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Resources Feb 01, 2016

Chapter 7: THE FITNESS TESTS – ROOKIE: Surviving Your Freshman Year of College Soccer

ROOKIE Cover JPEGThe fitness tests…the three most dreaded words in college soccer. But since nearly every coach employs them, you’re going to have to just accept them as a part of life and put your head down and grind them out.

Fitness testing is important to your coach for a number of reasons. First of all, if you can’t run, you can’t play. From a purely physical standpoint, fitness matters. Secondly, your fitness results say a lot about your commitment to doing what is asked of you. You are the only one responsible for your fitness and it is one of the very few soccer things over which you have complete control. To trust you, your coach needs to know that you’ll do the work even when no one is watching.

The fitness test may be the first thing you do in preseason, before you even kick a ball; therefore it is the first chance you have to make a statement. If you have to run it anyway, you may as well run it in a way that shows you deserve to be taken seriously. Instead of lamenting your fitness test, you may as well just embrace it and use it to your advantage.

Now, since we can’t make those fitness tests go away, let’s at least make them more manageable.

In April or May you’ll probably receive a summer fitness packet. Some packets are very detailed and will give you a day by day plan for your summer workouts. Your coaches put a lot of time and effort into assembling that packet and they created it to help you, so my advice is to follow it to the letter.

Among other things, your summer packet will detail the fitness test or tests that you will be expected to run. Your objective is to pass, and hopefully demolish, those tests when preseason opens. That won’t happen by accident and it won’t happen if you don’t do the work. Let me be very clear on something: You can’t fake a fitness test. Nor do you want to. Like I said, it is your first chance to announce yourself, so let’s take advantage of it.

Here’s another piece of advice, and it’s one that you’ll want to pay attention to even if you’re already a fitness freak: Don’t let preseason be the first time you run those tests.

Many fitness tests hinge on your ability to run at a proper pace. Let me give you an example.

The fitness test we run is called Man U. The players start on one goal line and the objective is to run 105 yards toward the other goal line in 25 seconds. Once they reach that line, they have 35 seconds to get back to their starting point. As soon as you fail to meet one of the time requirements, you are done. To pass the test, you must make 15 repetitions in the allotted amount of time. Here’s the catch: The amount of time you have to run the first leg progressively decreases after the first ten repetitions.

For repetitions 1-10, you have 25 seconds to run the 105 yards. On repetition 11, that time decreases to 24 seconds. On repetition 12, the time decreases to 23 seconds and so on until on the 20th repetition, you have to run the 105 yards in 15 seconds.

It only takes a casual pace, basically a jog, to run 105 yards in 25 seconds. Once during preseason at Georgia, all the players were lined up to start the first repetition of Man U. The head coach yelled, “Go!,” and the players began trot- ting down the field at a nice easy pace. All except for one that is. One rookie took off at an all-out sprint like she’d been shot out of a cannon! This player was pretty fast, so she made it to the line in about 12 seconds; meanwhile, her teammates were just crossing midfield. It didn’t matter. Once she had run ten yards, it was obvious that she would never pass the test. No one on earth could maintain that pace. It was pretty apparent that this was the first time she had actually run Man U. She dropped out by the eighth rep because she had expended so much energy at the start.

The tragedy of the whole story is that the player was actually fit; she just didn’t know how to run the test, so she failed miserably. Do yourself a huge favor and run the actual tests a few times before you show up for preseason. Learn the pacing. Being fit might not be good enough standing on its own. When the coach is administering the test, you’ve only got one shot at getting it right, so don’t go in blind.

I recommend you run your tests in mid-May, just so you know what your baseline is and how far you have to go, then run them again every two or three weeks. That will give you the chance to experiment with adjustments until you have the pacing perfected. It’s one more way to sharpen your axe.

Let me give you one other helpful tidbit. Every team has a player or two who excel at these tests. It’ll be pretty easy to figure out who these players are because the returners will be talking about them before the session begins. If at all possible, line up beside one of these fitness junkies and use them to pace you. Hang right beside them for as long as you can and hopefully for the duration of the test. If they pass, you pass. Just remember, there’s a reason they excel at those tests; it’s because they are actually fit. If you want to keep up with them, you’d better be fit also.

You Belong
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