Monthly Archives: May 2012

May 24

Workout of the Day: Using a Tennis Ball for Soccer Fitness and Coordination

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

image of tennis balls used for soccer fitness

Not just for tennis anymore

Sometimes coaches and parents get too focused on specific sport skills.

Sure, soccer uses the feet, knees and body to control the ball but developing the coordination of the hands will improve soccer performance as well.

I believe the better an athlete is at everything, the better they will be at one thing. This is especially true for younger and developing athletes.

Tennis balls are a lot of fun to catch and throw. It will help with hand and eye coordination as well as visual tracking skills.

In the drills I will present shortly, they use both hands so you’re also working on integrating the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Besides improving bilateral coordination, this also helps with reading at school. Pretty cool, right?

Here are some drills to be done as a workout of the day. They can be made more physically challenging by throwing some bodyweight exercises in between. But it’s not necessary; sometimes workouts should just be fun and easy!

Tennis Ball Drills for Soccer and Youth Sport Fitness

1. Toss the ball up in the air and catch it Willie Mays style (palm up so that it falls into the palm). Try to see how high you cat toss it. Can you spin a 360 and still catch it?

2. Toss the ball up in the air and snatch grab it. Toss right, catch left. Toss left, catch right.

3. Bounce and catch the ball, alternating hands. Try walking and catching. Walk backwards. Bounce it between the legs and behind the back.

4. Toss the ball up, bounce it off your knee or foot and catch it again. Try it with both legs. Use it like a Hacky Sack and see how many times you can bounce it off your feet or knees.

5. Throw the ball against a wall to practice fielding. Catch it with your weak hand, throw with your strong. Throw for speed, not accuracy (kids develop power first, control later).

6. Play handball against the wall with an opponent. We did this in high school and could have played for hours. It’s a great workout, very fun and competitive.

As you can see, there are lots of ways to use a tennis ball to develop athletic skills. Spend a day or a week working on the tennis ball skills and see how well it transfers to soccer or any other youth sport.

Does your child need more athletic development? Imagine how much better they will perform when they’ve improved their strength, balance and coordination. Click the link to learn how you can improve their athletic skills today.

May 23

Three Animal Exercises to Build Youth Athletes

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Kids love using their imagination. One of the easiest ways to get them to engage in an activity is to use a whacky or animal name for an exercise.

Here are three exercises which will build muscles, core strength…even a little bit of toughness. They are fun but tough to do.

The Bear Crawl for Youth Fitness

imagine of bear for kids fitness

How would you like to be one of these?

Here is a video of how to do one.Bearcrawls for youth sports. A few points to notice:

1. He does them slow. Kids like to rush it but tell them bears are slow.

2. He also does them backwards.

A great variation to add is to use a soccer ball and have kids play a modified soccer game. If their knees touch, they run around the field before they can get back in the game.

 

 

image of a crab for crabwalks and kids fitness

Who'd want to mess with one of these?

Crab Walks: Here is another one that is fun (until you get exhausted). crab walks for kids fitness. I like these a lot because they develop the posterior chain (hips, hams and glutes) which for most kids are undeveloped. And besides making them poorer athletes it can lead to injuries.

 

 

Picture of gorilla for kids fitness

Do gorilla walks are great for gorillas and youth athletes

The last video is of the Gorilla Walk (it gets good about a minute in). Here is the link: Gorilla Walks for Youth Fitness

I’ve used all these exercises with my athletes and they are tough to do. A little goes a long way. Most kids can’t push themselves too hard, especially when they are not in great shape to begin with.

If you’re doing these with your kids, then before to stop before they get tired. You want your athletes and kids to be clambering to do more.

As they get stronger, better and able to push themselves, you can increase the distance and time they do them.

And remember to provide plenty of breaks for them.

One good tip is to do one of the exercises and then do a sport specific skill such as dribbling a soccer ball around cones or shooting five shots. Then do another exercise and move right away into another sport specific skill.

This way they will move so fast they won’t have time to be bored or even know they are tired.

Hope you enjoyed the videos. Let me know what you think of them!

May 23

Workout of the Day #4: Running Drills for Youth Sports

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Image of athlete running

Running form is crucial to success for most youth sports

Kids need to learn how to run.

If you think good running technique is natural, you are wrong. Go out and watch a middle school PE class.

If you think running speed is a gift you either have or don’t have, you are wrong. Ask a track coach.

There’s a lot you can do as a youth coach to help your kids get faster. Speed will help any youth sport athlete; soccer, basketball, lacrosse, football.

This is a little workout that can be done with three great exercises that will help with running form and technique. It can be done at home or right before a practice to help groove in the motor memory for good technique and speed.

Exercises for Running Form

1. Arm Pumps: Stand straight with good posture. There should be a straight line from the ears, hips and ankles. Knees are slightly bent and the weight is on the balls of the feet with the heels just barely off the ground.

Arms are bent about 90 degrees. Raise the left arm so that the hand is shoulder height. Bring the right arm back so that the hand is just above the right hip. Hands should be loose and relaxed.

Now, switch arm positions slowly. Work on a nice relaxed movement. Everything should be relaxed, especially the face muscles. Scrunching your face up like it’s in a blender does not help you run faster.

Slowly increase the arm speed. Go for twenty reps. Rest and repeat three times, getting faster each time.

2. Wall Running: Place the feet about 3 feet away from a wall. Lean into the wall and use your arms for support. From here, make sure you have good posture; back is straight and aligned from head to feet. The heels should be just barely off the ground.

Now, start running in place. Work on very quick touches on the ground. The less time your feet are on the ground the faster you will be. Try running like this for 10 seconds. Rest and repeat 3 times.

3. Three step and stop: Stand and balance on the left leg. Raise the right knee. The left arm will be up and the right arm will be back. The weight should be on the ball of the left foot with the left heel just barely off the ground.

Take three steps in place and then stop. Now, you should be on your right foot. As you take your steps focus on exploding the legs down quickly into the ground. We want very quick steps which will carry over to quick steps when running.

Rest a few seconds and repeat three times. When you have done all the exercises, repeat one or two times more.

This workout is for form, not endurance or even strength. A little bit done frequently will have better results than doing it to exhaustion. It’s better to do a few quick movements then to do them as conditioning.

Spend some time before each practice going over running form. You will find your team getting much faster and quicker.

Be sure to order my athletic skills for soccer program and receive my free bonus ebook PASS Running to help your child be faster and a better athlete. Be an athlete for life.

 

May 22

Throw Something Wacky In…

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Picture of Johnny Carson who could always be wacky

Johnny would have been a great soccer coach

I’m a big fan of doing something different during practice. Something unexpected,something weird…something weird and wacky as Johnny Carson used to say.

It doesn’t have to be much. It might last just a minute or two.

Of course, you can occasionally have an entire practice of wackiness.

When doing tough conditioning, having something fun between exercises does a couple of things.

First, it gets the kids minds away from how tired they are.

Second, it makes them have to come back and refocus. Refocusing is a difficult skill for kids and this is an easy way to introduce the concept.

Finally, it’s just plain fun and different. Humans crave uniqueness. If the kids are always wondering what’s coming up next, they will keep coming to practice.

I’ve taken a rambunctious group of eight year-olds and had them get still and listening to me just because I started talking in some bad German accent.

I’ve had a high school swim team exhausted and unable to do any more swimming. By throwing in some silly stuff, ten minutes later they were back into it and couldn’t wait for the next hard set.

As adults it can be difficult to step out of the box and be a little bit silly. That alone is reason to try it.

What are some ways you can be wacky at practice?

My next blog post will have 7 different ways to be wacky.

Until then,

Ron

May 22

Soccer Fitness for Kids: The Importance of Breathing and Three Exercises to Learn How

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

image of lungs

Learn to control your breathing for youth sports success

Breathing is something we do every day that we live.

It is something that is rarely taught to athletes. And almost never to kids.

But I think it should be. By learning to focus on their breathing, kids will learn how to calm down. It will improve their focus. It will improve their performance.

In Yoga, there is an art and a science to teaching breathing techniques. Also, singers and musicians practice breath control. So do snipers, sharp shooters and archers. Breathing is an integral part of martial arts as well.  I’m not a golfer, but I bet the top golfers work on their breathing too.

Now, a youth soccer player is not going to focus on their breath during a game the same way that a sharp shooter does. But to have the skill of knowing how to control their breath before a game or during a game will have a huge impact on their performance.

One way to learn to control your breath is to do exercises where the focus and concentration is on the breathing…not on the movement. Some exercises are better than others for this.

Three Exercises for Youth Sports and Breathing:

Here are three of my favorite exercises. The keys for all of these is:

  1. One breath for each repetition.
  2. When the body contracts, exhale.When it expands, inhale.
  3. Breathe in and out through the nose.

Squats for breathing. Perform a squat. As you go down, exhale. When you stand up, inhale. The focus is on the breathing, not the strength benefits of the exercise.

Alternating toe touches. Spread the legs double shoulder width. Arms are out wide and inhale. Bend down and touch the left foot with the right hand. As you bend, exhale. Come back to the starting position and inhale. Repeat to the other side.

Kids do this exercise all the time. But they usually do it very quick and sloppy. Do it slow and controlled, focusing on one breath for each touch.

Bendies. Take a push-up position. Take a breath and raise your hips as high as possible. As you do, exhale. Then drop your hips (keeping the arms straight) and arch your back. As you arch, inhale. Repeat.

Try to do 10 repetitions for each exercise and go through 3 rounds. Take nice long slow breaths while doing the exercises.

Younger kids will benefit from these exercises as well. I have found that the kids with the biggest problems in school whether from reading or misbehaving, have the biggest problem doing these types of exercises. Doing them in class has helped calm them down.

May 21

Kids Fitness Workout of the Day #2:

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

image of kids exercising

Twisting is good for balance and strength

This is a great cardiovascular workout for kids. It covers strength, balance, endurance, and even some coordination. Here are the exercises:

1. Skips in place with alternating hands touching opposite knees: 30 seconds.

2. T-push-ups. Spread legs wide for balance. Raise one hand up towards the sky. Repeat and switch the the opposite side. 10 repetitions.

3. Split Jumps: A power move. Place your left leg forward. Jump up high and switch legs.Use your arm swing to get up high. After each landing hold for two seconds: 20 repetitions.

Take 10 seconds rest and repeat the whole set 3 to 5 times.

Reason and purpose of the fitness exercises for kids

The first exercise, the skips is good for cardiovascular endurance. By crossing over and touching the opposite knee, it helps with coordination.

T-push-ups work on strength and balance. If your kids are strong enough, have them do a push-up and then the T. These also target the core and oblique muscles.

Split jumps are a plyometric exercise. By stopping and holding, you’re working on strength as well. Make sure you use the momentum of the arms to help you get high. This will also work on coordination.

Hope you enjoyed the workout (or your kids did). One of the important benefits of doing a workout every day is the habit of exercise it develops.

Kids that develop good exercise habits, develop into good athletes. And students.

 

 

May 20

Workout of the Day #1 for Kids Fitness

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Workout of the Day #1  for Kids.

image of Olympic Jumper

Jumping is critical for many youth sports including soccer

This is the first of many workouts for kids. It’s also great for adults. Feel free to modify the exercises. Five Burpees might be too difficult for some kids. Also, younger kids might need more rest.

This workout could be done at any time of the day. If you do it in the morning, go slower and easier the first time through. Then increase the speed and effort on the second and third times.

1. 5 Burpees (with a push-up)
2. Run in place with high knees for 20 seconds
3. Jump as high as possible for 5 times. Take 5 seconds rest after each jump.

Rest 1 minute after completing the first three exercises. Go for 3 to 5 rounds. Each round will take approximately 3 minutes.

The Burpees are a total body conditioning exercise. They are one of the best exercises for developing general athletic fitness. Kids may rush through them. I have found that counting them out (one through six) slowly develops better form.

Running in place with high knees helps with running technique as well as core strength. Emphasize good posture and arm pumps as they run. They should land on the balls of their feet and the heels should not touch the ground.

The jumps add some explosive power to the workout. I believe that kids need combinations of all energy requirements (aerobic, anaerobic, power) for each workout. The power translates well to running speed, kicking power, and overall quickness.

Take some time between jumps. The purpose is to get set, jump and rest. Then get set again.

If you are just starting to workout with your child, then make sure you emphasize fun. And do it with them as well. Kids do much better when they are part of a team…even if that team is only Mom, Dad and them.

 

May 19

Youth Workout of the Day

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Picture of Mom and two kids running

Running will be part of the workout of the day

I’m starting a new daily feature on my blog. It’s a “Workout of the Day”, a concept that Crossfit does. I’m not happy with the name but rather than waiting for the perfect name, I’m going to get started on writing them.

The workout of the day will have various formats. It basically will be two, three or four exercises that can be put together as a circuit. Some of them will be able to be done inside your house in the living room.

Others will have to be outside.

Some may require equipment…most will not. They will be appropriate for most kids…most of the time. Because there’s coaches and parents who read my blog and have bought my ebook, I hope they will be of use to both of you.

And because of the wide ages and ability of kids who benefit from my blog and products, I will have some that are easier…and some that are more difficult.

The workouts will be designed to improve:

  • Speed
  • Agility
  • Leg Strength
  • Endurance
  • Balance
  • Upper Body Strength
  • Vision Exercises
  • Running Form
  • Athletic Stance
  • Power
  • Core Strength
  • Plyometic Exercise
  • Coordination

As you can see, there are a lot of areas of youth fitness to be covered.

The Workouts of the Day will be about 10 to 15 minutes in length. Some might be longer, but this is not a complete conditioning program. It is an easy way for parents, coaches and even older kids to quickly get a workout that can be done with minimal direction and equipment.

I hope you perform the workout as well. Too often as parents and coaches we don’t allow enough time for our own workouts, health and fitness. If you do the workouts as well, the kids will have more fun and you’ll get healthier. That would be pretty cool, wouldn’t it?

Of course, if you’re coaching a soccer team with 20 kids it might not be practical to do the exercises with the kids.

Since I’m not happy about the name, if you have any clever ideas, please let me know. And as always, give feedback on how you like the blog posts and workouts.

To Fit and Healthy Kids,

Ron Usher

 

May 19

More Ladder Type Drills for Soccer Fitness, Agility and Coordination

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Picture of athlete doing agility drills

Use yardage lines for agility drills

The agility ladder is a great piece of equipment but it isn’t practical for a large group of kids.

Instead of using a ladder which costs money, takes up space,and constantly needs to be readjusted, try doing the same exercises but use the yardage lines.

In my previous post, I outlined two drills. Here I will go into three more.

 

Four Steps and Slide. Have your athletes face the yardage line. For this drill they will be moving to the left. The athletes take a step with their left foot and step across the line(1). Then they step with their right foot and touch the line (2). Next, they step back with the left (3) and then back with the right (4). That’s the four steps.

This drill can be done in one place, but I like to keep the athletes moving. So this time, when they take the first step they take a step to the left. Every time they step with the left foot forward, they advance a little to the left. After they’ve gone about 10 yards, have them  run back to the starting line and repeat.

When they repeat, they will face in the opposite direction. Then their first step will be with the right foot.

It’s possible to get a lot of kids moving this way quickly.

Another variation of this agility drill for soccer is to start the first step with the right foot and move to the left. For this modality, they will have to step across their body to move to the left. A little different movement pattern working the muscles a little differently.

See Saw Drill: For this drill, the athletes straddle the line. Their left leg is forward and they will be moving down the line to their left. They quickly pick up their feet and shuffle down the line. After ten touches, they switch feet (right foot forward) and keep moving to the left.

Reverse the direction and then reverse the foot position to cover all possibilities.

Figure 8 jumps: These can be done with both feet, or on one leg. The athletes will take 8 jumps. The first is forward, over the line. The second is to the right. The third is backward, going over the line and the fourth jump is to the left to the starting position.

The next four jumps are the same, only the team jumps to the left.

These are excellent and fun drills for soccer or youth sports fitness. They don’t take long to teach, there are countless variations. They improve the strength, quickness and agility of the kids. They are also cardiovascularly demanding.

Instead of always doing the same running drills these agility drills for soccer are an excellent alternative for soccer fitness.

Be sure to let me know how they are working for you!

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May 18

Ladder Drills for Soccer Speed…Without the Ladder

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Picture of soccer players using an exercise ladder

A great tool but not always practical for teams

I’m sure you’ve seen ladders and ladder drills. They are designed to develop quickness, speed and coordination for athletes.

They are a lot of fun. Also a bit expensive.

And if you’re coaching fifteen ten year-olds, it’s hard to get them all busy at one time.

Plus, like I mentioned before…I’m kinda lazy and hate carrying equipment around. It takes up a ton of space in the car, it’s more for me to carry and half the time I end up losing it or never using it.

There is a free and easy alternative which is available on almost every soccer pitch. It can’t get messed up by kids stepping or tripping on it.

And it doesn’t take any time to set up or take down. What is it?

It’s using the yardage markers on the field. Almost any ladder drill can be modified to work on the field. And trust me. After working with hundreds of kids using the ladders, trying to keep the ladder neat and in a row, the yardage lines are much better.

Here are five drills that can be done quickly and easily using the lines. They can be done as part of a dynamic warm-up or a conditioning set. Also, there are hundreds of variations that can be done with simple modifications.

1. Three step and hold: For this drill, the players straddle the line. Start off on the left foot with the right foot raised. They take three quick steps (right-left-right). After the third step, the balance on the right foot and raise the left foot.

The balancing leg should be bent and they should be resting in a modified athletic stance.

After holding for a few seconds, they take another three steps and will be landing and holding on the left leg again.

2. Three step and quick lunge drill. The second drill is similar except this time they will stand facing the line. Again, the team starts on their left foot with the right foot raised. They take three quick steps and on the third step, the lunge forward with the left foot, crossing over the yardage line. Then they repeat the drill, alternating sides.

On this drill, you can make it more of a full body exercise by having the kids touch the ground. If they step forward with the left foot, they will touch the ground with the right hand.

And obviously (hopefully by now), another drill would be the same exercise except they would have to step back to cross over the line. This would be a backward lunge.

These drills are much better for older soccer players than standard lunges. It simulates the requirements for a game both neurologically and cardiovascularly. As long as the kids don’t have any previous injuries this is very appropriate.

The next post will have three more drills that you can use. But give these a try and see how they work. They can also be done at home with parents as part of a conditioning program.

And Mom and Dad…if you do them, you’ll get in shape too!