In my previous blog I lightly covered three different examples of overtraining. As a reminder here are the five signs of overtraining that were aforementioned: fatigue; muscle soreness; forgetfulness; lack of motivation; and injuries. Throughout part three of the Overtraining series I am going to briefly discussing youth soccer overtraining and solutions to preventing overtraining. My goal is simple, provide dialogue to some common issues based on my experience and the trends of the arena.
Youth soccer is one of the most popular organized youth sports. Its popularity has led to an explosion of soccer clubs and many ex-players becoming coaches. These more experienced coaches and competitive leagues continue to increase young soccer players game IQ by providing them with a better understanding of the game. However, this higher level of expectations has led to high volume practices / trainings each week, as well as the number of competitive tournaments. The thought is by increasing the total volume of play there will be an immediate increase soccer performance.
One common training tactic, in the modern game, is to take youth soccer players through soccer and agility specific drills. On the surface this seems logically, but reality is this can be the worst thing for them.
Firstly, most of the drills (often pulled from social media platforms) being pushed are movement patterns that require extreme coordination, skill, neurological development and strength. Most often specializing young athletes leads to lack-of neurological and strength development, which in turn leads to injury and a lack of results. By not focusing on enough general strength and neurological development youth soccer players develop more injuries and generally reduce their long-term sport performance capabilities. Common injuries are osgood slaughters, ACL tears and meniscus tears. All of the following can be avoided through range of motion (ROM) strength training and neurological development training.
Secondly, the game of soccer involves little range-of-motion (ROM) that leads to tightness within the fascia tissue and a lack of muscular development (when not supplemented with other movements). Sport specific imbalances and tightness cause numerous injuries; development, strength, athletic performance and injury prevention all lie in ROM training. Therefore, exercises should be supplemented to soccer training that focus on proper technique with a larger ROM. Examples are split squats, lunges, bridges, pushups, planks, blood hounds and many other exercises (you can find these examples on my YouTube channel, Functional Muscle Fitness). I suggest that each coach select two days per week, minimum, to focus on sprinting technique, strength / bodyweight training, neurological development, and closed agility training.
Thirdly, a specific warm up done prior to all trainings, matches and workouts is essential to preventing overtraining. Sorry coaches, jogging, juggling and doing a simple static stretch does not count. A warm up should include sprint technique, body weight strength, lateral movements, agility / balance movements, and coordinative muscle actions. The warm up should run in duration from about 15-20 minutes at minimum and end with all players in a sweat. Lastly, select age appropriate exercises by performing an analysis on the limitations of the group / team both on and off the field.
The technological age is the main cause of the limitations in youth soccer players, in my opinion. In the past, youth would entertain themselves through physical activity and yard work, which results in general development. However, in today’s day and age ROM / development training MUST be focused on separately. Simply playing soccer is no longer enough, coaches and parents must do more. The 3 simple issues and solutions I offered are merely scratching the surface but can be a great way to turn this trend around.
1. Perform a warm up that consists of sprint technique, strength, development, agility and balance work
2. Perform development / athletic performance / strength training at minimum two times per week
3. Training age appropriate exercises – asses the group / team as a whole