It's preseason time! College teams all over the country are finally coming back together after a long off-season in preparation for the 2017 season. Reflecting on my experiences during four college and five professional preseasons, I wanted to share the following tips:
1) Trust in your preparation
For many, the mere thought of the word "preseason" can cause uneasiness. Two-a-days, beep tests, and fitness tests might come to mind. It's true that preseason usually comes with some tough challenges, but if you put the work in during the summer, then preseason is your time to showcase your work. Heading into my senior season at Penn State, my teammates and I all came in fitter than we had ever been. It allowed us to focus more on our playing and worry less about getting in shape or playing catch up. To this day, there's no question in our minds that our preparedness for and focus during preseason played a part in our success that season.
There will certainly be better days than others but trust in your ability and have confidence in the work you put in up until this point.
2) Embrace "Eat, sleep, soccer"
The clichéd phrase really comes to life during college soccer preseason. The soccer (and inevitably a fair bit of running!) is guaranteed but the sleeping and eating are pure necessities. You'll hear your coaches tell you time and time again to hydrate, eat, and sleep well. Listen to them! You'll undoubtedly put your body though some hard work, so make sure you take care of it when you get the chance. Off-days are coveted, and recovery is key!
3) Sit with someone new
Preseason guarantees a lot of time spent with your teammates. Thanks to an abundance of two-a-days, team meals, team-meetings, team photos and all the other team functions, you'll be hard-pressed to find time during your day spent without teammates. It's easy to fall within a comfort zone and spend most of your time with the same few people on your team.
Challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone – sit with someone that you wouldn't usually sit with at a team meal, hop in a different car on the way to training, or strike up a conversation with someone you don't know much about. The work you put in on the field can really pay off later in a season but the relationships you build will undoubtedly prove most important.
4) Get Ahead
The beauty of a fall sport is that preseason, for many schools, falls in the summer before classes start. This provides a great opportunity for new players to gain their footing before the rest of the school population is on campus for classes.
As a freshman, my upperclassmen were able to show me where my classes were and I could map out where I'd have to go once they began. This relieved a lot of stress and I felt like I had a step up on all the other bright-eyed freshmen who came on campus right before classes started.
5) Enjoy the process
During college, your team is almost guaranteed to change every year. Preseason marks the beginning of a journey with a team that you will likely only have for one season. Soak in every moment together – even the toughest days will present opportunities to grow as individuals and, most importantly, as a team.