This week, as most of our kids are out of school and coming in during the morning hours, we decided to let them create a workout that benefited their unique talents and needs. It was eye opening…
I posted on the dry erase board a 5 day schedule (Monday thru Friday or Day 1 thru Day 5 depending on how you look at it) of what I considered a great training split for those players who wanted to get a few extra training days in during the break. Here it is:
- Day 1: Circuit Training – 5 minute blocks of Cybex Arc power raining with 5 minute blocks of dynamic power training
- Day 2: Strength Day – Big Lifts – Heavy
- Day 3: Conditioning
- Day 4: Circuit Training – 5 minute blocks of Woodway Curve runs with 5 minute blocks of key assistance exercises
- Day 5: Strength Day – Rehab/Prehab Lifts – Light
As the players walked in, I would simply ask, “What day is it for you? Is it your first training day? Second? Third?” At this point I would point to the board and ask them to pick the exercises that would be most beneficial in regards to enhancing their performance on the field. Several players in each group would quickly name off a several great exercises, put them in the best training order, and off they went. A handful of others, looked a little closer at the board and asked a few leading questions to gain a better understanding of exactly what was expected. Then, they too would select a good core group of exercises and off they went.
Now, I am left standing in front of the dry erase board with a small group of kids with blank looks on their face. Total confusion. The wheels in their brain had completely locked up and they were now getting nervous. I told them I would stand up here and answer any questions they might have to guide them through this process, but I was NOT going to tell them what to do. To my amazement, 5 or 6 kids in each group, really had no idea what exercises would benefit them the most. This was a real eye opener for me. One of my staff members pulled a kid aside and said, “He is doing this to show US, not you, how little we teach you about exercises.” The staff member was right on the money. This exercise was not designed to show the kids how little they know, but to show my staff, how little the kids understand about training.
Here’s my theory…
I spend about 5-6 hours a day, researching, studying, designing programs that develop our players to be the best that they can be. I spend another 5 hours a day implementing these programs and educating the players on why, when and how these programs are used to enhance their play. But at some point, the kids have to listen, they have to absorb, and they have to take accountability for their own programs. Example: I have a junior central defender that is big and strong, fast and quick, and has enough endurance to do what he needs to do on the field for an entire game. All he wants to do is lift (that is all he cares about). And while this strength is what makes him good on the field as a defender, he lacks confidence with the ball at his feet and has very poor foot-eye coordination. When I asked him to pick exercises that would enhance his weaknesses (touch, quick feet, control) he locked up.
With this player (Day 1 – Circuit Training day), we worked through this exercise to allow him to train his strengths along side his weaknesses. Here is what his workout consisted of:
- 5 minutes on the Cybex Arc – Power Training for Speed – 150 SPM at 300-500 watts for 40-60 seconds / 1 minute recover x 3 sets
- 5 minutes of body control quick feet ladder drills (30s on 30s off)
- 5 minutes on the Cybex Arc – Same as before
- 5 minutes of simple quick feet ball skills (30s on 30s off)
- 5 minutes on the Woodway Curve – 20sec walk, 20sec jog, 20 sec run for .5 mile
- 5 minutes of quick dribbling and moves around cones (30s on 30s off)
- 5 minutes on the Woodway Curve – 1 full sprint (max speed) every minute / walk jog recovery
- 5 minutes of quick passing and first touch work
This turned into a 45 minute workout that blended some of his strengths in with some of his weakness. At the end of the workout, he was physically spent and when I asked him if the workout was good for him, he smiled and said, “That was perfect, I should probably do more of that.”
My point is simple. That workout would have been enjoyed by many of our players, but if you are a player who lacks strength it might not be the best use of your time. If you have great touch on the ball, this might be fun, but not challenging enough to enhance your play. The key in working with young athletes is to remember that they are in a developmental phase of their career. They need to broaden their foundation and expand their skill set, while still maintaining a focus on what makes them great (in this young mans case, power and speed).
I need all of our young players to take some accountability for their own training. They need to know where they are, know what they need, and know how to go about finding a balance between skill, fitness and the physical aspects of strength and speed training. If they can do this, then I have done my job. I have educated and prepared them with the knowledge to go out into the soccer world and look at things more critically. The alternative is to blindly follow the group and settle for mediocrity.
Exposure leads to interest, interest leads to drive, drive leads to commitment and commitment leads to greatness. Somewhere around the drive level, the player takes it upon themselves to understand who they are find ways to become who they want to become. But without exposure and education, the fuse will never be found, and there can be no ignition. Ignite the fuse my friends, then stand back and fan the flames!