In playing soccer, you need a lot of ankle joint awareness to make the sprinting, quick stops and sudden turns that the game requires. This awareness is called proprioception, and it can be improved through specific exercises that develop balance, strength and endurance.
The proprioceptors are responsible for joint awareness, such as your position in space and for your reflexive muscle contraction. When the body has to change direction quickly, the muscles have to reflexively respond so that the joint is stable and you don’t sprain the ankle. Good stuff, right? Yep! Here are tools and exercises that can build this body awareness for joint receptors and proprioceptors:
For balance, try the Bosu Ball, that funny-looking half-ball you see in gyms. By standing on it and shifting your weight, you can increase your balance and stability. The same can be done with a balance board, which looks like a board set atop a fat rolling pin or a DynaDisc, which is a cushioned disc. In essence, anything that challenges the balance will help increase your body awareness, or proprioception.
To build strength in the ankle joint, you can use a Thera-Band, which is the big stretchy rubber band, oftentimes found in Physical Therapists offices. Lie on your back, loop the band over your foot, straighten the leg and move your ankle in four different directions. You will build pure brute force in the ankle by following a continuous motion of toes up, toes down, toes in, and toes out. Do three sets of 10 in each direction. Repeat for the other leg.
You also need to make sure your ankle muscles have the endurance to last the entire game. To do that, apply the general principle of low load and high repetitions, and do three sets of 20 in each direction with each leg.
By doing these simple exercises over time, you can get your proprioception on and get your soccer game up to speed!