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Causes and Symptoms of Overtraining in Soccer

kids playing soccer

Soccer is an intense sport and one that challenges the body physically and mentally.   If those demands become too much for the players, their performance made decrease.  Even worse injury may occur.  The intense and long bouts of training may result in overtraining.  Players become burnt out physically and mentally.  It is important for coaches to understand just how much they can push their players to their full potential to peak at the right time and not cross the line into overtraining their athletes.

Overtraining is the direct result of an athlete not being able to fully recover after a training session. They are tired physically and/or mentally and still continue to train at a high level despite not having adequate rest.  This cycle of high intense training and inadequate rest leads to overtraining syndrome.  No matter how hard the athletes push themselves, once in this cycle, a decrease in performance is inevitable.  The body simply cannot adapt to the exercise demands.  Until the athlete fully recovers, will there be a performance improvement.

The following are causes that may lead to overtraining:

Stress– when the body is taxed with intense training or shorter rest periods between games, the level of stress hormones in the body will rise.  An increase in the production of stress hormones can lead to illnesses because the body’s immune system becomes vulnerable

Training– for example: excessive high intensity training, long succession of training days, more frequent games and if inadequate rest is mixed in, this will lead to overtraining.

Age– younger players have less experience with training and games and therefore may be more likely to experience overtraining because they are not used to working so hard.  Older players may be more likely to experience burnout and overtraining from the constant frequency of practice and games.

Injury– Stressful activities on the body, such as plyometrics can lead to muscle tissue not repairing itself quick enough before the next bout of training.  The repeated intense exercise over and over again will likely lead to injury and be another factor in overtraining your athletes.

Inadequate Nutrition– Soccer players need an adequate amount of the proper nutrients in order to perform and recover well from training. Not enough macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats) in the right amounts will affect energy levels and promote fatigue. This will lead to the overtraining syndrome because the body is not equipped to handle the stress of training.

Inadequate Nutrients- For example iron deficiency- iron is important to help carry oxygen in the blood.  The better the oxygen supply, the greater aerobic output an athlete has.  A limited aerobic output will increase the rate and amount of fatigue the athlete experiences. As we mentioned before, fatigue will lead to overtraining

Psychological Factors–  A player’s outlook on training and competition plays a role in the risk of overtraining.  If an athlete is unmotivated, self-conscious or experiences nervousness or higher than normal anxiety levels, there is an increased risk of overtraining.  Some players may stress over fitting everything into their schedule: school, soccer, friends, family, etc.  Not only does this result in physical fatigue, but mental fatigue as well.  As a coach, you should check in with your players from time to time to ensure they are not feeling overwhelmed or inadequate.

There are signs and symptoms of overtraining.  The greater the athlete is experiencing overtraining, the more likely a lot of these symptoms may be prevalent.

As a coach, be aware of the following in your athletes:

  • weight loss or fluctuations
  • increased number of injuries
  • chronic muscle soreness
  • loss of appetite
  • increased illnesses
  • headaches
  • chronic fatigue
  • excessive sweating
  • GI issues
  • increased anxiety
  • mood changes
  • depression
  • inability to sleep
  • decreased self-confidence
  • unable to concentrate
  • apathy
  • unable to relax
  • loss of enthusiasm and drive for playing
  • poor attitude

All these signs and symptoms will lead to a decrease in performance.  The longer the athlete experiences overtraining, the longer it will take the athlete to recover.  It is important for coaches to recognize right away if there are any changes in their players and to address each situation individually to best help the athlete.

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