Ways to Get Better in Soccer – Part II

This is a continuation of a blog post of all the things soccer players can be doing to improve on-field performance. For part one of this blog click here.

OK, now to the people that love and care about the players (your kids) the most. 

I know, I’m not a parent, so what do I know? 

I feel I’m pretty schooled in the area of how to look after a youth/high school player. Plus, I was raised by parents who would bend over backwards to make sure my sister & I grew up doing all sorts of sports & outdoor activities. 

During my childhood, I played for a football youth academy team, while also playing basketball (well the English version anyway haha), field hockey, and tennis. Sprinkling in climbing, kayaking, hiking all over the UK, skiing the European Alps, biking, cross country running, and swimming.

Anyway, enough about me, time to ask you some questions… 

How are you helping your football player progress, and get better? 

Do they need a forceful hand on them right now?  Probably not?! It’s been pretty stressful for them; the game is no longer the same as it used to be. Keeping it fun & enjoyable will keep them around football for the long term.

I know you work your tail off for your kids, I see it every day, and I love it! You drop them off at training in the early hours of the morning; you stand on the side lines freezing your butt off… I could go on. 

However, ask yourself, “Is there something more that I can be doing to help my child hit his/her goals, that doesn’t have to be pitch-orientated?”

It could be things like:

  • Helping them research players who they aspire to be like
  • Miss a day of training (yes, I said it) to go skiing, or another activity that they enjoy. 
  • What food are you leaving around your house for them to snack on
  • Getting them to bed earlier than usual. I understand that this could be a challenge for some, but if they want to play at a high level they’re going to have to get used to going to bed earlier.
  • Reduce their screen time
  • Keep a regular sleep pattern – (weekdays, the same as weekends) – type in the circadian rhythm on google, it’s a ‘thing’
  • 8 hours sleep MINIMUM
  • Try not to over evaluate their performance after a training session/match, and stress them out too much. When a player is stressed, it causes the release of certain hormones, which pretty much shuts down the immune system and prevents healing/recovery.
  • Help them with their goals, see where they want to go with football, or just life in general. Some kids know at an extremely early age.
  • Maybe give them a break from football for a couple of months, let them take part in another sport. I don’t think I played football for more than 8 months a year when I was younger. Raising your kid as a multi-sport athlete is always the way to go.

Do you notice sleep comes up several times in there, as it is probably one of the most underutilized, recovery & injury risk reduction tools, plus its free, and I know we all love free stuff.

A recent study showed that athletes who slept on average <8 hours per night were 1.7 times more likely to have had an injury compared with athletes who slept for ≥8 hours (1). 

There is proof in the pudding when it comes to not being a single sport athlete from a young age too. A study by the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine & Public Health which included more than 1,500 high school athletes, found those who specialized in one sport were twice as likely to report a lower extremity injury as compared to those who played multiple sports (2). 

Multiple sports also increase their chances of playing at a higher level, which is what we want for all of them. If they have hopes of playing professional sports, their chances decrease by sticking with a single sport. They should be running, sprinting, cutting, jumping, crawling, climbing, lifting, etc. Learning how their bodies move in all different ways. 

Remember, it doesn’t always have to be pitch-orientated to help them progress towards their goals. Let them enjoy the process of figuring out their role in football, or sport as a whole, and I promise you they will shine!

References

  1. Milewski, M. D., Skaggs, D. L., Bishop, G. A., Pace, J. L., Ibrahim, D. A., Wren, T. A., & Barzdukas, A. (2014). Chronic lack of sleep is associated with increased sports injuries in adolescent athletes. Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics34(2), 129-133.
  2. McGuine, T. A., Post, E. G., Hetzel, S. J., Brooks, M. A., Trigsted, S., & Bell, D. R. (2017). A prospective study on the effect of sport specialization on lower extremity injury rates in high school athletes. The American journal of sports medicine45(12), 2706-2712.

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