To all the student-athletes in the class of 2019: congratulations on your graduation! You’ve achieved an important milestone and a new and exciting chapter now awaits you. In just two short months, you’ll arrive on campus for preseason soccer training – and an entirely new set of teammates, coaches and expectations will be there to greet you. With all the hard work and time you’ve already invested in your soccer career, let’s talk about how to keep the momentum going as a college freshman.
Beware of the fitness test. While it may be tempting to take your foot off the gas and relax by the pool this summer, preparing to ace the fitness test should be your top priority. The college preseason is much shorter than you’re used to – typically a week to ten days – and there won’t be time to catch up if you arrive out of shape. Performing subpar out of the gate also won’t make you stand out for the right reasons. Following the training package your school provided is a good starting point, but you should try to do more: work to improve your strength and endurance, join a summer team, enroll in a challenging summer camp. This is no time for shortcuts. How well you do on that test will set the tone not only for preseason, but for regular season as well. Do everything possible to ensure you arrive in optimal condition.
Don’t underestimate the transition. Not only will the level of intensity in preseason be unnerving, regular season play will demand a significantly higher level of aggression and speed of play than you’re used to. Trust me: even the most competitive club or high school environment can’t compare to the level of play in a collegiate program. If you’re not physically and mentally prepared for these new demands, your confidence is likely to take a hit that can handicap you for the entire season. Remember that college soccer is focused on winning during the fall season and it’s your responsibility to put in the work to develop so you can contribute to the team.
Do your homework. You wouldn’t wait until the day of a test to open your book and start studying, so make sure you get ready to compete before you arrive on campus. Long before you step on the pitch for the first time, you should have mastered the areas of focus for the positions you’ll be asked to play (if you don’t know what those are, have a conversation with your college coach ASAP). Take the time to research your coaches and the program’s philosophy. Work on the offensive and defensive strategies that the program implements. Bottom line: don’t show up unprepared and expect anyone to wait for you to catch up.
Make connections. It will be infinitely easier to acclimate to your new college environment if you start building chemistry with your future teammates ahead of time. Take advantage of the time you spend at ID camps to bond with current players and use social media to initiate – or strengthen – relationships with your new teammates. You’ll be glad to see some friendly faces smiling back at you when you turn up for the first training session.
Student-athletes are a resilient lot, accustomed to juggling schoolwork, sports, family and social obligations. But the adjustment that lies ahead will be unlike anything you’ve previously experienced. Taking time to prepare will help ease the transition from your club or high school environment to what will soon be required by your college coach.
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Chris Bart-Williams is the founder and owner of CBW Soccer Elite. After an extensive career in the English Premier League, Chris now uses his vast soccer knowledge to assist families throughout the college recruiting process and prepare players for the mental and physical challenges of collegiate soccer. You can reach Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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