Athlete Development Boot Camp
This Blog discusses some of the things that can enhance a younger athletes performance and more specifically within soccer.
Fitness For Football
There are three main energy systems the body uses and each should be trained separately within a specific training session.
Endurance – This type of training is achieved by going for a run at a slow manageable pace, approximately 65% – 75% of your maximum heart rate. If you are jogging and can hold a conversation with the person next to you then you are probably going at an appropriate pace. The distance depends on age group and the distance the athlete would cover on the pitch. A premier league player would cover anything between 6km – 10km, so a 10km run is ideal for their level. I would suggest 3km -5km is ideal for younger players between the ages of 8 – 16 years old. There are many physiological adaptations that will occur when a regular endurance run is carried out once each week. Without getting into the technicalities of the physiological system these adaptions will improve a player’s on-pitch performance.
Strength – Strength training is extremely underrated, specifically when concerning younger athletes. Several body resistance exercises for each major muscle group can be easier incorporated into a training schedule from the comfort of your own home. Press-ups, sit-ups, squat thrusts, lunges, dips, squat thrust and pull-ups are to mention just a few. Initially I would suggest assessing yourself by simply seeing how many of each exercise you can do in one minute and record your results. On your next strength training session you simply carry out 3 x 50% of each exercise result, with a 90 second rest between each set. Repeat this process for 4 – 6 weeks then reassess yourself and repeat the process. The main benefits associated with strength training include injury prevention, power and all over presence during the game.
Speed – This type of training is mostly used by younger players without them even knowing about it; during every training session, running around the play ground and throughout every game they play. I wouldn’t worry about this too much but think it would be more beneficial to look at their sprinting technique (watch this space for future workshops).
There are a few tips when looking to improve your fitness for football and in no particular order they include:
• Focus on quality not quantity
• Identify your weakness and make it your strength
• Slowly introduce new training regimes and ensure they are maintained long term
• Schedule your training a week in advance
• Ensure two rest days are included into each week
Psychology For Improved Performance
Mental Preparation – In the same way you prepare your body for a game, so you should prepare your mind. This process should start the night before your match and can is best achieved by getting all your kit ready for the game. Lay all your kit out in your room ensuring it is clean, polish your boots and organise your drinks and snacks. During this time you should be thinking about the points covered by your coach in the previous training session. It is also a good time to think about the team you are going to be playing – try to remember the last time you played them and more specifically the players you will be up against. By getting your kit sorted the night before, it will prevent those arguments occurring as you leave the house to go to your game.
The mental preparation continues the following day as you are travelling to the game. Instead of listening to the radio or playing a game on the phone, chat to your parents about the points covered in the previous training session. Once you get to the match location 100% of your attention should be on the coach’s instructions. Warm up with the mental and physical intensity you feel is required when the referee blows the whistle to start the game. So many teams lose their game in the first five minutes because of not following these steps and before they know it they are a couple of goals down.
Attention During The Game – Most young players think it is only important to be fully focused on the game when they have the ball or when the ball is in play. This is simply not true. You need to be 100% focused throughout the whole of the game. If the ball goes out of play think about who you should be marking and the position you should be in.
How Your Actions, Language & Tone of Voice Can Affect Your Team – There is never a time within a game scenario when negative feedback improves a player or a situation. No player ever goes out to make a mistake and screaming at a player when they make a mistake will only cause fear and lack of self-belief. I am not suggesting you continually congratulate a player who makes a mistake, but rather inform him it is OK, after all it happens to the best players in the world! How many times have you seen a Premier League player take a shot at goal, slice it and it go out for a throw in? Why then do we have such high standards for our team mates when they miss a simple kick? You can still deliver constructive pointers related to the player’s performance but ensure the tone in your voice is encouraging.
Here is a scenario with a good and bad example when a player misses an easy pass and then does not track back…
Bad Example –
“Oh my goodness Billy what are you thinking… that was so easy!”
Good Example –
“Don’t worry Billy, take a touch, look up and next time chase down a lost ball”.
Negativity within a team is toxic and is the downfall to so many teams of all abilities. The same also applies to the parents and coaching staff; they are the ‘twelfth player’ and can significantly impact the team’s performance as well as the match result.
Self-Efficacy – This is quite simply the belief that you have in achieving something. When you have self-efficacy you are 60% of the way there, while the other 40% is down to your preparation and ability. Without it there is very little chance that you will achieve the task.
Eat Your Way To Better Performance
Hydration – This is key and needs to be focused on the night before match day, and should be continued on the day leading up to the game.
Nutrition – The food you eat before the game is very important, as well as the time it is consumed. You need to be taking on board slow release carbohydrates approximately 90 minutes before kick off. Then at half time something a bit more sugary can be consumed – Jelly Babies are a favourite with a few Premier League teams! After the game try to eat as soon as possible as your body’s energy stores will be depleted.
Look at the information covered in the programme and identify the areas that you do not currently focus on – you can then gently introduce it into your training schedule. Try not to do too much all at once and then give up after a few weeks – this will be like a small blip on the radar. Instead, introduce small changes and maintain them over a long period of time, then you will see lasting results.
I hope you found this information beneficial and wish you all the best with improving your performance.
Mark Hooks BSc