Youth Soccer Players:Take Your Game Home Over the Summer

Don’t you love that last day of school? You return all your books, say goodbye to your teachers and head out the door. Don’t have to think about any of THAT stuff till September. All good, unless you volunteered to take the class pet home for the summer. Him, you have to feed, water, exercise and clean up after. Why’d you volunteer for this? Because you want him to stay healthy over the summer and be fit for the fall.

Well, your soccer game is something like that class pet. It will be happy for a break, but putting it completely aside will make that first day at summer soccer camp a painful experience, not to mention the fall season. So, feed and water your summer game, but inject some variety and fun. Come fall, rather than digging the buried boots out of the closet, your feet  still will be under you and you’ll be hungry to dive back into the game.

When you’re in season, your training and play demands a lot out of the muscles you use most for soccer. The rest of your body may feel a bit neglected. In fact, that imbalance is often at the root of some of those aches and pains. Try on some of these summer fun options. They’ll give you a break AND keep you tuned.

  • Going to the beach? Take along some friends and your soccer ball for some sand soccer. Just be sure you’re clear of other beach bathers. The sand adds a new dimension to sending the ball and a whole new challenge to keeping your balance. While you’re at it, how about some beach volleyball or some Frisbee in the waves? Just check with your friendly neighborhood lifeguard for local rules and regulations.
  • Got water but no beach?  If you have a community or gym or rec center pool, see if they have a swim team or a training class. Or design a workout of your own. Don’t worry about swimming in the fast lane, just swim. Try all the strokes. Learn them if you don’t know them. Swimming is a great non-impact cardiovascular and cross training option. Can you finish each swim by sprinting the length of the pool without a breath?
  • Got friends? Find a cul-de-sac or a grassy field nearby and invite a bunch of kids, girls and boys of all ages to show up and bring their balls, gloves, Frisbees – whatever gear you can play with. Then improvise a game plan. Pick teams and play ultimate Frisbee or kickball, soccer, whiffle ball, spud. (Don’t know how to play, check out for descriptions and rules of neighborhood games.) Be sure to include all ages in the fun. Even teams and everybody-plays is what summer is all about.
  • Got a bike? Dust it off or borrow one. There’s nothing like catching a good downhill, but work those uphills. Shift it into a gear that challenges, but keep the power stroke smooth. Spinning is best and easiest on the knees. Keep the pedals cranking all the way to the top. Standing up to pedal gives the quads a break and calls on the hamstrings. Let them pull their weight. Imagine you’re Lance, tackling the hills in the Tour de France.
  • Stuck at home? Not a problem. There are some great workouts you can do with some simple home equipment. Get a fitness ball and some handweights and you’re golden. Get going with this fitness ball core workout on the Fit2Finish website. Don’t forget to stretch afterwards. You might find a resistance band or stretching rope helpful. Try these stretches to start and then add your own.
  • Indoors? Be a little bit bad. Go ahead, run up the stairs. Take ‘em two at a time. Go sideways. Hop two-footed. Just watch the noise if your parents or your siblings are trying to sleep. Speaking of parents… Challenge them to a race. Invite them to ride or run or swim. See if they’ll give you a lift to the local climbing wall. REI or Dick’s Sporting Goods often have walls open to intrepid athletes. Nothing like heading skyward while your parents stay earthbound, eh?
  • Aching to compete? Sign up for a 5K or 10K race. Be sure and train the right way. Gradually increase distance and speed by no more than 10% per week. Here is a basic training plan  if you’re new to racing. Be sure you have the proper running shoes, and beware of asphalt and cement training surfaces that can be tough on your shins. Boring? Get a friend to train with. (or a dog) Then challenge each other in surprise sprints to the next mailbox or the phone poll. They call those fartlek runs – that’s even fun to say.
  • Need some variety? You can set up your own fitness circuit with odds and ends of equipment you have at home. Collect some cones, jump ropes, a fitness ball, hand weights or bands and some foam rollers or balance boards (You can make one with a piece of plywood and a tennis ball you slice in half and glue on the bottom). Then, by yourself or with some friends, hit each station at random. Go 1-2 minutes, then switch. Keep moving to keep the heart rate up, but try to alternate activities that challenge the arms, legs and core muscles. Check out these high school students trying out the fitness circuit. It looks like organized chaos. Mostly, it’s just fun.

And that’s what we want, right? If it’s fun, we keep doing it. So pour in the fun first, then add the fitness and have at it. It’ll bring you to your camp, your training and your fall season, fresh and ready for anything. Have a great summer!

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