The boys’ soccer season starts in late February, typically after months of Utah snowfall. Players are unable to play outdoor soccer in the snow, and it is very easy to fall quickly out of shape during this off-season. The season comes up extremely quickly, typically just days after the last snow day, so players have to ensure that they stay well prepared for the season. The first soccer game of the season is after just two practices, so players don’t have a lot of time to get the winter “rust” off. Upperclassmen on the team have perfected the art of staying in both physical and mental top form even while off of the pitch. Different players have created their own strategies to stay on their toes, whether it be participating in another sport or regularly lifting weights and running on the treadmill. In this article, I will explain the strategies that these players have developed to not become rusty in the winter months and how the players who have not used these practices have affected the team’s performance. I decided to interview senior Luke Muhelstein to get feedback on how he stays in shape for the soccer season.
When asked about the importance of staying in shape over the snowy months of winter, Luke stated that “It [conditioning] is extremely important to the success of the team. Soccer is a team game, and you need all eleven guys to be working together in order to win games.” I asked Luke if he’s experienced the impact of having out-of-shape players coming into the spring season. Luke has felt the effects of poor conditioning and told me, “A lot of the first games we played throughout my past seasons of high school soccer, we have underperformed in. Defense is usually lacking at the beginning of the season because the backline is only strong if all four guys can keep up with the pace of play.” A large element of the game of soccer is having a cool head and being calm under pressure. I asked Luke about the toll the winter break has on players mentally, and he believes “a lot of the guys come in eager to play because of the long break from outdoor soccer. Meanwhile, the winter break gave some people a lazy mindset and they really have to adjust to the 10 hours of after-school soccer every week. A lot of guys also get anxious and make dumb decisions with the ball in the first games.” I asked Luke how long it takes for the team to get back to their peak form and he told me that he “think[s] after a few games everyone is on the same page and dialed in.” Though eventually all the players will be adjusted to the high school season, coming in fully healthy and prepared right off the bat is crucial in winning games and even championships.
Soccer is a physically demanding sport, with players running eight miles a game, so it is important players are prepared physically so they don’t get injured at the start of the season. When asked about how he stays in shape without being able to play soccer outside, Luke said that he “uses the gym a lot to make sure I maintain my strength so I can be prepared for the physicality of our games. I also play on the basketball team, which really helps with maintaining my endurance and changing direction.” Luke has had the privilege of playing a crucial role on the varsity basketball team, but most of the soccer players don’t have basketball as a second sport to play in the winter. Luke recommended that “players with no sports in the winter focus on eating healthy and hitting the gym regularly. Get touches on the ball in your living room. Sign up for a futsal team. Juggle the ball around with your friends. It’s all about staying disciplined when you don’t have open grass in front of you.”
After a disappointing early playoff exit last season, I asked Luke what goals he has for the team this coming season. He believes that the team is as strong as ever and that “we always have great players but it’s just about working together as a team. There’s always something to improve, and if we work hard on doing our job we can have great success. I’m excited to see what we can do and what our players can bring to the table.” I asked Luke what the effect of Jesus Llamas, Jude Whitten, and Augustus Hickman leaving for college could have on the team. Luke acknowledged the impact they brought to the field but says that “the team can overcome this as long as the next guy steps up. They brought a lot to the team, but we’ll have to come together to find a way to have success without them.”
The boys’ soccer season kicks off in February and with the cold, snowy months approaching us, it is crucial that the team listen to Luke’s advice. He also warned players that they can’t lose their competitive edge over the soccerless months and recommended going to the gym and competing with friends, playing indoor sports like basketball, and even just playing competitive video games like FIFA to keep your competitive fire under you. The game of soccer or football is commonly referred to as “the beautiful game,” and players being in athletic form is necessary to keep making the game beautiful. Luke did not specify what types of workouts soccer players should be doing, I found some workouts for soccer players to do at the gym. According to fitnessfirst.co, soccer players should be doing single-leg squats, dumbbell step-ups, running two miles a day on the treadmill, burpee pull-ups, and lateral band walks. Luke has high expectations for this year’s team, and his expectations will only be reached if the players work as hard off the pitch as they do on it. We wish our boys’ soccer team luck as they near the start of the season and hope to see our guys in prime condition for the season opener.