Summertime means the days are longer, the weather is warmer, and the skies are typically brighter. But for many youth athletes it can also mean a loss of structure to our days; no school, no practices, no formal games, and a loss of some of the development gains made throughout the past season. However, with some simple planning and the right focus, athletes and their families can make great use of the summer weeks to maintain, or even improve themselves and be prepared for the next season.
Here are three key areas young athletes can work on this summer:
- FOCUS ON SPECIFIC INDIVIDUAL DEVELOPMENT
- IMPROVE OVERALL ATHLETICISM
- INCREASE SOCCER AWARENESS
FOCUS ON SPECIFIC INDIVIDUAL DEVELOPMENT
The summer off season can be the perfect opportunity to spend time focusing on your own individual development by working on specific aspects of your play. I would encourage each player to reflect on two technical aspects of their play that are strengths and two areas that they wish they were stronger at. Kings Hammer players may be able to utilize prior Player Report Cards to assist in identifying these areas. Once identified, lay out a plan to work on these areas 30-45 minutes 3-4 days per week. Having a structured approach to this can be very helpful. There are several options that can assist with this.
- TECHNE-this mobile app, available FREE to all Kings Hammer players, has great training resources for nearly every technical aspect of soccer.
- YouTube-search the desired area you want to work on and many options will be available for you to follow-along with or to build your own training plan from.
- Private Coach-there are a number of resources available in this area. You can work on your own or with a small group (get some teammates or friends involved.) Several Kings Hammer coaches are available over the summer to conduct sessions as well.
- Camps-we are fortunate in this area that there are numerous soccer camp options available. Be sure to check out the coach-to-camper ratio, the history of the camp and staff, as well as the general theme or objective of the camp prior to signing up in order to ensure it will meet your specific needs. Remember that Kings Hammer hosts camps throughout our program areas that may be perfect for your continued growth.
IMPROVE OVERALL ATHLETICISM
During the soccer season most players focus solely on the physical requirements of only soccer. The off season provides an opportunity to use other muscles and improve overall movement, agility, balance, and coordination. All of the things which will increase athleticism and improve overall performance. Here are some things to consider while working on this area.
- New Sports-pickleball, tennis, basketball, karate, and other sports which do not mimic soccer can improve body movement, strengthen weaker muscle groups, and increase motivation.
- Recreational Activities-hiking, biking, kayaking, climbing, participating in a local 5-K are all great ways to get the entire family involved in physical activity and athletic gains.
- Backyard Fun-especially for younger players being outside and active; playing tag, getting on the jungle gym, chasing the family dog, or creating their own games or competitions, can be great for both physical development and creativity.
- Formal Performance Training-for older athletes (U14+) professionally instructed strength and performance programming can be beneficial in off season development. However, be sure the instructors understand the objectives for your son or daughter and be mindful of potential overuse issues.
Keep in mind that summer, like any off season, should also be a time for each player to REST as well. Down time is beneficial to both physical and mental well-being and is essential to staving off both injury and performance fatigue. Engaging in each of the items listed above is not the goal. Finding a balance in the summer offseason schedule is key.
INCREASE SOCCER AWARENESS
Being away from school does not mean you should stop working your brain and your mental growth. Being away from your team and training does not mean you cannot continue to improve your ability to read the game and improve your decision-making abilities. Summer provides many opportunities to invest in learning more about the way the game is played, the styles of teams and individual players, or even the history of the sport and some of its key figures. Here are some suggestions for raising your soccer awareness.
- Get out to a match-whether it is FCC, Kings Hammer FC (men and women,) or even a local adult league, there is still live soccer happening this summer. Spend an afternoon or evening checking out the action. See how players deal with the ball, how they respond to mistakes, and listen to how they communicate with teammates (parental discretion advised here.)
- Find a game on TV-MLS and NWSL are in the heart of their seasons over the summer. Many games can be found on TV or on YouTube. In addition, there is the Women’s World Cup, Men’s Gold Cup, and other international matches taking place this summer. Schedule time to watch a game. Bring a notebook and pencil and analyze. Pick a player and track their movement, their decisions, their touches, etc. Then compare these things to your play and identify things you can continue to work on.
- READ A SOCCER BOOK-yes, I know…it is summer, school is out…BUT, summer is a GREAT time to READ, and there are lots of great soccer options for you to enjoy. Books on how to perform better technically, how to improve decisions, books on the history of the game, on your favorite team, or even all-time great players! Here are just a few of my favorites (with a variety of reading levels:)
- Solo Soccer-A Self Teaching Soccer Guide, Greg Bowman (5-12)
- The Most Amazing Soccer Stories of All Time-For Kids, Michael Langdon (6+)
- Stars of Women’s Soccer: Third Edition, Illugi Jokulsson (9+)
- The Beautiful Game – The Most Amazing Soccer Stories Of All Time (12+)
- Soccer IQ, Dan Blank (13+)
- The World is a Ball, John Doyle (15+)