Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Why balance is the key to Messi

David ClarkeWatching a player like Lionel Messi slaloming through Real Madrid’s solid defence shows how important balance is for a football player – and it is true for any sport.

During growth and development our balance improves through practice. From learning to sit to walking and running does not just happen; it needs to be learnt and developed.

Think about how you learn to balance on a wall or the branch of a tree – first time you are awkward and slow until you can use your balance to speed up.

So too in sport. Lionel Messi has a low sense of balance because of his height and has learnt that he can lean and weave and stop quickly or speed up without losing his balance. This makes him an ideal machine for dribbling a ball past players. Dropping his shoulder to fool the defender into which side he will go to.

Balance is dependent on feedback and feeding of information from sensory receptors so repetition of movement, like walking along a wall, is vital to being balanced in sport especially at speed.

The optimum learning ages are between 5 and 11 but all coaches should do some training that involves specific balance related exercises.

Wobble boards and balance cushions are great to use if your club has them but if not I use this exercise below to help players with balance. I will add a ball once they can do it without falling over to make it more difficult.

How it works

  • This exercise is done by a player and three cones.
  •  It helps young players with balance, and is great fun to do as well with players trying to keep balance on one leg.
  •  The player balances on one leg then touches the top of each of the three cones with the foot of their other leg without it touching the ground.
  •  Touches should be light and quick.
  •  After three touches change the standing leg so the other foot is touching the cones.
  •  Players should do the it three times with each foot.

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