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Unlocking Player Potential During Summer Break

Summer has arrived, and for many players, the soccer season will end with the school year. It is time for children to enjoy freedom and head outside to play amidst the nice weather. No more bells to direct them from classroom to classroom, no more homework to distract them from what they enjoy most – playing. For some children, however, the soccer season will not end with the school year. In fact, the soccer season will not end at all. These children will not have bells directing them but rather multiple practices and games dictating where and when they go to the fields. They will likely be playing, but it may not feel like play. These children’s lives will be scheduled out for them just as it is during school. These children will be busy, whether it be due to summer camps, practices, games, or tournaments.

If players love the game of soccer and constantly seek ways to play, that is a great thing. It is not great when players end up with no time away from formal play or training during the summer. Whether your child is a recreational or ODP player does not matter. All players need some time in the summer to be children without overscheduled practices or formal play. They need time to choose to play whatever game they wish with their friends. They need time to relax. They need time to let their bodies recover from the wear and tear they endure during the soccer season.

Recent years have seen an increasing number of opportunities pop up for interested players. A young player could easily play on a formal team throughout the entire summer now…and the whole year, for that matter. Although it is wonderful that there are so many choices for children now, I have talked to an alarmingly high number of children who take advantage of virtually every option in front of them. In fact, over 95% of ODP players told me they did not take a week off from soccer during the entire year. Combined with the fact that they were playing 5-7 days a week, it is clear they are just exchanging one formal schedule for another. And this new schedule costs them both physically and emotionally. You may be surprised that such a high amount of playing does not correlate with performance improvement.

Mindfulness Tips | Mindful Minutes

Parents and coaches, please take a few minutes to think about how much you are scheduling for your children/players. Does your child have at least a few weeks off of formal play during the summer? Does that child have the option of choosing whatever activity they desire at the moment? If they choose soccer, great! If they decide to swim, great! If they choose to play football, great! Whatever activity or relaxing hobby they choose is a great respite from an ever-growing grueling soccer schedule. Regardless of how competitive a player your child is or how competitive your team is, these players need this break. It will benefit their play to have this time off.

If a player would like to go out in the backyard and play soccer by themselves or with a few friends, that is fine, and the fact that they are choosing to do this is the most important. They determine what to do, how long to play, and how hard to play. This is a wonderful freedom and needed time away from organized sports. Please, let us all think twice before over-scheduling players this summer. Let’s make sure to give them opportunities to enjoy being children.

SUGGESTION FOR THE BACKYARD:

Juggling— Juggle the Ball with all parts of your body (left and right sides). Try not to have more than 5 consecutive juggles with the same body part (i.e., feet, things, head, etc.); b) juggle with a friend or friends in a similar fashion to the basketball game “HORSE,” the player who drops the Ball gets a letter; c) play 1 touch or 2 touches juggling with your friends earning letters for drops.

1 vs1—a) only use one foot—the Ball cannot touch your other foot;  b) have a goal (or a cone) which you can score upon from all sides; c) same as b), but have the same goal for both players; d) have two goals for each player, one on an end line and one on a sideline; e) have three goals for each player, one on an end line and one on each sideline.

Wall Soccer —Kick a ball against a wall using both your left and right foot. Place hard shots against the wall (with accuracy and force). Trying doing this three touch, then two touch, then one touch. It helps with trapping/receiving, positioning, striking a ball with both feet, foot speed, being on toes, and concentration. It also will improve your passing/shooting accuracy because of the high number of touches you will get on the Ball and the high number of balls you play against it. Vary your shots—high, low, left, right, inside foot, outside foot, instep, etc.- and work at a high pace to get your body behind the Ball before it rolls past you. Get closer to the wall to improve foot quickness, and move further away to increase lateral quickness.

Mike Singleton

Head Men’s Soccer Coach and Associate Professor at Washington and Lee University. He has coached within all three NCAA Men’s Soccer divisions and Division 2&3 of NCAA Women’s Soccer. In addition, he worked with youth national teams, led a large state soccer association (Massachusetts Youth Soccer Association), directed multiple youth soccer clubs, and has coached virtually every level of soccer in our country except pro.

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