery.
Interspersing intense periods of quick running with slower periods of recovery will prepare your body for the type of endurance it needs in soccer matches.
For this reason, it’s beneficial to try and do interval sprints for around 45 minutes without completely stopping – sufficient rest periods of light jogging are fine. Completing a 45 minute session is useful because it’ll perfectly replicate one half of a soccer game.
2). Shuttle runs
Possibly one of the easiest drills you can do to improve your stamina. All you’ll need is a clear space and a few cones or anything of a similar size within reach. This exercise consists of a series of shuttle runs and quick changes of direction.
There’s plenty of flexibility in how you can set the exercise up, but usually it’s best to position your cones a good distance away from one another to allow you enough time to build up some speed in each shuttle.
If you want to make this simple exercise either a little more complex or enjoyable, you can add features such as a quick 30 yard sprint on every third shuttle.
You can also add a soccer ball, and have someone pass the ball to you every time you get to a cone. You’ll then need to run with it as fast as you can before returning it as you approach the next cone.
3). Climbing stairs
This exercise is ideal, because not only does it effectively target stamina, it’ll also improve your foot agility. Also, stairs are everywhere, so it’s never too difficult to find a suitable place to perform the drill.
There are many potential variations to this exercise. The most popular being jumping steps two or three at a time. Don’t forget to perform the drill with intensity to ensure your endurance is being improved.
Lifestyle choices for improving stamina
It may sound obvious, but proper sleep and nutrition is essential for providing the body with enough fuel. Furthermore, the better you’re able to fuel your body, the better and longer you’ll be likely to perform.
In terms of nutrition, the food you consume can have a big impact on performance. Meals rich in protein, as well as nutritional foods such as rice, beans, fruit, and vegetables are all highly effective for giving you extra energy and improving your stamina.
It’s also incredibly important to keep yourself hydrated. In addition to water, gatorade and powerade are effective drinks for re-fuelling the body before and after intense sessions.
To conclude, stamina is one of the most important skills for every soccer player to have. Good levels of endurance provide a number of key benefits – all of which can contribute to a better all-round ability and skill set.
There are numerous methods of improving stamina, from running exercises out on the training pitch to good sleep and nutrition off it.
Just make sure that your endurance-based training is performed in the right conditions and at the right intensity, so any improvements you do make can easily be transferred into a real-game scenario.