Spring Season – Part 2 (Training Focus)

This blog series is aimed at the high school player, and will provide you with research, programming tips and information that we have gathered over the years.

In the last post we looked at trends we have observed over the last decade in high school girls soccer, basically showing a loss of athleticism and increase in injury rate during the high school season. But if we step back and look at the bigger picture you will see another trend with the high school girls. As we have shown in other posts, the Game Speed Test Scores (combined score of Skill, Speed/Agility and Fitness) seem to drop off after the Freshman year. The graph below shows this in detail.

But this doesn’t have to be the case…

Drawing from the data in the above graph, we pulled out the 78 girls that had spent time in our training program (1-2x per week for 6-9 months), and we have shown a very different trend (as shown in the graph below)…

What can we learn from this information? We know that females tend to be fully mature by age 15 and the natural gains in athleticism that they have enjoyed over the first 15 years of their lives are a thing of the past. From this point on, they will need to work even harder to make improvements. But as we have shown over the past decade, it IS possible to make these gains…IF you put in the effort.

Training Program Goals and Ideas:

With every player that comes into our facility we have the following goals:

  1. Reduce the Risk of Injury
  2. Improve Fitness and Recovery
  3. Develop a Confidence in Speed/Agility Movement Patterns
  4. Strengthen these Movement Patterns
  5. Enhance Focus During Skilled Tasks – Anticipate, Recognize and React
  6. Play at a Faster Pace with Higher Skill for Longer Periods of Time

Although we won’t get into the acute details of our program in this post, we do have hundreds of post that cover many of these aspects on the TRAINING IDEAS AND DISCUSSIONS page, as well as several eBooks with educational video links.

The program for the Spring High School Season will be slightly different than the program during the club season. Due to the high number of games and training sessions, fatigue during the high school season is usually very high. But don’t confuse fatigue with fitness, just because the players are tired does not mean they are fit. Mental, as well as physical fatigue, may actually lead to a decrease in fitness level with many players as the season progresses. Increase in fatigue, with a decrease in fitness level can create the perfect storm for injuries.

So the first step is to provide a program that enhances overall fitness without increasing fatigue (both mental and physical). We offer programs every night throughout the week (Monday – Thursday) with very low volume strength activities that focus on intensity and power…giving us the biggest bang for the buck. Then we have an open gym time on Saturday mornings for the players to come in and work on specific areas of need. Most programs usually have weekends off, so this is a good time to have a mental / physical recharge session.

Key Exercises:

During this time we direct our focus into several key categories:

  1. Plyos, Footwork and Quickness
  2. Powerful Expression of Strength
  3. Low Volume Speed / Fitness Intervals
  4. Simple Ball Skills in a Confident Rhythm

This workout may only take 35-45 minutes, and once the players know that they won’t be tired from the workout (mentally or physically) they are much more willing to come in and train. We don’t progress the exercises in terms of complexity, and in fact, we actually decrease the complexity throughout the season. So for example, if a player was doing barbell cleans during the off-season, we would digress this to weighted jump squats with the Fusion Sport Jump Mat with lighted targets.



In this exercise example, we can increase the load to 30% of their back squat max, or if we don’t have a max on a player, we will let them increase the load as long as they are still able to hit 50% of their max vertical jump. We have shown increases of 3-4 inches in 6 weeks using this format with no soreness the following day. This would be one way we are able to stay powerful (or increase) power throughout the season by decreasing the complexity of the exercise.

In the next post in this series we will cover the topic of exercise selection in more detail. If you are a local player interested in staying in top shape during the high school season, click here to register for training classes ($65/month – Unlimited Sessions).

Comments

2 Comments
  1. Scott, what are your thoughts on how high school soccer is impacting our top premier players? I see your correlation between age and the plateau/decline, but it also happens to occur in the year these girls start giving up 50% of their competitive year to high school programs, certainly a notable variable.

    Many of our best U15 players have played year round with professional coaches for 8 years. Most have also taken additional fitness and skills training for years as well, from professional providers like yourself.

    It does not make sense to me that now, at a fairly critical phase of development (melding mental/tactical to years of physical/motor) we are going to take top players out of an ability based system with highly trained coaches and teammates and put them in a system that is plagued with over training, improper training, and mixed ability teammates/matches, and a wide variety of coaches with varying technical training and ability themselves.

    It seems obvious that this is a recipe for decline both psychologically and physically.

    It’s been long proven that ability based training (kids grouped with like ability players D1/D2/ECNL/ etc) is better for player development than area based training (who they go to school with), for many reasons. So, why do we get to high school and change our minds?

    More and more top female players I have spoken to are not enjoying high school ball. Our training techniques for these kids have changed their idea of what “fun” is, as it must, for them to enjoy the hours and hours of practice and training it takes to create a top level player. Simply being with friends doesn’t make up for losing equal ability teammates and a coach they trust and respect.

    Some ECNL programs are following the lead of DA boys programs and playing year round, keeping top players out of the high school system. BVS hasn’t made this switch.

    I’m not surprised that retaining some aspect of professional training (working with you) helps these girls continue to improve compared to their peers. My question is…what would your data look like if the girls ECNL and MRL squads stayed with SoccerFIT, AND stayed with their club coaches year round?

  2. Good points, and I am sure this could start a big debate between the two schools of thought (of which I can see both sides).

    1) Many female players don’t have aspirations of playing professionally, or even at a major college. They simply play because they love the game. The high school environment is perfect for these girls. They get to play in front of their friends, classmates and parents, they are recognized in school newspapers, pep rallies, and in the hallways (with pictures and posters). This can be a much needed esteem boost at a critical time in a young girls life. This makes lasting memories for these girls, and for that I love high school sports.

    2) On the other hand, I bet 60-70% of my athletes don’t enjoy high school soccer at all. The competition is not what they are used to, the training is not what they are used to, and they know they are going to lose their edge (the older they get the more clear this becomes for them). Many girls over the last few weeks have commented about how they wish they didn’t have to play, but they felt pressure from the coach and other players on the team.

    Last year I had a conversation with a parent who had to make a choice on whether their son would play high school or player for the Academy team here (which does not allow players to play in high school). This parent said that the situation is destroying soccer, and taking all the talented players off their high school team. This brings me to my point…

    If it’s supposed to be about fun…And a player has more fun playing in a high level club system year round, then lets support that. If a player has aspirations of playing professionally, we know now that they might have a better chance if they play a competitive club schedule year round, so lets support that too. If they choose not to play high school, then that opens up a varsity spot for a player that might not have been able to play at that level (allowing someone else to achieve their dream). I don’t see why we can’t support that as well. Everybody wins.

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