Hints & Tips

Listed below are 30 hints and tips that will help you with your development as a football player. If you have any good hints and tips then add them as a comment to this article.

  1. Improve your fitness and you will make a greater contribution during matches – but take care to work on all areas of fitness.
  2. To prepare for the exertions of training and playing you need to eat the right things, at the right time or you won’t get the best out of your body. Strike the right balance between your intake of carbohydrates, fat and protein but remember the most important things a footballer can eat are carbohydrates.
  3. Increase your complex carbohydrates (Bread, potatoes, rice, pasta) three days before playing, and eat within four hours of playing or training.
  4. It’s important to eat and drink the right things after a game as it is in the build-up. You have two to five hours to replace your glycogen stores after a game and it’s crucial that you eat the right things. Eat plenty of carbohydrates after the game – eating junk food will undo all of your good pre-match preparation. Eat within 2 hours of a game finishing and make post-match refueling part of your routine.
  5. The human body is made up of 80% fluid. Every time you exercise fluid is lost and to keep healthy and fit these fluids must be replaced. Footballers should drink at least half a litre of water before and after a warm-up. It is also a good idea to have an isotonic drink before playing a game.
  6. Isotonic drinks are easily absorbed into the blood stream and provide quicker rehydration than water. A simple isotonic drink can be made by mixing equal quantities of fruit juice and water. Try to drink before you become thirsty. Once you have reached this point, you will have already become sluggish and your blood will have thickened.
  7. Warm-up isn’t just something for professionals. Whatever level you play the game at you owe it to yourself and your team-mates to prepare your body properly for the exertions to come.
  8. Footballers, more than most sportsmen are susceptible to groin strains. Most muscle injuries occur during the first fifteen minutes of each half, so remember not only to warm-up thoroughly before a game, but also to keep your muscles warm during half-time. Don’t position your arms of legs too far apart and don’t rush into any of the stretches. Ease yourself into them and listen to your body.
  9. Most hamstring (or the rear leg biceps) injuries occur when the muscles are not sufficiently warm to cope with a sudden, explosive burse of speed – often in the opening stages of matches. Hamstring injuries always occur suddenly and the soundest precaution you can take is good stretching. Know your limitations and, as with any exercise, don’t over-stretch. Always hold your positions before repeating them.
  10. The frontal quad is a very large muscle in the thigh. It is one of the easiest to pull and one of the most difficult to heal. Muscle strains are common, particularly when players are pushing off from a standing start. The most common thigh complaint which footballers suffer is the ‘dead leg’. Good all round flexibility lessens the chance of strains as does priming your muscles by stretching properly.
  11. Make sure you wear plenty of clothes while warming-up on a cold day, although not so much that you restrict your movement
  12. Niggling injuries to the calf and ankle are all too common in football. However, many of these strains and pains can be prevented if you properly prepare the muscles of the lower leg. Treat the Achilles with care – this tendon must not be stretched quickly.
  13. Never do two high-intensity sessions back to back. This leads to over-tiredness and risks of muscle strains and other injuries.
  14. If you can’t kick a ball properly you’re not going to get very far. You may think this is obvious, but for many people the most simple and basic aspect of the beautiful game doesn’t come naturally. Some players need a lot of practice and the more you play football the more you realise the importance of keeping possession – the art of passing the ball to a team-mate with good weight and accuracy.
  15. First touch is vital. Watch any good player and you will instantly see the benefits of good ball control. The ball is under his complete control in an instant and he has time to consider his next move. The pace of the modern game is such that you often only have a matter of seconds to receive, control and pass the ball to a team-mate. Don’t waste time chasing a badly controlled ball. By developing a good first touch, you can give yourself time to make an accurate pass and keep possession for your team. A bad first touch often results in the ball bouncing too far away from your body towards an opponent and possession is almost certainly going to be lost.
  16. Practice makes perfect and there are two simple ways you can improve your first touch. If you are alone, find a wall to work on your receiving techniques – striking the ball at various heights, speeds and angles to test your control. Many professional players will tell you how they practiced like this for hours.
  17. If you have a partner you can practice by kicking or throwing the ball to each other, from all distances and work on the different ways of bringing the ball under control. Remember, your game will suffer if you have a poor first touch.
  18. In addition to your feet you can use your head, chest and thigh to control a moving ball. But remember to keep your eyes firmly on the ball (not your opponent) as it approaches you, watching it onto the part of the body you’ve chosen to control it. Concentrate on getting your body into a good position to receive the ball. Balance is important, so make sure you are relaxed and not leaning too far forward. Make up your mind early and execute your move swiftly. Making the right decision and displaying good control will often enable you to avoid being tackled. Practise, practise, practise.
  19. The most effective and widely used dribbling technique is the body swerve. Simple in theory – you merely feint to go one way then check back and take the ball in the opposite direction – but it takes a great deal of practice to perfect. They key to the body swerve is making your opponent ‘buy’ the feint.
  20. Goals win games, solo runs excite fans but the lifeblood of a football team is the art of good passing. Good passing is knowing where and when to hit the ball, with the right weight and accuracy. The quality of a pass is not judged by the way it is struck, but by the ease with which a team-mate is able to receive and control it.
  21. Don’t switch off when you’ve made your pass. Run into your position for a return ball. Pass and move, don’t just stand and admire what you’ve done.
  22. Experts suggest that up to 60% of goals come from crosses into the penalty area and the cross is considered to be one of the most important of all attacking techniques. The ideal place to aim your crosses is somewhere between the six-yard box and the penalty spot. Balls played into this area force keepers into a hard decision – do I come for the cross or stay on the line?
  23. If you don’t have possession of the ball you aren’t going to score. When you lose possession the whole team must work to recover, closed down and most importantly win the ball back. Don’t take tackling for granted, it’s a real skill and needs to be practice. A good tackler will win the ball cleanly and will rarely give away a free kick. A poor tackler will impatiently lunge in, often missing the ball or catching both ball and opponent. Diving or sliding is a waste of energy and can give away dangerous free-kicks and penalties or lead to injuries.
  24. Closing down gives an opponent with the ball as little time and space as possible to play it and find a team-mate. But to be effective you have to make sure that the whole team is covering and marking all of the opponents. If the player being chased has one easy outlet your hard work is in vain. Defend from the front and defend as a team.
  25. It is estimated that a third of all goals are scored from free-kicks taken around the penalty area. If you’re skillful enough a free-kick near the 18-yard box is a goal-scoring opportunity. To develop your free-kick concentrate on accuracy first. Once you are consistently hitting the target, try to get the ball to bend. The final stage is to increase the pace of your kicks, but without losing accuracy.
  26. The best players don’t necessarily take the best penalties. The player who holds his nerve best is the penalty king. The basic skill of beating a keeper from 12 yards isn’t difficult but in the context of a highly competitive football match it can be daunting. Make your mind up and keep your confidence and nerve. Whatever you do keep your head down – there is nothing worse than skying a penalty over the bar.
  27. Throw-ins are an important part of the modern game. For some professional players a throw-in anywhere in the opponent’s half constitutes a goal-scoring opportunity. The long throw is employed by many teams and can be as dangerous as a corner kick. Most full-backs will try to develop a long throw as it’s such a valuable asset to their team. Avoid ‘foul throws’ and remember the basics. Always stand with both feet behind the touchline. Keep both feet in contact with the ground at all times. Take the ball right behind your head before releasing. This enables you to throw rather than push the ball. Maintain your balance so your feet don’t cross the line.
  28. The biggest mistake players can make when taking corner kicks is to just hit the ball into the penalty area and hope it finds a team-mate. There are 3 main options open to a corner kicker: the far post corner; the near post corner; the quickly taken corner. Whatever option you select the priority is to make the cross as difficult as possible for the keeper to deal with.
  29. Players rather than tactics win matches. But for players to fulfill their potential and play to the best of their abilities they must have an appreciation of tactics and learn to play within different systems. The whole must be greater than the sum of its parts and the individual efforts of every player should complement the efforts of his team-mates.
  30. If there is such a thing as a ‘standard system’ it is 4-4-2. It uses only two forwards and is a conservative formation very popular in British football. Coaches and managers like the security offered by four midfielders and four defenders but it isn’t a negative system. The 4-4-2 system can quickly be converted into a more attacking 4-2-4 formation by pushing the two wide mid-fielders into a more advance position so they operate as orthodox wingers.

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