Speed & Agility Follow-Up

My hope is that we offered a program in which we challenge our athletes to do their best work at all times, have fun, and explore different areas of fitness that will enhance each participant’s performance.

I want to thank all of the athletes who participated in our Speed & Agility Program this winter. Each Monday evening at 5:15 pm for a 10-week period, we had approximately 30 athletes ages 10-18 that dedicated themselves to getting faster and stronger to become better athletes. I appreciate the effort they put in and I also appreciate the dedication it took for parents to sacrifice time to make this happen for their children. Thank you Kellie, Kerry and TJ for helping coach our athletes each week. I could not have done this without you. Thanks for being part of these kids’ growth and development.  

Speed and agility is a bit different because it takes a different type of motivation. The kids are not running after a ball or playing soccer games; they are training for the mere sake of making themselves better athletes. Each training session began with a warm up that incorporates movements that are essential for any athlete; movements that increase our flexibility, prevent injury and improve coordination. Athletic movement is the base by which all other components of fitness derive. We lunge, we skip high and low, we crawl, we side step, we shuffle, we backpedal, we sprint forward, we twist, we turn; all movements that are done in a soccer game. Our warm ups were consistent each session so we could master the techniques necessary to be quick and agile.

Following our warm-ups, we did circuits that consisted of groups of 6-8 kids. We had 7-8 stations where we did different activities involving other important components of speed and agility. We did an activity for 2 minutes then ran around the entire field (as an active rest). Each time a participant took a turn at their station the focus was on doing an activity hard and as fast as possible and when they were at rest they were to take a good, slow, rest. Speed and agility improvements happen when we push ourselves to be as fast as possible for a very short period of time.

Our activities included core strengthening exercises, agility exercises, plyometric or jumping exercises to increase power, full out sprint activities to work on outright speed. We worked on speed ladders for agility and coordination. We worked on activities that increased reaction time. We played tag games to work on agility, we used bands for resistance training to work on power and acceleration. We used hurdles to improve running technique and limit contact time with the ground. We really got a lot done in each session and each session ended with a stretch of more abdominal strengthening work.

My hope is that we offered a program in which we challenge our athletes to do their best work at all times, have fun, and explore different areas of fitness that will enhance each participant’s performance. Thank you again for the dedication you all have given to getting better. You are so appreciated! Hope to see you all around the soccer field and beyond.

Coach Dianne Strawser, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

Don't Let Your Fitness Resolutions Die

It has been about a month and a half since the new year. How have you done in keeping your resolutions? Or shall I say promises to yourself? I read two articles this week that stated that Tuesday February 9 was the day that our fitness resolutions begin to die. One article by USA Today said “gym check-ins will drop and will never be as high again for the rest of the year. An article by CBS News stated “people who committed themselves to gym-going in January slack off and stop showing up regularly. They call it the ‘fitness cliff’.” Although these articles refer to those that are gym members, I wonder if this applies to our fitness resolutions in general. We make promises to ourselves that we are excited about achieving. We are hopeful, we are ambitious, we are pumped to get fit. And then a month and a half later…. the winter blahs set in, the kids’ schedules get crazy. Life happens. Once again we put our health and fitness on the back burner. At what cost?

We all have hurdles to overcome, obstacles and distractions that take us away from our goals whether fitness or otherwise. Life gets in the way and we put ourselves as our last priority. Gold’s Gym has a “list of warning signs that your health goals are at risk - C- Can’t find time L- Lacking a game plan to keep you going. I- Ignoring your commitment and falling into old patterns. F- Frustrated with lack of early results F- Forgetting why you started”. If you see the signs early you can overcome your personal hurdles. A hurdle is a setback for sure, but the hurdle can be as big or as small as you decide to make it. They will happen no doubt but keep trying to get over the hurdle and move forward. Here are some things that may help you when the hurdles seem too big to get over.

Find an activity you love to do. Do you like to do activities by yourself because you appreciate the alone time? Maybe a walk, a bike ride, or a swim gives you energy. If you like to be outdoors perhaps a hike, cross country skiing in the winter, a walk on the beach? If you like to compete find some buddies to play tennis, basketball or a soccer game may be in order. If you like classes, yoga, Zumba, Pilates are good options. If you love to feel strong find a buddy or a personal trainer to lift weights or do Cross fit. There are so many options out there. Don’t give up. Keep trying new things to keep your exercise interesting.

Exercise for Good health. Going on fad diets often leads to a feeling of being good or bad depending on if you stick to it or not. Here is what exercise does for you. “It improves our moods, energy, reduces the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, breast cancer, better sleep, stronger muscles” according to The Federal Centers for Disease Control. Our bodies were meant to move plus with the above benefits it seems regular exercise would be great for us all. Make exercise a regular part of your life.

The small things matter. Start small. Make goals you know you can accomplish. Lofty goals lead to failure. Only commit to what you know you can accomplish. As you complete your goals, celebrate them. Small victories become big victories. Marathon runners don’t just run a marathon; they train in increments.

Find a buddy. I think people like team sports because we are meant to be in community. Belonging to a community inspires us, it motivates us and energizes most of us to be with people. Find a personal trainer, a buddy or a group of people to work out with. It’s much more fun.

Track your progress. Especially if you are a result oriented person, keeping an exercise log will be motivating for you. Keep track or your improvements and celebrate them. You will get stronger; you will get better if you keep moving forward toward your goals. Improvement happens over time not just after doing an activity a couple times.

Review your goals every 90 days. Keep your goals in your present state of mind. To review your goals frequently keeps them fresh. Todd Durkin is a motivating speaker and personal trainer who has 3 questions he asks himself and writes down every 90 days. Look under Todd Durkins 90-day Wonder for specifics on how you can keep your goals fresh.

Good luck and here is to a happy and healthy 2016

Off Season Training: Suggestions for Staying Soccer Fit

It can be a challenge in the winter months in West Michigan to maintain the fitness necessary to compete in a soccer game. We usually train in a small space and no 11 vs 11 field is available to train or play on. The older players must travel to tournaments or over to Detroit to play on a “big field” It tends to be a big adjustment to play our State Cup games in March/April having had months without “big field” experience. What should players do in the winter months to maintain game fitness? I have a few suggestions.

There are many components of fitness that are demanded in a soccer game. It takes strength and power to penetrate a defense as well as win a ball from an opponent. Weight training can improve strength and power. Here are some exercises that may be beneficial in developing strength and power. Please remember technique is crucial in lifting to prevent injury.

  • Squats
  • Dead lifts
  • Lunges
  • Power cleans
  • Bench Press or push-ups
  • Shoulder press
  • Seated rows or lat pull downs

These should be done with reps of 10-12 to begin. The last 2 reps should be difficult. Increase the weight by 5% if 10 reps become easy. Do 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps 2 times per week at least.

Soccer requires much endurance as a player may need to last 70-90 minutes of running per game. This may include sprints, change of direction and longer sprints all of which are demands of the game. Workouts to sustain such demands are as follows. Each is to last 30-40 minutes in length.

Distance running mimics the endurance necessary. Run 3-5 miles 1 time per week.

Interval training mimics long sprints. Do a ladder workout on a track. Sprint 1/4 of a track, then 1/2, 3/4, 1 lap. Then Run 1 lap, 3/4, 1/2, 1/4. Take the rest you need between sprints but as you get more fit decrease the time in between. Do this 1 time per week.

Agility Training mimics directional change in soccer. Shuttle runs are a good option. You can use the lines on a field or make your own markers, perhaps 5 markers 5 yards apart. Sprint to the first and back, second and back etc. Do 5-10 shuttle runs with a rest in between each. The rest will depend on your fitness level but try to decrease rest time as you get more fit. Do this 1 time per week.

Because much of our training is done in small spaces I would recommend making a conscious effort to make the interval training a priority to get in those longer sprints.

Another component of fitness that is often overlooked by soccer players is flexibility. It is difficult to actually slow down and relax to get a good stretch. “Activities that lengthen and stretch muscles can help you prevent injuries, back pain, and balance problems. A well-stretched muscle more easily achieves its full range of motion.” Google For those reasons I recommend Yoga for our athletes. Find a good Yoga tape or a fun class that is engaging. It may take some consistency to see results so stick with it. You will be happy you did.

Lastly, it is important to use a foam roller because they “have to do with the mobility of the fascia. Fascia is a fibrous layer of connective tissue that surrounds all of the muscles in our body. Without proper mobility, fibers of the fascia become cross linked and they bind to muscles and nerves, inhibiting normal motion and causing pain.” Google Our muscles will work more efficiently and contribute to optimal performance. Other items you can use to release the fascia are rolling pins, softballs, I use a lacrosse ball but be careful because they may be too firm for some.

Hopefully, I have given you some ideas as to how our athletes can keep fit over the winter months when they play less games and play in small spaces. Have a great winter and happy training.

Speed & Agility: An Off-Season Essential for Improved Sports Performance

Both straight ahead running speed and lateral speed and agility are important aspects of a soccer game. Often the faster, stronger athletes will have an edge over other athletes. More importantly, besides sport skill, agility has been proven to be a primary indicator of success in athletes. An athlete must be able to explosively start, accelerate, decelerate, change direction and accelerate quickly again with and without the ball to be effective. According to John Graham in an article, Agility Training for Athletic Performance, “most athletic activities that utilize agility occur less than 10 seconds and involve the ability to coordinate a few or several sport specific tasks simultaneously.”

Agility requires the coordination of our neurological system to perform sport specific movement and skills. To ensure athletic success it is important for athletes to practice these sport specific movements at an early age. Coordination is best developed in children 7-14 years old but the best time frame is between 10 and13 years old when the nervous system is pliable and movement patterns are not permanent. As the athlete gets older it is more important to reinforce movements already learned then to teach new ones. It is extremely important that if an athlete is participating in an agility program that they are consistent. Repetition is vital for the development of great athletic movements. This is why it is critical for speed and agility to be part of your child’s off-season training for soccer. It can take months to see improvements in speed and agility. Speed and agility training is a process and the journey will be worthwhile if athletes are focused when participating.

When participating in a speed and agility program there are some important components that should be addressed. According to Bill Parisi, “the secret to great game speed is to manage your center of gravity.” When mastering movement for sport one must be balanced, being able to be explosive and react to different stimuli from various body positions. Doing so in an environment that is diverse and constantly changing is important. Exercises should be at a level that challenges one but is not too difficult. Skills should progress from good spacial awareness with no speed to high speed. According to John Graham there are 7 components of agility training. 1. Strength 2. Power 3. Acceleration 4. Deceleration 5. Coordination 6. Dynamic balance 7. Dynamic flexibility.

If you would like more tips on speed development look for information from Vern Gambetta. He has developed a system called 3S System on Sport Specific Speed. He has 22 tips on speed development that may be beneficial for you or your athlete.

This winter PASS is offering at 10 week speed and agility program beginning in January and running through March. Sign up online.

Mentoring: A Valuable Resource

Last month I had the privilege of attending a coaching course. The purpose of going to the course was to aide me in getting a C license that will allow me to coach some of the higher level teams in our club. More importantly, the 8-day coaching course provided me with some valuable information on coaching practices that I feel will certainly benefit our players here at PASS. I was fortunate to learn from some really good coaches, hear a fitness expert speak about effective training techniques and hear a psychologist as he shared with us how to get the most out of our players. I wanted to pass on to all of you some great information that I learned from the psychologist presenting the information.

Dr. Dan spoke about how important it is for us as coaches to provide good visual feedback to our athletes as well as have role models players can look up to and emulate. These two things really struck a chord within me. The visual feedback he was talking about can be anything from watching YouTube videos of soccer skills being performed, watching games on TV or even watching older kids play games. The visual feedback from these sources offers a rich learning environment that is invaluable. In addition the players learn from watching coaches and mentors as these are role models the players really look up to. By watching and learning from them, the players can try to emulate their character, their actions, their skills etc. The players aspire to be like them in many ways.

Mentors are important because they help younger or less experienced players define goals, find ways to achieve goals and establish quality relationships. Mentors offer encouragement to the mentee in all facets of their life. Mentors also invest time into these young people and as a result the young people learn values by watching, by sharing, by caring about someone that completely appreciates them. The two may share common interests, and/or other personality traits that make them a great partnership. As I thought more about the importance of mentoring I began to wonder how we can create such a culture at PASS.

We would like to begin a mentoring program at PASS where the goal of the program would be to build relationships in the PASS community. We would like to bridge the gap between the older and younger players. In addition, our goal is to grow the game of soccer and a passion for the game in a safe, positive environment. If this sounds great to you, and you would like your child involved in our mentoring program here is some information.

First and foremost, it is important to note that this program is a mentoring program that is based on creating relationships, it is not coaching. This program is meant for the older kids 13 and above to connect with a buddy that is 7-12 years old. We will connect the two based on age, location and gender. The only requirement is that the pairs must attend 2 of each other’s games per season (fall and spring). The younger kids can even go to a high school game, not necessarily a PASS game. If the two and their parents choose to do any more then that it MUST be communicated and supported by the parents of the mentor and mentee. The older players can attend the younger player’s practice and join practice sessions. This must be arranged with the coach prior to attending. You can communicate through me, Dianne Strawser, or the coach directly at least 24 hours before the training session.

If your child is interested in becoming a mentor or you would like your child to be a mentee please contact Dianne Strawser at strawser@live.com to get started.