There is a lot of talk about skills in soccer, especially (in my view) in youth soccer in the US. This leads me to the following question:
What part does fitness play in mastering soccer-skills? A very general question, so I will use myself as an example.
I played soccer from ages 6 to 19. I never was what you would call a dribbler, but my skill level was excellent - in fact I was renowned for never loosing the ball once I got hold of it. I was at my best however at ages 13 to 14, which coincided with me working out in the gym for the first and only time. The rest was a steady decline in both fitness, skills and interest. Doing traditional soccer-training only just didn’t seem to be enough for me.
Then, at age 27, I made an ill-fated comeback. I jumped straight into a teams off-season training, which concisted of running and 5-aside variations - no weights or power training whatsoever. In the end I never made much progress and stopped playing after half a season. At that time I was relegated to the teams b-side, playing in the seventh (!) highest division.
Now, at age 34, I’m making another comeback. This time I’m trying to do it right by spending a whole year strenght and power training before committing to a team. I started during the World Cup last summer and will continue on my own until this summer.
The first few months I routinely practised soccer skills and was happy with the progress I made. Then I had to take a two month break, still continuing strenght and power training, and when I returned my skill level had “gone through the roof”. Not only was I doing things I used to do as a kid, but also alot of things I had only seen others do, but never tried myself. Agility was at an all time high.
Of course it’s a trivial observation to make that a low level of fitness will lead to a low level of skills - this shouldn’t be much of a debate, but it doesn’t seem far fetched to conclude that in my case at least, fitness and skills are wholy intertwined.
If you have better RFD in the musculature that manipulates the implement (the soccer ball in this case) then performing a given skill is that much easier. It is almost like speed reserve at the limb speed level!
I’ve noticed the same thing in the past with my basketball training. I used to do speed bench with bands and all that stuff in the past. After a layoff from basketball, if I had been doing speed bench, I would come back and my handling would be improved.