Jan 29, 2015Fancy Footwork
By Vern Gambetta
The feet don’t work independent of the rest of the body! ‘What a brilliant statement,’ you say. ‘I already knew that.’ If we already know that, why do so many people talk about “quick feet” and “foot speed” as if the feet were independent of the rest of the body?
There is no question that the feet are extremely important in sport because it is the feet that are in contact with the ground in movement. All movement is initiated off the ground. Ultimately it is the feet that must absorb the shock of ground contact and then use those forces to propel the body or the ball in the desired direction.
The purpose of footwork is to get the player and the ball to the right place at the right time. This is too big a job for two feet to do alone. The feet need to have help! They get their help farther up the kinetic chain in the hips. It has always been my contention that quick feet are actually loose and supple hips. I have never seen an athlete who was tight in the hips have good footwork!
Control of and positioning the center of gravity is the major objective of proper footwork. This consists of keeping the hips over the base of support if stability is desired, or shifting the center of gravity outside the base of support to initiate movement and change direction.
Improving footwork is, in essence, speed work. Therefore it should be done when the athlete is fresh to obtain optimum results. In a typical training session there will seldom be more than eight minutes devoted to footwork drills. Remember that the drills do not have to be done all at one time; they can be distributed throughout practice to complement soccer skills. Be sure to allow enough rest between drills so that quality is maintained. In the beginning stages technique is more important that speed.
Learn to execute the action correctly then add speed. Design sport specific footwork drills that are derivatives of the generic footwork drills. This will ensure that the improved footwork will transfer to the game. Remember the objective of good footwork is to position the body to be more effective in performing the specific sport skill.
Vern Gambetta, MA, is President of Gambetta Sports Training Systems in Sarasota, Fla. The former Director of Conditioning for the Chicago White Sox, he has also worked extensively with basketball, soccer, and track and field athletes. He is a frequent contributor to Training & Conditioning. Vern also maintains his own blog.