A player’s stamina can impact their performance, development, and even their enjoyment of the game. As such, endurance training for soccer is an increasingly important part of many coaches’ training programs. But what does stamina entail? And how can we help young players increase their stamina while supporting the other aspects of their development? Below, we consider the importance of stamina in soccer, and how to train fitness in our sessions.

In This Article

What Is Stamina?

According to PDP Coaching Advisor, Dan Cooke, stamina is the ability to repeatedly perform high-quality actions — more often and in all phases of the game. “You repeatedly see it in soccer,” says Cooke. “The best teams, and the fitter teams, are able to create a gap between themselves and their opponents in the latter stages of matches — and that can come down to their ability to perform high-quality actions under fatigue.”

In youth soccer, our priority might not be to win the match, but helping our players to improve their stamina can still assist them in achieving their goals. “For a youth player, it might mean they’re more equipped to perform what they’re working on,” says PDP Co-Founder Dave Wright. “For example, a winger might be focusing on 1v1s and need to repeatedly get around the fullback; supporting them in increasing their stamina can ensure they have the capacity to keep attempting to beat the fullback throughout the game.

“Even if we didn’t win on the scoreboard, that player has had a win personally, in terms of their development. It’s important to differentiate between development and performance.”

It’s also important to appreciate the difference between younger and older children. “Just from a physical standpoint, stamina is very different for junior and senior players,” explains Cooke. Performance in endurance training will be different for every individual, especially in adolescence where physical development occurs at different rates. “Physiologically, younger players’ cardiovascular systems aren’t developed at those ages. We need to be aware of that, and of how we place physical demands on them. Most of the time, when it comes to young players, we’re increasing stamina and endurance through play.”

How Does Increasing Stamina Affect Performance?

Improved stamina can affect on-pitch performance at different moments throughout the game. “First, stamina affects players’ abilities to make high-quality actions late in the game,” says Cooke. “This includes late periods of the first half as well. You’ll see that, in the last ten minutes of the first half, players with higher levels of stamina start to seperate themselves.”

According to Cooke, high-quality actions encompass not only speed, strength, and physicality, but technical actions and ability to work with the ball: “These actions should all be performed to the same quality as at the start of the game — or at least at a really high quality — late in both halves.  Because stamina is not just about being out there and moving around; it’s about being able to do it with purpose.”

Second, Cooke says, increasing stamina helps players to cope with specific, physically demanding moments that occur throughout the game: “Take the example of a fullback defending deep; their team wins the ball and they sprint 70 yards up the pitch to join the counterattack; they get the ball but their cross is cleared and now the opposition are launching a counterattack of their own; they have to get back and recover their position, then the opposition try to play the ball in behind them and they have to jump to win a header; this could all occur within one really intense minute; the fullback needs to have certain levels of stamina to be able to perform all of those high-quality actions — physically and technically — for that period of time.”

Finally, Cooke notes that increasing physical stamina can also positively impact the mental side of players’ games: “Fitter players are typically more mentally present in the game, meaning their decision-making, their mental availability to perform certain tasks (such as taking high-pressure penalties), is better. They’re more resilient to the fatigue that the game tries to impose on them.”

Soccer Conditioning: Helping Young Players to Improve Their Stamina

To help our players improve their stamina, we must first understand what stamina entails. As mentioned, this means players performing high-quality actions and positively impacting the game for its entire duration, largely unimpeded by fatigue.

Next, we must appreciate that stamina goes beyond simply covering more distance than the opponent. “We hear a lot about GPS units and distance covered in soccer,” says Cooke, “but there are many things — the tactical part of the game, the opponent, players’ individual roles — that can impact how much distance we cover. More important are the high-quality actions: things like accelerations and decelerations, and how fast players are.”

Finally, we should consider whether players can repeatedly perform these high-quality technical and physical actions. Can they perform them consistently throughout the game?

Having built an understanding of stamina in soccer, we can then seek out learning resources, targeted session plans, and programs devoted to increasing physical stamina, such as PDP’s Physical Performance Through Soccer. Within this course, enrollees can find devoted modules on increasing stamina, comprising learnings on the differences between internal and external training loads, the use of small-sided games to increase stamina, and understanding the different physical demands faced by players.

Physical Performance Through Soccer also discusses the array of practices designed to increase stamina, from closed-circuit practices to variable and open sessions.

“Stamina is about much more than the distance players cover, and can be so important to their overall development” concludes Wright. “Realizing that, deepening our understanding of the topic, and taking steps to help players improve their stamina through football can go a long way to supporting their overall development and enhancing their enjoyment of the sport.”

Endurance Training for Soccer: The Key Points

  • Stamina in soccer is the ability to repeatedly perform high-quality actions throughout the game.
  • Increasing stamina can improve players’ technical and mental performance as well as their resilience to fatigue.
  • We can help young players to develop stamina through targeted practices that engage in soccer conditioning through play.
  • Increased stamina can support other areas of our players’ development, helping them to improve, and deepen their love of the game.

Would you like to learn more about player’s stamina and endurance training for soccer?

Join our online course on Physical Performance through Soccer. This course will significantly enhance your knowledge of physical conditioning and movement in soccer.

Physical Performance through Soccer

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