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Laps for Mental Toughness

Someone told me that running laps develops mental toughness.

Much like, I assume, passing around cones develops soccer players who can pass.

So the real question is - how does it translate to game performance?


Sure, 'completing' 100 laps for punishment or a 'warm-up' should have a sense of achievement. It sucks and we're all glad when its over, but doesn't it come with a question of why? Why does this develop mental toughness for those clutch moments in games when we need to be mentally strong? Let alone, why are performing an action that is irrelevant to the game we are supposed to be training for?

Same speed, straight line laps versus changes of speed and direction with 21 other players.


Oh, that's right, that question doesn't come because we don't educate our players. We don't TEACH them how to play the game. We don't teach anticipation or movement off of the ball that would begin to demand varied running patterns and changes of speed based on the immediate moment.


A typical session might use laps to warm up and then passing patterns. Pass here, run there, and call for the ball. Why? Because patterns around cones are easier. Or, our players 'aren't good enough' to play the game when they are unable to pass around cones successfully...

When we train like this we are definitely 'getting fitter and working on passing' but we are not educating, or empowering, or providing anything that is remotely transferrable to the game we are supposed to be preparing them for.


Let's change it. Play a 3v3 SSG for 4 minutes. 4 minutes is a long time, by the way. You might need to play for 3, or even 2.30, because they are (likely) kids and need adjustments to help them. Add to the intensity with a 7th player. They are the passer and every time the ball goes out, they put a new ball back in ASAP. No time to waste.


Let's see how players handle an intense game for x minutes. How often do they switch off? How often do they exploit an opponents shotcoming? How often do they give up on a through ball that is just out of reach? How often do they give up chasing an attacker who is 'definitely' going to score? Let's work on that mental toughness because on Saturday you'll be yelling at the player who has given up on a through ball.


Then lets coach. Let's teach players how to defend in that game. Teach them how to attack (not just kick and run). How about we use a model that is consistent and use GAME moments to identify desired behaviors, which might include passing patterns and should certainly involve a movement off of the ball and the ability to position themselves to pursuit that through ball. Then have an expectation that If the opponents looks certain to score, our players are ready and willing to defend.


In doing this, we're now giving the players structure in which they can play. And they can compete. We're doing our job in TEACHING them. Or COACHING them. We're empowering our players. We're educating our players about the demands on them as players in this team. Too often those demands are hidden until game day because training is so far removed from the reality of the game.


And I'll finish with a question.

How do you have time, in a typical week of 2/3 practices, to teach/coach a game model and still use 10-40 minutes having players run laps or passing around cones?


This is all my opinion. I want to know if you feel differently and why because I really struggle with this aspect and unfortunately this aspect is the reality for 90% of kids that play Soccer in the USA. Tell me @leedunnesoccer.