Ask any college soccer player about the offseason (or Spring season), and they will tell you how brutal it can be. It is a time to challenge yourself to be greater than you already are, especially in terms of fitness. The Spring season gives you the time to work on yourself not only physically, but also mentally. Don't get me wrong; you will be doing a lot of running, lifting, and working on foot skills, but you get to develop into a better athlete while growing your team's culture along the way. Stick with me and you will learn some tips to survive your first college offseason.
One Step at a Time
Take it from someone who overthinks every single situation. The key during offseason training is to not worry about things that are not in your control. It can be easy to stress over what your coaches have planned for you and your teammates. If you focus on only the task at hand, it can eliminate some anxiety about future events you can't control. You can control your effort, mindset, what you eat, and how you take care of your body. You cannot control the weather, your team's workouts, the formations, or opponents. Focus on one thing at a time and roll with the punches.
State of Mind
When thinking about all the work you are putting in, remind yourself why you chose to play at the collegiate level in the first place. As athletes, especially soccer players, we thrive in a setting that continues to challenge us to be the best version we can be. When you are feeling down on yourself or exhausted, remember that you are in this position for a reason. Where you are now will allow you to become a better athlete, and your future self will thank you for it. Keeping a positive mindset will help you get through the hard workouts and give you something to look forward to. It is all about positive self-talk; remember your goals and what you are trying to accomplish in the seasons to come.
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Recover Recover Recover
Recovering and rejuvenating your body are vital when you continuously put your leg muscles through so much stress. Recovery means you take the right actions to ensure your body is not breaking down, injured, or overworked. This could mean rolling out your legs, taking ice baths, and stretching after practice to help your body stay loose and prevent injuries. As you recover, you will see your body become stronger because you take the time to take care of it.
Consider buying some recovery equipment to keep at home and take any chance you have to stretch or loosen up your body with a roller or massage gun. If you have a busy schedule, the best time to do so is while doing homework, cooking, or watching a tv show. You can always find the time to recover if you look hard enough.
Fuel Your Body
Having a good diet goes hand-in-hand with recovery. You will never get stronger unless you give your body the fuel it needs to work and recover. Some good snacks to keep in your soccer bag or cabinet are protein bars, boiled eggs, lunch meat, pretzels, cheese cubes, chocolate milk, fruit, and veggies. Getting the appropriate nutrients allows you to perform better on the field and in the classroom.
Fueling your body also means getting the appropriate hydration. As you sweat in the hot sun, the water and electrolytes in your system are leaving your body. The key to getting the right amount of water is to keep a water bottle or sports drink handy. Trainers have always told me to drink half of my body weight in water. Another form of hydration is electrolyte tablets or Liquid IV. They come in many flavors and have extra benefits in addition to hydration. For soccer players who tend to work out in the heat, continuous hydration is our friend, and these products can help improve your sleep, immune system, energy and multiply your hydration.
The offseason can be both mentally and physically draining. Even though you are already working yourself as a person and an athlete, you must find time to devote to your mental health. It can be as simple as watching your favorite movie or going to dinner with friends. Treating yourself also means focusing on you, and finding different ways of getting your mind right for the next day.
When you are working on improving yourself, you are capable of anything. These small tips will help you have a successful and more enjoyable Spring season. Take it one day at a time, recover after your workouts, focus on your state of mind, fuel your body with the suitable nutrients, and take time out of your week for yourself. Have fun and good luck on this offseason journey.
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* Originally published on March 11, 2022, by Daesha Harper