Chapter 5: PREPARING FOR PRESEASON – ROOKIE: Surviving Your Freshman Year of College Soccer
Preseason is an audition and no one lives under more scrutiny than the rookies. The returning players want to know what you have to offer and whether or not they should fear you. The coach has seen the returning players for at least a year, so he’s got a pretty good handle on their abilities. But this is his first chance to closely evaluate you over an extended period of time, so he’s going to watch you closely. I want you to take that as wonderful news!
You want to make preseason your showcase, and you want to give your coaches and teammates every reason to take you seriously, so let’s start out with a few simple pointers.
- Juggle to 50
I don’t care if juggling isn’t your thing; you’re a college soccer player now, and at some point in preseason, you’re going to be asked to juggle. Every college soccer player should at least be able to juggle to 50. You don’t have to freestyle like one of those juggling savants on YouTube, but it also shouldn’t look like you and the ball have never met. You’re a college soccer player; that means you should be able to lift the ball off the ground – with your feet – and juggle to 50, end of story.
- Learn to do a proper push-up
When the coach says, “Ten push-ups,” for the love of Pete, don’t do them with your knees on the ground. Learn to do proper push-ups, with your fingers pointing forward and your legs, back and neck straight as a beam of lumber. Don’t just stay in one position and bob your head up and down like a chicken pecking at feed. Bend your arms to go down and straighten them to go up. You’ll probably never be asked to do more than 20 push-ups in a single set, so train yourself to do 20 proper push-ups.
- Hire a personal trainer for a month
You can figure out the push-up thing on your own, but when you get to college, you’re also going to have to lift weights and do plyometric exercises. I highly recommend that you get some experience with these exercises before you have to do them in front of other people. Have an expert teach you the proper technique for squats and cleans and crunches and pull-ups and lunges and box jumps and all of those other magical exercises that you’ll be doing in the near future.
- Develop your soccer IQ
You can learn a lot from a book (maybe like you’re doing now?). I seriously recommend reading Soccer iQ. Why? Because it will help you. I didn’t write ROOKIE to plug my other books, but there’s a reason that we make our team read Soccer iQ each year. Use it to identify and elimi- nate a lot of mistakes you’re making and your chances of getting on the field will improve. I promise it will help you.
- Become a specialist
One way to improve your brand and rise above the crowd is to develop a defining quality. As you work to develop all areas of your game, I highly recommend that you also specialize at something. Pick an area that you’re already good at and become stupendous at it. Maybe you can become a set-piece specialist. Maybe you can add ten yards to your throw-in. Maybe you can become a dominant header. Maybe you can learn to accurately smack a fifty-yard driven ball with consistency. It doesn’t matter what it is, find something that you can be the best at and you will become more marketable to your coach.
- Have a clue about world soccer
Your universe is going to center around soccer people, so it helps if you can be conversational in their language. Stay informed. Keep up with the U.S. national teams and the Premier League and MLS. Know who the world’s best players are and what teams employ them. If there’s a World Cup coming up this summer, make sure you know about it. You don’t have to obsess over this stuff, but at least have a working vocabulary.