In light of the recent MLS Championship won by the LA Galaxy on Sunday, December 7th, you may be wondering how do these soccer players last 41 weeks of a MLS season during a World Cup year. Soccer players, like all other athletes, train their bodies and their minds, eat nutritiously, and take the necessary time to recover their bodies.
1) Physically and Mentally Fit: In a 90 minute soccer game, each player can run as little as 3 miles and sometimes 7 miles in the full game. In order for their bodies to last the entire game throughout the whole season, each soccer player must spend extra time maintaining their muscle strength and speed. The weight room is an extension of the soccer field. Two to three days a week, these professional soccer players are required to go to the weight room and workout.
The training regimens they complete are similar to those you see other athletes participating in, including: jump squats, kettle bell swings, med-ball slams, and other weighted exercises to strengthen their upper body and core. Strength work is just as important in youth athletes as well because it helps to prevent injuries and helps the athlete grow into their bodies. Putting in time in the weight room helps young players move closer to achieving their goals of playing like a professional soccer player.
2) Eat Nutritiously: Nutrition plays a huge role in the performance each soccer player can give in a game. Pre- and post- practice/game snacks and meals help with the recovery process in the body. If eating after a game is difficult, then chocolate milk or protein shakes help with the initial phases of recovery. Different foods affect each soccer player differently. Some soccer players feel heavy after eating a large amount of carbohydrates and prefer to eat additional protein instead. It’s important that every soccer player listens to their body and pays attention to which foods help them to perform best. It’s best to test different foods in the off-season with practices. Hydration is a big part of the nutrition process for each soccer player. For example, when they travel on airplanes, they drink anywhere between 8-10 ounces every 30 minutes on the plane. Youth athletes can benefit from proper nutrition and should be timing their snacks properly between their busy schedule and practices. Eating healthy at an early age teaches discipline and gives youth soccer players an advantage of playing more consistent because the body is fueled properly.
3) Physical and Mental Recovery: To be a competitive soccer player at any level, Recovery days are just as important as practice days. There are two types of recovery days that soccer players need: Active recovery and Passive recovery. Active recovery could be light cycling or light jogging for 15-20 minutes. Passive recovery involves stretching, ice baths, massage, and other recovery methods. Both active and passive recovery should be completed within the 48 hours after the game. Often times, these methods are also used following practices, scrimmages, and try-outs. Giving your body the needed physical rest helps the player’s mental recovery as well. After each game, every soccer player needs to evaluate their performance and then mentally move on and prepare for the next game. Every professional team has access to a professional sports psychologist. Sports psychologists help the soccer players to learn how to deal with their mistakes in the game and their stresses with coaches, teammates, and themselves. They also help with goal setting with the team and the individual players. This is extremely important for the whole team so that they can get through the season together and perform together at the team’s highest level. Being mentally strong can be developed early on and benefits the youth athlete as they are able to get past their mistakes quicker than those who are not mentally strong.
When every soccer player on the team is physically fit, mentally fit, has healthy eating habits, and goes through the steps of recovery, then each of those soccer players on that team have an opportunity to achieve their highest goals. It takes discipline, hard work, and consistency in the weight room, at practices, and in their own lifestyle. Youth athletes can be like a professional athlete every day by focusing on all the aspects it takes to get the most out of their body. The greatest reward from all the hard work is winning and perhaps being like one of the professional soccer players on the LA Galaxy in being the first MLS team to five championships.
Congratulations to the LA Galaxy for the 5th Championship for Los Angeles. Thank you to Landon Donovan for dedicating your life and career to push soccer forward in America. Thank you to all the LA Galaxy strength and conditioning coaches, the nutritionists, the physical therapists, the athletic trainers, the doctors, and all the support staff that have provided the means to keep the players healthy. And thank you to all the Galaxy Players for giving hope to all the young soccer players that want to one day be just like you! – Coach Brittany Gonzales
Tagged: 2014 MLS Champions, First to Five, LA Galaxy, Landon Donovan, LegenD, mental training, MLS Championships, professional soccer players, soccer nutrition, soccer recovery, soccer strength training, Soccer Training, ThankyouLD, Youth Soccer