Along with the social and recreational benefits of coaching internationally, there are also some hardships, especially for a mid-sized school such as Stavanger or Shekou. With both schools coming in around 800 students Pre-K through twelfth grade, there are not always enough interests in both sports, arts and the other ASAs and some activities suffer from a low turnout. ASA (After School Activities) generally happen at the same time as sports, giving both athletics and ASAs a limited time to prepare and practice for their end of activity tournament or performance. To give you the hard numbers, as a coach, I only saw my teams twice a week for a 90 minute practice, and that included warm-ups, conditioning and basic skills. There was just not enough time and last year I recognized this during the ACAMIS tournament my girls were tired. I tried to get them fit enough for a three day tournament but found we came up a little short with our overall endurance. This year, I vowed to not make that mistake again.
Getting the most out of two 90 minute practice didn't only mean that we needed to be organized, but we needed to cut some things out of the schedule and for me the only thing that could have been taken out was conditioning. Granted we still needed it, and there was NO DOUBT my girls were going to be fit, but it wasn't going to happen on my watch, it needed to happen on their own.
Just at the end of the first practice I brought them in for a quick talk to set up the year. A couple of friendly matches, some extra games that might come about, a mini tournament and then ACAMIS at the end. The girls were excited and so was I, but they had no idea what was coming! To make sure my girls were ready for the tournament I challenged them to a 10K run at the end of the season. I laid it out there, 10km at a 6 minute pace, we'll be done in an hour!
Throughout the next couple of months I got my 10-15 minutes of practice back and used those to develop ball skills, strategy play as well as focused more time on playing soccer itself. Throughout the next couple of weeks the development of the team surpassed what I could even hope for. The girls were fit, they were playing hard and we had a solid team going into our ACAMIS tournament. Last year we took second, getting beat by a team that was just simply better than us. This year was different, the girls confidence was high and they played very well into the final match.
If you'd like to know what I did, you can check out my GoogleDoc and see what running program I had my girls doing throughout their season. Keep in mind, our goal for the end of the season was to run a 10K at a 6 minute/km pace. Remember, if you'd ever want to collaborate on something similar for your teams as well, let me know, I am a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with the NSCA as well. Also, I am open to sharing, please feel free to take, use and change up the program on the GoogleDoc.