- Have you ever wondered what is too much fitness for youth soccer players? Just in the last month I could tell you half a dozen fitness horror stories I’ve heard from other coaches and players. It’s upsetting to hear that coaches are making youth players run more than college and pros. It goes to show how much these kids love soccer. Hopefully if you’re a coach you can prepare your teams the right ways. Fitness is needed, but it needs to be done more with a ball and fit into regular training sessions. Below I have listed how to do this.
A few youth soccer fitness stories
An 11 year old girls team had to run 9 miles in 1 practice session. Another story of a U17 team running 45 mins, 15 min break and then another 45 mins. In my 7 years playing pro across 15+ countries I never ran more than 5 miles. Pro coaches add in fitness after training OR before. I can’t think of many sessions as a pro where we showed up and only did fitness. Fitness should be tied into playing/training. When it’s only fitness should be a mix of sprints, walking and jogging, just like a real match.
For some reason some coaches think that youth players need to run as much as a PRO. Sure, pro midfielders run between 5-7 miles in a game, but this DOESN’T mean youth players should do this at PRACTICE or anytime.
Last year a soccer mom and dad told me how they have such a “good coach” because the coach played college soccer… They went on to rave how the coach had their 10 year old daughters team do 3-a-days during the Summer. Meaning 3 sessions per day – for 10 year olds. In case you’re wondering how the parents got their kids to practice 3x per day, they were from a small town outside Dallas making it easier for travel. Dallas (North Texas) is a top 3 youth soccer city in America, so it gets too intense obviously – haha.
The first session was running sand hills, second session treading water and the third session was actually playing soccer. I tweeted this out and my feed blew up with people basically saying how crazy wrong that coach was. Almost as bad is the parents thought it was good. But how would they know… This is one reason I blog. To help teach parents, players and coaches.
What should players/coaches do for fitness?
A well trained coach will tell you that most fitness should come with the ball. Meaning, there are many ways to involve playing soccer with fitness. One example is scrimmage, but make it to where all the players have to be up past a certain point/line for the goals to score. This forces the defenders to get up all the way (forcing fitness).
Another option could be where all the forwards have to get back to defend or the other team gets 2 points for 1 goal. These are 2 examples how fitness can be added into practice.
Top 2 things you can do to handle fitness
- Besides preparation training, make sure you are eating & drinking good. 3 meals. 3 snack periods. Including protein, carbs, veggies and fruit. You don’t have to be a health nut, but make sure during fitness weeks/days you are eating 90-95% healthy.
- Rest well. Go to bed at a decent hour and if you can take a nap once or twice a week – during the Summer heat anyway. Pro players take naps during pre-season fitness, so should YOUTHS.
What is too much fitness for youth soccer?
When there are no days off, when players are coming up with injuries. Players need at least 1 or 2 days off per week. More than 4 miles is too much in my opinion… You’re training for soccer, not cross country. Every good coach knows that fitness in soccer doesn’t come from just jogging 1 speed for long distance. Soccer fitness needs to be like how a game is… A mix of sprints, jogs and walking. Strength training can come from body weight exercises.
One reason kids are quitting sports more than ever
Fitness for youth soccer shouldn’t be like the navy seals. Fun has been taken out for too many kids. This is why the number of kids who quit sports by age 12 has skyrocketed. Coaches are putting winning and their resume over everything else and that’s just not right. Just remember you have a choice to make each season, so spend time finding the right fit. The “best league or club” shouldn’t be your main focus, especially before age 15.
Respect your coach either way
At the end of the day, everyone has a different coach and you have to be a good teammate and work your hardest – even if it means too much fitness. This is why it’s important to do what you can in regards to rest, diet and training. The good news if you have a coach who does too much fitness is you’ll have a story to tell and you’ll be mentally strong. Again, the key fitness for youth soccer or adults is to prepare by training solo, eating good and resting.