The final whistle blows and your soccer season has officially ended.
What's next? Some players will use the offseason to rest and recover before preparing for the next soccer season, while others will choose to participate in a different sport.
While both options have their benefits, it's often a plus for young athletes to stay in shape and compete by participating in multiple sports. If you spend the offseason participating in a different sport, you develop skills such as hand-eye coordination, foot-eye coordination, explosiveness, endurance and agility in a way you may not experience in your primary sport. Different sports require you to move your body differently, which can ultimately make you a superior all-around athlete. Playing a different sport can also help you better develop the mental skills needed to become a more effective soccer player.
If your pursuit is to become a great athlete, picking up a second sport can be beneficial to your athletic success. For example, soccer is a game that largely requires patience, communication and trust. The game often moves at a slower pace than other sports. Basketball is a sport built on speed, explosiveness and quick thinking. By choosing to play basketball in the offseason, you will allow yourself to develop these underused motor skills, which could make you a more dynamic player on the soccer field. All sports offer unique opportunities to grow and develop as an athlete.
With that in mind, here are some sports I believe are particularly beneficial for soccer players to participate in during their offseason.
Lacrosse incorporates many of the same parameters as soccer.
In fact, it's often referred to as a combination of soccer and hockey.
The game is played with one ball on similar-sized fields and geared towards the same end goal—putting the ball in the net.
They also feature nearly the same number of active players—11 per side in soccer, and 10 per side in lacrosse.
The vision needed to find open teammates and deliver productive passes under pressure also has a lot of crossover to soccer, as does the constant running up and down the field.
Perhaps the biggest difference between lacrosse and soccer is the physicality. Lacrosse is a full contact sport, and learning how to take and deliver hits during the flow of the game can help make you a more physical athlete. Bringing the same physicality to the soccer field can help you better outmuscle opponents and fight through contact.
Spatial intelligence is a must when competing in basketball.
There are 10 athletes on the court and only one ball. Basketball players are required to move off the ball at all times. Setting screens, moving around defenders, looking for open lanes and fighting to get space are all staples of the game. All of these movements have a direct correlation to movements made during a soccer match.
If you want to get open and receive a pass in a dangerous area, you have to learn to move intelligently off the ball. Learning to guard a basketball player in one-on-one situations will also help you develop the lateral agility needed to become a better soccer defender, as well. Certain situations on the basketball court pit you in two- or three-on-one scenarios where you must think quickly and make a decision on who or where to defend. These same concepts can be of great help on the soccer field. Learning how to move around both on the offensive and defensive ends of a basketball game will enhance your soccer performance.
When it comes to baseball/softball, patience is the name of the game. Once the waiting is over and you have a chance to make a play, you need to quickly strike into action and make intelligent decisions. Explosiveness, speed and power are all required to play baseball. Similar to soccer in some aspects, baseball is thought to be a slow moving game. Patience away from the ball teaches you to be ready at any moment to go from still to an all-out sprint.
Baseball players rely on great hand-eye coordination, core strength and power to hit the ball. Learning to build and utilize a strong midsection in athletic actions can translate greatly onto the pitch. By learning to control your core muscles. You'll be able to generate more power on each kick. Baseball also teaches explosiveness. Imagine playing shortstop and the ball is rocketed your way. You must explode from your starting position in the blink of an eye to react and field the ball. Similar to soccer, when you are playing off the ball and suddenly a bullet pass comes across the pitch, you need a split-second reaction to move toward the ball and beat the defender to make a quick strike. Goalies especially will find joy in baseball, as they have to react quickly and do everything in their power to get their mitts on a batted ball.
Track is really an excellent second-sport option for almost any athlete. No matter what event you end up competing in, a season of track will likely leave you with better running form, better acceleration, better top end speed and better conditioning than you had when you came to the sport. Many of the field events also build general brands of athleticism that translate very well to other sports.
Becoming a better soccer player is going to take time, effort and energy. Many players attempt to train on their own or play another version of soccer (club, indoor, etc.) in the offseason. While these are great options, most young players shouldn't play one sport year-round. Their bodies and minds can receive extra benefit by dedicating a few months to training and competing in a different sport. The motor skills, fitness, and communication skills you'll find from a second sport will often help make you a more well-rounded athlete and keep you in tip-top shape for your next soccer season.
Photo Credit: CDH_Design/iStock, FatCamera/iStock, RichVintage/iStock, technotr/iStock
- 5 Reasons College Coaches Love to Recruit Multi-Sport Athletes
- Why J.J. Watt Doesn't Want You to Play Just One Sport
- Is Early Specialization Beneficial for Young Soccer Players?