Chapter 33: THREE KINGS – ROOKIE: Surviving Your Freshman Year of College Soccer
Let me introduce you to your three best friends for surviving preseason: Sleep, Water and Ice.
SLEEP – Unless you join the military, preseason is going to be the most physically grueling experience of your life. You’re going to be tired – every day. You’re going to be in pain – every day. And you’re going to have to push through it and keep playing – every day!
You can’t avoid the pain and the fatigue, but you can manage it. The better you manage it, the better you’ll perform.
Sleep whenever you can for as long as you can. When you have three practices a day, an extra fifteen minutes of sleep can make a world of difference. Sleeping won’t be the hard part; the hard part will be just getting to your bed. If you don’t prioritize sleep, you’ll find reasons to cheat yourself out of it.
When you finish lunch, instead of sitting at the table and socializing for an hour, socialize for fifteen minutes and then make a bee-line for your bed. Take advantage of opportunities to sleep whenever possible. You want to stay as fresh as possible to maintain your highest level of performance.
WATER – You’ll probably never realize the impact that water has on your performance until you’re officially diagnosed with dehydration. Water is the closest thing your body has to a magic potion. Proper hydration is extremely important, particularly in the heat of August. It will help your recovery; it will help your performance; and it will help prevent injuries and heat exhaustion. And as we learned in the last chapter, preseason is often a matter of attrition. If you’re not hydrated, you’ll never stay in the race.
A few days before preseason, you should start drinking water almost exclusively, and you should stop drinking anything with caffeine. When it comes to water, just drink, drink, drink! Drink even when you’re not thirsty! Drink more than you think you need to drink! You don’t need a reason, just keep drinking!
ICE – By now you’ve probably experienced a situation where a little knock that you took during a game is suddenly much more painful a day later. That’s not some type of enigma. That’s just how your body works. During preseason, you’re going to be taking a ton of those knocks, some bigger than others, and if you don’t treat them, they’ll all hurt a lot more the next day.
If you’ve taken some lumps – even some small ones – get ice on them immediately after your session. You should spend a good bit of your preseason wrapped in ice. While water helps your body recover from the inside, ice is helping it recover from the outside.
If you have access to a cold pool, spend 20 minutes in it after every training session. If this sounds like torture to you, I really don’t care. I’m not saying you’ll enjoy it; I’m saying it’ll be worth it.
Even if you maximize your opportunities to sleep, drink water and ice yourself, you’re still going to be in pain. You’ll just have to trust me that the pain you experience will be significantly less than if you hadn’t done those things.
These are three things that are within your control. Don’t be too lazy to pay attention to them.
Let me give you one other bonus tip that can be incredibly useful. If you are particularly stiff, sore or tight before a field session, pedal a stationary bike for 5-10 low-impact minutes to loosen up your legs. It’ll do you a world of good.
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