Pandemic Mental And Physical Training Survival Guide For Youth Athletes

Pandemic Mental And Physical Training Survival Guide For Youth Athletes

Well, that escalated quickly.

We went from living comfortably with plenty of toilet paper, to running of out stock on the shelves.

We went from socializing at the local pub, to hosting virtual happy hours.

We went from training at the gym, to squeezing in at-home workouts.

We went from frantically rushing to work, to wondering what to do with our newfound freedom.

In fact, now that our world has flipped upside down, we have so much time on our hands we made it through every show on Netflix.

We performed every push-up variation at home.

We read through every self help book on our shelves.

We finished Spring cleaning…and it’s not even April.

With so much time on our hands during a worldwide pandemic, most of us are left wondering what to do.

Truthfully, I find it comical observing humans during this new ‘normal.’

A month ago, we were complaining that we don’t get enough time off, and now here we are, freaking out as we chill out.

Humans are funny.

As soon as we get a moment to sit with ourselves, or take that one month of vacation we all dreamed of before, we become disoriented and confused.

Okay, okay, let me back up: noise and productivity are what we’re used to in our daily lives. I get it.

Constantly producing. Constantly creating. Constantly moving. Constantly being busy. Constantly scrolling. Constantly working.

And when solitude and stillness become the new paradigm, we have to adapt to an unfamiliar routine.

First and foremost, this is the reality now. Second, we got this.

Third, in order to survive this, we have to return back to basics.

Let’s dive in.

1.) Gratitude

Oh, so youth sports, graduation, and prom got cancelled?

Ah, it must be nice to be a privileged human during this time. Of course, everyone is entitled to their feelings of sadness and I don’t want to be inconsiderate of those. We have every right to feel feelings.

Personally, I cried the other day because I couldn’t go into work to see my athletes. I let the tears pour out of me, for all but two minutes, then it was time to push forward and be grateful for everything else.

I am well.

I am healthy.

I am alive. 

Alas, after we let the feelings of devastation flow through us, we have to say ‘thanks’ for what we have in this moment.

Are we safe and at home with family?

Are we healthy enough to do at-home workouts?

Are we well enough that we’re not fighting for a hospital bed or ventilator?

You see, graduation, prom, concerts, festivals and other activities are just not a priority right now.

Rather, it’s time to be a member of society who plays a critical role in public health.

So stay home.

Be grateful and do your part. Your part, being, taking care of yourself, doing what you can control, and giving to others.

Unlike any other time in human history, humans are going to be forced to collaborate and help one another.

Yes, we should’ve been doing more of this before, but consider this a wake up call to step up and lead the way.

2.) Acceptance of a new routine.

So now that we’ve expressed gratitude, whether this is being at home and safe, or healthy enough to still move and live a fairly normal life, it’s time to get used to the new routine.

What routine does is it gives everyone a sense of purpose each day. Instead of wallowing in the depression of the news, we have other meaningful things to attend to, and hobbies that fill us with joy.

Now, this isn’t to say everyone needs to go write a fiction novel.

Nor is it to say everyone needs to get jacked and go keto right away.

Instead, people need to figure out what works for them, and what gives them hope.

Maybe it’s just sitting still. Maybe it’s just existing. Maybe it’s moving lightly and doing yoga. Maybe it’s having epic, insightful conversations about the universe with friends over video.

On a side note, shoutout to Zoom video conferencing for not exploding yet.

So I repeat, it’s okay to sit still.

As much of a hardcore strength coach that I am, not everyone needs to get cracking on workouts so they can improve their 40-yard dash and not “fall behind.”


But also, some people do need a workout program ASAP to cope. And that’s okay, too.

Speaking of working out, let’s move to the next survival tip.

3.) Move

I’d be remiss not to mention, exercise has its magical way of stimulating the brain, improving immune system function, elevating mood, and calming anxiety.

And this is why I’ve been blasting out innovative exercises for my subscribers to do at home.

If you have not subscribed yet, you can join on my home page at www.ericasuter.com.

Go to my site, drop your email in the pop-up, and boom. You can get your unlimited free content.

In fact, my exercises are more unlimited than the toilet paper supply. Get them while you can.

Expounding further on exercises to do at-home, I had to bring in another intelligent youth strength and conditioning mind for this article.

I love providing my audience with a roster of professionals and their work. Again, the ideas are endless.

So who is it?

Drum roll please…

Coach Mike Whiteman from Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC.

Mike’s library of at-home workouts is as impressive as his max deadlift.

Yes, it’s possible.

So without further ado, Mike, take it away with how kids can continue to move at-home to take care of their physical and mental health.


Thank you, Erica, and great points.

In such an uncertain time it is OK to take a step back and take a deep breath.  If you are healthy and your loved ones are also healthy be thankful and make sure to maintain perspective as we are all a part of a much larger picture.  We are global citizens first, athletes second, and we all must do our part to slow the spread of this unseen foe.

Yes, the coronavirus has been disruptive but is in our DNA as athletes to adapt and overcome.  The very nature of sport is based on overcoming adversity whether it is the opponent on the field, the gym session that lay ahead or the inevitable doubts that creep into every athlete’s psyche from time to time.  Winning is merely overcoming adversity so, yes, WE GOT THIS!

As an athlete adhering to appropriate social distancing practices you will not have the same access to the resources you have become accustomed to.  This may include facilities, equipment and even coaches because of the required isolation at this time.  Although not ideal, nothing a resourceful young athlete cannot manage.

As a serious athlete looking to at least maintain, where do we begin?


1.) KISS Principle

For those unfamiliar, KISS is short for Keep It Simple Stupid.  Often in life the simplest answer is the best so now is not the time to try to complicate the training process by diluting it with as many different exercises as possible.  Nothing but the hits for now and as I constantly remind my athletes in the Riverhounds Development Academy, it’s not what you do but HOW YOU DO IT!  Intent is always king.  Intent provides a nice segue to the next primary point.


2.) Quality > Quantity

Moving with maximal purpose regardless of the task is a skill onto itself and preserving the desired level of intensity is not easy but mistakenly assumed by many.  At this point let’s not worry about specific exercises and minutiae but just know my preference is doing less, excellent as opposed to more, moderately well.


3.) Use it or lose it

All adaptations are not made equal.  Speed and power adaptations are the quickest adaptations to be reversed after roughly a week of not being trained.  Conversely, maximal strength and aerobic adaptations can persist for nearly a month.  When prioritizing training at max effort sprinting is most important.  Luckily, all you need is yourself and a little bit of knowledge.


4.) Speed is KING

Primary Energy Pathway: Anaerobic/ATP-CP

Maximal effort sprints < 5 seconds duration, full recovery.  For every 10m/10yds

Sprinted, at least 1 min rest required

Total sprint volume < 200-250 m/yds


5.) Power, Strength Supplement Speed

Jumps, plyometrics and strength are great ways to improve both rate of force development and force.  Jumps and plyometrics, like speed, are best done with little external resistance so equipment really isn’t necessary.  Strength, particularly if you’re an athlete that is used to frequenting the gym and lifting weights regularly might be a little trickier.  If limited to just bodyweight strengthening exercises look to do things with tempo that manipulate the stretch reflex.  Slow eccentrics and isometrics are great at increasing time under tension and establishing position.  Yielding isometrics or overcoming isometrics are very simple ways to demonstrate high levels of maximal force at a specific joint angle.  What this means to you as an athlete is that pushing or pulling against an immovable object can be a great way to develop high levels of force when no weights are available.  Also, adding velocity to traditional strength movements can increase the level of difficulty and skill required.

Tying it all together…


Monday (Speed/Max Velocity)

Dynamic Warmup 10 min

30 yd accels x 6 reps, 3 + min recovery

Pogo Jumps 2×10 (Quick)

Vertical Jumps 3×3 (High)

Tuck Jumps 2×5 (Quick + High)

Pulse Squats (Full Depth -> Parallalel -> Full Depth) 2x30s

Eccentric Hand Release Push up 3×6 (5 s down, explode up)

Jump Rope or Rhythm Pogos 6x30s (Extensive, RPE 5,6)


Wednesday (Agility/Decelerations)

Dynamic Warmup 10 min

Single Leg Snap Downs 2×3 ea side

Single Leg Multidirectional Hops 1×10 Forward, Backward, Medial, Lateral, Ski

Isometric Lunge (Contract, Relax) 2×30 s ea leg

Single Leg Snap Down to Skater Bound 2×5

Single Leg Hops + Single Leg Tuck Jump 5:1 ratio 2×3 ea leg

Snap Up to one Leg 1×5 ea leg

Isometric 1 Leg RDL 1x20s, 2nd set try to do 5 windmills, 3rd set Single Leg RDL drops (speed) 1×5

RFESS 1×10 (5 s down, 3 s hold, explode up)

Dead Bug Rocker Series 2×8

90/90 Hip Internal Rotations 1×8

Friday (Speed/Accelerations)

Dynamic Warmup 10 min

Falling Accels 4×15 yds, 2 min recovery

Prone (Get Up) Accels 4×25 yds, 2 min recovery

10 step alternating bound x2, full recovery

Snap Up 2×3

Prisoner Snap Up 2×3

Broad Jump 2×3

Pulse Squats (Full Depth -> Parallalel -> Full Depth) 2x30s

Eccentric Hand Release Push up 3×6 (5 s down, explode up) or chin up 3×5 if possible

Jump Rope or Rhythm Pogos 6x30s (Extensive, RPE 5,6)

Enjoy and let Erica and me know how you do. Stay safe and stay strong.


Connect with Mike Whiteman on Instagram and Twitter:

Follow the Riverhounds SC Strength and Conditioning account on Instagram

Connect with Erica Suter on Twitter

For more at-home strength, speed and agility workouts and sample programs, get Total Youth Soccer Fitness

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