Monthly Archives: July 2011

Jul 07

Keeping Track of Soccer Fitness: Part 2

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Measure your soccer team's soccer fitness and conditioning

What are the important skills or exercises to keep track of for youth soccer?

It depends on the individual team. Younger kids are going to have more generalized fitness goals. Old and higher levels of soccer will be more specific.

The older athlete will probably have more of them as well. They should have input into what is being measured…as well as goal setting for how they will accomplish the goal.

Here are some exercises that a U8 soccer team could use to see if they are improving in their fitness goals.

1. 50 yard dash. For measuring speed.

2. 5 yard agility run. Players shuffle for five yards and touch the yardline each time. Do six touches. Measures agility.

3. Push-ups. A good general measure of upper body strength.

4. Crunch or sit-up. Not the best core exercise but easily administered and standardized. See how many in 30 or 60 seconds.

5. Three standing broad jumps for distance. Measure leg strength and easier to measure than jumping for height.

Obviously, you could add as many exercises as you wanted. I think five is a good number; enough to measure most fitness goals needed for soccer.

How often should you measure or test?

I would do it three or four times during the season. You don’t have to test each one at the same time.

Another thing to do is to give the kids an “I can do” report. When they are done with the test, they take home a goal sheet that states:

I can do 12 push-ups.

I can do 21 sit-ups in 30 seconds.

This will keep the kids involved and the parents as well. Let the parents know that you think fitness is an important part of being a soccer player.

Get your parents to help you improve their children’s fitness and athletic skills. Encourage them to check out athletic skills for soccer; the only program that teaches parents how to improve their child’s soccer fitness.

Click on the above link to find out more!

Jul 07

Keeping Track of Soccer Players’ Fitness: Part 1

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Keep track of fitness goals

As a coach there are a lot of things to keep track of; attendance, skills, attitudes, game strategy…it is a never ending job.

I’ve got one more item for you to add to your list.

Keep track of fitness stats for your team.

Keeping track of how your team is performing on certain tasks helps them focus on fitness and performance.

It helps you focus on it too. If you measure it, it is more likely to improve. And fitness is something that can always be improved.

You don’t have to measure every aspect of their training. That is more of a specialists realm. If they play on top level teams; elite, college, pro, then trainers and coaches should be handled that specialized assignment.

Yet, even at the youngest age-groups things can me measure. If it’s not worth measuring, it might not be worth doing.

For instance, imagine a U6 team running. Soccer coaches typically will have them run around the field or a couple of cones. This could be very appropriate.

But why not time them?

Have some measure of if they are improving or not. Otherwise, how will you know.

Now besides fitness (strength, balance, speed) there are other sport specific things that can be measured. Possibilities are:

  • Distance a ball can be kicked
  • Accuracy of kicks
  • Number of juggles in the air with a ball

When you record it, it doesn’t have to be a contest between individuals. It is better to make it a competition with yourself.

The following post will go into more detail on how and what to track for children’s fitness.

Jul 06

How to prevent against heat stroke in youth soccer.

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Watch for signs of heat stroke and exhaustion among your soccer players

It’s been hot here in the Bay Area.  Up in the nineties and pushing 100 in the valley and inland areas.

It’s tough to go outside. I’ve been getting my workouts in either in the morning before work or in the afternoon. The afternoon ones are indoors where it is air conditioned and cool.

Still, the heat saps you.

I watched some soccer teams practice yesterday and the coach had all the kids in the shade. He had modified practice so that the team had to be in the shade.

He was making sure they were drinking lots of water as well.

That was smart.

Every year, athletes die do to heat stroke. Typically, it’s the American Football player but not always.

Playing in the heat and humidity takes a huge toll on athletes. Here are some tips to help you keep your team safe:

  • Make them drink water frequently. Every 30 minutes is best.
  • Keep them in the shade as much as possible.
  • Allow for frequent breaks and rests. This helps them and also allows you to check up on their condition.
  • If you see signs of heat exhaustion or stroke, take them indoors immediately. Be aware that you may have to call the paramedics.
  • Find other things to work on besides conditioning or scrimmages. Perhaps you can have chalk talks or work on flexibility.
  • Be prepared to stop or cancel practice. Getting kids hurt is not the way to having a successful team.
  • Overweight and out of shape kids are more likely to have heat problems. Also, younger athletes do not sweat like adults and tend to store more heat than adults do.

Know the signs of symptoms of heat stroke and exhaustion. Always observe your team to keep them safe.

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Jul 06

Soccer Injuries: An overview

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Poorly trained athletes are more likely to be injured

Soccer is a relatively safe sport, but like all sports there are always risks.

Coaches and parents need to reduce the risks by being aware of:

  • The field conditions: Poor turf conditions lead to higher injuries;
  • Temperature: High and humid temps greatly increase the risk for heat type injuries;
  • Athletes abilities; Poorly conditioned athletes are more likely to get hurt;
  • Pre-exisiting conditions; previous injuries, genetic concerns;

Here is a list of different types of injuries that coaches and parents should be aware of. Having knowledge of potential injuries and what to do about them is half the solution.

Also, there should always be access to a well stocked first aid kit at every practice.

  • Foot injuries include plantar fasciitis, hammer toes, toe nail injuries and of course athletes foot.
  • Ankles: ankle sprains and strains are the most common. Occasionally, there are breaks.
  • Shins: Stress fractures, shin splints, fractures, and contusions.
  • Knees: ACL injuries (higher in girls), meniscus tears, and chondromalacia.
  • Muscular and tendon: Tears and pulls, especially for athletes not fully conditioned.
  • Hips and Shoulders: Occasionally a hip or shoulder can be dislocated. This is a serious problem and needs immediate medical attention.
  • Head Injuries: Concussions from contact with another player or the ground. The most common are bloody noses and eye injuries from player to player contact or the ground.

One of the best ways to prevent many of these injuries is being properly trained and conditioned.

One of my big concerns is that many kids come to soccer without the physical background for success…which also means they can be more likely to get injuried.

As parents please make sure your so and daughter has the proper physical conditioning to be safe and happy on the soccer pitch.

For exercises which will improve their athletic skills as well as decrease the likelihood of many of these injuries be sure to click the link.

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Jul 06

How to Do Pistols for Youth Soccer Conditioning

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Not this type of pistol...

No, not the kind of pistol you carry around in a holster.

Pistols are an advanced leg strength and balance exercise that is an excellent posterior chain exercise.

They are basically a one legged squat. The leg you are not using is extended out in front and you try to go all the way till the seat of your pants touches your heels.

I’ve tested over 50 individuals and have had only one person be able to do them without training.

They take a lot of strength, but perhaps even more, they require balance. Athletes who can squat two times their body weight can’t do pistols without practice.

Because they require so much balance, they develop all the muscles of the legs; glutes, adductors, abductors, quads and hamstrings. I believe they help prevent pulled groin muscles a common injury among soccer players.

I’ve been doing them during my workouts and they are exhausting. I’m up to 7 consecutive repetitions off of each leg (all done with support). Let me tell you, they are difficult…and you feel them the next day.

I wouldn’t do these with very young kids but for athletes that are over ten they are more than appropriate.

This type of pistol. The one leg squat

When teaching kids (or yourself), use some modifications. Here are some ideas…

  • Hold on to a horizontal bar with both hands. Use as much upper body support as necessary. Usually, more is needed to get down for balance and the strength is needed for coming up.
  • Use one hand on a vertical support.
  • Try holding a partners hands and go down. When they can do two hands move it one hand.
  • Have players sit down on a bench while doing a pistol. They won’t have to go so far and it’s easier. The lower the bench, the more difficult.
  • When doing a pistol without support, bring the arms forward for balance. Holding a weight can aid in balance as well.

Pistols are a challenging exercise. Soccer players and athletes like challenges. See how many of your players can do. Work up to ten with each leg.

Pistols are not part of the Athletic Skills for Soccer Program, though the fundamentals taught will help all athletes be able to perform them easier and faster.

Improve your team’s soccer fitness by following the exercises in the program and have better, happier athletes.


Jul 05

Soccer Conditioning and Stretching for Kids

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Should Youth Soccer Players Be Doing This Stretch?

I see a lot of elementary school programs during the day.

Typically, when they do PE it is led by someone who is easily 100 pounds overweight. I do not think this person has much of a background in physical education, fitness or even exercise.

The first thing they always do is sit and stretch. They do this even if the class is a kindergarten or first grade class.

Now, I think for the teacher, stretching is probably a good idea. But not for younger kids.

At least not like that.

Now older kids typically do need flexibility work. I know that my 17 year old son is very tight and has some movement problems because of it.

What type of stretching should kids be doing?

Here are my flexibility basics for coaches:

  1. Do mobility exercises prior to stretching to warm-up muscles.
  2. Dynamic flexibility at the beginning of practice; passive stretching at the end (if appropriate).
  3. Partner stretches can injure athletes.
  4. Start at the top (neck) and work down (ankles).
  5. Standing stretches can develop strength and balance.
  6. If limbs are straight the stretch is more in the joints. If bent, focuses more on the muscle.
  7. Stretch a muscle, release, repeat
  8. Stretch and strengthening are a great combination for strength and flexibility.
  9. If it hurts, stop.
  10. Teach breath control with stretching.

Of course, each point could be an entire article. Which ones do you think are the most important?

I’m going to be coaching high school athletes this year and am looking forward to expanding on this list and seeing what I can add.

I’ve some ideas on teaching movement from the core and have some ideas from Scott Sonnen on ways that it can be taught.

Hey Coach, how about having your parents help you improve the soccer conditioning and fitness of your team?

Encourage them to grab my program so they can use fun, simple and easy exercises to develop their kids fitness, strength, speed and balance. Click the link to find out more!

Jul 05

Learned Helplessness and It’s Effect on Kids and Sports

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Don't let learned helplessness stop your child

Have you heard about the experiment psychologists did in the 60s?

They took dogs and exposed them to a shock. One group of the dogs could move away.

The other group had to tolerate the shock. They were tied up and not allowed to move (cruel, I know).

After a period of time, the group that was tied up was released so that they could move. But guess what…?

They did not. Even though they could move, they chose to stay put.

This trait is called learned helplessness.

I noticed it first with two of my dogs; Art and Kira.We would frequently play catch and fetch.

Kira was faster and more aggressive. But Art was my favorite and I would throw the ball to him. After a few times of having Kira take the ball away, he would not go after it. Even if he was really close, he wouldn’t try to get the ball.

It got to the point where I would take them out separately so he could have fun and exercise.

I think about this when I watch kids play sports. The bigger, faster, stronger kids get more time, more experience and more success.

The other kids tend to sit and watch.

Heck, even professional athletes tend to do it. Remember how they would stand and watch Michael Jordan?

This is one reason I feel that kids need to work on basic athletic skills just to have a chance in youth sports and soccer. If they don’t have the skills, most kids won’t put the effort into gaining them on their own.

They need help and time to practice gaining strength and speed.

Think about this, the next time you watch your child try and fail going for the ball.

To learn how you can teach your child the athletic skills need for sports and soccer conditioning, order my program. It’s great for parents and coaches who work with kids who are not yet on the elite level. Click here for soccer fitness and conditioning.

Jul 05

Teaching Grit to Kids for Soccer Success

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Teaching positive psychology is critical for happy, healthy kids.

A must read for parents and coaches is Martin Seligman’s, Flourish. The book is about positive psychology and experiments that have been done to see it’s effects on youth and adults.

It’s a very good book with lots of examples of how being positive is important for success.

To me, success on the athletic field is secondary to success in life. The skills that are required for athletic success are similar to the ones needed to be good human beings.

I don’t think that sports are the only way to aquire these skills. And if they are not taught, many kids will not develop them. However, sports and physical challenges bring health and fitness benefits that no other activity does.

Even though our society is becoming less physical, I think we as humans and mammals still need a physical component to really understand ourselves and to fit into the world.

In the book, Seligman has one exercise that showed huge benefits to the students studied. This was the Three-Good-Things exercise.

It is similar to “Give or Get” which I mentioned in a previous post.

For this activity students were to write down three good things that had happened to them during the day. They did this for a week.

The three things didn’t have to be big things. They could be small and inconsequential. For instance, “A girl smiled at me today” or “I got a question right in math”, would both be appropriate.

After writing three good things they were to write about one of three questions:

  1. Why did this thing happen?
  2. What does this mean to you?
  3. How can you have more of this good thing in the future?

If you want to instill positive psychology with your team or child, going through this process could be very enlightening and rewarding.

But before you do, try it yourself.

Do it for a week and see what changes happen in your life.

Be sure to let us know how it went. I will comment after my week is up as well.