Summer workouts prepare team for slog through soccer season

August 19, 2014

By Neil Pierson

The Skyline High School girls soccer team has its sights set on another deep run in the state playoffs, but it’s the work they’re doing during the summer that may hold the key to success.

Dozens of Spartans soccer players have been preparing for the 2014 season — which officially stars Aug. 25 with tryout sessions — by spending their summer in the weight room.

They’re not working without guidance. Skyline brought in Kevin Chiles, a professional sports development coach, for a series of twice-a-week workouts that started in mid-July and finish during the week of tryouts.

By Neil Pierson  Parklyn Neil (left) and Alyssa D’Mello, Skyline High School athletes, perform squats with dumbbells during a summer workout session at the school Aug. 6.

By Neil Pierson
Parklyn Neil (left) and Alyssa D’Mello, Skyline High School athletes, perform squats with dumbbells during a summer workout session at the school Aug. 6.

The training sessions are voluntary, and players have paid a suggested donation of $50 to participate. It’s much different from a mandatory training environment, said Kiara Williams, a former Skyline soccer player who is assisting Chiles with the training program.

“Everyone comes because they want to be here,” Williams said, “and they’re actually working hard, which is nice, because then that also shows you the amount of improvement from week to week to week.”

From varsity veterans to incoming freshmen, a majority of the players in the Skyline program have joined in at some point. A dozen players were on hand for a 90-minute session Aug. 6, which Williams led in Chiles’ absence.

For some players, it was their eighth training session, and their fitness levels are noticeably higher in only a month’s time, Williams said.

“The first couple weeks were a lot of instruction, where now it’s a lot of monitoring and just tweaking instead of fully teaching,” she said. “The whole time it’s muscle-building, but now it’s even more building, getting stronger, instead of learning everything.”

The players attacked a rigorous circuit-training regimen in the Skyline weight room. Straight-arm planks and crunches tightened their core muscles. Squats and presses with free weights and dumbbells strengthened their arms. And a rapid-fire series of step-ups targeted fast-twitch muscle fibers in their legs.

All the drills are relevant to success on the soccer pitch, said Kelli Sullivan, a Skyline senior midfielder.

“Mainly, it’s just stuff like jumping and different kinds of agility work that’s going to let us explode out of things and move quickly off the ball,” Sullivan explained.

It’s the first time the Skyline players have worked with a professional trainer in the offseason, and they believe it’s going to help them have a stronger start to the season.

“Compared to previous seasons without having this kind of program, we’ve been having to work on our fitness level toward the beginning, and so maybe our start in preseason or our conference wasn’t as strong as we’d hoped,” said Kendra Elderkin, a senior midfielder.

“I think this program is really going to help us because we can work on skill stuff when the season starts instead of having to focus on fitness.”

Williams may be the kind of role model they need. She played midfield and forward at Skyline from 2005-08, helping the Spartans win their first state title as a senior, and went on to a four-year career at Arizona State University.

Athletics are also in her bloodline — her brother is Kasen Williams, a former All-American wide receiver at Skyline who now stars for the University of Washington.

When it comes to offseason workouts, Kiara said, things have changed for the better since she left high school.

“I think it’s getting more intense,” she said. “When I went to Skyline, I wish we had this. We didn’t have this.”

Earning a college scholarship, she said, may be a motivating factor for players who choose to increase their fitness levels, on top of the work they do year round with their high school and select squads.

“The recruiting and stuff for that is getting earlier and earlier,” Williams said, “so having programs like this, where they’re starting earlier and earlier with weight lifting, getting their bodies strong and things like that, I think is really, really good.”

Elderkin, who plays for the Redmond-based Crossfire Premier program, said she needs to get stronger in order to stay healthy through a busy fall schedule. Along with daily practices and at least two matches per week with Skyline, she’ll continue practicing with Crossfire three times a week.

For example, building stronger biceps and abdominal muscles are things that soccer players should do, but don’t always think about, Elderkin said.

“But obviously, exploding out of things, and jumping and everything, it’s really helped me. I’ve noticed, with my soccer ability,” she said.

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