Training for Brazil
Updated: Jul 3, 2018
Needless to say, going from playing soccer in FishHawk, Florida to playing in Brazil, one of the biggest soccer countries in the world, is a big step. I've been taking certain measures to prepare myself for the challenge as best as possible, and it's not as complicated as one might think. Here I go through some of the ways I have prepared for Brazil.
1. The language
In the area of Brazil where I'll be staying, there are very few English speakers. In order to effectively communicate with coaches, players, and scouts, I knew I needed to start learning the basics of Portuguese. Starting in March of 2018 I began learning Portuguese through Duolingo, and consistently practiced a little each day. This was the first step of my process and really helped solidify my thoughts on going to Brazil. Obviously, I can't become fluent in a different language in a few short months of learning online, but it gives me a head start on communicating when I'm dropped in a new environment. Thankfully I have Breno as a translator for more professional conversations, which will be a huge help. Learning Portuguese has been a fun new challenge for me and I know that once I'm in Brazil I'll pick up on the language quite quickly.
2. Skill and technical training
I was in the midst of the spring soccer season at a local club when I decided on heading to Brazil, so I had already been practicing and playing games. Since I only had club practice 2 nights a week, I began to go to my local soccer fields to train on my own for the other 3 days. My entire life I've improved mostly through working on my own, so I've developed a routine over the years. I normally repeat the same soccer workout, starting with juggles and Coerver skills and then move on to the shooting once I'm warmed up. Coerver skills are basically just a lot of different types of foot skills that help your touch and technical ability. I always make sure to work equally with my right and left foot, a skill that is undervalued in today's day and age. After shooting I work on free kicks, and that completes my training for the day. I find this strategy works very well for me if I focus and do my best the whole time, and I always feel improved afterward. It's not about how long you train for, it matters the intensity of your training and if you're pushing yourself to get better. It's always more important to train focused and diligently for 30 minutes than to lackadaisically play for 3 hours. I know my method of practicing is proven because it's the exact same routine I have been doing since I was 6 years old and it has gotten me to the point I'm at now. Now that club season ended in April, I play 3 days a week on a short-sided field that allows for quick passes and combination plays. The other 2 days I train on a bigger field that allows me to practice more shooting and long distance passing and dribbling. Training on the small and large fields complement each other and allow for a more wholesome weekly practice.
Though training at the fields every day takes care of the skill and fitness part of my preparation, diet has a lot to do with how you feel and how much energy you have on a day to day basis. This is very important for athletes, as you want to consistently perform every single day and limit your bad days to as few as possible. I have not gone on a strict diet to prepare for Brazil, the main things that I have done are reduce the amount of sugar I consume and increase my water intake. I still go out and eat pizza and cheeseburgers with my friends, and I feel fine. I have a fast metabolism, and really the only foods that make me lethargic are sugary foods. I try to only eat dessert on the weekends, and even that is mostly homemade desserts with more natural sugars as opposed to candy or foods with high fructose corn syrup. After taking out unnecessary sugar, I feel stronger and more energized daily. The increased water intake is really important, especially since I've been playing more soccer. For breakfast, I normally have eggs and toast or pancakes or something of that nature, which is very filling and energizing. Lunch is usually decent and incorporates some type of fruit into the meal. Dinner varies from day to day and could consist of homemade meals such as pasta or meals with meat and vegetables, or pizza and burgers with friends like mentioned earlier. All in all, I have a well-balanced diet, and I feel strong and healthy every day.
4. Strength training
For strength I only do exercises that involve my own body weight, I've never been one to use a lot of weights or machines. I usually do pushups, sit-ups, and pull-ups for a well-rounded workout. Recently I've been doing more pull-ups, as I learned a new type while taking parkour. You hold your legs out in front of you at a 90-degree angle, and it forces your entire core and legs to work as well as your arms. Those pull-ups are extremely beneficial and have really helped my overall strength. These small at home workouts mixed with the training at the fields are a perfect combination of strength and speed.
Mentality is key in all sports, including soccer. To prepare my mind for Brazil I've been watching a lot more soccer and analyzing film. I've especially tried to follow the movement of attacking players and try to replicate their positioning. Studying the movement of professional players really helps get me into a certain mindset, and increases my confidence. The most important part of this whole process is definitely attitude. I need to walk into every new tryout situation with the confidence to play my game and show my playing style without being nervous. This is something that is very difficult to do, but it absolutely necessary. No matter how talented you are, if you go into a new situation with a timid attitude, you'll likely be quickly glanced over. This is the part I'm most focused on, and every day I think about what kind of attitude I need to have when entering this area outside my comfort zone. Keeping positive about it and staying confident has helped me, and I'm hardly nervous at all, just excited.
Juggling on the beach during one of my last days in Florida
"That the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." - 2 Timothy 3:17