I’ve worked with a variety of female soccer players over the last several years – generally high school age. In my experience, the best “athletes” – the players who rank in the top of the group in terms of their quickness, strength, balance, and injury avoidance – are the players who can do quality bodyweight squats to parallel or below. When I see a player that can’t hit an air squat, I know that there’s an issue that soccer is only going to make worse – weak or short posterior chain, lack of ankle or hip mobility, balance, quad strength, or all of the above. These players – often top-performers, hard-working, dedicated to the program – end up in the trainer’s room, or requiring extra time for pre-practice or pre-game stretching, or sometimes worse.
My background is soccer but I think this is true in general – not enough effort is made with elite early teenage athletes in the area of flexibility and strength training. Coaching and training in the 11-14 year old ages is highly focused on sport-specific skills development. During my stint as a JV boys soccer coach, it was typical to see players “lose” then “regain” their balance (meaning coordination and body self-awareness) during the early teen years.
The US Club Soccer NorCal Fiorentina training program includes proprioceptive development modules for younger ages. I think it would be great to see more awareness around strength and flexibility training for older youth players.
Let’s start with bodyweight squats.