Preparing During The Summer Break

While the calendar is indicating that Summer has just arrived, the reality is the new Fall season will be starting very quickly. For many youth athletes summer may mean a loss of structure to our days; no school, no practices, no formal games, and a loss of some of the development gains made throughout the past season. Summer challenges players to find the balance between much needed rest from a long Spring season, and the need to prepare for the upcoming season. With some simple planning and the right focus, athletes and their families can make great use of the summer weeks to be prepared for the next season.  

Here are a few key areas young athletes can work on this summer:

  • REST
  • PLAY

Summer, like any off season, should be a time for each player to find some REST so you can recover from a grueling season and heal any injuries. Down time is beneficial to both physical and mental well-being and is essential to staving off both injury and performance fatigue. Hopefully, your athlete was able to take some time in early June to do just that, unwind and recover.  The next part of REST is the general sleep necessary for peak performance. Here are some guidelines and benefits to proper sleep for youth athletes.

  • Kids 6-12 yeas of age should get 9-12 hours per night
  • Teams 13-18 years of age should get 8-10 hours per night
  • Napping has been shown to provide benefits as well
  • Release of growth hormones occurs during sleep, increasing repairing muscles, building bones, and managing energy stores.
  • Improves cognitive functions – judgement, focus, decision-making, as well as overall mood
  • Increases learning and memory
  • Physical improvements – reaction time, sprint time, skill performance accuracy

Eating right is important in order to fuel your athlete for performance, but it can’t start the day before the game, or even the week of practice. It starts NOW. Establishing healthy eating habits in the summer will setup the athlete for an improved season. Here are some simple guidelines.

  • Balanced Diet – whole grain breads, cereals, and lean proteins (chicken, fish, lean red meats) supported by lots of vegetables and fruits (think dark green and orange)
  • Reduce Sugars – try to limit the sugary snacks and read labels, many “healthy” treats are loaded with extra sweets.
  • Plan HEALTHY snacks – start thinking about and planning for pre-practice, pre-game, or even between game (tournament) snacks so that you are prepared with healthy, nutritious, and tasty options that your child will be excited to grab
  • Hydrate – our bodies cannot perform without plenty of water. Start a habit of drinking 8-12 oz in the morning, prior to meals, and at night.  As well as before, during and after activities.

Here are some additional Nutrition resources:

Stay in shape, get in shape, and improve athleticism by playing, anything, all things, not soccer. The off season provides opportunity to use other muscles and improve overall movement, agility, balance, and coordination. All of these things which will increase athleticism and improve overall performance. Here are some things to consider doing this summer.

  • Try New Sports – pickleball, tennis, basketball, karate, and other sports which do not mimic soccer can improve body movement, strengthen weaker muscle groups, and increase motivation.
  • Recreational Activities – hiking, biking, kayaking, climbing, participating in a local 5-K are all great ways to get the entire family involved in physical activity and athletic gains.
  • Backyard Fun – especially for younger players being outside and active; playing tag, getting on the jungle gym, chasing the family dog, or creating their own games or competitions, can be great for both physical development and creativity.

Being away from school does not mean you should stop working your brain and your mental growth. Being away from your team and training does not mean you cannot continue to improve your ability to read the game and improve your decision-making abilities. Summer provides many opportunities to invest in learning more about the way the game is played, the styles of teams and individual players, or even the history of the sport and some of its key figures.  Here are some suggestions for raising your soccer awareness.

  • Attend to a live match-whether it is FCC, Kings Hammer FC (USL men and women.) or another team. Consider going to a local game while out-of-town on vacation with your family.
  • Watch a match on TV-this summer offers numerous opportunities to turn on a match. 
    • MLS and NWSL are in the heart of their seasons. 
    • USL Championship and Canadian Premier League can be found on several platforms. 
    • And of course there are plenty of international matches, with UEFA European Championships, Copa America, and the Olympics all being televised throughout June and July. Schedule time to watch a game.  
  • Bring a notebook and pencil and analyze.  Pick a player and track their movement, their decisions, their touches, etc.  Then compare these things to your play and identify things you can continue to work on.
  • READ A SOCCER BOOK – yes, I know…it is summer, school is out…BUT, summer is a GREAT time to READ, and there are lots of great soccer options for you to enjoy. Books on how to perform better technically, how to improve decisions, books on the history of the game, on your favorite team, or even all-time great players!  Here are just a few of my favorites (with a variety of reading levels:)
  • The Most Amazing Soccer Stories of All Time-For Kids, Michael Langdon (6+)
  • The Beautiful Game – The Most Amazing Soccer Stories Of All Time (12+)
  • Soccer IQ, Dan Blank (13+)

The summer off season can be the perfect opportunity to spend time focusing on your own individual development by working on your ball control, comfort and creativity. Kings Hammer players may be able to utilize prior Player Report Cards to assist in identifying specific areas they may want to focus on. Once identified, lay out a plan to work on these areas 30-45 minutes 2-4 days per week. Having a structured approach to this can be very helpful, but it is also ok to just go outside and be creative. There are several options that can assist with this.

  • Juggle, practice moves inside and outside, use a wall to pass and receive, shoot at targets, goals, a fence, etc
  • Organize small-sided games at home or at a park. 1v1 and 2v2 are great for individual development.
  • TECHNE – this mobile app, available FREE to all Kings Hammer players, has great training resources for nearly every technical aspect of soccer., as well as activities to improve athlete mentality.
  • YouTube-search the desired area you want to work on and many options will be available for you to follow-along with or to build your own training plan from.

Planning for the summer, including the areas noted in this article, can provide a framework for every athlete regardless of age, gender, or level of play to follow.  It is ok to start off small, with limited time, days, and workload.  Try to increase both your effort and engagement each week in order to build up and be prepared for the fall season.

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