Expert section: Mate Kontra – I’ve played soccer at a very high level all my life. Throughout my time playing, I’ve been coached by ex-pro, D1, and Academy level coaches, currently playing at the MLS-Next level as a wingback in California. Today, I will show you how to improve your game without leaving the comfort of your home!
One of the significant factors of improving at soccer is training outside of organized practices, which is most beneficial with the help of a training partner.
A partner is a highly beneficial part of individual training because they can induce confidence and motivation into the session while helping players perform complex exercises.
But at the same time, they can also drag them down and ruin the competitive atmosphere that helps players improve.
So how do you find a training partner that complements your training and helps you improve?
To help you out, we put together an article to discuss different types of training partners and how they may benefit your session.
By presenting several different options for training partners, it makes it easier to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each.
Then, players can choose the type of training partner that complements their style the most.
Related article: Everything to Know Before Buying Your First Pair of Soccer Cleats
Choosing a Training Partner
So how do you find/choose a training partner?
In short, test out as many options as possible based on your preferences until you find a good training partner to practice with.
Training partners can vastly differ from each other, whether it’s their relationship with you, their attitude, skillset, or goals.
Finding someone whose characteristics complement your goals and desires is crucial because that creates efficient practices.
Essentially, they will challenge you to be better in a way that is effective for you.
It will take some time to find them, but I also went through it, and it’s worth more than any training equipment available today.
So let’s get into the list.
Coach (Personal Coach)
A personal coach is the most beneficial training partner for most players because they’re experienced with the sport and know how to train different types of players.
Instead of you having to find a coach that matches your style, they will adjust to train you effectively.
They have trained countless players before and know how to connect with you and have a productive training session.
Though it’s important to remember that some coaches are better in certain aspects than others, so evaluating several coaches is a good idea.
From my experience, personal coaches are only necessary when none of the following options on this list are available – or it’s difficult to create an effective session with them.
They also cost a fair bit of money.
I only recommend paying for an experienced coach because they have been in the business longer and know what’s best for you.
Inexperienced coaches may charge players a similar rate but provide much less help for players than experienced instructors.
Teammate With a Similar Mindset
The next best option after a soccer coach is a teammate who has a similar mindset as yourself.
A similar mindset is great because it establishes a natural connection that can help collaborate during training sessions.
Whether practicing certain skills or studying tactics, both of you will have the same goal of improvement, which creates an opportunity to learn from each other.
I recommend practicing with teammates who are less worried about rivalries and more focused on improving at the sport.
It’s common to have the competitive nature take over friendship on a team, but training with these players can be counterproductive.
Heavy rivalries can make it difficult to connect with them and even cause conflicts in the worst case.
A good relationship allows players to be on the same page during training, contributing to a more effective session.
Sessions are also more enjoyable when viewing the partner not just as a teammate but also as a friend.
The first partner I had when I started training outside of organized practice was one of my parents.
Parents are the most commonly available “training partners” for many soccer players, especially at the youth level, because they generally reside in the same household.
The soccer knowledge of parents varies drastically from player to player.
Some parents know nothing about soccer, while others have experience playing Division 1 college soccer.
To have the most effective training sessions with parents, they should have some experience playing the sport, so they know what they’re doing.
However, similar to my case, it’s also easy to teach them how to help you.
I highly recommend practicing with parents with experience playing the sport because they will be more motivated to help you.
Furthermore, it shows them you’re serious about playing at the next level, which will only motivate them more to help you.
Whether traveling to soccer camps, tryouts, or joining a high-level team, they are more likely to provide support when you’re putting maximum effort into the sport.
Best Friend (Plays Soccer)
If you have a strong friendship with another soccer player, regardless of their skill level, they are a great person to train with.
They know at least the basics of the sport, which will help them understand what you want to practice and how they can help.
Additionally, friends are the most fun to spend time with, so practicing the sport you love the most instantly becomes more enjoyable.
From my experience, it’s also easier to push the limits with important people around because I want to make them proud.
It eliminates the need for encouragement when training gets hard or I run out of breath, which helps me improve drastically.
If you have a friend you’re considering inviting but are still deciding, ask them the next time you train.
From my experience, it’s more fun practicing with them than you might imagine.
Overall Characteristics to Look For
Generalizing based on the relationship with a person can be a long and difficult process.
Though it has been effective for me in the past, it might be easier for players to find partners based on their characteristics.
That means finding traits in others that complement your training style and motivate you to improve.
Here are the complementing styles of training partners:
Partners who provide constant feedback and reassurance after mistakes work to keep the training as interactive as possible.
These types of partners improve performance by inducing confidence in one another during the session.
Most players will benefit from a training partner who provides constant feedback because it helps them form good habits during an exercise.
I personally loved it when my partner gave me feedback during every exercise because it allowed me to gain an understanding of a third-person perspective of myself.
It helped me understand what coaches see when I play and what other players use to predict my moves.
But more importantly, it also allowed me to fix my mistakes and improve on skills I had already learned to be a more effective player.
Limited Feedback (Feedback only after the exercise)
Limited feedback is where the training partner waits to provide their input until an exercise is over so that players can maintain their focus during the exercise.
The benefit of this style is that players can stay in the zone while performing at maximum intensity.
I only recommend this to very high-level players because, for average players, there is almost always value in third-party advice.
Whether 90% of the advice is already known information or not, the last 10% can change the course of a player’s development.
I’ve had plenty of lightbulb moments from advice I received during exercise, which completely shifted my mentality going forward.
“Drill instructor” is a popular way to instruct players and force them to improve by enforcing even minor mistakes.
Though more common among coaches, some training partners like to fire players up by taking the training as seriously as possible.
Similar to weightlifting, where partners aggressively yell to get the adrenaline going and improve performance, some players motivate each other in a similar fashion.
I recommend this style of training partners to people who take criticism personally and act to improve on their mistakes.
It demands players to improve instead of asking players to improve.
This style has only been effective on me when I was upset about something that happened or just wasn’t in the mood to train.
There is a time and place for it, such as conditioning training, but some players enjoy it in other environments too.
Thorough explaining uses detailed explanations about an exercise with all minor details included to help a player understand a practice or concept.
Youth coaches often use this style to introduce beginners to new concepts and skills.
As for training partners, it’s common when they have more experience playing at a high level and more sophisticated skills.
In my experience, these players naturally assume that you know less about soccer, so they include as many details as possible in their explanations.
I recommend training partners who use lots of explaining to help you improve because even minor details can trigger an understanding of an exercise or concept.
Also, longer explanations are necessary to learn new exercises, so having a partner with good explanation skills is always handy.
Having a complementary partner during individual training is a massive help for any player.
It allows the training atmosphere to be more motivating and makes practice more enjoyable.
Additionally, it opens the door for complex exercise variations that allow players to practice core skills in various ways.
But how do you find the right training partner?
The most common training partners include personal coaches, teammates, parents, or a friend with basic soccer knowledge.
Each has different styles and possibilities for practice, so it’s important to pick one that complements your style.
An alternative option to picking partners based on their relationships with you, such as parents or coaches, is to choose based on their style.
This method may be easier for people with different contacts than those on our list.
Who will be your next soccer training partner?
Image Attribution & Licensing
Featured Image: ‘Soccer Coach Teaching Youth Soccer Players’ by Kampus Production (Licensed via Pexels)
#1: ‘Elite Synthetic Material Adidas Cleats’ by Braden Hopkins (Licensed via Unsplash)
#2: ‘Soccer Coach Explaining Tactics to Youth Players’ by Kampus Production (Licensed via Pexels)
#3: ‘Old Soccer Player Lying On Soccer Ball’ by Image-Source (Licensed by Envato Elements)
#4: ‘Professional Soccer Coaches Discussing Exercise’ by Jeffrey F Lin (Licensed via Unsplash)
#5: ‘Youth Soccer Fan Celebrating a Goal’ by Sporlab (Licensed via Unsplash)