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How to Train during a Global Pandemic: Part 1

With a global pandemic in our area, our communities have cancelled sporting events, games, and practices. Now, a lot of us are finding that we have lost our “normal” routines and we may have a lot more time on our hands. I thought it would be a great idea to send some advice to our community partners with ideas on how to stay active and engaged in your sport even though we are all separated and social distancing for the time being.

First, I would like to give you a little bit of background information about myself so you can understand where this information is coming from. My name is Tom McGowan and I am a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC) at St. Louis Children’s Hospital Young Athlete Center. I also

played soccer all the way through college at the NCAA DII and NAIA levels. After college, I

briefly coached club and high school soccer. Professionally, I have worked as an athletic trainer at the high school, college, and now youth/club levels. Needless to say, I have learned a lotabout soccer over the years.

In this series of articles, I am going to address some specific ideas for everyone that is involved within the soccer community. I broke it out by: Players, Coaches, Parents, and Referees.


Q: What can I do while I am away from my team?

A: I have to put my “teacher hat” on for a moment. I want to encourage all athletes to stay

focused on your school work during this time. Even though you are away from school and it may feel like an extended spring break, you can still improve your intelligence by studying hard and learning something new every day.

At the most levels of competition, athletes are usually called Student-Athletes. Have you ever wondered why? Most school administrators and coaches will tell you that the word “student” comes first in student-athlete because it is meant to be an example of how to prioritize your responsibilities. Players should focus on being a student first, then focus on being an athlete second. In my experience, this is great advice and a recipe for success.

Q: How can I train without my coach or teammates?

A: According to Former U.S. Soccer Youth National Team Coach, Shaun Tsakiris, when asked what the biggest thing players can do, “It’s simple. Players need to spend time on the ball.” This is an ideal time to work on ball and foot skills! The only equipment you need is a player and a ball, and a little bit of space. Take advantage of this time to develop better control over the ball and you will become a better player.

Examples: Dribbling skills, Juggling Skills, Passing and Striking Skills (If you need more details ask your coach or there are tons of instructional videos on YouTube.)

Q: How can I maintain or improve my fitness level?

A: There are 3 key elements to fitness for soccer players: Endurance, Strength, and

Speed/Agility. The best way to work on these fitness elements is to practice them in a weekly


1. Endurance = Physical Stamina

a. Train 2-3 times per week

b. Duration of at least 20-30 minutes (longer periods for older athletes)

c. Activities should get heart rate up to around 75% of the max heart rate (220-age)

d. Examples include: running, swimming, biking

2. Strength

a. Train 1-2 times per week

b. Duration of at least 30 minutes

c. Activities should focus on strengthening muscle groups and most of these activities can be

done with body weight only.

d. Areas to focus on: Core (abs, back, hips, glutes), Lower body (legs) , and Upper body (Arms,

Shoulders, Neck) strength

e. Remember safety first and technique is more important than amount of repetitions or


f. For more information about strength training go to:


3. Speed, Agility, and Plyometrics (explosive movement)

a. Train 1-2 times per week

b. Duration of 20-30 minutes

c. Activities should focus on quick and explosive movements or changing directions

d. Examples include: Cone drills, ladder drills, dot drills, jumping

4. Body Maintanence

a. Proper nutrition, hydration, and sleep coupled with a good injury prevention program are vital factors for keeping developing athletes healthy and growing.

b. A proper warm-up and cool down will help athletes ensure muscle recovery. FIFA has

developed an injury prevention warm-up called the FIFA 11+, which can help reduce injuries by up to 50%. More info about the program can be found on the Young Athlete Center website.

c. Consult your healthcare provider if you have any pain during sport or exercise.

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