Soccer Pyramid of Importance
Updated: Oct 10, 2019
If you are looking to improve your skills, your child's confidence, or your players' abilities, it is essential to understand where dribbling & foot skills play into the bigger picture of developing a soccer player. In the image above, you can see that the most critical field-specific things to work on are at the base of the Individual Soccer Player’s Pyramid. Note: A team’s pyramid may look slightly different based on the tactics the players can handle and the approach the coach decides to use for games. The pyramid is a quality outline when you are looking to improve an individual soccer player’s game. All of the elements in the pyramid and the items surrounding it play a meaningful part in becoming a better player, but certain things should be read and mastered first before moving on to other topics.
You will notice that passing & receiving is at the foundation of the pyramid because if you can receive a pass and make a pass in soccer, you are going to be a useful teammate. Though you may not be the one that is consistently putting the ball in the net, the person that is dispossessing the other team, or the player that can dribble through several opponents, you will have the fundamental tools needed to play the sport and contribute to your team.
As you move one layer up, you find yourself with a decision to make on how to progress. Specifically, the pyramid is created with you in mind because each soccer player and each soccer position has different needs. Therefore, your choice regarding which path to take first is dictated by the position you play and more importantly, by the position that you want to play. In soccer and life, just because you are in a particular spot, position, or even a job, it does not mean that you have to stay there forever if that is not your choice. However, it is not recommended to refuse playing a position if you are not in the exact role you want, as it takes time to develop the skills that will allow you to make a shift from one position to another.
If you are a forward or if you want to become one, then consider your route on the second layer of the pyramid to start with shooting & finishing. As your abilities to shoot increase, your coach will notice your new finishing skills and be more likely to move you up the field if you are not a forward already. Be sure to communicate to the coach that you desire to be moved up the field to a more offensive position, which will increase your chances as well. If you are already a forward, then dive deep into this topic to ensure you become the leading scorer on your team and in the entire league. Notice that shooting & finishing is considered less critical than passing & receiving because you have to get the ball up the field before you can even take a shot on net.
Otherwise, you can start by progressing to dribbling & foot skills from passing & receiving because the proper technique is crucial to dribble the ball well. It is often necessary for a soccer player to use a skill to protect the ball from the other team or to advance the ball up the field to put their team in a favorable situation to score. The selection of this route immediately following passing & receiving is often taken first by midfielders and occasionally by forwards.
Defending is another option of how you can proceed from passing & receiving. Being able to keep the other team off the scoreboard is not an easy task. Developing a defender’s mindset, learning which way to push a forward, understanding how to position your body, knowing when to foul, and using the correct form for headers is critical to a defender on the back line looking to prevent goals.
Finish all three areas in the second layer of the pyramid before progressing up the pyramid. Dribbling and defending the ball (not just shooting) are useful for an attacker, shooting and defending (not just dribbling) are helpful for a midfielder, while shooting and dribbling (not just defending) are helpful for a defender. Having a well-rounded knowledge of the skills needed for the different positions is important for all soccer players. It is especially essential for those soccer players looking to change positions in the future. Shooting & finishing, dribbling & foot skills, and defending are oftentimes more beneficial to learn first for soccer players than the next tier of the pyramid, so focus on these before spending time on areas higher up in the pyramid. In addition, reading about each of these areas will help you to understand what your opponent wants to do as well.
Next, once you have improved your skills at the 1st and 2nd tiers of the pyramid, move upwards to fitness. As you practice everything below this category on the pyramid, your fitness and strength will naturally increase. It is difficult to go through a passing/dribbling/finishing drill for a few minutes without being out of breath. Performing the technical drills allows soccer players to increase their fitness naturally. This reduces the need to focus exclusively on running for fitness. Coming from a soccer player and trainer (someone with a view from both sides), I know that a constant focus on running is not as fulfilling and does not create long-lasting improvements. Whereas, emphasizing the shooting capabilities, foot skills, and defending knowledge of a soccer player does create long-lasting change. Oftentimes, the coaches that focus on running their players in practice are the coaches that care to improve their team but have limited knowledge of many of the soccer-specific topics that would quickly increase their players’ abilities. Not only does fitness in soccer include your endurance, but it also addresses your ability to run with agility and speed, develop strength and power, while improving your flexibility through stretching and yoga to become a well-rounded soccer player.
Similarly to the tier below it, you should focus on the fitness areas that will help you specifically, while keeping all of the topics in mind. For example, you may be a smaller soccer player that could use some size. Then, you would consider emphasizing weight training to gain the much-needed muscle to avoid being pushed off the ball. However, you would still want to stretch before and after a lifting workout or soccer practice/game to ensure that you stay limber and flexible, so that you can recover quickly and avoid injuries.
Maybe you are a soccer player in your 20s, 30s, or 40s. Then, emphasizing your flexibility and practicing a bit of yoga would do a world of good to ensure you keep playing soccer for many more years. However, doing a few sets of push-ups, pull-ups, squats, lunges, sit-ups, etc. per week will help you maintain or gain a desirable physique.
Furthermore, you could be in the prime of your career in high school, college, or at a pro level, which would mean that obtaining the stamina and endurance to run for 90+ minutes is the most essential key to continue pursuing your soccer aspirations. Additionally, though some weight loss will come with weight training and stretching, working on your endurance will help you to attain an appropriate weight if you believe that weight loss would improve your game.
Finally, we get to the top of the pyramid, which includes juggling. Juggling the soccer ball is something fun to practice in your own free time away from the field or when you are standing in line and waiting to start a drill. It will certainly help with your first touch, but there are more important things to develop during an individual’s or team’s practice. A general recommendation is that when you can juggle the ball 50 times in a row or more with your feet, continuing to work on juggling will not provide huge increases in your performance. Therefore, use juggling as a way to fill otherwise unproductive time in training or during free time to more quickly become a great soccer player. I explain in more detail about this in the first book of the series - Soccer Training: A Step-by-Step Guide on 14 Topics for Intelligent Soccer Players, Coaches, and Parents, in addition to a whole host of other critical topics you need to know as a soccer player, coach, or parent.
If you have not read Soccer Training, I highly recommend you do in order to gain in-depth knowledge of many of the crucial topics within the areas of the pyramid. Furthermore, there are a few soccer terms that are described in detail in the Soccer Training book that may only be referenced in this book. Picking up a copy of the book will act as a good gauge to see how much you know about each topic. This will help to determine if a book later in the series written about a different subject in the soccer pyramid will be beneficial for you.
The last portion of the pyramid are all the areas that surround the pyramid. Though these are not skills and subjects that can be addressed by your physical abilities, they each play key roles in rounding out the complete soccer player. For example, a young soccer player with a supportive parent/guardian or two is beneficial for getting the child to games, providing the equipment needed, the fees for the team, expenses for individual training, and the love and support that only a parent could give. Having a quality coach will help the individual learn how their performance and skills fit into the team’s big picture.
Getting enough sleep is critical to having energy in practices and on game days, in addition to recovering from training. Appropriate soccer nutrition will increase the energy and endurance of a soccer player, help the soccer player achieve the ideal physique, and significantly aid in the recovery of the athlete. Understanding soccer positions more deeply than just knowing that there are forwards, midfielders, and defenders will help to determine if a certain type of role is better suited given your skills or if there is a player in a similar position as yours that you can look to guidance on effectively playing that position. Last, but not least, is developing a mindset that leaves you unshakable. This mindset will help you become knowledgeable on specific game situations, learn how to deal with other players, and be mentally tough enough to not worry about circumstances that you cannot control, such as the type of field you play on or the weather. The pyramid is a great visual aid to consider when choosing what areas to read next as a soccer player, coach, or parent.
Grab a copy of Soccer Dribbling & Foot Skills: A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Dribble Past the Other Team on Amazon today to dive deeper into the dribbling & foot skills portion of the pyramid to learn what it takes to be a top goal scorer!