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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5 Things Recruits Should Do for Planning Unofficial College Visits

  1. When should I take a college visit?  You should start to organize unofficial visits beginning in your junior year of high school.  Ideally, visits should be scheduled during a time of year when the team is training so you have the opportunity to watch a training session or game.  April 2018 saw new legislation with regards to unofficial visits.  unofficial visit with athletics department involvement (e.g., contact with athletics department staff, athletics-specific tour, complimentary admission) shall not occur with an individual (or his or her relatives or legal guardians) before September 1 at the beginning of his or her junior year in high school.
            
  2. Should I contact the coach prior to my visit?  Contact the coach ahead of time. One of the main reasons for a college visit should be to interact with the coaching staff and gain exposure.  Otherwise the campus visit is worthless in regards making connections with the coaching staff. 
     
  3. How and when should I contact coach regarding a visit?  Consider reaching out to the staff with a hand written note several weeks or more in advance.  A handwritten note may be helpful in capturing the attention of coaches who are often overwhelmed by email correspondence.  Coaches often do not have the time to respond to every email and that means you can get lost in the shuffle.  After sending a handwritten note, you can call the office to introduce yourself and then follow it up with an email organizing a time to meet on campus. Your email should include a player resume and link to a highlight video if available.  (See our Freebies page for a template resume).
     
  4. What can I expect to happen on a visit (unofficial/official)?  The nature of unofficial visits depends mainly on whether the visit is organized by the coach (in the event they are actively recruiting you) or the prospect who is initiating contact.

    If a coach is organizing the visit the following may take place:  campus tour led by coaching staff, overnight accommodations in a dormitory of a current student athlete, visit to college class with current student athletes, opportunity to watch a training session, meeting with academic support and/or academic departments of interest, and discussions with the coaching staff on financial aid, academic fit, acceptance standards and your potential role on the team. 

    If the prospective student athlete is initiating the contact, the following may take place: campus tour through admissions office and meeting with coaching staff to discuss the program (if pre-organized or the staff happens to be available).  If the team is training on the day of your visit, you may be able to attend a training session if you have asked permission of the coaching staff beforehand.  If you do have the opportunity to meet the opportunity to meet with the coaching staff, ask questions about the recruiting needs of the program (number of players being recruited to your class and recruited positions.  You also want to use this opportunity to discuss whether the coaches have watched you play (at a tournament or by viewing your highlight video) and see if you can coordinate a future event where the coach may be able to watch you play. 
     
  5. How can I maximize my visit?   Make sure to plan in advance.  Visit the school’s website and pre-book a campus tour.  Coordinate a time to meet the coaching staff beforehand and hand deliver your player resume and highlight video if they don’t already have hard copies.  If possible and with the permission of a coaching staff, watch a training session while you are on campus. 
     

WARNING:  Remember that the coaching staff is evaluating you while you are on campus.  They are interested in learning about your demeanor and interest in their school.  They are also looking to see how you interact with your parents and whether you appear respectful and are enjoyable to be around. 

Making the most of your college visits

College visits, both official and unofficial, are important to finding out if a school is the best fit for you. Although soccer will be a massive part of your four years, there are other factors in making sure a school is the right one. If you suffer a long term injury or an injury that rules you out from playing soccer completely, would you still want to go to this school? Keep this question in mind during the duration of your recruiting process, but especially on a visit.

If you’re able to meet players on the team during your visit, it’s important to see if you gel with them.  Find out about the team culture. Some teams can be more laid back while others can be more intense. No one team culture is necessarily better than another, but consider if they atmosphere would work for you.

Make sure to find time to watch a game preferably or even a practice while you are on campus.  Does their style of play suit you? Is the coaching style right for you? Is the team lacking in the position or positions that you play? All of these are good questions to ask yourself if you get this opportunity.

The layout of the campus can also be a good indicator of whether or not you will enjoy your time at the school. College visits are a great chance to truly visualize yourself actually going to class at that school and hanging out in the dorms. Make sure to checkout the freshmen dorms.  For some students, your living accommodations can be a difference maker between schools.

If class size is something that matters to you, take the option to sit in on a class, either on your own or with one of the players from the team.  Class size will differ across programs so consider meeting with your preferred program and asking detailed questions about classes.  Getting a good feel of how classes and the environment should be part of your decision making process.

Each college will have a different vibe to it’s campus.  The right school is out there for you so take time on your visits and remember this can be a fun process.

Student-athletes: What college program is right for you?

Nationwide college graduation rates over a six year period are just over 50%.  It is especially important for you as a student-athlete to research options, know the questions to ask, and take the time to find the right fit so that you are in the graduating 50% and invest in the right athletic program from the start.  If successful, the right choice can save you money, frustration and put you on a fast-track to a successful and rewarding career path. Consider these four categories.

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Athletic Standards:  What level of play suits you?  How much college soccer have you watched, either on Fox Soccer Channel, streamed off college websites or live on a college campus?  The more college soccer you see, the better you will be informed of where you can play!  You don’t want to waste your time pursuing college soccer programs that are totally out of your reach.  Keep in mind that even within collegiate divisions, there is a lot of variation in athletic standards.  

You have to pay attention to the style of play of the school and consider how you may fit in.  Also, you have to pay attention to the recruiting class size and recruiting needs of the school.  Are they looking to play you in your preferred position or do they intend on playing you somewhere else on the field? Don’t be afraid to ask the coach of your incoming year’s recruitment class size and the program’s average retention rate of athletes.

Academics:  If you are seeking a particular major, your may severely limit your college choices.  Keep in mind that nationwide, approximately 50% of college students change majors at least once before college graduation.  Try to find a school that has several majors of potential interest. 

If you do have a major in mind, make sure to compare the prospective program to other schools.  Consider the program's reputation and record of job placement or acceptance into graduate programs.  Take the time to meet with a representative from that program.

Realistically compare your transcript to the acceptance requirements of each school.  If you are being recruited by a particular school, the athletic program may have some influence in assisting in your acceptance, but for the most part, schools have little leeway.  The special athletic "slots" are usually used on the top players being recruited by that school.  The reality is that better grades, rank, and board scores will provide you more college choices, so study hard!

Financial:  You can quite easily find what it costs to attend schools online.  If you are in contact with a prospective soccer program, they may be able to request a pre-read from admissions during your Junior year to estimate possible academic and need-based aid likely available based on your FASFA forms.  Soccer scholarships are few and far between.  Coaches have many ways of dividing money up for recruits and not all programs are the same.

The costs of a college degree are continually rising and vary greatly.  Some programs are so prestigious or have such exceptional job placement rates that they are worth the extra cost.  Others are not.  If money is a concern, evaluate the pros and cons of paying more. 

Location & Size of School:  The school location and student population may heavily influence your college choice.  Each location will offer a unique set of opportunities and experiences.  Do you want the offerings of a large city or are you more comfortable in rural environment?  What resources will you need to access (e.g. transportation, museums, prospective employers, industry and nature)?  Take the time to consider what makes you happy now, what opportunities you want in the future, and how population density and surroundings may influence your well-being.

Some students want to live in the city where there are lots of things taking place.  For instance, Boston has the largest college student populations of any city in the world, with close to 65-schools and colleges in the greater Boston area. On the opposite side of the spectrum, you may feel more at home at a school in a rural setting.   

Also, consider is the size of the student population and average class sizes within your proposed major.  You may need to break these numbers down to better understand how the size of the student population may affect you personally.  Consider the student population broken into the following categories: total school, undergraduate, by department and by major.