Nutrition: Planning Pre, During and Postgame

Nutrition should be an important consideration in your pregame preparations, during the match and postgame activities. Being able to eat and hydrate effectively can be the difference between a good and bad performance. Unlike many other aspects of soccer, nutrition is tangible. You can control what you eat and drink before, during and after games. But there are so many various energy drinks and other material in this area, what should you be eating and drinking?

Pregame

Pregame you want primarily carbohydrates, such as, pasta. If possible between 2-3 hours before a game you should eat a meal with a plate that is comprised of half carbohydrates, one quarter protein (like chicken) and then one quarter vegetables. As you get nearer to competition you should stay away from solid foods and try to seek carbohydrates from sports drinks such as Gatorade, Powerade or other isotonic drinks. Energy drinks often lead to heavy crashes in energy, so be careful how you use them.

During

During the game, you generally want to stay hydrated with water and Gatorade. Usually 2-4 cups of Gatorade at half time is sufficient. Furthermore, consuming a protein bar can also be a good way to reenergize at half time. On a warmer day you should be sure to hydrate as much as you can throughout the game. On weekends with multiple games, like tournaments, you should be hydrating consistently to ensure you can perform to your maximum ability.

Postgame

Post-game you should eat within an hour of the game. Your post game meal should compromise of a plate with half protein, one quarter carbohydrates and one quarter vegetables. A plate primarily of protein (chicken, fish, other meat) is important to provide the right nutrients for muscles to repair and recover. A lot of people disregard the importance of the post-game meal and rather have pizza or a burger but this can seriously delay your physical recovery. Again, if you are playing multiple games over a weekend, how you recover can make the large difference in your performances.

Tactical Awareness

As a collegiate soccer player, you must have a high “soccer IQ”, in other words, tactical awareness. Your ability to show that you understand the system that your team is trying to implement will make the transition into the match day squad and then starting 11 significantly smoother. College coaches expect you to have a prerequisite knowledge of different formations and styles of play prior to college. They are likely to demand that you play multiple positions in various systems throughout your four-year career so now is the time to prepare to avoid being left behind in preseason. Whether you have a strong grasp of these concepts or feel that this part of your game needs work here are a few suggestions for improvement.

Watch soccer...A LOT! Watching the English Premier League, MLS or other professional soccer matches should be your first protocol when you look to improve your tactical awareness. Professional soccer players are at the pinnacle of their sport and you can learn a lot from watching these players in action. But how do you know what to be looking for?

Below is a list of questions that you should think about as you watch soccer to improve your tactical awareness. First, pick a team. Then work through these questions:

What system is the team playing?

  • High pressure?
  • Counter attack?
  • Control possession?
  • Direct to the striker?
  • Wing play?
  • Even…”parking the bus”?!?!

Why have they chosen to play this system?

  • To nullify an opponent?
  • To play to their strengths?
  • Understand the different reasons for different systems and how they change week to week and even during a game

What formation are they playing?

  • 4-5-1?
  • 4-3-3
  • 4-4-2
  • 4-2-3-1

How do the formations change when teams defend and attack? Often formations are fluid depending on the area of the pitch the team is playing in.

Once you have looked at tactics from a team perspective, focus your analysis on individual players.

Pick a player who plays in your position

  • What is their role?
  • How do they fit into the system and formation?
  • Where do they position themselves when attacking? When defending?
  • What are their movements on the field?
  • Try to see what they do off the ball.  For example, how did the striker get into the correct position to score the goal?

Try to learn, or even idolize, what that player does. Modeling your play off a professional is a great way to improve as an individual.

Then talk about this stuff with friends, family and coaches. But develop an appreciation for different styles as you never know what style you’ll be asked to play. A college coach hates nothing worse than you telling him/her that this is what your other coach told you to do. 

Ultimately, you have a responsibility as a collegiate soccer player to understand the tactical side of soccer, not just the technical side. Improving both sides of the game is imperative to your personal development and your ability to cement a starting position.

3 Key Soccer Mentalities: What Coaches Want

Whilst technical ability is crucial to being a good player, mentality is often overlooked and undervalued by many young players. As they recruit players to their programs, coaches will explore a player’s mentality by watching them on and off the field and through general conversations. But what are they looking for? Three common factors have been raised over and over again by coaches of what they look for in players.

1. Winning mentality

The first key mentality factor coaches want to see is if you have a winning mentality. This centers around the question: how much do you want to win? They want to see that you are willing to battle for your teammates and often put the team’s priorities ahead of your own.  They want to see that you are passionate about winning and commit as much effort as possible to win in training and matches.

2. Coachability/desire to improve

The second key mentality factor is coachability and desire to improve. Coaches want to see that you want to improve as a player and a person. Players who embrace the idea of continual development often have a better chance of a successful college career as they can adapt to the immanent bumps that will arise along the road. Coachability also applies outside of personal development. Can you be coached and buy into a system that the team plays? Can you embrace a new role in the team that you may not have played before? Are you interested to learn more about the position you are playing? Do you ask questions about your personal performance and about team performances? All of these questions are important things you should be considering in order to be a coachable player.

3. Ability to accept criticism

The third key mentality is ability to accept criticism. Unlike club team where you are in a familiar surrounding with a coach who perhaps favors you or has coached you for a long time, college coaches have 20+ other players like yourself they have to worry about. Inevitably you will be criticized by team mates who often are vastly experienced themselves and will be criticized by coaches. Be ready and willing to embrace criticism. Coaches expect you to be mature enough to be criticized without it affecting your performances. If you are able to take criticism and turn that into a learning opportunity to get better and not let that criticism affect your performance then you will be an a much better position to reach the starting 11 but more importantly enjoy your college career.

These are three key mentalities that college coaches have found imperative to success in college soccer. There are many more to choose from but if you can master these three then you will be in a very strong position to have an enjoyable and successful college career.

 

Understanding Financial Aid Packages

It is important for students and their parents to understand how financial aid works for student-athletes.  Each NCAA Division level is governed by its own set of rules.  During the recruiting process, college coaches may ask for CSS Profiles/FAFSA before offering athletic scholarships.  Below is a brief summary of the main differences and a link to more detailed information from the NCAA. 

Athletic Scholarships:  Athletic scholarships are awarded by institution based on the merit of the performance of the individual.  All Division I and II soccer programs are classified as "equivalency" sports, meaning that the NCAA restricts the total financial aid that a school can offer in a given sport to the equivalent of a set number of full scholarships.   

Division I:  Soccer teams can separate the scholarship awards between the roster up and till a maximum of 9.9 for the men and 14.0 for the women.  Coaches are allowed to award anywhere from 1%-100% for any individual student-athlete.  

Division II:  Soccer teams can separate the scholarship awards between the roster up and till a maximum of 9.0 for the men and 9.9 for the women.  Coaches are allowed to award anywhere from 1%-100% for any individual student-athlete.   

Division III:  The NCAA limits Division III teams to no athletic scholarships.  If you qualify for merit or need-based aid, you can qualify for financial aid.  The NCAA also require Div. III schools to show how much aid they give to athletes on sports teams. 

Need-Based Aid
Student need-based aid is related to the need of the family after completing either the CSS Profile and/or FAFSA forms.   Need-based aid is awarded on the student/family financial need.  When financial aid is determined through need-based aid, an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is determined.  Universities will work towards maximizing this aid gap.  It has often been noted that filling this financial gap, is maximized when the student has higher SAT or ACT scores.

Merit-Based Aid
Merit-based scholarships and grants are awards from educational institutions and organizations.  This aid usually comes from outstanding academic achievements in high schools grades and/or outstanding SAT or ACT scores.  Sometimes merit-based aid is awarded to students by such organizations as local club, Boy Scouts, YMCA etc.  Merit-based grants do not need to be repaid.  Athletic based scholarships are also a form of merit-based aid.

How are athletic scholarships combined with need-based and merit-based aid?  
It is possible at Division I and II schools to combine merit-based aid with athletic scholarships up to the need-based financial aid eligibility limit.  There are some limitations with combining need-based aid with athletic scholarships. 

For more information, visit NCAA's Scholarship page.

Hydration: Why is it important for performance?

Don't wait to hydrate until your feel thirsty!  If your thirst mechanism is triggered, you are already showing signs of dehydration.  Optimize your sports performance by following a hydration plan and make adjusts based on factors such as weather and exertion. 

Dehydration can lead to:

·      ↓ Muscle Strength

·      ↓ Speed and Stamina

·      ↓ Energy

·      ↑ Risk for injury

Avoiding all these negative effects can be the difference between winning, losing and staying healthy. Therefore, it is vital to rehydrate before, during and after practicing or playing games. 

When should I rehydrate?
Before workouts:

·      Close to practice/competition you should be consuming liquid calories, such as, Sports drinks

·      2-3 hours before training, consume 17 ounces of fluids

·      8oz (1cup) immediately prior to competition or practice

During workouts:

·      2-4 cups (16-32oz) of sports drinks per hour (ideally) or

·      1 cup (8oz) every 15-20mins

·      If the practice or competition is longer than an hour try to consume carbohydrates as you hydrate

o   Sports drinks are the ideal method rather than trying to eat foods

Post-Workouts:

·      Aim to start hydrating immediately after practice/competition or at least within 30 minutes post-practice/competition

·      Consume at least 24oz for every pound lost from training or exercise.
 

Over hydration

·      The recommendations above are guidelines and should be used as such. Each individual will be different

·      To avoid over hydration do not drink more than you sweat

·      Try to drink sports drinks because they contain some sodium and carbohydrates

 

Sources: Boston University Sargent Choice Nutrition Center: Nutrition Advisers for Boston University Men’s Soccer.

Villanova University Nutrition Center- http://www1.villanova.edu/content/dam/villanova/studentlife/documents/healthpromotion/Hydration%20guideline%20for%20athletes.pdf