Last night, I waved goodbye to a plethora of female athletes, and sent them off to Fall soccer season.
Admittedly, I felt like a soccer mom of 40 girls – protective, worried, frantic, excited, giddy, nervous, enthralled.
But I couldn’t help but think ‘what the hell am I going to do with my time now?’
Binge watch Walking Dead? Pick up scrapbooking as a hobby? Research shin angles? Punch my head against a wall? Browse farmersonly.com?
Alright, I won’t be THAT bored.
Instead, I’ll spend time reflecting on what off-season soccer training means.
So what needs to be done, you ask?
Let’s first take a look at the summer schedule:
Kids get out of school mid-June. They return the second or third week in August for high school tryouts. Or, for the middle school ages, they return to Fall ball closer to the end of August.
So this gives them a solid 2 months to prepare the shenanigans of in-season training.
What does this mean? I’m good at math. ;-O
But also, this is the optimal time for youth athletes to get stronger, more powerful, and better conditioned.
Are skills camps helping or hurting your kid?
I’m not totally against skills camps. I, for one, train technical soccer skills and understand the importance of technique repetition, especially for younger ages (8-13). In fact, with these ages, perhaps dividing a session into ball work, then coordination and mechanics is the best way to go.
But for the older ages (U12+), I don’t see skill work as the #1 priority during the off-season.
The majority of youth soccer players play ball with a rigorous schedule in both Fall and Spring. And more often than not, teams participate in Winter league play. Now that’s A LOT OF TOUCHES on the ball with practices averaging 2-3x a week, and games averaging 1-2x a week.
So this bears repeating: summer off-season is the time to get fit.
I mean, when the hell else are we going to truly build strength, power, and condition without overtraining and fatigue?
If you guessed, never, you’re my new best friend and deserve a fist pound.
A good sweet spot for summer off-season training is at minimum 2x a week in order to see physiological changes.
If kids (middle school and high school) can go 3-4x, then that’s heaven on earth.
This way, athletes are able to make an organic progression, so they’re challenging themselves without overtraining.
And I may get hate mail for saying this, but skills camps are a waste of time.
This training template of 9am-3pm Mon-Fri is problematic because kids 1) Aren’t getting enough recovery time 2) Are overloaded with information and 3) Are being babysat.
Sure, I get it if you want to send your kid away for a week, but how much are they truly learning and how much are they truly progressing if everything is crammed into just ONE week? Are they focused for the entirety of the camp? Or are they picking grass from the field?
In this case, recovery is key for avoiding burnout.
Again, I LOVE skill work. Kids need it for muscle memory. And, if they’re trying to perfect a certain skill (like shooting), they may need to hone in on this in the summer before team practices resume.
But at the same time, the strength and conditioning coach in me screams fitness should be a priority in the off-season. Needless to say, summer is for building BEASTS.
In order to prepare for the demands of the game, kids must be training at higher intensities. Do summer skills camps provide this? That’s a question you must ask.
And as far as strength training, are your players periodizing their training so they increase strength? Or are they cramming it into one week, with no proper recovery?
Here are a few examples of 2 months of periodized off-season strength training:
Brenna crushes an 18kg Turkish getup after 3 months of consistency, 2x a week.
Or how about…
Riley breaking a personal best of 12 pull ups, and dare I say, beating a handful of our male soccer players.
And when it comes to breaking down mechanics, it takes weeks, if not months, to ensure kids are running with pristine form and getting out of whacky ipsilateral movement patterns.
So don’t do ladders or any agility drill for the sake of doing shit. Nailing down contralateral movements is key:
And as far as conditioning improvements, it’s refreshing to hear girls say they felt like gazelles during their high school fitness tests, gracefully running past other athletes and staying ahead of the pack.
Certainly, none of this could’ve been accomplished in just one, not even TWO weeks.
In order to make the most of off-season training, there needs to be:
1) Gradual progression.
2) 24-72 hours rest between workouts.
3) Higher intensities than the game.
4) An insatiable desire to work hard.
5) A minimum of two months, twice a week.
And that’s IT.