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UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 14 – Hip Mobility

The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team.  This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.

Today’s Tip of the Day is about hip mobility.  The hip joint is one of the most often injured areas of the body in many sports including soccer, however, the hip is especially susceptible to injury in soccer because of the repetitive kicking (and plating) movements involved in the sport.  Mobility of the hip, which involves flexibility and strength throughout its range of motion, is a key contributor to prevention of several hip injuries, including:

  • hip flexor strains
  • groin strains
  • glute strains
  • IT band syndrome
  • stretching/tearing of the labrum

In general, hip mobility exercises should involve a dynamic stretch of the main hip muscles (psoas, adductors, abductors, glutes and hamstrings) in combination with loading of the muscles.  Hip mobility exercises should be done following a warm-up, to ensure that maximum range of motion and loading can take place.  Below is a video of a simple hip mobility exercise that I like to use with the players I work with.  It takes only a few minutes, and is very effective as a means of preventing hip injuries in soccer.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started. 

 

Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 13 – Morning Heart Rate

The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team.  This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.

Today’s Tip of the Day is about overtraining.  Because the university soccer season is so short, there are often weeks which include 2-3 games, and training sessions on almost every day in between.  Compounding the problem for student-athletes is the fact that they typically have 20-30 hours per week of classes to attend, plus homework, and maybe even a part time job.  All of these factors, which can contribute to a lack of adequate recovery, combine to make university players more susceptible to overtraining syndrome.  Overtraining syndrome is defined by Wikipedia as “an imbalance in a simple equation: Training = Workout + Recovery.” The full spectrum of overtraining can result in hormonal, nutritional, mental/emotional, muscular, neurological and other imbalances in the body.

Among the many symptoms of overtraining syndrome is a high morning heart rate.  Studies done on athletes in a variety of sports settings have shown that morning heart rates exceeding 60 beats per minute (BPM) are generally associated with the beginning stages of overtraining syndrome. Recognizing this symptom of overtraining early allows for some changes to be made (including less training load, more sleep, better diet, etc.) to help stop the problem before it becomes more serious.  University soccer players can easily check and monitor their morning heart rate, by following these easy steps:

  • keep a pen, paper, and a stopwatch handy at a night table beside bed
  • immediately after waking up, sit up in bed, with feet on the floor
  • using the index and middle fingers, touch the middle of the throat, then move the fingers 2 inches to the right
  • press gently on this area of the neck until a pulse is felt
  • using the stopwatch to keep time, count the number of heart beats felt in 10 seconds
  • multiply this number by 10, and record the morning heart rate on the paper in beats per minute (BPM)

Having athletes record their morning heart rate is a simple and easy to use technique to help detect overtraining syndrome early in pre-season.  It will keep athletes mindful of their rest and recovery, and of course will allow for specific interventions if needed.  I have used this technique with the athletes I have worked with in several different training environments, and I recommend other coaches and fitness coaches to do the same.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

Fitness, Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 12 – Yo-Yo Test

The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team.  This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.

Today’s Tip of the Day is about fitness testing.  Many fitness coaches, regardless of the level they work at, are pressed for time.  Coaches typically want to use as much of their team’s training time as possible on technical and tactical training, so finding even 1 full day to devote completely to fitness testing can sometimes be challenging.  The type of test that is required in high performance environments is one that can accurately assess players’ physical ability in the least amount of time possible.  In sports science, a fitness assessment should always meet the following criteria:

  • It must be valid (it must actually measure what it is said to measure)
  • It must be reliable (it must only use equipment/tools that are reliable and will work consistently)
  • It must be repeatable (the administration of the test should be consistent from one tester to the next)

Considering all of these criteria, the one test that all fitness coaches should use for soccer is the Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test.  Originally developed by researchers at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, this test comprises a 2 x 20 metre shuttle run, done at progressively increasing speeds, with a 10-second break between each shuttle (the 10-second break is constant and does not change throughout the test).  Players must perform the shuttle runs in time with audio beep signals, and they are given 1 warning if they do not run across the 20 metre line in time with the beep (the 2nd time this occurs, the test is over).  A score (stage reached), as well as the total distance covered in the test, is recorded by the testers.  There are 2 different Levels (Level 1, and Level 2) of the Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test (Level 1 starts at a lower speed, and is thus used for females, and males under the age of 15). 

A number of research studies over the past 10 years have been done on the Yo-Yo tests, and they have stood up as being valid, reliable, and repeatable.  Most importantly for soccer fitness coaches, the Yo-Yo tests have been shown to be the best predictors of the total amount of high intensity running a player can do in a game.  Simply put, a player who covers more distance in the Yo-Yo test has the capacity to cover more distance at high intensity (typically defined as running speeds of 23km/hour or greater in females, and 28km/hour or higher in males) in a game.  The tests are also very sensitive to training, so that if a player trains properly, they should see improvements in their Yo-Yo test score.  Finally, the Yo-Yo tests are also the most convenient choice, because an entire team can be tested at the same time, on the pitch, and even the fittest players will not last more than 15-20 minutes during either of the tests. 

I have used the Yo-Yo tests with all the athletes I have worked with over the past 8 years, including club, college/university, Provincial/National teams, and professional academies and first teams, both here in Canada and abroad.  They have been an invaluable tool for me to assess players’ fitness; to establish standards and norms; to evaluate and monitor the effectiveness of training programs; and to provide quick and useful information to the coaches I have worked with. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started. 

Fitness, Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 11 – Post-Game Fitness

The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team.  This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.

Today’s Tip of the Day is about maintenance of aerobic fitness.  Over the course of any soccer season, including at the university level, there will be a certain number of players who do not play regularly, or who play less than a full 90-minute game once or twice per week. These players, over time, will lose their aerobic endurance, and fall behind the players in the team who are playing full 90-minute games 1-2 times per week.  Many higher level teams, especially at the professional level, will solve this problem by having a ‘reserve team’, that plays reserve matches on the day of, or the day following, the first team games.  This solution, however, is not very practical for university teams, as it would be difficult to impossible to find opponents on a regular basis.

It has been my experience that the easiest and most efficient way to ensure that players outside the starting-11 maintain their aerobic fitness is to schedule specific workouts on the field, immediately after a game has finished.  Because time is usually a factor, these workouts need to provide a high stimulus to the aerobic system, but they also require a relatively low volume (10-20 minutes in total).  Below is an example of a post-game fitness routine I have used successfully in the past:

  • Set up a training area behind the goal
  • Place 1 line of cones 15 metres from the goal line; 1 line of cones 30 metres from the goal line; and 1 line of cones 45 metres from the goal line
  • Players line up on the goal line, and perform the following run, for 2 sets of 5 repetitions, with a work-to-rest ratio of 1:1 (the rest period is equal to the time taken to complete the first set of 5 repetitions)
    • Run at 90% intensity to the 1st line
    • Run at 50% intensity back to the start line
    • Run at 70% intensity to the  2nd line
    • Run at 50% intensity back to the start line
    • Run at 60% intensity to the 3rd line
    • Run at 50% intensity back to the start line

The above workout takes only 10 minutes (so it is short enough to be done after a game), and it also presents enough of a stimulus to the aerobic system to allow players to maintain their aerobic fitness.  I have used and will continue to use workouts like this post-game with my players.  Other coaches and fitness coaches should try to do the same.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

Nutrition, Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 10 – Anti-Oxidants

The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team.  This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.

Today’s Tip of the Day is about how consumption of fruits and vegetables can help performance.  Pre-season in university soccer comprises 2-3 weeks of 2 training sessions per day, interspersed with 2-3 games per week, plus weight training sessions, interval running, recovery, yoga, and several other forms of exercise.  Then the season starts, and the next 2 1/2 months will consist of 4-6 training sessions and 2 hard games per week.  All of this soccer and exercise can place a huge physiological stress on the body.  Among the stressors that affect elite level athletes is oxidative stress on the cells of the body, which comes about as a result of oxygen interacting with muscle, tendon/ligament, and bone cells during exercise.  A symptom of oxidation – damaged muscle cells – are called “free radicals” (the word “free” is used because, through oxidation, the cells loose an important molecule, and as a result they will actively try to bind with and damage other “healthy” cells in the body).  Free radicals can lead to short term health problems in athletes, such as over-training syndrome and injury, as well as more serious long term diseases like cancer and diabetes. 

Thankfully, there is a simple and efficient way for soccer players to deal with the production of free radicals due to oxidative stress: eat more fruits and vegetables.  Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and minerals, including compounds called anti-oxidants.  Anti-oxidants work in the body by either stopping the damage done to cells from free radicals, or preventing the process in the first place.  There are several different types of anti-oxidants, and by eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables each day, soccer players can ensure that they consume enough of them to deal with the oxidative stress of playing the sport.  In general, I recommend that soccer players eat 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.  Among the best choices are:

  • citrus fruits (containing vitamin C)
  • carrots (containing vitamin A and beta-carotene)
  • spinach/broccoli (containing B vitamins and vitamin E)

Eating a variety of different fruits and vegetables each day will help all high level soccer players perform at their optimum level.  I always do everything I can to encourage the players I work with the meet the 10 servings per day standard.  Other coaches and fitness coaches would be wise to do the same.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

Nutrition, Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 9 – Protein

The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team.  This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.

Today’s Tip of the Day is about protein.  Considered the “building block” of muscle, protein is made up of smaller compounds called amino acids, which enter the blood stream through the diet, and help the body repair and grow muscle tissue.  There are 9 “essential” amino acids, which the body cannot synthesize, and thus must be provided through diet.  Animal protein, such as chicken, beef, pork, and also fish and eggs, contain all 9 essential amino acids and are thus the most efficient sources of protein.  Other plant based foods, such as nuts and seeds, beans, tofu, and certain vegetables, as well as dairy foods like milk and cheese, contain some but not all of the 9 essential amino acids.  These types of food can be eaten in combination (for example, nuts and cheese) to get all of the amino acids the body needs.

In elite level soccer, muscle damage caused by the repetitive load of training and games can accumulate fairly rapidly.  Soccer players must consume a daily amount of protein that will allow them to repair this muscle damage, as well as to help their muscles grow bigger and stronger to be able to withstand the future training/game loads.  In general, soccer players should aim to consume 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.  For example, a female soccer player who weighs 65 kilograms, should consume 130 grams of protein per day.

In a typical 3 meal per day diet, this amount of required protein can be consumed as follows:

  • Breakfast: 2 eggs (26g protein); glass of milk (5g protein); toast with peanut butter (15g of protein)
  • Total Breakfast protein: 46g
  • Lunch: turkey sandwich with cheese (30g protein); chicken salad with nuts and beans (30g protein)
  • Total Lunch protein: 60g
  • Dinner: steak (25g protein); cup of yogurt (10g protein)
  • Total Dinner protein: 35g
  • Total daily protein intake = 46 + 60 + 35 = 141g   

Any soccer player aspiring to play university, professional, or national team level soccer should look to follow these guidelines to make sure they are getting the adequate amount of daily protein.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

Nutrition, Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 8 – Carbohydrates

The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team.  This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.

Today’s Tip of the Day is about carbohydrate consumption.  In elite level soccer, players’ average heart rates during intense training sessions and almost all games will typically be between 160 and 180 beats per minute (BPM).  At this intensity, the only nutrient the body can oxidize to produce fuel is muscle and/or liver glycogen, its stored form of carbohydrate (fat cannot be used as an energy source for higher intensity activities such as soccer).  Complex carbohydrates (starches) are the most efficient type of carbohydrate to be used as energy, because they last much longer in the body than simple carbohydrates (sugars).  Thus complex carbohydrates must be a staple of the diet of all high level soccer players.

While a steady intake of complex carbohydrates throughout the day is most ideal (1g of carbohydrate per kilogram of the athlete’s body weight per hour is a commonly recommended dose), in general, elite level soccer players should aim to consume 10-12 servings of complex carbohydrates per day.  When carbohydrate intake is broken down into meals, this number equates to 3-4 servings per meal.  A serving size is roughly equal to 1/4 of a regular sized bowl or dinner plate.  As an example, here is what the carbohydrate consumption in a day with three meals would look like:

  • Breakfast: 2 pieces of toast, 1 bowl of cereal (3 servings in total)
  • Lunch: large bowl of pasta (4 servings in total)
  • Dinner: large dish of rice, potatoes (5 servings in total)
  • Total number of servings: 12

Soccer players who consume 10-12 servings of complex carbohydrates per day can rest assured that they have provided their bodies with enough fuel to last for the entire duration of the day’s (and the next day’s) activities.  Any player aspiring to get to the university level or beyond should make sure they are prepared by fueling their body with the right amount of carbohydrates each day.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 7 – Cool Off

The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team.  This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.

Today’s Tip of the Day is about cooling off during training and games in the heat.  In general, playing soccer in temperatures above 25 degrees Celsius can cause heat illnesses (ranging from mild discomfort and dehydration, to more serious problems like heat exhaustion and heat stroke) in players.  The higher the temperature, the more likely it is for heat illnesses to occur.  In most instances, if players are well hydrated, they can avoid any serious health consequences during training sessions, because the training time and frequency of water breaks can be closely controlled by the coaching staff.  During games, however, players may participate for 45-50 minutes without a significant rest period, so the risks of heat illness are much higher during games played in the heat.

Cooling players off at half time (to reduce core body temperature and prevent heat illness) is a critical component for recovery and optimal performance during games in the heat.  One simple strategy I like to use is to have a cooler of ice cubes handy just before the half time break.  When players are walking off the field, hand them 2 ice cubes – one for each hand.  Other than the head, the hands have the body’s largest number of temperature receptors (parts of the skin and circulatory system that are most sensitive to heat and cold).  Holding ice cubes in the hands for just a few minutes can significantly reduce the body’s core temperature.  The slow melting of the ice also helps to calm players down as they sit and rest during the half time break.  I have found that most players actually prefer having ice in their hands, rather than the more conventional method of having ice on their head or neck, as ice in the hands is much less intrusive and can be more comfortable.  By the end of the half time break, the ice should be completely melted, and players should be ready to start their re-warm-up before the second half.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

 

Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 6 – Check Body Weight

The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team.  This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.

Today’s Tip of the Day is about hydration.  Many different resources exist to help athletes determine how much fluid and electrolytes they should be consuming during training and competition, however, the exact quantities needed to adequately replenish lost water and electrolytes can vary greatly from individual to individual.  One technique I have used to measure players’ hydration (or lack thereof) which is simple, easy to administer and allows for individualization, is to check body weight before and after training and games.  Studies have shown that players who lose greater than or equal to 1% of their body weight are considered “dehydrated”.  After checking players’ body weight, steps can be taken to ensure that weight lost in future training sessions/games is less than the 1% cut-off.  Below is a simple summary of how to manage body weight changes:

  • Start by examining 1-2 weeks of data, which should include training and games
  • If average body weight lost was more than 1%, start measuring the amount of water, and sodium, consumed, and add 250mL more water + 200mg more sodium (adding sodium can be done by adding salt to water or sports drinks)
  • If the addition of 250mL more water, and 200mg more sodium, keeps weight loss to under 1%, then stay with that amount for all future training sessions/games
  • If not, add another 250mL of water and 200mg of sodium, and try again until you have found the right amount

This simple strategy of measuring body weight pre- and post-training and games, combined with adjusting water and sodium intake for each individual player, has worked well for me in several different environments throughout my career.  I am sure it will be just as helpful for any other coach or fitness coach who is interested in keeping their players hydrated.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started. 

Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 5 – Perceived Recovery

The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team.  This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.

Today’s Tip of the Day is once again about recovery.  As I mentioned in previous editions of this blog, recovery during the university season in general, and during pre-season in particular, is crucial to the success of any team.  A few days ago I discussed the use of the Total Quality Recovery (TQR-A) “Actual” scale, which requires players to keep track of the recovery activities they perform and calculate a score out of 20 each day.  Today I will briefly discuss the second piece of the TQR process – the TQR-P (Total Quality Recovery “Perceived” scale). 

The TQR-P requires players to answer the question “How are You Feeling Today?”, based on a 6-20 scale (6 being “very poor recovery” and 20 being “Excellent recovery”).  Typically, this score is taken first thing in the morning, or at the earliest time of day that coaches see their players.  Knowing the answer to this recovery question is especially useful when the number is compared to the TQR-A score from the day before. If players’ perceived recovery is good, then they must be doing a good job with their recovery activities, however,  if perceived recovery is poor (and/or if the number decreases over the course of the season) then looking at the TQR-A can give insight as to how/why the problem happened, and what can be done to fix it. 

Keeping track of players’ recovery status is extremely important for coaches and fitness coaches, because inadequate recovery can lead to overtraining, injuries, and overall decreased performance.  I have had a slot of success using the TQR-A and TQR-P with players at various levels (including the Canadian National Women’s U17 team, and the Toronto FC Academy teams), and they have also been an integral part of my work with UOIT.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 4 – Starburst

The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team.  This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.

Today’s Tip of the Day is about sugar.  Yes, the same sugar that your parents, your dentist, and probably everyone else in your life is always telling you that you eat too much of.  Unless, that is, you are a soccer player who works with me!  In that case, there are specific times when it is actually a good thing to consume foods that are high in sugar.  The sport of soccer at the university varsity level is played at a relatively high intensity.  Most studies conducted on female soccer have shown that players’ average heart rates during games will range from 155 to 180 beats per minute (BPM).  At this intensity, the body’s only source of energy is stored carbohydrates, termed “muscle glycogen.”  Over the course of a match, glycogen stored in the muscles gets depleted, and eventually the glycogen stores may become completely exhausted, at which point an athlete will no longer be able to produce the energy needed for muscular work.   

In order to stave off this depletion of muscle glycogen, athletes should consume foods or drinks that are high in sugar during match play.  Because muscle glycogen is broken down into glucose (sugar) to provide the body with energy, ingestion of sugar during exercise can replenish some of the stored glycogen that is lost over the course of a match.  Candy, because it is high in sugar (and specifically, high in the type of sugar –  glucose – which is most rapidly absorbed into the blood) is the most effective type of food to consume to replenish muscle glycogen.  Half time of a match is the perfect time to have players eat some candy and start recovering their energy stores.  The fact that candy also tastes great is just a bonus!  With the teams I work with (including UOIT), I prefer to use Starburst, which come in a variety of flavors and in individually wrapped servings that are easy to distribute.  Each player will chew on 1 or 2 candies over the course of the 15-minute half time break, while they are cooling off and listening to the Head Coach’s team talk. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

 

   

Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 3 – Total Quality Recovery “Actual” Scale

The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team.  This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.

Today’s Tip of the Day is all about recovery.  In the university season, getting players to perform optimally is often a matter of keeping them healthy and on the field.  Recovery and regeneration (which encompasses a wide range of activities, from nutrition/hydration, sleep, and active recovery such as stretching, foam rolling, and ice baths) is a vital component of our athletes’ physical performance.  Without adequate recovery, players can loose strength, speed, power, and endurance, and will also be much more susceptible to injury. 

In most of the higher level environments I have worked, including the university level, one of the greatest challenges has always been trying to get players to do the things they need to do and hold them accountable for their recovery.  One unique strategy that was introduced to me by my friend and the current fitness coach of Montreal Impact in MLS, Paolo Pacione, has been to give players a Total Quality Recovery “Actual” (TQR-A) Scale.  The TQR-A was created by sports physicians and fitness coaches from the Stockholm, Sweden, and comprises a 1-page score sheet, with points awarded to athletes for all of the different recovery activities they are expected to do each day.  Athletes earn points for such activities as:

  • 3 full meals per day
  • urine color clear
  • 30 minutes of feet elevated in 1 day
  • 30 minute nap in 1 day

(Just to name a few).  The total score out of 20 is reported.  Athletes working with a Fitness Coach can examine their daily/weekly scores, and try to determine where they can look to make improvements.  An additional benefit of using the TQR-A is that it gets athletes to constantly think about their recovery, and what they can do to make it better.  Using the TQR-A has been very helpful to me in my career thus far, and I believe it is an excellent tool for fitness coaches working with athletes in a high performance environment.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 2 – Ice Baths

The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team.  This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.

Today’s Tip of the Day has to do with a popular (or, depending on who you ask, unpopular) method of recovery and regeneration, ice baths.  The basic premise of ice baths is simple: ice decreases inflammation and the painful bi-products of intense exercise, and the best way to decrease total body inflammation is to submerge the entire body – or at least the entire body from the waist down – in ice cold water.  While the ice is cold and a bit unpleasant at first, ice baths are probably the most effective way to reduce inflammation and muscle soreness in athletes.  The scientific term for ice baths is ‘cryotherapy’.  There have been numerous studies, including some recent one done on female soccer players, that have reported significant increases in muscle strength and power when using cryotherapy following training, as opposed to just resting.  During pre-season, when training load (volume, and intensity) are very high, ice baths can be a life saver (and leg saver)! 

Follow this simple ice bath protocol to help recover better:

  • Buy 2-3 bags of ice from a gas station
  • fill a bathtub with cold water, then put the ice in the water
  • use a thermometer to measure the water temperature; if it’s between 8-12 degrees Celsius, hop in!
  • lay in the water so that only the head and shoulders are above water, and keep the legs stretched out and relaxed
  • stay in this position for a minimum of 5, and maximum of 10 minutes

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

 

Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 1 – Get Some Rest!

The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team.  This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.

Today’s Tip of the Day has to do with sleep.  Pre-season (which starts for us tomorrow) means a significant increase in the energy expenditure of university players who are finishing with their summer soccer seasons.  Training camps like ours typically last for 2-3 weeks, and involve 2 training sessions per day, 2-3 games per week, plus classroom sessions, fitness sessions, recovery sessions, and of course the daily life stressors of going back to school!  For Varsity soccer players, all of these factors serve to highlight the importance of getting a good night’s sleep.

Several studies done on soccer players, as well as athletes from other sports, have indicated that athletes who do not get at least 7 hours of sleep per day can experience a range of physical and physiological problems, including increased resting heart rate, loss of appetite, decreased muscle strength and power, decreased time to exhaustion on endurance tests (lower aerobic performance), and increased recovery time for muscle soreness and injuries.  Even athletes who have been shown to have “perceived tiredness” – that is – they think they are not getting enough sleep and/or report feeling “tired” – can experience some of these negative consequences.  The end result of a lack of sleep in simple terms is simple: decreased performance and high chance of injury.

The solution to these problems for university athletes beginning pre-season is two-fold:

  1. Make sure you are getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and make sure those hours occur between 10pm and 8am.
  2. Make time to take a nap (30-60 minutes maximum) in the middle of the day (preferably between the two daily training sessions). 

I will be sharing these recommendations with our players starting tomorrow.  Other university coaches and fitness coaches should do the same! 

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

 

Announcements

We Appreciate Your Support!

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Over the last several months, we have received many encouraging messages from you about our blog and our Android app.  We appreciate the comments and suggestions, so please keep it coming!

Over the next several months, we will be working on a number of projects to further our goal of helping people achieve their fitness goals through their love of the Beautiful Game.  One of our projects is to bring our app to iPhone users, and add even more programs and features.

We have launched a campaign on Kickstarter to help us fund this project.  Please check it out here.

As always, we appreciate your support!

For Parents

Parents of Young Athletes Need to Keep Everything in Perspective

Below is a link to a great article written by Todd Dagenais, a former University of Central Florida (UCF) volleyball coach and current UCF Forum columnist.  It should be a very interesting read for any parent who has considered having their child pursue a university/college athletic scholarship.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/the-university-of-central-florida-forum/parents-of-young-athletes_b_5655329.html?utm_hp_ref=college&ir=College

Matches

Select for Speed, Train for Recovery – My Take on the Opening Match of the FIFA Women’s U20 World Cup

Yesterday night I watched the opening match of the 2014 FIFA Women’s U20 World Cup, between Canada and Ghana, at BMO Field in Toronto.  It was a great game and very exciting to see so many of the players I worked with as part of the Canadian Women’s U17 team 2 years ago at the World Cup in Azerbaijan, who have made it into the U20 squad this year.

In my opinion, Canada were outplayed by Ghana in the first half, but had more of the ball and created better chances in the 2nd half.  The difference in the Canadian attack in the 2nd half, in my opinion, was made through the introduction of Nichelle Prince as a central striker.  Among her qualities, Prince provided much needed depth and speed up front.  She was able to create chances for teammates with runs at defenders and crosses, and she also produced Canada’s best scoring opportunity through her own shot on target. 

Reflecting more on the game as a whole, it seems as though the players who performed best in the game (Prince, Ashley Lawrence in midfield, and Kadeisha Buchanan at centre back) are all very similar athletically.  I know these players well, as all three were a part of the U17 team in Azerbaijan.  They all have word class speed, and above average recovery ability (not the best recovery, but better than average for their age and gender).  Lawrence’s speed and runs off the ball were the best part of Canada’s attack in the first half, while Buchanan’s quickness in tackling speed in her recovery runs defensively helped to keep the score line close throughout the entire game. 

All of this got me thinking about the selection and training process of female players here in Canada.  It was very clear from the Canada/Ghana game, based on the goal that was scored as well as the majority of chances that were created by both sides, that running speed and power is a key determinant of success at the highest level of female soccer.  That being said, if players have good speed but poor recovery (as I eluded to in my post last week titled “3 Reasons Why You Should Train to Improve Recovery, Not Speed”) they will not be able to use their speed effectively over the duration of a 90-minute game.  One of the 3 reasons why I suggested focusing training on recovery rather than speed was that recovery is much more “trainable” than speed.  What this means is that, in general, fast players will always be faster than slow players, and training for speed will only result in very marginal improvements.  Training for recovery, on the other hand, can result in very significant improvements that can make a huge difference in players’ match performance.  A player with good speed but poor recovery can train to improve recovery; a player with good recovery but poor speed is unlikely to be able to improve speed, regardless of how much training is done. 

Because speed is so difficult to train, I believe coaches in our youth National and professional programs should select players who have above average running speed.  In this way, they can reduce or eliminate altogether the chances of having players progress through to the senior teams who are simply not fast enough to keep up with the demands of the game.  I am not suggesting that coaches should select for speed while ignoring technical and tactical ability of players.  What I am suggesting is that coaches in general, and fitness coaches in particular, should be looking to determine what the minimum thresholds of running speed are for different ages, genders, and playing levels, and to show preference to players who meet or exceed these thresholds.  Furthermore, from a physical perspective, coaches and fitness coaches should show preference to players with speed, rather than other physical qualities like size (which cannot be controlled for), strength, or endurance (both of which are easier to train for than speed).  Just as there are minimal levels of technical ability and tactical understanding of the game that all players must possess in order to progress through to the higher levels of the game, so too should there be minimal levels of running speed used in the selection process.  The end result of a better physical selection process may be that Canada, like Ghana, can field a whole team of players who have both the technical and physical abilities to perform optimally at the World Cup.          

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

 

For Parents

Is It Wise To Specialize?

Here is a great article from the ‘Changing the Game Project’ website.  It discusses some of the draw-backs to the ‘early specialization’ model in youth sports.  Many of the points raised in this article are directly applicable to youth soccer here in Canada, and I really like the fact that the arguments made in favor of ‘late specialization’ are all backed by scientific research and evidence.

I’d love to hear you thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

Is it Wise to Specialize?

 

Matches

Youth Development is Strictly Business

Great article from ESPN FC, about the ‘business’ aspect of developing players in professional academies.  In my opinion, this business is just like any other – it requires a significant investment of money, as well as time and work, in order for it to pay off.  Let me know your thoughts.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

http://www.espnfc.com/blog/name/93/post/1967393/headline?ex_cid=null