College Soccer (Source: NSCA, ACE)
· June-August 6 (approx.) -- Summer conditioning
· August 10 (approx.) – Preseason begins
· An easy method to monitor training load is called “session-rating perceived exertion” (sRPE). The system requires the players to rate the intensity of the session on a 1-10 score (10 being the most intense) 30 minutes after every training session or game.
Strength & Conditioning coaches typically provide detailed summer training programs for off-campus athletes when they leave the structure of campus training environments during summer.
Many off-campus athletes do not fully comply with the program and return to the start of season in a detrained state.
Therefore, the primary goals of summer conditioning for college soccer athletes should focus on 2 key elements. First, and foremost, the development of a sound aerobic base will help athletes endure the challenges of preseason and prevent late season fatigue and injuries. Research has shown that athletes with a lower aerobic capacity are more prone to lower extremity injuries than their more aerobically fit counterparts. Many collegiate athletes are not able to compete for an entire game and are substituted frequently because of poor fitness. Not surprisingly, the average Division 1 women’s and men’s college soccer team substitutes over 15 and 11 times per game, respectively, as a fatigue minimizing strategy. Several reports demonstrate effective training methods to establish an aerobic base during the summer. Bangsbo et al. outline a speed endurance training program, whereas Dupont et al. suggest a high-intensity interval training program. Using longer intervals, Helgerud et al. showed that twice weekly interval runs of 4 efforts at 90-95% maximal heart rate for 4 minutes with a 3-minute jog in between significantly improved aerobic fitness. They also note significant performance outcomes as the training increased the total distance run in a soccer match by 20%, increased the number of sprints by 100%, and the number of involvements with the ball by 24%.
Strength training programs can be oriented to prevent injuries and/or improve muscle strength and power. Regardless of the goal, strength training should be included in any summer conditioning program. Most programs use the January-May training block to prioritize strength and power development because they can work in longer periodization cycle uninterrupted by games. During the summer training period, 2 moderate loading sessions per week are effective in building on off-season strength development while avoiding the “interference effect” that can occur when heavy load strength training is combined with aerobic endurance work. Moderate strength training coupled with multi-planar plyometric training will help muscles sustain higher training loads, improve rate of force development, and contribute to overall strength without compromising the development of an aerobic base. A suggested comprehensive training program for college soccer players is outlined in Part 1. Specific strength training exercises are left up to the S & C coach to meet the unique needs of their team and soccer coaches.
Part 1: Suggested weekly summer training plan (sample)
Monday: Short intervals of multiple sets of 4 or 5 with the goal of building up to
40 efforts per session by week 7. (<100 meters).
Tuesday: A.M. Strength training.
P.M.-SSG 8v8/ 3X8 min. with 3-minute recovery.
Wednesday: Multiplanar aerobic agility. Agility activities organized to promote
improved running mechanics and sustain high HR.
Thursday: Soccer skill development followed by foam rolling.
Friday: A.M. Strength training
P.M. – moderate to long interval (>100-400 m)
Saturday: 45-minute hilly park run/or fartlek run.
Sunday: Off / recovery
A 16-day preseason training period presents challenges to coaches. One primary issue for soccer and other fall sports is that many athletes return to campus in a detrained state, and significantly improving fitness while avoiding injuries in a short period is a challenge. Preseason training structures in collegiate soccer are not well studied. Because of the short preseason, the sport coach approaches planning with the intent of balancing how much work they can fit into the preseason, while minimizing injuries in their athletes or impacting their first game. In most preseason programs, technical-, tactical-, and fitness-specific activities are often crowded into twice-daily practices for 4 or 5 days before a recovery day. This cycle is repeated again in another 3-5-day cycle and then reduced to once daily training to prepare for the first game. Poor planning can result in overly fatigued athletes, accumulated injuries, and poor quality training sessions. With only 16 days of preseason work, achieving game fitness is unrealistic, even with athletes who return relatively well prepared.
Another concern with the preseason is the significant increase in training load. Periodization plans call these sudden and intensified workload periods functional overreaching. This specialized training, historically used in many sports, hopes to push athletes past their physical and psychological limits to stimulate adaptation and reach higher performance levels. Although this type of training can be effective, it is often included as part of a 4-6 eek training plan with a 7-10 days of the recovery period. Sudden large changes in intensity or volume of training are often coupled with unwanted injuries and subsequent loss of training time. Research has demonstrated that when the acute (average weekly) to chronic (average of the preceding 4 weeks) training loads, calculated as sRPE, were increased by 50%, the probability of an injury rises to 40%. Even with reliable training load data, sport coaches often ignore or do not recognize the high training loads placed on their athletes. Another easy-to-implement method to monitor the overload process is to collect daily overtraining data. Look at scale below.
Table Overtraining Scale
What best reflects your feeling?
0 – No pain/fatigue at all
1 – Muscle pain/fatigue in the morning after wake up
2 – Muscle pain/fatigue in between exercises
3 – Muscle pain/fatigue at the start of the warm-up, but fades away during warm-
4 – Muscle pain/fatigue at the start of training but fades away during training
5 – Muscle pain/fatigue constant during training
6 – Training is not possible
If too many athletes have muscle pain that does not dissipate with warm-up or during training, this could be an early indication of overreaching that may lead to injury. Of course, preseason is also about the psychological transition to the competitive season, and two-a-day practices are a hallmark of that transition. Still, significant and rapid increases in training load do not always result in a more rapid increase in fitness levels. Moreover, very hard preseason training, without proper recovery, can diminish late season freshness. Moderate, periodized, yet demanding, training loads can help reduce avoidable injuries while improving the quality of training.
Better Planning and Periodization
Two weeks of training are insufficient to fully prepare a team for a season. Larger training loads do not result in greater fitness but do incur more injuries.
NSCA suggests collapsing the 2-week preseason and the first 4 games of the season into 1 training cycle (mesocycle 1). The second mesocycle incorporates academic challenges and other seasonal stressors into total workload and uses an undulating periodization. The final mesocycle uses a fatigue management cycle that would help teams minimize late season fatigue and finish strong.
First Mesocycle-Preseason Through the First 4 Games