The purpose of this article is to discuss the importance of the offseason recovery phase, a component of the annual periodization plan which is too-often neglected in Canadian youth soccer. Periodization simply refers to dividing the year up into planned phases of training, with a different emphasis in each phase.
Youth coaches in Canada should look to model their phases of training after professional European clubs, which exemplify the highest standards of youth development programs in the world. Even at the adult professional level, top European teams play a season consisting of only 38 competitive matches per year. Furthermore, the typical competitive season (competitive phase) for European teams consists of about 1 game per week for 9 months (September to May).
Taking into account the physical and psychological stresses that youth players are faced with throughout adolescence, youth teams should structure their annual plan around a competitive season lasting a maximum of 8 months, with no more than 1 game per week during this time period. A proper off-season recovery phase should last at least 1 month, with minimal training and no games, to allow players a mental and physical break, and to facilitate full physiological recovery.
The off-season should be followed by a transition into training (transitional phase) with a focus on technical development and physical conditioning, to prepare players for the next competitive season. Players should feel rested and refreshed at the end of the recovery phase, and should be highly motivated to resume training in the transitional phase.
Of course hard work and consistent training is necessary to optimize performance, but more is not always better. By taking into account the rest and recovery needed for young athletes you will notice a significant improvement in their performance on the field.
Stay Fit, Train Smart, Play Hard!