From aerobic prowess to foot-eye coordination and the ability to
turn on a dime, soccer hones the body so even a young baseball or
tennis player can benefit from the sport, said Dr. Michael F.
Bergeron, executive director of the National Youth Sports Health &
Safety Institute, which advocates for health and safety in youth
“Soccer is a sport that requires lot of different kinds of
movements: running forward and back, cutting, changing direction,
high-bursts and recovery capacity, that all enhance foundational
skills,” said Bergeron, who is based in South Dakota.
“The conditioning, body control, recovery capacity and eye-foot
coordination skills translate nicely into a variety of sports,” he
The number of young people playing soccer has risen from 1.6 million
in 1990 to more than 3 million in 2012, according to figures from
the U.S. Youth Soccer, a member of the United States Soccer
But Bergeron added there is a dramatic drop-off in sports
participation in general by age 15.
Lauren Sesselmann, an American-born Canadian professional soccer
player for the Houston Dash in the National Women’s Soccer League,
runs youth soccer camps for boys and girls, mainly ages seven to 18.
“I work with the kids on jumping, vertical leaps, how not to be
afraid when in the air, how to execute a proper header, and
different ways to protect themselves,” said Sesselmann, whose
Canadian national team captured a bronze medal in the 2012 Olympics.
“Most of the kids love soccer and want to play,” said Sesselmann,
creator of “Fit As A Pro” DVDs. “I give them an extra push, a lot of
speed training, squatting, lunging, and I make sure they’re running
correctly. They can fix that at a young age.”
Sesselmann said a soccer player can run eight to 10 miles (13 to 16
kilometers) in the course of a game.
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Cross training is a big part of Sesselmann’s personal routine, as
she prepares for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada next year.
“I’m outside the soccer field 60 or 70 percent of the time, in the
gym doing weight lifting, yoga, agility drills,” she said. “Out of
season I work on increasing speed, fitness, strength. In camp with
the team we do the ball work, tactical work, and technical work. “
California-based exercise physiologist Dr. Mark Kelly thinks soccer
is a great sport for youth but added that many players sustain foot,
ankle and knee injuries, as well as repeated head trauma.
Sesselmann thinks soccer can be almost as dangerous as dangerous as
American football, even though she’s been in love with it since age
“Soccer just became my sport,” she said. “I loved the running
around, the pushing people, the tackling ... and the scoring goals!”
(Editing by Patricia Reaney and David Gregorio)
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