Greg Winkler column: Fitness can't be taken for granted

Greg Winkler column: Fitness can't be taken for granted

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Greg Winkler column: Fitness can't be taken for granted

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“The vision of a champion is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion, when nobody else is looking.” – Mia Hamm

Last week I started to talk about training, fitness, skill development and how a lot of our athletes today do not do what is necessary to be great. I wrote how, as a high school coach, I get worried about how well my players have prepared for the season.

Our seasons are really quite short and if a lot of time has to be devoted to learning new skills or getting in shape, it takes away from the development of the entire team.

There are many opportunities for players of any sport to refine their skills in the offseason but the athlete has to take advantage of those opportunities.

Many athletes think that because they play on a select team or an AAU team that they are doing enough to get ready. Research shows that for players to improve skill and technique they need to have two to three practice sessions for every game played. I look at some of our select teams and many do not practice once their games begin.

We have kids playing four games per week with no practice. Yes the games are important and you can improve by playing them, but you don’t get the touches you get in a training session. The players that think that just playing the game is preparing them for the upcoming high school season are mistaken and will find themselves behind everyone else.

When we talk about the fitness component of sport, many do not realize how quickly their fitness deteriorates.

When training, a few days off will not affect a person’s level of fitness, however after a week and certainly after a two-week lay-off, the athlete starts to lose what they have worked so hard to obtain. It also takes a lot longer to improve one’s level of fitness than it does to lose it.

My players take a fitness test when we start try-outs, I want to know which of them has been putting in the time in the off-season. Our first contest is usually 7 days after the start of tryouts, that is certainly not enough time to get fit, if a player does not come in fit, they are already behind.

Anson Dorrance, who has coached 21 National Championships with the North Carolina women’s soccer team, gives each player a copy of a poem about a rose. The rose is fragile and must be cared for, and he relates that to their fitness.

Your fitness level is precious, it takes a lot of time and care to obtain it, once you achieve your desired level, you need to nurture it and keep it growing.

So I ask myself, what is the purpose of this recent Soccer Shorts rant?

I guess it is my way of telling parents as well as players that your skill work and your fitness is your responsibility. You only have yourself to blame when you cannot perform at the level expected for whatever sport you are playing.

For me, my bike training is also my responsibility, I better get my butt in gear!

Keep on Kickin’

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