[Ed. Note: I wrote this post for a Eli’s soccer club, the ISC Gunners FC]
Our kids work like crazy to build their soccer skills, drag us from Seattle to Spokane and back, and compete against the best players in their age brackets. Bumps and bruises are a daily occurrence, and trips to the chiropractor or urgent care, a regular fixture.
I recently expressed my frustration to Eddie Henderson, from our ISC Gunners coaching staff. Eddie, a former pro soccer player and All-American from UW, responded with an action-packed discussion about how to use off-season and off-field time to build strength and conditioning, and reduce the chances of injury. I was so inspired by Eddie’s ideas and enthusiasm that I wanted to share some of these ideas with you.
I’m an athlete myself, and as I’ve aged, I’ve learned the increasing value of off-season training – not doing the same thing all year round, but actively switching the routine, in order to target new muscle groups, strengthen problem areas, and keep myself fresh. The same ideas apply to kids’ soccer.
The Gunners, like other soccer clubs around the country, face a problem: Kids love soccer. They love soccer so much that they tend to overdo it. They become highly conditioned in some areas, running & shooting for example, and less so in others. The injuries that we’re seeing, ACL as an extreme example, are often the result of too much strength in the front of the leg, and not enough to compensate in the hamstrings in back. Eddie has noticed injuries tend to crop up early each season, when kids have been relatively idle during off-season breaks.
A movement is afoot nationally to provide off-season conditioning designed for growing bodies, to stabilize, strengthen and balance their musculature. Other sports have also discovered the huge benefit of this type of training. During college, while competing at UW, Eddie realized he’d never be the biggest player, but used cross-training to gain speed and agility. He went on to play 11 years of professional soccer. That’s how Eddie became a believer in this approach – and our Club’s official conditioning and training expert.
Some recommendations which might help:
- Ask your kid’s doctor, PT, or trainer for some basic exercises to target any problem areas during the holidays. We just got a recommendation for jumping rope as a great calf-strengthener.
- Talk to your kids about over-training, and about spending some downtime on another sport. My son likes skiing, racquetball, and rock-climbing, for example.
- Check out this site: http://www.force10performance.com. They have programs aimed at soccer clubs like ours, and Eddie is working on arranging some pilot programs for Gunners.
It would be great to get more parents involved in this conversation. Cross-training, even if it involves one more practice per week, can make sports much more enjoyable, and maybe even cut down on trips to the chiropractor!
Write back and let me know some of your favorite off-season change-ups.