Soccer players, parents and coaches are all pining for the game they love and the camaraderie of team interaction during this period of self-isolation and social distancing.
The new reality is incredibly challenging for everyone. For physical and mental health, plus preserving soccer-specific skills, it’s important that players train for their return to the pitch, whenever that happens.
What can you do, on your own, in these uniquely challenging times?
Blake Decker, academy director for Saint Louis FC of the United Soccer League, has some ideas. As the professional club’s point person on player development, they’ve had to quickly devise strategies for the lockdown to ensure their youth players don’t lose a beat.
“We took the initial word to shut down seriously,” Decker said. “One of the main challenges was keeping in touch with our guys. We’ve designed a set-up whereby staff have a few touchpoints with players each week and at least one touchpoint with each individual player one-on-one.”
He then underlined that their plans are reliant upon screens and technology.
“We’ve got general programs for physical conditioning and specific positional training drills our people are doing at home,” Decker said. “We’ve also tailored physical and skills training to each specific player in an attempt to help them get better.”
The club also sees this period as an ideal time to hone the cognitive skills that contribute to game intelligence. At the center of this effort is the computer-based software tool of Soccer IntelliGym. The software works on any computer or laptop, and helps players with mental skills such as anticipation, seeing the whole field, reacting in transition and understanding where an opponent may seek to attack. They plan to eventually roll out the program to every player in the club.
“One of the additional benefits of Soccer IntelliGym is that it allows for individualization of each player program, which is in line with our club’s overall developmental philosophy,” Decker said. “Along with developing specific technical and positional exercises that support each player’s Individual Develop Program (IDP), this function allows each coach to adapt a player’s program to best meet the goals of each player’s IDP in the tactical or cognitive domains.”
Saint Louis FC players are using IntelliGym three times per week. One is a group training session where they all train on the software together, at the same time, via a Zoom meeting.
“Doing things this way provides a shared experience for the teams and players gives us a sense of personal connection, which is missing these days,” explained Decker.
Keeping your youth player engaged
The soccer player in your house may be going through serious withdrawal and frustration. It’s obviously not easy for anyone. However, there’s plenty that can be done.
From video-centric skills and physical training to body-weight workouts and internet-based yoga routines, there are many ways to keep fit and sharp. It’s also an ideal time to improve the mental side of the game, which is often the main difference between being good and great on the pitch.
For more info on IntelliGym visit www.soccer.intelligym.com.