When it comes to soccer, depending on where your child plays, they could be in for a long season…six, eight or even 10 months long. We all know by now that gone are the days of using pre-season to get in shape, athletes better show up in shape. That is what the off-season is for: rest, recovery, regeneration and re-establish everything they may have lost during the season.
Too often athletes work extremely hard in the offseason, only to see their efforts fade away as the season wears on. It doesn’t have to be exactly like that though, but there are some key aspects to remember when training during the season.
First off, parents, athletes and strength coaches need to be aware of the game schedule, practice schedule and what the athletes are doing during time away from the gym. If the athlete is practicing during a heavy week of practices and games, it might be a time to stray from speed and agility since athletes get a lot of that during those situations.
For SAQ (speed, agility, quickness) training, try to focus on what the athlete didn’t get during practice. Focus on some finer points of footwork and foot positioning to help them when defending or getting opening for a pass. For conditioning work, again, be aware of the schedule. Maybe there isn’t a need for much conditioning if they’re going to be tired for a game the next day.
When it comes to strength training, more of a maintenance schedule should be followed. The athlete just doesn’t want to lose any strength that he/she may have gained during the off-season; however, the athlete isn’t necessarily looking to gain strength either. Sets, reps and load need to be adjusted depending on game and practice schedule.
That brings us to the next point. Strength gains and muscle mass gains. You may or may not know about eccentric muscle contractions. That is when, during contraction, the muscle lengthens (concentric contraction is when the muscle shortens).
Just think the downward motion of a squat or bench press. You are not only up to 40% stronger on the eccentric motion, but are much more likely to experience delayed onset muscle soreness. So, in terms of in-season training, you probably don’t want to feel muscle soreness when you have games and practices to worry about.
As can be seen from the points listed it can be very easy to get caught up in training too much or too little during the season. Train too little and risk losing everything you worked so hard for during the off-season. Train too much and risk getting suffering burnout. The reality is that soccer players and all athletes should be training during the season...not too much, but not too little. Your performance coach knows best ;)
Scott Paul, B.SM, CSCS, PES
Driving Force Sports Performance