By Matt Settles
Coach Settles recently completely his 11th season as a high school coach in Indiana. The former collegiate player at the University of Southern Indiana is also a regular contributor to the Soccer Toolbox
Another high school soccer season has just ended. Now what? This is a question all high school coaches deal with as the busy practice and game schedule is now replaced with lots of free time. A common mistake I see with a lot of programs is that there are no offseason priorities put into place with the players and team. Kids have lives and move on with their schoolwork, other sports, activities, etc, but if you are not doing anything with your returning players until preseason practice the next year, you are missing out and have a lot of catching up to do.
I have focused on three simple priority areas for each offseason, which are described below. I feel these areas cover everything you want and need as a high school coach in preparing for the next season.
- Practice and play as much as possible
Your players don’t improve if they don’t touch a soccer ball for a year. It should be a main priority to have your kids practicing and playing as much as possible in the offseason. If you have a program where a lot of your kids step right into club soccer after the high school season, that’s great news and a big advantage. For those coaches with only a few club soccer players or none at all, there is a lot of work to be done in this area. Encourage your players to play indoor soccer during the winter, attend camps, or organize open fields where they can scrimmage and play.
- Strength Training
High school soccer is a very physical sport and players need to get stronger if they want to improve. Encourage kids to get in the weight room as much as possible. The biggest thing is to be consistent and not take weeks or months off. A big problem for a lot of players in regards to strength training is that they focus on upper body only. Lower body is just as important and needs to stressed so all parts of the body are strengthened. If your school has a weight class at school or a teacher/coach that can help your players with strength training, take full advantage of this. It’s very important for kids to not only be working out, but also understanding how to properly lift weights and take care of their bodies.
Long distance, sprints, plyometrics…any time of conditioning is good and works. The key is to do something and not wait months to get started. Players are normally in their best shape at the end of the season, but they lose their conditioning levels quickly with no more practices and games. If players are moving on to another sport, they are most likely staying in shape and getting lots of running with preparing for that season. If you can set up conditioning a few times a week for those players not playing another sport, it will pay off in the long run. No one likes conditioning, but be creative and try to challenge your players through competitions, setting or keeping track of team records, and then tracking progress throughout the offseason.