Soccer players spend the entire summer preparing for their dreaded preseason fitness test. Ranging from the infamous beep-test to a strenuous timed run, most soccer teams require their athletes to complete a fitness test at the beginning of preseason. It is the first chance an athlete has to make a good impression and will set the bar for the rest of the season.
Why Fitness Tests are Important
From a purely physical standpoint, fitness matters. Soccer is centered around an athlete’s endurance and ability to constantly sprint and recover. Players that are well conditioned have an immediate advantage from the time the whistle blows to the last few seconds of the game. Getting a baseline fitness level at the beginning of preseason can be the difference between winning and losing a game, especially in overtime. Additionally, fitness test results demonstrate the athlete’s commitment to working hard during the summer. It shows they are accountable and willing to put in the extra effort even when no one is watching. Here are a couple tips to crush those preseason fitness tests:
Practice Makes Perfect
Practicing a fitness test enables an athlete to better understand expectations and how to succeed during preseason. It helps gauge a baseline of fitness and demonstrates areas for improvement. The results are also crucial for determining an athlete’s individual goals and strategy. Creating a schedule that is progressively difficult and making a list of smaller goals is the most effective way to increase fitness levels. Athletes should run the test throughout the summer until they can comfortably pass every time. Running the fitness test multiple times helps players practice their pace, sharp turns, and overall strategy. Come preseason, athletes who practice the fitness test will be confident and well prepared to pass.
Beep Test Tips
It is common for athletes to waste energy on turns or incorrectly pace themselves during the beep test. In order to be more efficient, athletes should touch the line with one foot and turn sharply to minimize their distance travelled. They should also drop their hips slightly as they turn to get a strong push off when getting back up to pace. Similarly, players must maintain steady running form during the test, meaning shoulders are relaxed, arms are pumping, and breathing is smooth. It is also important for players to be in sync with the beep. It’s helpful to use the halfway signal as a guide for consistency as the pace begins to increase. Players that practice and understand the beep test will be composed throughout the test and successful during preseason.
Fitness tests are not only a grueling physical test, but they are also a test of mental toughness. As an athlete, being mentally prepared is equally as important as being physically fit. As a whole, a fitness test can be treacherous so it is important to think of the test in smaller pieces. With the support from a team, a player will feel encouraged and can channel their inner thoughts to make the challenge more mentally manageable. When an athlete’s legs are burning and their body doesn’t feel like it can push any further, mental toughness carries an athlete to the finish line. Going into a fitness test expecting to fail or allowing the mind to focus on being tired will result in slower times. It’s normal to feel anxious before the test, but athletes run into problems as soon as they start to doubt their capabilities and compare themselves to others.
Recovery and Preparation
Athletes must be physically ready to perform the fitness test during preseason. It is essential to build up strength and conditioning throughout the summer as well as allow time to taper and recover. In particular, the days leading up to the test should be lighter and include jogs, intense stretching, and plenty of foam rolling. The most imperative part of these days prior to preseason is also getting enough sleep. More quality sleep will help keep a player’s immune system strong and leave them feeling ready to go come game day. It is also important to hydrate and stick to the foods that provide the best fuel for performance. For more information on nutritional habits check out this blog.
There are many elements in soccer that are uncontrollable, but working hard during the off-season is something that players can do to get ahead of the game. The most successful athletes don’t overlook the minor details that can have a large impact on performance. Fitness testing will never be enjoyable, but having a positive attitude will help players get through preseason. End summer on a good note and start preseason by passing the fitness test.