I get asked all the time, why I think my game improved so much in college. It's a good question because I did improve and mature in a big way throughout my college career. The truth is I used the summer months to focus on my game and achieve the goals I sought out to accomplish as a young girl. When I was little I dreamt of playing on the national team and representing my country in the World Cup and Olympics. Every summer throughout middle school, HS and college, I immersed myself in the game by attending World Class Soccer Camp for 7-8 weeks. My days were spent working on all aspects of my game and my weekends I spent competing in W-League games. I never spent time running around a track. In fact, I can count on one hand the amount of times I've ever run on a track or went out on a long run. I trained in the way that would help me be the best soccer player I could be by simply playing the game!
This August I had the pleasure of training a girl that I helped through the college process a couple of years ago. She now attends one of the best DIII schools and is a rising sophomore this year. She had a great freshman year and has the potential to do some great things in her college career.
Our focus in August was to get her soccer fitness to a great place before entering preseason. The best way to be soccer fit is to play the game. However, I know that sometimes this isn't possible, and that good competitive training environments are often difficult to find. My next suggestion would be to train simulating the types of movements and runs you would make during a 90 minute game. As an outside back that likes to attack, I put her through sessions that incorporated offensive runs followed by defensive recoveries. We did sprint intervals on the field with the ball at her feet, recreating an attacking run followed by a sprint to recover defensivly. These sprints were roughly 40-50 yards down the field and back. We worked on changing direction and using different surfaces to do so. We incorporated long balls and crosses at the end of every run to ensure that she was training to have the stamina to execute in the final third after a long attacking run up the field. In just two weeks of work, her soccer fitness improved drastically as well as her touch on the ball.
The lesson here is that when training to be soccer fit, train with the ball at your feet and do the type of running consistent with your position on the field. As a former college coach, I saw too many girls come into preseason not having touched a ball all summer. This was obvious from the moment they stepped on the field. They had spent their summer running around a track but when they stepped on the field they looked clumsy, unfit, and not sharp with the ball. I encourage those of you that are going through the recruitment process and those already in college to spend your summers and off seasons training to be the best soccer player you can be. If you are working on fitness, train on a field and have the ball at your feet. Do sprints with the ball, change direction with it, and work on all aspects of your technical game. Simulate situations that are specific to your position. To sum it all up, forget the track....you aren't a track star :-)