Soccer Series: Event Visits, What Are Those?
By: Brittany Gonzales, B.S., C.S.C.S., F.M.S.
Do you have an Athlete Performance Coach coming to watch your athlete during an Event Visit? Of course you do, so what are the Coaches looking for, what can they see on the field that they cannot see in the gym? Why is it important for your athlete to be evaluated outside the gym?
First off, let’s identify the Athlete Performance Coach. As the name states, the Champion’s Quest coaches and myself (Coach Brittany) are looking at the athletic performance of our athletes. We are looking for speed mechanics, body mechanics during specific sport skills, and changes in their confidence relating to their sport, their teammates, and their coach. (Speed Mechanics is explained below. Sport Specific Skills and Confidence will be coming up in the next couple months.)
Soccer is a powerful, quick moving, high intensity game for a long period of time. During the course of a game, speed is needed in various areas. While I am out at a soccer game, I am looking for specific body mechanics when an athlete decides to sprint in a game. Over the course of the game, I am looking to see if they can sustain their speed and stamina for the whole game. As well, when does the athlete fatigue, and which types of sprints do they feel most confident in performing.
– Long sprints – On a large soccer field, the long sprints can be anywhere from a 15-yard sprint for an offensive through run to a 40-yard sprint on a defensive transition off a quick counter attack.
The athlete’s running form is the most important skill to running faster. Are they running with their arms down by their side? Do they look like they are putting in a lot of effort and not getting anywhere? Is the athlete hunched over while they sprint, can’t get their knees up? All these factors and many smaller technical factors can decide if that athlete is going to get to the ball before their opponent does.
-Short sprints – Short Sprints can be a quick 5-yard sprint towards a loose ball or a 10-yard sprint checking back to a teammate. Whether it’s an offensive sprint or defensive sprint, these short sprints require the athlete’s 100% effort in their power of their legs and arms.
Being explosive and powerful from the first step towards the ball will give the athlete the best position towards the ball, coming into contact with the opponent, and protecting them against injury. If an athlete takes 3 steps to increase their speed and power in the short sprint, then they will more than likely not win the ball or be in a great position to defend. You can often hear that an athlete is faster once they get going into their run. Unfortunately, when the speed of play is fast, this type of athlete will have a hard time keeping up with the other team and possibly their own team. Teaching an athlete how to use their power immediately will help them become faster in their short sprint.
-Change of direction – Cutting and agility are a form of speed found when the athlete jukes with a move on the ball and gets past a defender. It is also seen as the goalkeeper comes out on a corner kick and dives laterally to save the ball from going in by the back post.
From a young age, we are taught to walk forward first and then backwards or sideways once we start playing sports. Soccer is a sport that requires all directions and demands the athlete to feel comfortable performing it right away. Often times, you can see an athlete react slowly on defense or trip over the ball when they try to dribble around a defender. Because we don’t learn how to maneuver our body on the sides of our feet, an athlete’s change of direction could be affected by the lack of balance, lack of core strength; thus, hindering their ability to cut while defending the opponent.
Seeing how an athlete approaches the cut, executes it, and then accelerates with speed helps me learn how to train the athlete. Are they confident while they execute the movement? Is their body in the proper position to decrease chances of ACL tears? Does the athlete’s upper body move at a different pace than their lower body? Learning how to maneuver your body in different directions is a vital part in training the brain and body to act as one and give the athlete the advantage they need on the field.