What is a coach?
A leader? A teacher? Innovator?
Answer: All of the above.
In the world of sports performance training, there is a wide array of responsibilities that go hand-in-hand with properly developing athletes. Take a look around and you will see über-competitive club sports dominating playing fields, courts, and ice rinks. ESPN broadcasts a virtual Field of Dreams that inspire student-athletes all over the United States to work harder on their game in the hopes that one day they might be a great athlete. Our goal at E3Sports is to provide a progressive curriculum to the student-athlete that will encompass athletic development and sustainability.
As club soccer teams play their now routine 12-month season, it is my role to incorporate a well-devised program enhancing athletic performance while reducing the potential for injury. Overtraining is a growing trend in club sports as the increased participation in tournaments and leagues subject teams to multi-game weekends on top of regular weekly practices. On average, elite soccer teams train and/or play approximately 150 times in the course of a year. If we can incorporate a well-devised warm-up component to be performed during practice sessions specifically targeting tissue management, flexibility, activation, corrective exercise, movement prep, and plyometrics, then at-risk student-athletes will significantly reduce their injury risk.
In addition to a proper warm-up, a planned post-competition recovery session is usually the other most overlooked factor I have observed with most teams. I have literally seen youth and high school teams play for 90-minutes and then immediately eat doughnuts while they avoid stretching and hydrating altogether. Post-competition cool down should be a combination of body movement and nutrition. For example, eating pineapple naturally regenerates the body and tissues as it contains an anti-inflammatory in bromelain. Moreover, incorporating flexibility work blended with corrective exercise allows the muscles to begin the repair process. To combat fatigue after travel, teams are now hiring performance specialist coaches to attend high-profile tournaments as an extra advantage in hopes of winning a national championship. Recently, I attended the Disney Showcase, which is ranked as the #1 soccer tournament in the country. I worked with 2 teams on a daily basis, leading their warm-ups, cool downs, and providing nightly corrective stretching. The players also took the infamous cold plunges, which initially raised eyebrows, but when players felt refreshed and could compete at a top level the next day, it quickly became part of the post-competition routine.
As you can see, there are a variety of pathways a coach can choose to have a positive influence with athletes. Educating teams, parents, and club coaches is a great way to not only give back to your community, but also create a unique shift in sport culture to address overuse injury.