John Cone on staying fit with individual training

As competitive players face this period of isolation, we checked in with John Cone, a previous Youth Soccer Insider contributor on health, fitness and sports science, who has served as fitness coach for MLS, NWSL, college, youth and U.S. national teams. Cone, also an instructor for U.S. Soccer's highest level licenses, is the co-founder of Fit For 90, a player-monitoring platform for performance, development and injury prevention.

SOCCER AMERICA: What's your coaching like during this novel coronavirus shutdown?

JOHN CONE: Certainly we are being met by fairly unimaginable circumstances. But working with a large number of teams, ranging from youth teams through professional teams, the core question and discussion is largely the same -- how can we keep the athletes in safe environments, and at the same time, maintain some semblance of performance?

SA: Guiding players through individual training is something that's necessary even in normal circumstances ...

JOHN CONE: Working with teams across so many different environments, there are a large number of instances in which individual training is needed. For instance, frequently at the youth level, there are players who for a variety of reasons cannot make training and need to maintain their trajectory of fitness relative to the team. Or, in the college or pro environment when players are injured, or away from team training and need to improve or maintain fitness levels, and injury resistance.

Generally speaking, methods for individual training exists on a continuum. The ideal in any sport is always training as complete a picture as possible, where the opposite end of this picture is the individual training on their own. Individual training is absolutely essential in a variety of moments -- we are now in the most extreme case.

SA: You stress the importance of coaches "considering the individual" while designing training even for team practices.

JOHN CONE: Right, at the most fundamental level, the objective of individual training of any variety is to meet individual needs. From the physical perspective alone, this starts with the fact that each player, each day is working from a finite pool of energy that must be managed effectively to at once avoid over-training and under-training. Essentially doing just the right amount of work.

This requires coaches getting detailed information on each player's recent playing and training history, other sport or physical activities, and injury history. Also crucial is considering a players' age, maturation and growth. For example, the kinds of aches and pains a player may be experiencing during a growth spurt is an important consideration. The data and information needed to create an optimal fitness training plan is similar whether for a team environment, or in a case such as the one we find ourselves in now, which requires players training on their own.

* * * * * * * * * *

IMPORTANT: The shelter-in-place order during the coronavirus pandemic means staying at home. It may be permitted in some areas to leave the home to walk, run or bike if it can be done without violating social/physical distancing regulations. Do not leave your home to exercise without confirming public health orders and public health recommendations. These could change daily.

* * * * * * * * * *

SA: Can you give us some examples of important considerations?

JOHN CONE: It can be broken down as:

1. Daily readiness.
2. Prior day(s)' training loads.
3. Future days' training and match schedule (inapplicable in the current situation).
4: Type of work needed in terms of both metabolic and movement demands.

For parents and youth players, we provide general training plans incorporating a general training prescription for each player position.

These include exercises designed to increase fitness that can be performed in relatively small spaces and provide workout variations to accommodate players' "readiness" -- the level of energy a player has on a given day. Because the goal is for an athlete to maintain the quality of each acceleration performed during each bout -- and steadily increase the amount of work they can do of each type of fitness. Variation is also important because too much of one thing gets boring.

SA: Any general advice on how often players should workout?

JOHN CONE: That depends on a player's readiness. But generally speaking, two to three maximal (exhausting) workouts per week will help keep a player fit. I also recommend cycling equally through workouts over time so a different style of fitness is performed every two-three days.

* * * * * * * * * *

The individual PDF Fit For 90 training sessions can be downloaded free of charge HERE.

Fit For 90 is offering a webinar "Topic managing individual fitness development" -- geared toward college coaches and youth coaches working with players ages 13 and above in both club and high school environments on Monday, March 30 at 12 noon ET. Registration LINK.

(John Cone has a Ph.D. in kinesiology and an M.S. in Exercise Physiology, his coaching licenses include the USSF A, and he is a certified strength and conditioning coach (CSCS). Cone has served as Portland Timbers Director of Sports Science, assistant coach of the Carolina Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City. He is a U.S. Soccer coach instructor, and has coached youth and college ball. He is the co-founder and CEO of Fit For 90.)

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications