Over the course of the past twelve days, I have experienced working with the US Soccer U16 Boys National team in Gradisca, Italy.
The trip started off quickly after a long day of traveling with a light practice to help reduce the jet lag. Practice that day was kept to an hour mostly consisting of dynamic movements and ball handling drills. The next two days consisted of a little bit longer practices. After breakfast on these days, I would assist the exercise physiologist to conduct hydration testing. We also did body composition for each athlete on practice days. Following hydration testing, treatments, and a short team meeting we would head onto the bus for practice. Practice took place just across the border in Slovenia. Following practice was lunch and a regeneration session in the afternoon. Free time for the players consisted of team meeting and being treated for a variety of ailments.
On days when we had matches we took a short walk to a local park to have the players do a light dynamic warm up followed by foam rolling and rope stretching. The park was right along a perimeter wall that was developed by Leonardo da Vinci. After our regeneration session in the morning there was time for treatments or team meetings to take place. Treatments varied by the player, but consisted of joint mobilizations, modalities, strengthening exercises, activation of different muscle groups and stretching exercises. Our opening match started off with a 2-1 loss against Croatia.
The following day we were winning 2-1 when in the 20th minute of the first half, one of our players got his second yellow card. This means he got a red card and we played a man down for the remainder of the game. This was a hard fought battle in the rain with a man down against Slovenia that ended in a 2-2 tie. The final match in our group stage was against Brazil again in a driving rain. We took an early lead in the second half, but they scored the equalizer about half way through the second half. Within minutes we had made a few substitutions which lead to the winning goal of the match. Overall we took third in our group.
Gradisca is an hour and half outside of Venice. We traveled to Venice for a few hours that day while we waited for the remaining group stage matches to be complete. After wandering around Venice for the day we went back to the hotel for dinner and treatments. They players were in good spirits when they learned that they would be having a rematch against England who beat them earlier in the year.
The match against England started off quickly with the US having three goals in the first half. We lead 3-1 going in to the locker room at intermission. England fought just as hard in the second half to knot up the score in the final minutes at 4. We went into PK’s in which we came out on top to put us in the fifth place match. Our final match was against the home country of Italy. This match did not go as planned and we lost 4-0.
Over the course of the trip I worked closely with the exercise physiologist, the two team physicians that I traveled along with and the coaching staff. Had daily meetings in the evening time recapping the events of the day and updating them on player’s conditions. Overall we finished 2-2-1 and 6th place out of 12 countries.
If you’re interested in learning how Athletico’s Athletic Training can assist your organization, click here.