For Parents

Time Management – The Most Important Skill in University Soccer

Today I am posting about something that came into my head as I was speaking to a parent of one of the athletes who trains in my facility last night.  In my business, I have worked with thousands of young athletes.  Among these, the great majority are participating in my training programs to help them get in the best shape possible, so that they can obtain a university or college scholarship and play soccer for their school team.

This particular athlete, whose parent I was speaking with, is presently in her last year of high school and is considering attending (and playing soccer at) a few different universities here in Canada.  She and her father were speaking to me about the amount of time she has put into her school work this year (taking some more difficult courses) and also some other extra-curricular activities outside of soccer (martial arts, volunteer work).  Her father mentioned that he and his daughter had realized that she could have spent a bit less time on soccer and other extra-curricular activities, and also possibly taken some easier courses in high school that may have helped her achieve a higher grade point average, but that she decided not to take that course of action because she felt it would be like “taking the easy way out”.  Both she and her father seemed to agree that by taking on some of these more difficult and time consuming responsibilities, she was building skills and competencies that would be of greater value to her in the long term than any of the possible short-term benefits associated with having more free time or a higher GPA.

I could not help but agree with everything they were saying.  I have been involved in one way or another with university soccer for the past 15 years of my life (first as a player for 5 years, and then as an assistant coach and fitness coach for the next 8-10 years).  During this time I have seen and learned exactly what kinds of athletes – and people – are able to be successful in that environment.  In my opinion, the most important skill necessary for success in university soccer actually has nothing to do with the sport itself.  It’s time management – specifically, the ability to balance the time commitments associated with school work, training/competition, and social life without burning out – that stands out as the most important skill young student-athletes must have.  Student-athletes who enter into a varsity soccer program with good time management skills will be much better able to cope with the increased demands of training (at least 1 session per day); and school work (generally more demanding than anything seen in high school) without letting either one of those commitments suffer.  Those not in possession of good time management skills will likely see either their grades, or their performance in the sport (or possibly both) suffer in one way or another.

The take home message for parents of high-school aged athletes aspiring to be college/university soccer players is that they should try to fill their schedules with several different challenging, demanding, and time-consuming activities, both relating to soccer as well as to other areas of interest.  In my opinion, the more experience any young person can get balancing academic, athletic, and other commitments prior to post-secondary education, the more success they will have in that environment, as well as in their future adult lives.

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


Article: “The Tipping Point in Youth Sports” from Changing the Game Project

Below is a link to an excellent article that was posted on the ‘Changing the Game Project’ website late last year.  It is centred around the balance between patience and expectations, both from the perspective of youth athletes, as well as their parents.  It is an interesting and very well written article and the points made can certainly could be directly applied to youth soccer here in Canada.

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

Fitness, Science

Optimal Exercise Order for Resistance Training

Happy New Year everyone!

For my first post of 2015, I will be discussing an interesting new study that examined the effects of exercise order in resistance training, and how the findings are relevant to soccer players.  Resistance training, comprising exercises done with external resistance such as weights, elastic tubing, or an individual’s own body weight, is a necessary component of any elite level soccer players’ overall training program.  The order in which resistance exercise are performed, however, is a less-researched topic and has been the source of some debate over the past few years.  Some of the leading authorities on exercise prescription (including the National Strength and Conditioning Association, NSCA; and the American Council on Exercise, ACE) have traditionally recommended starting with exercises involving the largest muscle groups and/or the most joints, and progressing to small muscle group/single-joint exercises.

A recent study done by Simao et. al (2012) that reviewed several other studies which examined the effects of resistance exercise order on a number of different factors, including neuromuscular activity, oxygen consumption, Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) and chronic adaptations, revealed some interesting results.  As it turns out, the conventional approach of always starting with larger muscle groups / multi-joint exercises is not as important as it was once thought to be.  Exercises done at the beginning of a session (regardless of whether they involved large or small muscle groups) led to greater increases in strength, neuromuscular and chronic adaptations, than did exercises placed at the end of a session.  Simao et al concluded that the chief factor determining exercise order should be the movement pattern needs of the particular athlete/client.  The reasoning for this conclusion is that, if a particular exercise is critically important to a particular training goal, that exercise should be placed at the beginning of the training session, so as to maximize the results and improvement with regards to the training goal.

For soccer players, this research has some important implications.  The critical step in developing a resistance program for soccer players is to identify what the most important movement patterns are, and then to choose exercises and order the exercises based on their specificity and relevance to these movement patterns.  An example of this method would be:

  • Critical movement pattern #1: 2-legged jumping
    • exercises: barbell squat, barbell dead lift, jump squat
  • Critical movement pattern #2: running/jumping with single-leg hip/knee/ankle extension
    • exercises: barbell lunges, single-leg squats, hamstring “pop-ups”
  • Critical movement pattern #3: lateral movement/cutting movement
    • exercises: dumbbell side lunges, resisted hip external and internal rotations
  • Critical movement pattern #4: kicking (single-leg stability – plant leg, and hip flexion – kicking leg)
    • exercises: single-leg proprioception, resisted hip flexion, resisted hip adduction

Coaches and fitness coaches working with elite level soccer players should consider the critical movement patterns involved in the sport when designing resistance training programs for their athletes.  Ordering exercises based on this approach should lead to improved muscular adaptations, as well as an overall improvement in physical performance.

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