Functional Reaction and Awareness Exercises
with Jimmy Petruzzi
Coaches have been talking about the benefits of functional training for quite some time now. Functional training simply means that the exercises you choose are specific to what you are training for. Functional training is therefore very goal-oriented.
Before developing a functional training workout that is right for your players, you need to determine what your functional goals are and select your exercises with these goals in mind.
For soccer players it is particularly important that they are aware of what is happening around them on the pitch and that they are capable of reacting quickly.
It is often said “the first yard is in the head” so being aware and being able to react quickly in soccer is extremely important, and making the exercises specific to the game is the key to developing these attributes in you players.
1. Awareness and agility
1. Line up your players in four equal groups.
2. Get your players to run in and out of 3 cones spaced 5 metres apart as illustrated.
3. They must then cross over to the opposite side, avoiding each other, in the area marked by poles, and sprint to the back of the group standing on the other side.
This exercise can be progressed by introducing the ball or increasing the number of players who run at any one time.
2. Mirroring – concentration
1. Arrange two players standing 10 metres apart as illustrated.
2. Get player A to perform a movement or skill which player B must replicate simultaneously.
This exercise can be progressed with the introduction of a ball.
3. Reaction and speed (1)
1. Get your players to start on the single cone.
2. Tell them to sprint through the two cones placed 5 metres apart 10 metres away.
3. As the player reaches the two cones, call out one of the three different coloured cones placed a further 10 metres away.
Try getting them to do this exercise running backwards.
This exercise can also be progressed by introducing a ball or by having two players compete in pairs.
4. Reaction and speed (2)
Have your players stand by a mannequin, pass the ball against a wall (or another player or coach), receive it back and sprint to a cone 10 metres away.
This can be progressed by having another player perform the same exercise simultaneously thus making it more competitive.
5. Pass and move
1. Arrange 5 mannequins 5 metres apart.
2. Arrange your players in two lines. Starting at one end, the first two players start off at speed, passing and returning the ball between the mannequins.
3. Get them to overlap at the end and sprint to the back of the opposite line.
This exercise can be progressed by finishing with a shot on target or a game of attack v defence between the competing players.
6. Reaction exercise
Get your players to stand at cones 5 metres behind the mannequins as illustrated.
Place a different coloured cone to the side of each mannequin.
Call a colour and the players must sprint to that cone with the ball under control.
This exercise can be progressed by having the players “beat” the mannequin to get a shot off on goal.
7. Shooting drill
1. Place 4 different coloured cones in the 18 yard box placing a ball by each cone.
2. One player stands on the edge of 18 yard box facing the other side.
3. Call out a colour.
4. The player then turns and sprints to the colour cone you have called and shoots the ball at the goal.
This can be progressed so players work in twos sprinting to get to the ball first.
8. React and sprint
1. Stand 3 yards behind the player who is facing the opposite way to you.
2. Roll the ball under the players legs as soon the player sees the ball he reacts and sprints to it.
9. Follow the Leader
1. Mark out an area 20 metres by 20 metres for example.
2. Arrange your players into pairs and have one follow the other as they run around randomly within the area.
3. Players should maintain a distance of two metres between each other. Player A should be changing direction and pace constantly so player B needs to work hard to keep up.
- Place 4 markers in a straight line approximately 3 metres apart.
2. In between each set of markers place another marker 3 metres to the left.
3. Sprint from one marker to the next bending down to touch each one with your hand.
4. The emphasis is on taking quick side steps, rather than turning to face the marker and sprinting forward – that takes more time (which you don’t have in a game).