Our Secret Academy Player talks about Off-Season Preparation and how to stay in optimal shape so while others are finding fitness at the beginning of the season he is ready to go.
When the sun sets on a season, most elite athletes are already thinking about the following season.
We live for what we do and do what we love and as a football player, our goal no matter how good we did the previous season is to top it because we know football has a short memory as it’s not what you did last season that matters (Mourinho won the league one season, lost his job the next) but what you’re currently doing.
Yes your coaches will tell you that rest is important and yes we as athletes know that and get our rest as we know our bodies both during the season and off it and we know our bodies off and on the pitch and resting isn’t a one size fits all terminology as some athletes love, need to be ou there with minimal rest.
Some athletes are always at peak that the term “wear yourself out” doesn’t apply to. We’ve heard of the workaholic that Ronaldo is, that Rashford is so what do athletes do during the off-season to get ready for the next season?
First thing is that the week of the last games for most Academies in Europe, your club hands you an exercise sheet, it’s true in Spain, Germany, France, the Netherlands. It’s an exercise sheet given to all players with stretches, runs and mostly cardiovascular and muscular exercises meant to keep the engine working so that when you return from the break, your muscles are not prone to injury and you will be ready to gradually build on the exercise shown you return.
For me and other driven athletes however, the exercise sheet is just a suggestion, warmup, a start…I don’t want to be at the same level as everyone else, I want to be faster, stronger and more technical so in the preseason I start my day knowing the importance of nutrition with a healthy breakfast.
Typically get up around 8.30/9am, eat a healthy breakfast, then head to the nearest soccer field where I start off with the stretches as those are important for agility and flexibility, which are critical to a football player.
Stretching is also important for injury prevention and if you’re within the age of 12-16 where injuries are at the highest because you’re growing, so I stretch for about 30 minutes before I start anything exercise.
After stretching, then the speed and cardio starts and this part is never in my clubs manual to do during the off-season but it’s something I’ve done since I was 9 and has helped with both speed and endurance.
I jog the long part of the field (sides) and sprint the backside for a full 30 minutes and I increase that time as the days go by. After that, I take a break, drink my Gatorade and or water with a banana and take a 10 minute break.
After cardio, then I do what I call 1000 touches which is basically doing different moves quickly with the ball in a small grid to help with coordination, keeping technique at a high rate (being the back, elastico, cruyff, everything all rolled into one and fast as that helps both with cardio and also technique in the off-season.
I do that for 30 minutes then the other part is personal….what do you as a player think you need to work on??? so everyday, I come with a game plan of something to work on, it could be free kicks, taking corners, crossing the ball, more conework, shooting, getting out of tight spaces…a specific move I just saw and want to incorporate into my game………… it varies.
After I’m done its back home, shower, relax, watch tv, spend time with my family, eat lunch and do normal things that everyone else does so you’re not sacrificing being a kid for being an athlete. Both terms are not mutually exclusive, you can be both as a matter of fact can’t be one without the other.
On most days if permitted, I go out to the field to see if there’s anyone else out there training that I can test some of what I trained on (on most days, no, most kids are indoors plying video games), I’m out in the fields working on one day being rated high in a video game.
The irony of what I do during the off-season is that I often feel that regular training doesn’t challenge or push me enough so I do the same even when the season is on and what I do in the off-season is just normal to me.
If you want something in life, you must have a healthy obsession with it so while others are sleeping and not training, you use that time to increase the gap between you and them or catchup with them in areas they were previously ahead of you.
In addition to training and staying in shape, the off-season also consists of keeping in touch with your teammates to keep team chemistry going, you anxiously await next season’s schedule and first day of training, keep eating the right food, depending on how long you have take a week vacation or so with family away from football and school and work to be ready for the next season.