goalWA.net is pleased to continue with a soccer club columnist to our website. He’s Adam Nowland, founder of Bellevue / Mercer Island area’s Nowland Premier Soccer Academy. Adam addresses soccer topics from his point of view in the series “Soccer Perspectives with Adam Nowland.”
by Adam Nowland
Summer Soccer Tips
Summer soccer has arrived and it’s important for all teams to head into the Summer season with the right preparation and mentality. This time of year provides our youth teams the platform and freedom to explore many different team elements, as well be exposed to new environments that our Fall and Spring seasons may not offer. I wanted to compose a list of tips and suggestions for our players, parents, and coaches to consider heading into one of my favorite times of the year!
Assessment – Tryouts for the fall season recently concluded and there is a chance that your team may look a little different in regards to roster size and/or personnel. As coaches, it is important to address the new additions to your roster and analyze where and how they fit in. These additions may take some time easing into their new playing environment, but the quicker you can get your new team acquainted, the more success your new team will have.
If your team is the same from the previous season, there is still work to be done. After the seasons conclusion, reflecting on the highs and lows of your season is important as there are many team elements that will need addressing. As a team, you want to build on your team’s successes as well as identify and improve some of the weaker elements of your team. This will help you plan your sessions accordingly as a coach and passing along this information to your parents and players will help them understand what direction you want to take the team moving forward.
Scheduling– Summer is a tricky time of year when it comes to planning as there are so many different opportunities to test your team. To give you potential ideas, this is a general outline of how my club is attacking the Summer.
For our younger age groups, we are hosting our very own NPSA SKLZ Challenge for our teams to participate in. This is an excellent opportunity for our teams to get together with their friends and play against competition within our club and other clubs from around the local area as well. We are also giving these players the opportunity to participate in team camps specifically organized for their age group to fit their developmental needs. We want our players to get as many touches on the ball and develop, as well as surround them with their friends and our coaching staff and of course, have some fun!
For our older age groups, most of our teams start off the summer season with a tournament right away. This tournament is generally meant to see where our teams stands after taking a small break after the Spring Season’s conclusion. It’s important to get an early assessment of where your team stands whilst putting them under a bit of pressure to perform.
In the middle of the summer, we believe it is important to continue to step up the intensity of our team training program and game competition level. This can be found through entering tournaments or setting up scrimmages. Having so many clubs in such close proximity in the Greater Seattle area enables clubs to work together and set up matches with teams of similar ability levels to gain valuable experience as well as minimize the cost to families that already invest a lot of money in Premier/Select soccer. The halfway point of summer should be a real test for your players. It is important to see what your players can do against high adversity. If they can handle the adversity in the midst of a tough environment, especially with the heat, then they will be able this perform in the Fall season.
Near the end of the Summer Season, you certainly want to end your Summer operations on a high note. You want your teams heading into the fall season in peak physical and mental condition. Get them in an environment where your team can gain confidence heading into their new playing season. I would approach the last tournament or scrimmage as if it were a state cup game. The players have worked all summer for this opportunity, so give them the platform to showcase their talents in a big game or tournament.
Health – The summer is almost always the most grueling part of physical training and conditioning. The heat can be a big factor in all players development. Get in the habit of treating your bodies well with proper nutrition and hydration. Dehydration is one of the biggest problems players face during this time of year. Hydration does not start when they arrive at practice. If players only drink water during their water breaks at training, they are not being properly hydrated. Hydration starts days in advance and should be strongly encouraged in the household. I remember as a young player, I would fill up a liter of water and carry it around wherever I went. I encourage players to drink at least one gallon of water a day. That is the bare minimum for players who play at a competitive level.
Nutrition is also vital to a player’s growth, development, and recovery. In the Summer, your body is burning even more calories due to the energy your body needs to cool itself down. If you aren’t getting enough calories, you are more susceptible to cramps, strains, pulled muscles, and many more injuries. If you want to maximize your physical development, I recommend players eating within 40 minutes of completing their practice/exercise. The quicker your body can replenish itself, the better off your recovery and muscle building will be.
Hydration and nutrition go hand in hand. Regardless of what level you are aspiring to play at, you need to fuel your body appropriately to ensure proper physical development. On top of that, these habits will last a lifetime. Sustaining these habits will ensure a healthy future, regardless of how long you play the beautiful game.
Try Something New – I mentioned above that reflecting on the season was important for our coaches, but it is certainly important for the players as well. There are of lot of players who believe their talents are better served elsewhere on the pitch than the position the coach has already set up for them. If you are a player who wants to try playing a new position, summer is a great opportunity to talk to your coach about trying something new for the upcoming summer season. Quality coaches will give you the opportunity to explore your desired position
As a player, it’s important to take ownership of your development. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask to see what another position may look like. Coaches should be open to experiment with the team in the summer. Just keep in mind that coaches want what is best for you. They are trying to put you in the best position to be successful.
Downtime – Summer is a great time to play soccer, but more importantly, it’s the best time to have family bonding events. A ton of our players at my club use the summer to travel and get away for a break. In order to enjoy the best of both worlds, we communicate to our parents the vacation days that our coaches are taking over the summer. This gives our families the best chance to schedule their vacations around the summer tournament schedule which benefits everyone. Open channels of communication our a key aspect in the continuing success of my club.
Vacation is a great way for players to recharge their batteries after a grueling spring season, and also gives the players a break from playing in the summer. This break is beneficial for our players not only physically, but mentally. The last thing we want to do is get our players burnt out on the sport. Downtime and vacation is great because it takes their mind off the stress of the game. When they get back from vacation, they will be invigorated and ready to give it their all again.
Opportunities – I am a big proponent of getting players involved in as many different soccer environments as possible. There are many players who reach a ceiling with their development and I believe it is because they become comfortable with the environment they are involved in. I encourage players to venture out of their comfort zone and experience new environments where they will be challenged. These opportunities are definitely available in this area and will be beneficial to the player and, ultimately, the team that they return to as a better version of themselves.
My club offers many different clinics and additional training opportunities that specifically tailor to certain elements of the game. It would be a great idea to reach out to your coach and ask them what clinics, camps, and training opportunities your club may offer. There are also guest playing opportunities for players if the team that your child is on isn’t playing in a specific tournament. It would be a good idea to reach out to other parents and friends to see if their players are attending any tournaments with other teams.
At the end of the day, youth soccer is about providing opportunities for players to develop their skills, understanding and passion for the game. No club, team or coach has ownership rights over the players. All clubs & coaches should provide their players with as many avenues to learn and play the beautiful game as possible. If all clubs embraced this philosophy, the youth soccer landscape would be a much more productive and enjoyable place for all concerned.
Together Each Achieves More