Do I need to train in the summer after my club team ends the season?

For many players, summer offers an opportunity to work on fitness, foundational skills and weaknesses. For others, it may be time to recover from nagging injuries. Exactly when you should return to training and competitive play following your spring season depends on many factors including post-season schedule and physical and mental health.

While rest can be beneficial, it should rarely ever mean 100% rest. Even incorporating in light jogs and bike flushes in the days after your final matches will help propel you into summer training. If you want to improve and be a competitive player, it is important to find a rhythm and keep it during the summer even when your team ends the season. Maintaining fitness over the summer takes planning and dedication.

The summer gives players the freedom to improve on their weaknesses, fitness and work on foundation skills. Consider ball control for example. This skill is easy developed independently. Check out this link below which recommends training with different size and types of balls to improve on control: https://www.perfectsoccerskills.com/blogs/news/114817603-using-smaller-balls-to-develop-better-control. Summer is also a perfect time to work on cardio and strength training since there is no worry about being sore for matches.

Before you jump right into a summer training regime, remember one of the most important factors in planning out your summer should be your health! While many players are anxious to jump back into training, players recently recovering from injuries should use this time wisely. The last thing you want to do is further aggravate nagging injuries. If there’s been an issue with your body this spring, use summertime wisely to do physical therapy exercises and corrective stretching. This will help you strengthen and lengthen your muscle tissue, thereby preventing future injuries.

According to a recent Dutch study, high school players may be more susceptible to injury following a recent growth spurt. One doctor suggests that overuse injuries can be substantially reduced by early intervention. Check out this doctor’s recommendations and interpretation of the recent Dutch study at: https://www.socceramerica.com/publications/article/81630/teenage-growth-spurt-a-risky-time-for-soccer-inju.html

Finally, it is important to acknowledge that some group training is important even in the off-season. Even just training with a handful of teammates once or twice a week can help you stay as close to game shape as possible. Or maybe this is your opportunity to train with a new group of players in a summer league. This may provide a breath of fresh air from the same training and players you’ve been with all season. You would be surprised what kind of potential you can unlock from playing with new players, training styles, and coaches. All in all, it should go without saying that summer training is absolutely necessary for serious players.

Why Should I train with College Coaches in the summer?

Summer is usually when players have the most downtime to focus on improvement and college recruitment. It also acts as an important transition phase between club seasons. It is important to train with college coaches at this time for 3 main reasons.

1. Intimate recruitment exposure

One of the more obvious reasons to train with college coaches in the summer is the opportunity to possibly get recruited to play for them in the future. This is enticing because training in this closed environment allows the coach to get to know you better as a player and a person. Coaches are less inclined to hand out scholarships to players they have seen play in tournaments, but not gotten to know on a personal level because it poses more of a risk. Coaches look for driven players who maintain a level head on and off the field. They would much rather recruit players they’ve made a relationship with, rather than someone more unknown who could potentially be a head case. If a coach can see how you play in games and train in practices he will feel more comfortable recruiting you and likely feel better about offering you a substantial scholarship.

2. Personal measurement and goals

Playing in front of college coaches with new players around you is a great opportunity to see where you’re at. There are a number of scenarios you can encounter. For example, you could be an average player for your club team, however, after training with college coaches, you realize that in the grand scheme of youth soccer, you are actually a top quality player who could play in college. This could especially be true if you’re team is very talented and you don’t always shine through. Another scenario could be the opposite; you are the best on your club team, but come to the realization that overall there are better players out there who are more college ready. Either way, it is important to train with college coaches to give yourself a fair gauge of where you’re at. It can help you better-set goals and aim for a realistic college decision. Development can be drastic throughout high school so by training in this environment and setting goals for improvement, players can push themselves to get to the next level. Additionally, college coaches can highlight your weaknesses and provide methods for improvement.

3. Learn what coaches demand from college players

While plenty of club coaches are demanding and run sessions with energy, there is usually a different type of intensity required by college coaches simply because college players set their coaches standards higher. Each of their players has been recruited and are expected to deliver a certain level of play to maintain their spot. This translates into the way college coaches run their sessions and hold their players accountable to their positions during sessions. You can expect them to push players to their healthy limits through purposeful, well-planned drills. These types of drills are meant to teach players their positional awareness, limit turnovers while playing with a purpose quickly, and continuously move off the ball in space. College coaches know what is necessary for youth players to be successful in college because they’ve recruited players and then coached them in the subsequent years; this knowledge translates into training and can prove to be vital in the development of youth players. Youth players can get a glimpse of what playing for college coaches is really like by training with them in the summer. This is also important to see how you will enjoy it at the next level, where almost every day is spent training with your teammates and coaches.

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Understanding Financial Aid Packages

It is important for students and their parents to understand how financial aid works for student-athletes.  Each NCAA Division level is governed by its own set of rules.  During the recruiting process, college coaches may ask for CSS Profiles/FAFSA before offering athletic scholarships.  Below is a brief summary of the main differences and a link to more detailed information from the NCAA. 

Athletic Scholarships:  Athletic scholarships are awarded by institution based on the merit of the performance of the individual.  All Division I and II soccer programs are classified as "equivalency" sports, meaning that the NCAA restricts the total financial aid that a school can offer in a given sport to the equivalent of a set number of full scholarships.   

Division I:  Soccer teams can separate the scholarship awards between the roster up and till a maximum of 9.9 for the men and 14.0 for the women.  Coaches are allowed to award anywhere from 1%-100% for any individual student-athlete.  

Division II:  Soccer teams can separate the scholarship awards between the roster up and till a maximum of 9.0 for the men and 9.9 for the women.  Coaches are allowed to award anywhere from 1%-100% for any individual student-athlete.   

Division III:  The NCAA limits Division III teams to no athletic scholarships.  If you qualify for merit or need-based aid, you can qualify for financial aid.  The NCAA also require Div. III schools to show how much aid they give to athletes on sports teams. 

Need-Based Aid
Student need-based aid is related to the need of the family after completing either the CSS Profile and/or FAFSA forms.   Need-based aid is awarded on the student/family financial need.  When financial aid is determined through need-based aid, an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is determined.  Universities will work towards maximizing this aid gap.  It has often been noted that filling this financial gap, is maximized when the student has higher SAT or ACT scores.

Merit-Based Aid
Merit-based scholarships and grants are awards from educational institutions and organizations.  This aid usually comes from outstanding academic achievements in high schools grades and/or outstanding SAT or ACT scores.  Sometimes merit-based aid is awarded to students by such organizations as local club, Boy Scouts, YMCA etc.  Merit-based grants do not need to be repaid.  Athletic based scholarships are also a form of merit-based aid.

How are athletic scholarships combined with need-based and merit-based aid?  
It is possible at Division I and II schools to combine merit-based aid with athletic scholarships up to the need-based financial aid eligibility limit.  There are some limitations with combining need-based aid with athletic scholarships. 

For more information, visit NCAA's Scholarship page.

3-Body Weight Workouts & Benefits of Body Weight Circuits

When looking to sculpt the figure of the modern day soccer player. There are aspects that should not be ignored. As a player, you want to remain as lean as possible to run the long distances that soccer players do nowadays as well as be able to be explosive enough and strong enough to outwork your opponent. This is not to say that weight training cannot get you the results you need however incorporating body weight training in conjunction with your weight training schedule is something you should look to do even if it is only two or three times a week. Below you can find 3 sample workouts which you can use to model your body weight workout.

Workout 1- Upper Body

  • Chest expanders (with or without a resistance band) 45 seconds. To perform this exercise, you want to make a T shape with your upper body, extending your arms as far back as possible

  • 10-second rest

  • Overhead presses(you may use any household object for increased resistance)45 seconds. To perform this exercise, you want to imitate an overhead dumbbell press and focus on achieving full extension

  • 10-second rest

  • Triceps dips (off the sofa/a chair)45 seconds. To perform this stretch out your legs, so you hold your weight with your arms and lower yourself down pushing with only your triceps.

  • 10-second rest

  • Push-ups with Shoulder taps. 45 seconds. Perform a regular push up, but as you finish each rep you tap alternating shoulders

  • 10-second rest

  • Diamond push-ups. 45 seconds. Create a diamond shape with your hands(close grip) and perform regular push-ups

  • 10-second rest

  • Arm Circles.45 seconds. Focus on creating the circular motion with your arms fully extended at speed

Workout 2-Lower body

  • Single leg Side knee raises. 45 seconds. Fully extend the knee into the chest imitating the running stride

  • 10-second rest

  • Butt Kickers. 45 seconds. Full intensity

  • 10-second rest

  • Rear lunge/Backward lunge. 45 seconds. Focus on planting your foot to push through your quadriceps

  • 10-second rest

  • Squats. 45 seconds. Chest in an upward position and really push through your quad and finish by squeezing your glute

  • 10-second rest

  • Calf raises. 45 seconds. Fully extend by pushing off your toes

  • 10-second rest

  • Wall sit. 1 minute

  • 10-second rest

  • Mountain climbers. 45 seconds

  • 10-second rest

Workout 3- Ab workout

  • Elevated crunches. 45 seconds

  • Flutter kicks. 45 seconds

  • 10-second rest

  • Supine bicycle (Place your hand behind your head and drive your elbow into your knees). 45 seconds

  • Leg raises. 45 seconds

  • 10-second rest

  • 1-minute plank

  • 30-second six-inch hold

Each workout can be used and be extremely beneficial to strengthen the core which is key for soccer players to attain. Body weight training allows you to exercise freely with no equipment and at any time, also the use of your weight increase balance and flexibility. There are no downsides to body weight workouts if used alongside weight training so get out there.

Improve Quickness and Agility with the Speed Ladder

In the modern era speed and agility are one of the most essential assets a player can attain but training for this purpose is often overlooked. One of the simplest ways to boost this attribute is by implementing the speed ladder into your training routine. The benefits of the speed ladder help improve footwork, coordination and mental concentration. A sample workout that takes no more than 20 minutes can be seen below

Sample Workout

  • Straight Run (one foot in each) x3 repetitions

  • In n Out Hope (two-foot hop inside two feet hop outside) x3 repetitions

  • Continuous Hop( Two footed) x3 repetitions

  • Two Footed Sprint x3 repetitions

  • 180-degree high knee sprint(two-footed) x3 repetitions

  • 180-degree double jump (miss one space) x3 repetitions

  • Thunderbolt Step/Zigzag(forward and backward diagonally through)x3 repetitions

If you are new to the speed ladder be sure to take each exercise slowly and focus on getting the technique right. As you perform more repetitions, the technique will come where you can begin to increase the tempo of each drill. This is due to the science behind how our muscles work. Muscle memory is a type of motor learning called procedural memory occurring in the brain, of course. Through the act of repetition, your brain cements the action into its neural pathways so that the movement becomes second nature. This is exactly what you want. At the same time, there is something called Muscle Adaptation where our body becomes used to the movement and exercises we may be doing which is why it is vital to continue to challenge ourselves once we have reached the point where each drill can be done with ease. Not only do our muscles need to be tested but so does our brain and this is a way to improve both aspects at the same time while working on fitness, so it is a great way to knock out three birds with one stone.

As you begin to advance within performing each exercise you should look to add more game realistic scenarios to it for example upon completing one set, setting off with a burst of pace in a specific direction to train muscle memory when carrying out the motion which you will look to replicate in your game. This subconsciously builds good habits into your form and technique when looking to make changes in direction or a quick dash.

As an aspiring soccer player, all aspects of your game should be worked on, and this is one side of the game that is ignored but really consumes the least time in comparison to more technical drills. It can easily be added to the beginning or end of a session, so there are no excuses, get out there!