Today’s most youth soccer players are tired. What happens if a soccer player doesn’t get enough sleep? How important is sleep anyway?
Although sleep is most times overlooked when planning out a training regimen, it should be considered as equally important as nutrition and physical conditioning. Slowed reaction times lead not only to missed pass or goal opportunities but can result in injuries as well. No matter what level they are performing at that they need to listen to their bodies. When preparing for a physically demanding match or training, it is important to ensure that you are hydrated before, during and after, are well fed and have given your body the proper nutrition to supply the body with energy throughout the entire match.
Sleep is a requisite if you want to be great on the field: Sleep experts have been studying the effects of sleep deprivation for many years and have determined that the lack of sleep affects the athlete greatly in the following ways:
Sleep to Recover:
Muscle fatigue and breakdown, which occurs after strenuous activity, and needs adequate time to heal for the muscles to repair and regenerate before the next activity in order to refrain from injury. A lack of sleep can also increase stress. Elevated levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, has also been shown to interfere negatively with tissue repair and growth. SLEEP DEPRIVATION CAN ALSO LEAD TO SLOWED DOWN REACTION TIMES. And, a slow reaction on the field can lead to injury in the form of a collision with another player or being hit by a ball you didn’t see coming your way.
A lack of sleep can also increase stress. Elevated levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, has also been shown to interfere negatively with tissue repair and growth.
Those who are sleep deprived may experience lower energy storage levels, which is needed to perform at peak levels in endurance events like soccer. Sleep impacts a soccer player’s performance: With busy schedules, often sleep suffers and no one really thinks about the lack of sleep impacting peak performance. This a big mistake.
In today’s fast-paced world, sleep is thought of as a luxury as opposed to a necessity. SLEEP IS NOT A LUXURY. This way of thinking needs to change, especially in the athletic population if a peak performance is expected out of the body every time it touches the soccer field.
Recommendations: What are the recommended hours of sleep for youth and adult athletes/soccer players?
This is a hard question to answer because like with most things in the human body, the number of hours of sleep needed is individually based, especially when we are talking about athletes. Sleep experts for many years have recommended 9-10 hours of sleep for the average adolescent or teen and 7-9 hours for the average adult, but those hours may need to be increased for the athletic population.
Proper focus on sleep and will allow the body the time it needs to recover and re-energize to perform at your best!
Many coaches and trainers have been saying that phrase quite often but most are missing a ton of depth and nuance. As a result, we’re not correctly identifying this player attribute.
By far, most players [outside elite pros] you identify as ‘checking their shoulder‘ are doing it to see if there’s pressure nearby. By far, they are not scanning the field to assess what their next decision is – not to mention what 2 or 3 moves into the future could be. Focus on space to attack, body position to receive, type of touch/pass and most importantly, the technique to execute.
That, my friends, is truly ‘checking your shoulder‘. Those are details that matter and that’s what separates special from average.
Learning to ID these players who are next level takes a ton of experience. But at least now we’re aware there’s more to it than witnessing a simple head swivel, "check your shoulder!"
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Dear Parents, if your elite player has a dream of playing in a high level, you can help the most by fostering these mental qualities in your children and reinforcing them every day. The greatest gift parents can give their children in sports is the gift of a growth mentality.
Lesson #1: Be Coachable
First and foremost, teach your child to be coachable. Being coachable means that your child has respect for his or her coach and listens to what is being taught. Being coachable means that your child trusts the process, listens to what he or she is told and try to execute it without opinion. It's not a technical skill or an inherent ability. It is a mental attitude. It is defined by your ability to be coached. As amazing as your coach may be, their efforts are meaningless without another crucial part of this success equation: your own coachability. Even with the best coaches at your disposal, it is your coachability in conjunction with great training that will ultimately determine your developmental progress.
Lesson #2: Be comfortable with being uncomfortable
Teach your child to reach out of his or her comfort zone by trying harder than they have ever tried or having difficult conversations with their coach. Players should be the ones to have conversations with their coaches about playing time or skill progression. When an elite soccer player reaches higher levels, coaches expect players to try their best and will not (nor should they) have a conversation with parents about playing time. Your children need preparation and practice in how to push it to their limit and advocate for themselves in their professional careers.
Lesson #3: Be an excellent teammate and leader
Teach your child the characteristics of how to be an excellent teammate and leader. These go hand in hand since it is a team game. Teach your child SELFLESSNESS by emphasizing good body language if a teammate makes a mistake or if your coach ask you to run or if you are sitting the bench during a championship run. Teach your child ACCOUNTABILITY by not placing blame toward others, to ask questions and respect the team. You know, there is no “I” in team!
Lesson #4: Be mentally tough
Teach your children mental toughness and resilience. One day in their lives they may not start, or maybe they don’t even play at all. Elite athletes survive disappointments because they are mentally prepared for whatever happens to them. They have dealt with adversity, disappointment, and failure and learned how to grow from those experiences. One day you could be playing every minute and an injury sets you back. You have to be mentally tough to come back stronger.
Lesson #5: Postive Attitude
Last but not least, remind your children they can achieve anything IF they put in the work CONSISTENTLY! When the going gets tough, the tough keep going, there is no gain without pain ;)
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Consciously or not, every player that is part of the team, during the game faces many opportunities that demand different decisions. The players decision that is fast and correct is extremely influential in the game.
“Everything starts from what the player sees. Not from what they looks at.”
If the player is aware, there is no place to fear and they will want the ball. They become responsible, creative and confident in the game. The basis of the decision process is information. The time, quality and frequency of gained information is a key in this process.
Constantly moving, players must be aware of which direction and part of the field they should move and why. That is perception, sense of awareness, and our field of sight. However, our field of view is limited, but our awareness can improve by understanding this:
1) Scanning the field - Player gathers information from surroundings.
2) Correcting body position
3) Correcting position on the field
Types of information on the field
– Where is the space with advantage (free space, numerical balance)
– Where are opponents
– Where are teammates
– Position in the formation
Based on the received information, a player must analyze them in relation to their position, principles and, assessment of the risk and which solution will bring the biggest advantage for the team.
All this information seems to be quite easy to remember and use during the game, however, sometimes the easiest way seems to be the most difficult to use. Cryuff once said,
“Soccer is simple, but it is difficult to play simple.”
How much you know is the one, but how you will use it is the other thing. Cognitive Process is one of the most difficult pieces of skill a player can develop. Done correctly, their speed of play will be unstoppable. But it takes time to develop the brain to think this way because it’s happening individually inside the head of each player. The player must understand it takes time and patience to think this way. Trust the process.
All we can do as coaches is to replicate the situations that are troublesome for the players during the game. Situations where defenders are set in transitional opportunities (ex. defense to offense), where they need to control more than one aspect of the game. Where attackers must decide what to use to control the pass or what type of run to make or dribble. The direction they will choose to create an attack.
Watching football is a great way to learn more about the game. Ask your coaches questions!
The biggest difference between the good and the best players is, decision making and first touch. So get your head up and gather the infomation to execute.
The typical youth player that plays at a "high level" has the latest cleats, unique hairstyles, and if extreme, have an intense parent. They don't know the history of the game and of course know players like Alex Morgan, Ronaldo and maybe Messi. Those wannabe highlight players are products of the consumer environment that is making it hard for US youth players to succeed, but I believe there is a deeper rooted issue with why we struggle to develop players that excel at the highest level. Besides greed, we believe it lies in the definition many have in the word “skill”.
Skill means “decision making,” what decisions are you making during game scenarios that are leading to success. Recognizing the situation and having the “ability” to beat a player 1v1 in the right situation is a characteristic of a skillful player. The vision to see an open winger and the ability to drive a forty yard pass from the back to an open winger is skill. Having the ability to play the first time and not give the ball away in tight areas, but also having the recognition and composure to take multiple touches when given space and time is skill. Movement on and off the ball is skill!
Watching Thiago Alcantara recently during a Champions League match completely changed my opinion about the Spaniard, I never noticed how much influence he has on the match and how much skill he has when he is “on and off” the ball. He is constantly orchestrating the play even without the ball, suggesting what passes should be made to teammates with his movements, ensuring the ball is moved quickly and away from pressure. He plays first time when he needs to with precision technique. His ability to splitting the opposing midfielders at every opportunity to advance the ball to the attacking third was what drove Bayern Munich forward. He is one of the most skillful players in the modern era. Can Thiago Alcantara do a double step over? Of course he can. Did he do a ton of double step overs in the match? No, because the he handled evaluated the situation and made a better decision. Thiago Alcantara possesses the brain to be a successful midfielder at the highest level, similar to Xaxi for Barcelona or Modric for Real Madrid. Thiago now plays at Liverpool by the way. All of these are examples of players who possess skill, they are superior decision makers, not the athletic highlights reel or commercial stars that are flaunted to the young players.
US soccer has favored "athletes" over brains for a majority of the past decades especially at young ages, where quick wins were favored over long-term development of the players. I think there are great coaches but not many environments around US youth soccer that develop these types of football players at a young age. Hence why the current best USMNT and USWNT go overseas to play at a young age. The days of the early developer being looked on as the next superstar seem to never end with all the "car salesman" on the US fields. Hopefully, you'll find an environment that values players who enjoy to use their technique, orchestrate a play, not lose possession rather than the “goalscorer”. No college or pro coach will ask you how many goals you scored at U13. Of course goals are needed in the match but think about this, would Messi of succeeded in the US due to his size? Don't lie to yourself and if you do not know who Messi is, why are you still reading this?!
Anyway, players will learn real skills when they execute their technique in a realistic match scenario during training. Then they will be able to break down how to what, where, why, etc., during the match consistently. That is skill! The more players can play in these game scenarios the more they will develop an understanding of the correct decision, technique and get experience in various situations that come about in a real match. Thus why every training session should start with technical skills and end in some form of the actual match. Also real ballers of the game should want to watch as many higher level matches as they can to learn what high level skill really is.
To truly develop skill, players must fall in love with the process and the results will come.
What do Cristiano Ronaldo, Marta, Messi, Zidane, and Alex Morgan have in common? They all played Futsal! Here are some top football stars explaining why you should play futsal if you want to be the total football player.
We are proud to offer futsal year round as Atlanta Club d' Futsal. If interested in playing summer futsal, training and competing in league and/or tournaments, CLICK HERE
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Youth soccer players have a busy schedule and options for eating are limited. The convenience of stopping at one of the notorious fast food joints that are on every corner tends to be inviting for the parent that may be low on funds or time.
The importance of avoiding these temptations remains at an all-time high while players striving to perform at their best. Maintaining a healthy diet that rids yourself of any food high in calories should be avoided at all costs.
It’s not necessarily the fast food restaurant that is of concern, it’s what is ordered at that restaurant. Fast food establishments have come a long way from where they were years ago and just about all of them offer at least one menu item that will fit into a healthy eating plan.
Look for items that provide a combination of carbohydrates and protein, as well as some fats. For example, most offer a grilled chicken sandwich, some sort of mixed salad, fruit, and water. That meal makes up the combination of carbohydrates, proteins and fats that teenage athletes need, not only to fuel their body for growth and development but to fuel their sport as well.
Make sure to eat a nourishing meal the evening before a match. You won’t be using the energy from this meal until the next day, so skip the simple sugars and eat more complex carbohydrates. Despite popular belief, it’s not necessary to stuff yourself full of carbohydrates. The goal is to load, not explode, your muscles with fuel. Choose ample complex carbohydrates, moderate protein and load up on fluids. Chicken or beef fajitas with a side of rice, vegetables, fruit and coconut water is one example.
Fueling for back-to-back matches requires some thought in terms of what and how much to eat. The most important consideration is how much time you have between performance. If the next match is not for 2-3 hours, you have plenty of time to eat a balanced meal, making sure to keep the fat and fiber intake low. Pack a sandwich such as a turkey and cheese or nut butter and jelly sandwich with a piece of fruit, If the next game starts in an hour or less, focus on quick-digesting carbohydrates; raw or dried fruits, applesauce cups, fig bars, rice cakes, yogurt, or sports drinks are all options.
Coolers and ice packs should be a part of your sporting equipment. Just as shoes and sport gear go in a gym bag, fuel and hydration go in your cooler. Load it up with nourishing choices for the day such as plain or Greek yogurt, sandwiches, sports drinks, bottled water, fruits, vegetables and any other foods you want to eat during your time away from home.
Parents can encourage healthy eating behaviors in children by first modeling those desired behaviors. Children mimic the behaviors of the adults in their lives. Therefore, if you want your child to eat healthy, work to set a good example.
Eat family meals together as often as possible. Parents are responsible for the what, when and where of eating, so do your part by planning healthy meals and snacks at set, regular meal and snack times. Encourage eating at the table as a family and not in front of the TV, while distracted or in the car. As long as parents do their part – the what, when and where of feeding – children are responsible for deciding how much to eat and whether or not to eat at all.
Make eating a pleasant and positive experience. Introduce new or healthy foods to your child in a fun and positive way and never nag children or make negative comments about a child’s eating habits. This only makes things worse. Offer, but don’t force! The more you pressure your child to eat a certain food, the less likely your child will be to eat that food. On the other hand, the more you restrict certain foods, it’s more likely your child will want that food.
For me, these are the three guys from the last decade or so who have mastered the shielding of the ball, getting the body between the ball and the opposition, and navigating tight spaces. Don't ever lose the ball, master the art of ball retention. Click and enjoy!