It’s a wonderful time to be a young female athlete – especially a female soccer player. There are so many more opportunities to participate in soccer today compared to when I was growing up. No matter your age, where you live – there is a league, team, or school program to play on. Not to mention, there is unlimited access to watch professional players train and play live and via television.
Plus, there are amazing role models from the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) our U.S. based professional league and U.S. Women’s National Team to be inspired by – like myself. Subscribe to my newsletter here.
However, more options can be very paralyzing.
I have always been a big advocate for playing multiple sports and developing as much physical literacy as possible.
Side note: When I talk about playing multiple sports I don’t mean rushing from soccer practice, to lacrosse practice, to basketball practice all in one afternoon. Multiple sports is playing a season of soccer and then off-setting that training with an additional sport in another season.
But, I also realize that is becoming more and more challenging in today’s youth sports. For instance, early specialization has taken over and everyone is being sold that they are the next national team star and in most cities, specifically the Washington, DC area; if you want to play soccer there is no off-season, it’s a one-year commitment. Thus making it very difficult to play multiple sports.
So if you do want to get better and expose yourself to different stimulus and variability using strength training as your second sport is your best option.
At the youth level, there isn’t enough emphasis on developing strength and movement efficiency; it’s all go-go-go, speed, agility, speed, agility, ball skills, ball skills, go. Strength is a crucial overlooked element yet is widely known to be the foundation for athletic development and improving overall athleticism.
I guarantee you that no one became a better athlete by just playing more sports.
The best athletes are the ones who are the total package; strong, less injury prone, mindful, relentless, powerful, agile, stable, fast, explosive, not to mention leaders, hard smart workers, and even better teammates.
Hard smart workers, you ask? Those that focus on the essential, who say no to more and yes to better – always in search of improvement.
And, as renowned strength and conditioning coach, Mike Boyle says, “Injury prevention or more specifically acl injury prevention is just good training.”
Photo Credit: USAW Sports Injury Report
To be clear – when speaking of strength training I’m not talking about max strength and lifting as much as possible. I’m talking about getting strong, moving better – training that directly impacts your sport.
Why strength training as a second sport?
- Prevail through the rigors of the season: Unfortunately there isn’t much of an “off season” in youth sports today. Therefore it is important to offset the muscle imbalances that develop from playing the same sport day in day. Thus sets the athlete up for success to last through the long haul.
- Injury Prevention: As mentioned above – soccer is the leading sport when it comes to non-contact related injuries. Strength training prepares the athlete for on-field stresses.
- Learning experience: The weight room provides you with a different education than on the field. It allows the athlete to understand their capabilities – what are your strengths and weaknesses and how those translate to the field. There is no greater gift to yourself than to understand your body and how you can use it to your fullest potential.
- Competitive advantage: Stronger, powerful, more resilient athletes will always separate themselves from the other players. Good players are talented at their sport. Elite players seek out ways to become better in every aspect of the game.
Lastly, I think it is important to state that less than 1% of kids playing sports become professional athletes. So while I am in no way discouraging anyone from attacking those goals I think it is important to do it in the most advantageous way – by becoming the most resilient athlete possible.
*In addition, here’s a great article by Precision Nutrition discussing the ever relevant topic of over-training and what is TOO MUCH when it comes to exercise. Read.
PS. Here is an article I loved from, Tony Bovechio - a strength and conditioning coach at Cressey Sports Performance about the lessons he's learned from 10 years of lifting weights. I could really resonate with the majority of the lessons and maybe you can too. Enjoy.