Soccer is an intense sport that requires a lot of running. That being said, many athletes choose to condition for the sport by running in the off-season. So, is track a good sport for soccer players to participate in, and does track help with soccer?
Track does help with soccer. There are multiple track events that allow athletes to gain skills that will give them an advantage in soccer. One of which is the ability to quickly accelerate from standing, walking, or jogging to sprinting, which many soccer players have to do during a game.
Track can help people stay in condition for soccer season for multiple reasons that will be discussed below.
Breakdown of Soccer
According to a study of professional soccer players, a soccer game is broken down into the following. Out of the 90 minutes, about 15 minutes are spent standing (17%), 38 minutes are spent walking (42%), and 14 minutes are spent jogging (16%).
The remaining 22 minutes are spent running (25%) in which each sprint lasts about 2 minutes. So while 75% of a soccer game is spent doing activities that are low in intensity, the remaining 25% is spent running at a high intensity.
This means that soccer players must be able to quickly and efficiently shift from low-intensity physical activity to high-intensity sprinting. Track can help them do so easily.
How Track Helps Soccer Players
Track provides athletes with routines such as warm-ups and cool-downs. This is important for any athlete to learn because warming up and cooling down your muscles can greatly decrease the chances of injury as well as general wear and tear. Some sports don’t really emphasize warm-up and cool-down routines, so this is a skill that track can provide to soccer players.
Another way that track helps soccer performance is by increasing your speed and ability to change speed. Soccer often requires you to go from standing, walking, or jogging to sprinting, and this is something that track can enhance. Typical running events in track require you to go from a still position to full-on sprinting. Therefore, this type of training and activity can help soccer players gain the ability to switch speeds quickly without injury or strain.
Track will also help soccer players improve their posture while running, along with general movements and motor skills. Track teaches people how to eliminate unhelpful movement patterns and also provides a person with better body control and improved agility.
What Track Events Help Soccer Players?
Obviously, the best events to prepare an athlete for soccer are running events. Other events in track that don’t involve running will not truly condition the person for soccer. Because short and long sprints are applied in soccer, these are the best type of track events that will best prepare a person to play soccer in the future.
The 100-meter sprint is a great event to prepare for soccer because this event is all about speed. It is an event that demands the athlete to run as fast as possible without losing any speed throughout the distance. Because this specific event is so short in distance, it teaches the individual how to go from standing to their maximum speed extremely quickly. This skill gives a great advantage to soccer players because it allows them to learn how to reach their top speed in a very short amount of time.
The 200-meter sprint is similar to the 100-meter sprint, it is just slightly longer. This will help soccer players build both endurance and speed. Due to the fact that it is slightly longer in distance, it allows athletes to learn how to quickly reach their top speed and then maintain it.
The 400-meter sprint might be one of the most important track events for soccer players. This event requires athletes to sprint for a full lap around the track. Considering that, it is not an uncommon struggle for people to maintain their top speed all the way around the track.
However, this is something that athletes aim to overcome. With this event, it is the goal to be able to maintain your speed throughout the whole lap. This is important to soccer because it teaches athletes how to endure their top speed for a longer distance.
Overall, I believe that the 100-meter and 400-meter sprints are the most crucial to soccer success. Because the 100-meter sprint is so short in distance, it allows athletes to build the muscle and mental strength needed to reach their fastest speed as quickly as possible. This will help soccer players because it is not uncommon that they are in a situation where they need to go from standing to their fastest possible speed.
The 400-meter sprint is also vital to soccer success because it truly teaches the person how to mentally push through mild pain and discomfort and use all of their strength. A lot of running is simply the mental strength to push through and keep going when your body feels like it can’t do anything more. This is something that the 400-meter sprint can help soccer players overcome.
Because it is a long-distance sprint, the 400-meter dash requires athletes to push through their mental barriers to maintain their top speed. This is a skill that would provide a massive advantage in soccer.
Why Track over Long-Distance Running?
Although long-distance running is important for endurance, it is not necessarily the best training for soccer. In long-distance running, the goal is to maintain a steady speed for a long duration and distance.
While soccer does require running over a long distance, the athlete is not typically jogging the whole time and they often have to quickly shift their pace between sprinting and jogging. Because this is not a typical component of long-distance running, it is not the best training for soccer.
Track events are more aligned with the demands of a soccer game. Shifting from standing to sprinting is something that both sports have in common. That being said, because track is a high-speed sport, it provides better conditioning and preparation for soccer than long-distance running does.