College sport is seasonal, with both the on and off season being utilised to maximise your playing potential.

NSR Australia spoke to Carl Junot, former Head Coach of Harvard Men’s Soccer team to provide ways in which you can improve your game during the off season and maintain your focus.

The off season “spring semester” January through May, is used by coaches and athletes to develop and hone skills for the following season and is in every way just as important as your ‘on season’.

Depending on how your team finishes at the end of the season, you will either have 4-8 weeks completely off from trials “Christmas Break”, where you will be left to your own devices. Take this time to relax, rehab and rest – because it’s one of the only times of the year you can afford to kick youoff seasonr feet up and enjoy the festive season.  Keep in mind, “it is easier to stay in shape than it is to get in shape,” so don’t go overboard with the Christmas turkey but enjoy the break because you deserve it!  During this period, cardiovascular exercise, running, swimming, or tennis are a great way to remain active, clear the mind and have fun with friends.

As Christmas comes to an end and with Spring semester approaching, it’s time to get back into routine. Your coach will have given you a conditioning program to build strength, speed, agility, quickness and cardio respiratory endurance. Without regular games during the off season it is important that you make the most of your coach and team. Take the time to speak to your coach and evaluate your previous season’s performance. Talk about what you did well, and what you did not.   These will be the areas that you need to improve on during the off season. It is also important to discuss what you would like to do and how to accomplish your goals for the new season, it shows dedication. For instance if you are in the reserve squad, pre-season goal setting and practice may make the difference between sitting on the bench and starting on the team.

During Spring semester, without regular games, it is a great time to spend extra time focusing on your academic responsibilities. It is not just a matter of playing well which ensure you make a team, but you must have a passing C average in order to start.  For students wanting to transfer or be considered for Div 1 or 2 schools, this is a great time to buckle down and study because you must ensure that your academics are of an extremely high standard in order to be eligible.

During the “Summer holidays”, May-August many students will come back to Australia and will be away from the routine of college, team training and regular coach contact. This time is a real test of will power and motivation, especially since you will be returning to the indulgences of winter. It is very easy to put off training due to the cold weather and indulge in lots of home cooked meals.

With the help of Carl Junot, we have broken down a guideline for you to follow during this period to ensure you come back to college fit and ready to jump back into the new season.

“Similarly to spring semester you will be given a program to follow during this time”, says Junot.” It is imperative you follow this, although many don’t. It is easy to tell from the first day back at college which athletes have and which haven’t looked after themselves. Your dedication whilst away from campus can influence your starting position in the new season.” In saying this, don’t stress about undergoing a gruelling overhaul whilst away from college otherwise you will burn yourself out before the season has even started. Just follow the simple steps below.

Trainingoff season 2 tips – Work with the schedule your coach has given you. Ensure you cover, Fitness (cardio vascular), Strength (weights and circuit work) and team play (fun with friends, or participate in an training squad or team back home).

Diet – “This is harder to manage, most coaches provide diet education during the academic year that will carry through to the off season but it is the player’s responsibility whether they stick to this.” Says Junot. As an athlete you have had extensive education about nutrition, but if you are still unsure, visit your coach before you leave and get a nutritional guideline to follow when you’re home.

Goal Setting – Set attainable goals for the summer, “These should primarily involve meeting fitness benchmarks throughout the off season, keep it SMART.. Simple, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.”

And most importantly.. Rest!  Junot says, “Most college kids will manage to get R and R during the off season…But I encourage them to keep their physical shape high during this period, even if they need a break from regular competition. I encourage athletes to take 2-3 weeks off all work, before pre-season, camps and regular competition begins after the summer break.”
One last little bit of advice from us to you, don’t obsess or stress, college is all about balance. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a training day or indulge with family and friends. You have to wind down and relax too, so you can push yourself harder and enjoy it.