What is a Soccer Slump and How Do You Recognize if Your Player is Stuck in One?
As a parent and a coach, one of the hardest things to watch is a youth player going through a soccer slump. The superstition of a "funk", a "rut", a "slump" is absolutely real...its Newton's Third Law- What Goes Up, Must Come Down!
So often you see college players and high school players go through a "Sophomore Slump." This usually transpires after an exciting freshman year when everything is new and shiny, and most importantly exciting. Players rise to new levels, only to fall the second year and be brought back down to reality. But are they any worse a player? In some cases yes, but in far more cases, it just feels like they are doing worse because they aren't following the same trajectory or feeling as they did that freshman year.
The Big Question: How Do you Recognize a Youth Soccer Slump and How Do You Fix it?
Youth Soccer slumps show up in different ways both on the field and off the field.
- Forwards- they will go several games without getting goals
- Midfielders-aren't connecting passes, not winning 50/50 balls
- Defenders-make simple mistakes that are out of their normal character
- Goalies-find themselves missing routine saves.
This leads to a massive internal conflict for the player, a war between their confidence and their vison of themselves as an athlete. And in this moment they start to display several trends off the field:
- Tired, Lacking Energy
- Not Wanting to Go to Practice
- Unhappy After Practice
- Lack of Motivation
- Lack of Confidence.
Whose fault is all of this- The Soccer Coach...Of Course! : )
All kidding aside, how do we fix it, or is it something that can actually be fixed?
The good news is, the problem is temporary...but how you deal with the youth soccer slump can help your player grow both inside and outside the lines, short and long term, if you teach them these 4 steps to cope with the ups and downs.
4 Ways to Drag Youth Players out of a Soccer Slump
Looking for a motivational and confidence building read for Youth Soccer Players? Check out #19: A Journey to Soccer Stardom ...a can't put down about a youth soccer player who overcomes being stuck in a soccer slump and not being able to make his villages soccer team, to climbing to the highest ranks of soccer players. A great way to wind down for the day for young soccer players with big dreams.
- Understanding This is Growth- The first step is the hardest step, but it is absolutely the most important step. You are not accepting you are in a soccer slump, you are simply understanding that you are in a temporary situation. If you can help your player be honest with themselves, when they felt on top of the world a few months ago-they probably weren't as great as they thought they were. And in a couple weeks when they are through this funk, it won't look as bad in the rearview mirror as it does on the windshield. That said, this is the time to get back to basics and understanding what the player is going through is symptomatic of growth...2 steps forward, 1 step back...and you stay consistent on that formula long enough, you get a 4 or 5 steps forward spike.
- Sleep- As a nation, we are over caffeinated, over sugared, and sleep deprived. For young soccer players, who are likely in a constant state of growth, they need 8-10 hours of sleep a night. And they need it consistently. Not 2am-10am on the weekends and 8pm to 7am during the week. It needs to be a 10pm to 6am/7am situation, but let's be honest-who goes to bed every night at the same time? Find a window that works consistently for you (9:30-10pm is my magic window). Everyone knows that if you go to the gym, you will build muscle, right? Wrong. That's where you tear muscle, you grow muscle in your sleep. One quick way to help youth players out of a soccer slump is to make sure they feel 100% rested. Also think about screen time, lights in the room, and blackout curtains. We want to create a perfect storm for high quality sleep (I love sleep-I dream like an ADD Toddler-Try to maximize my REM time). Start by turning off the devices 2 hours before bed- no phone, Ipad, computer, etc. Instead try playing a card game, playing a board game, or reading a book. This helps to relax and unwind the overstimulated mind and ready the body for rest.
- Food and Hydration-I can't spend enough time on how important it is that if you feel well, you will play well. Eat proper meals and Drink 64 ounces of water a Day! Breakfast-Oatmeal/Hard Boiled Eggs and Toast/...that little granola chocalate bar thing going out the door isn't going to cut it. Lunch- a sandwich/Apple/Nuts/Cookie...Dinner- Chicken/Lean Ground Beef/Vegetable/Carb or Starch/Sensible Desert. Also think about a PB&J Sandwich or Apple/Almonds for Pre-game and Pre-training meals. Finally- Eat at Home! Save money, it's healthier, it's cleaner, it's better quality, it's everything but convenient...but you will feel so much better even after just 1 Day. Your players will also have more energy on the field.
- Train-Most soccer players train twice per week with their team...and then games on the weekends, and that's it. And that's fine, if that's all you want from the game. You want more, well it takes more. More sacrifice, more time, more training, more success...Even just 15 minutes a day extra, adds up to 91.25 hours per year (that's like 60 extra practices a year). The harsh reality is that most players and parents know what they want...but just don't know how to get there. Being in a youth soccer slump is the perfect time to get back to basics, commit to a training program, even if it's just 15 minutes a day, and know that if you put in the time, you will get the results.
The harsh reality is that most players and parents know what they want (more success, more playing time, more goals, better touches, more confidence) but they don't know how to get there. Many parents are happy to give their time, play with their kids in the backyard, and help them become better players. They just don't know what to do. Many parents I've spoken with have all said similar things:
"I didn't grow up playing soccer, but I have a young player at home desperate to get better and I just don't want to tell him or her, the wrong information. Can you help us out?"
Get Signed-Up Today for the Daily Soccer Skills 15 Day Academy. This is a done for you, video course that highlights what drills to do, how to do them, and coaching tips and points. The Daily Soccer Skills 15 Day Academy (DSS15DA) is an all encompassing training program thatcomes with:
- 15 Video Trainings: Speed, Agility and Quickness/Ball Control and Mastery/First Touch/Shooting and Finishing/Passing and Receiving
- Bonus #1: HYPERBURST 2500 Touch in 12 Minute Training
- Bonus #2: DSS Goals Planner Worksheet- Set 1 month/3 month/6 month/12 month targets and Video Guide
- Bonus #3: DSS Blueprint- An Accountability Tracker to manager performance
- Bonus #4: DSS SUPERWORKOUTS- The best part of the DSS15DA is you can mix and match the trainings, utilize this schedule to create over 250+ workouts.
- Sign-Up Today
In response to parents who are eager to help their kids and just need some ideas and instructions in the right direction, I have put together a 15 Day Training Program.
We talk about a Growth mindset to a soccer slump. The important of sleep and proper nutrition to feeling your best. The next step is to utilize a, individual training program to give youth players the following skill sets:
- Improve Speed, Agility, and Quickness by 30%
- Next Level Ball Control and Ball Mastery
- Elite First Touch Sessions
- Premier Passing and Receiving
- Academy Shooting and Finishing Drill
The important element to understand about a soccer slump is that it can be temporary and all players will go through it. It's how you adapt and break yourself out of the funk that can teach you how to recognize the trends for the future, but also how to program your mind so you can pull yourself out of ruts in other areas of your life, off the field.
And remember, whatever it is...It's only temporary.