Winter off season: The ideal time for soccer players to improve their game

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    Seasonal soccer schedules create a natural pattern for year round training for young athletes to advance their soccer skill development. With emphasis on fall and spring seasonal play, the winter and summer seasons are periods of less intense on-field training. This off season creates an opportunity to concentrate on physical conditioning, strengthening and enhancing speed, agility and quickness.

    Soccer is a sport that emphasizes athleticism. Speed, strength and agility programs have evolved to the point that they can clearly improve athleticism. The often quoted statement, "we can make you a better athlete, but you have to make yourself a better soccer player" has never been more true. Off-season programs can be designed to improve sport-specific athletic variables, such as core strength deficits, first step speed, quickness and endurance. With less on-field demands in the winter and summer months, these seasons are ideal times to make young soccer players better athletes.

    As an orthopedic surgeon with a special interest in soccer injury and prevention, my focus is two-fold. My primary focus is injury prevention-especially ACL prevention. I also want players to excel and become better athletes and consequently, better soccer players. The beauty of well designed off-season programs is that they achieve both objectives. Young players are eager to become better athletes, and parents are happy that these programs can significantly decrease injury rates. It is a win-win situation. Happier and healthier kids, is a great answer.

    So remember, "off season" is not "off." This break from your team's regular season play is an opportunity to accomplish important goals in your child's soccer development.

    Peter H. Edwards, Jr., M.D. is an orthopedic sports medicine specialist at the Ohio Orthopedic Center of Excellence in Columbus, Ohio. He specializes in lower extremity sports medicine with an emphasis on soccer injuries.

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