Archive | July, 2013

The Off-Season – 3 training essentials to prep for college soccer

8 Jul

Soccer Fitness photo

It’s the off-season here in So Cal and many student-athletes are enjoying a little R & R.  No doubt it’s a good time of year to be kicking back and enjoying the beach after a long 10-month season.  However, it can also be a great time to improve your skills if you want to take your game to the next level.

So whether you’re taking a break from the pitch for a few weeks or using this time to develop your game, I have a few thoughts for you if you’re hoping to play at a collegiate level someday.

The First Touch
As one of my favorite youth coaches once said, “the first touch is the most important.” If your first touch is good, then typically what follows will be good as well – the pass/shot/cross/etc.  Your first touch is especially important in the college game where the play is extremely fast paced and players are constantly under pressure.  Your first touch must be good in order to deal with the hectic nature of the game.

Fortunately, working on your first touch can be easy.  A ball and a wall are all you need. Strike the ball against the wall, wait for it to bounce back, move the ball into space, and then strike it again.  If you are working with a trainer, encourage them to put you into game-like scenarios.  For instance, a wide player might work on opening up and receiving the ball down the line.  Central players can work on receiving the ball into space, followed by crisp, clean passes with both feet.  Forwards should work on receiving the ball with their back to the goal, as well as basic receiving and turning exercises.   Bottom line- work on passing/receiving exercises that mimic the situations that might arise for you in a game.

Back in my Duke days, I always made it a point to come into pre-season in excellent shape.  I fixated on winning the pre-season “cooper test” (2 mile run as fast as you can) because I’m competitive, but more importantly because I knew it would set me apart from the other players.  My work rate was my greatest strength. Some of my teammates were faster, some were more technical, but I’m proud to say that nobody was fitter than Pete Gail.

This mentality was encouraged by my college coach John Rennie, who would say “Don’t wait for pre-season to get into shape.  You should come to pre-season ready to go!” So I encourage to use the 3 weeks leading into your pre-season to build a solid cardiovascular base.  Go on some long runs (30 mins +), ride a bike, or swim.  Perform exercises that elevate your heart rate for longer periods of time.

A high level player might run 5-7 miles in a 90-minute match.  You need a strong engine to make that happen. Challenge yourself to be in good condition when your team returns to regular training and competition.  I can tell say from my own experience that it makes a huge difference.

Speed, Agility & Quickness
Whether you are an attacking player looking to blow by opponents in the final third or a defensive player who wants to shut down speedy attackers, working on your speed, agility, and quickness is essential.  And make no mistake, it is always possible to become faster and more explosive. Sports scientists agree that an athlete can improve by as much as 10% in their overall speed and quickness.

Agility and quickness exercises (if done properly) also have the added benefit of helping to prevent injuries.  The Santa Monica Orthopedic group’s PEP Program is widely used by both college and professional teams as a way to improve performance and prevent injuries.  So get a jump on the gun and work on these exercises now.  You will have a better (and more healthy) season as a result.

In summary:
The competition for college roster spots is incredibly stiff.  The players who are willing to put in the extra work are the ones who will get recruited and grab those roster spots.  If you are a motivated player, make sure you are training smartly.  Work on your first touch, basic cardiovascular fitness, and speed and agility.  Those efforts will absolutely serve you well in your mission to get to the next level.

Train hard.  Train smart.  Sheer Power.