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 Why Youth Soccer Coaches Train Their Players To Be Slow 
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Post Why Youth Soccer Coaches Train Their Players To Be Slow
Why Youth Soccer Coaches Train Their Players To Be Slow
by: Mike Grafstein

Many coaches involved with youth soccer are volunteers. This is great; however in my experience many coaches still train their soccer players to be slow.

The purpose of this article is to set things straight and provide a new and different perspective on training for younger male and female athletes.

So where do we begin…? Let us first take a look at the most common type of training that has been ingrained in our brains for the longest time.

It has been thought for ages that soccer players need to have a solid aerobic base to last to the end of the game.

This is true! The difference lies in how you get there.

How many of you have your athletes or your child complete a twenty or thirty minute light jog 2-3 times a week. For many coaches and parents this is the norm for conditioning; however quite honestly you are setting up your players to be either injured or slow.

There are a few things you should know as a parent or coach to put conditioning into perspective for young athletes.

First, it is important to keep in mind the age of your athlete or child. Younger male and female children between the ages of 7-11 need to focus on speed development from both a neurological (nervous system and pattern development) and muscular (full active range of motion at the hip and knee) perspective

It is important to train proper movement on a consistent basis so in the long run there is a good mind to body connection. We call this motor programming.

In other words training for speed leaves a blue print for future development. As a soccer player gets older they will need to increase strength through a quality resistance training program.

By teaching proper running mechanics you are teaching the athlete to be fast. You are creating a solid motor program.

Motor programs are basically patterns of movement developed by connecting messages from the brain to the muscles in the body with out thinking.

Sending a young athlete out for a twenty minute jog develops a poor motor program for speed.

Slow steady jogging also causes steady repetitive forces on the body. This constant repetition leads to break down of muscle, tendon or bone leading to muscle tear, tendonitis or stress fractures.

Younger athletes do not have the capacity to sustain this repetitive type of movement nor will they have the mental ability as well.

Eventually they will complain of both heel and knee pain if this type of training occurs on a consistent basis

These young athletes are better served learning proper running mechanics and participating in fun activities such as relays or obstacle courses.

Teach proper running mechanics as a skill to younger athletes. Again doing this over a period of time, as mentioned earlier, produces solid motor programs.

As the child grows and develops these movements become automatic.

By the time a seven year old reaches eleven he/she will be able to move in an economical way with out any energy flaws. The key is reinforcing the proper movement pattern.

Next, soccer players must develop full active range of motion at the hip and knee to be injury free.

It is important for the hip flexor muscle group (muscles that raise the knee to chest) to have ability to lengthen under load while the leg at the hip joint moves from flexion into extension (front to back). This occurs when the foot hits the ground until it leaves the ground again.

It is also important for the hamstring muscle group (muscles at the back of the thigh) to have ability to lengthen under load while the leg at the hip joint moves from extension to flexion (back to front) from leaving the ground until it makes contact to the ground again.

Sending a young player out for a 20-30 minute jog does not do this.

Finally, with proper running mechanics a young child should learn how to properly decelerate (slow down). This is important from an injury prevention perspective.

Did you know that female athletes as young as twelve can tear their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). By sending a young female player out for a slow steady jog doesn’t teach her how to slow down after sprinting. This is another reason to teach your athletes to be fast.

The ability of a child to develop proper deceleration technique occurs more frequently when they run with bursts of energy and then slow down or stop. This is a continuous process of starts and stops.

Developing speed/deceleration techniques at younger ages does three things:

1. Develops a proper motor program.
2. Creates active full range of motion to prevent injury
3. Teaches body control.

These three things are the building blocks that lead to change of direction, acceleration and other necessary movements in training.

Now we need some drills or exercises to get us there.

Mike Grafstein

About The Author
Mike Grafstein is a certified as an Athletic Therapist, and Youth Conditioning Consultant. He has over twenty years experience workingin both the clinical and practcal aspects of rehabilitation and strength and conditioning of young male and female athletes.

He is passionate about changing th way young soccer athletes train for long term development and injury prevention. He is the proud author of Youth Soccer Power Unleashed whichmay be found at

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Mon Feb 28, 2011 11:53 am
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