By: Aleksi Pahkasalo
4.0 GPA for 4 years ✓
1. Can YOU do it too...?
If you opened this article hoping to find a simple solution to achieve all those successes mentioned above, then I am sorry to disappoint you... You won’t find that here.
However, if you opened this article thinking you will find that same, old, boring lecture telling you to eat your veggies, sleep eight hours a day, train twice a day, do your homework before practice, study every day etc… Then I’m happy to tell you that you can keep reading because that’s not what I will tell you…
And if you think this article is aimed to be boastful of my personal achievements, then you are VERY mistaken...! This article is to help YOU, as you start your new college athletics season.
At Vivo 7 Sports, not only do we connect athletes with new opportunities, but we also aim to help athletes be as prepared as possible with the opportunities they already have.
So the answer to my first question above is YES, you can do it too. There is no reason why you cannot get an A in all of your courses. And there is no reason why you cannot become an All-American, or an All-Conference athlete.
Because I was not an academic genius, nor am I an extreme athlete with immense speed and inhumane physical characteristics; yet I managed to do all of those things.
The answer to my second question, on HOW I was able to reach all those achievements, is not so straight-forward, but it is rather SIMPLE. It is about trusting that there is a unique routine for you to become the best student-athlete that YOU can be.
The not-so-simple part is finding out what the perfect routine for you is…
Luckily, whether you are going to college as a freshman, or as a returning student, it is NOT your first time being a student, NOR is it the first time you will be an athlete on a team. You have done both already, in high school and in the clubs back home.
So, let’s find out what the perfect routine is for YOU to become the best student-athlete that YOU can be.
Find you what STUDYING habits work for YOU
By now, you should know when the best time for you to study is. Is it late in the evening before you go to sleep, in the mornings before breakfast, during the day between classes, before practice, or right after dinner…? Or maybe a mixture of several of those… The point is, you know from your previous academic experiences what works for YOU, and what doesn’t… If you can’t focus on studying right after dinner because all you want to do is chat with your friends, then don’t, because you know what you are studying won’t stick… Or is it to not be on your phone and take such good notes in class and be so attentive that you don’t need to study all that much on your own time…?
The point is… You can’t lie to yourself…! You know what works for you, so if you do something that you know is not for you, then you are aware of the fact that there is a great chance that you will not succeed in the classroom…
Sorry to break it you, in class the ball does not hit the post and drop on your foot for a simple tap-in like it might in soccer. Unfortunately, the paper you have due won’t drop into your hand right before its deadline…
Find you what INDIVIDUAL TRAINING works for YOU
Is it waking up early before breakfast to wake up your body for the day by going for a jog, doing core work, maybe getting some touches on the ball, stretching, maybe doing an upper-body work-out…?
Or is it getting into the trainer’s office before every training to foam roll, bike, stretch, strengthen…?
Or is it getting on the field before practice or staying after practice to get some touches in, practicing your weaker foot, or doing a little bit of extra running?
Or MAYBE, it is doing absolutely nothing on your own time except attending team practice so you can be as fresh as possible on game-day...?
Again, you know your body, you know what you need to do during the week in order to be the BEST possible you on game-day.
Find out what FOOD works for YOU
This is the part where especially for freshman, you will most likely have to make an adjustment. The same foods you are used to back home, probably won’t be available for you at your school. You might have to make some changes to your diet, but with this again, find out as soon as possible what works for YOU. You know what your body is used to, what makes your body function the best. Sure, there is plenty of evidence pointing to the fact that vegetables, lean meat, healthy carbs, salads, fruits are all good for the body, but if in your 18-22 year life you have discovered that a burger and a coke is the best thing for you before a game, eat that burger and drink that coke before the game.
The key again is, DON’T LIE TO YOURSELF. Don’t try to convince yourself that eating unhealthy foods will make you play better if it has not done so in the past. But I have come across several athletes who do not pay too much attention to their diet, yet still outrun everyone else on the team. So no one is there to tell you what to eat and what not to eat, it is YOUR body. I personally noticed, that when I stopped WORRYING and STRESSING about food so much, I became a lot less free and happy, and in turn played better. Once again, that is ME. I strive to eat healthy foods, but if sometimes my body tells me I want to eat something else, I do.
But before games, I always eat the same thing, because I know MY body needs exactly those foods to play the 90 minutes as well as I can.
Find out how much SLEEP YOU need
The common recommendation seems to be sleeping 8 hours a night. However, we are all different. Some people are used to sleeping 6 hours a night, with a longer nap during the day. Some people need 10 hours a night. Listen to your body. How much sleep do YOU need to have YOUR body in the best shape for the next training session, and more importantly the next game. The advice I do give is, don’t bank on the night before the game to get the sleep you would have needed during the week.
If I haven't made myself clear yet, everything is about the ROUTINE. Find your sleeping routine, and do everything you can not to alter it. The common complaint that comes at this point is, ‘’Well, I have to do ''all-nighters'' studying, so obviously I don’t always get enough sleep during the semester.’’ That goes straight to the first point I made, establish your studying routine, so you don’t have to do ''all-nighters'' studying. I am usually against medications, but in order to establish a good sleeping cycle, MELATONIN is a natural hormone that will help you sleep well, and get a good sleeping cycle going.
But once again, I advise you to find out what works for you. You have been waking up and sleeping for the past 18-22 years, so by now you should know how much sleep your body needs.
So, once you know what works for YOU in terms of a sports, academic, eating, and sleeping routine…
Now, STICK TO IT. Don’t alter that routine that you have found out to work for yourself. Start that routine NOW, as soon as you arrive on campus for pre-season!
Still reading…? I hope so.
Once YOU have YOUR routine in terms of food, rest, sports, and academics, you should be well on your way to becoming the best student-athlete YOU can be.
VIVO 7 ADVICE
If you managed to read through all of this, then thank you!
This advice was straight from my heart, from my experiences. I want to share what helped me become the best me that I can be. I found a routine that works for me, that I will not change unless there is something I think that might enhance my routine. I am always open for new techniques, new advice, as there is always something to improve. But I will always strive that have a routine that is comfortable for me, a routine that does not make me stress, a routine that I enjoy.
Written by : Aleksi Pahkasalo
February 27th 2017
Professional preparation for training session
A huge difference that I saw from college soccer was the way the staff prepares you for the training session. The session does not start as you step on the field, it actually starts the second you step into the training facility. You immediately receive your kit for the day, then are told the proper pre-training nutrition, you get any special attention you might need from athletic trainers, and then you go into the gym with the conditioning coach where you foam roll, use elastic bands to open major muscle groups, have dynamic stretching exercises and do any final preparation that you need before putting on your boots and getting on the field. This whole process takes over an hour; there is a fine for players who arrive later than an hour before practice to the facility.
Training session under Coach Popovic
The week of training under coach Nikola Popovic, who is a former Benfica coach, was the kind I was used to back in academies in Europe. Starting with a very well prepared warm-up with the conditioning coach, having a few rounds of Rondo, then going into a technique and passing drill, that would build up to the tactical part of practice, and every day would end with a game-like exercise. Every exercise was planned to build up to the next phase of practice, with the endgame there to wrap things up that were learned in the session. The attention to detail was the biggest difference that I noticed from college soccer. The coach demands every touch, every pass, every idea to be done with full concentration. If you over- or under-hit a pass you will hear about it very soon afterwards. The coach had an emphasis on transition during my week there, with the focus on capitalizing the very important few seconds after you lose the ball. The philosophy that Popovic wanted the team to play with could clearly be seen in everything they did; possession of the ball was key. He hated when a side lost the ball for no reason, and loved it when possession was regained quickly. It felt great to train under a coach of his level once again. After the session was over, post-nutrition and recovery was again handled very professionally, with the correct supplements and treatments available.
Decision to leave Swope Park Rangers
After my week with Swope Park Rangers, I had a meeting with Popovic and the coaching staff about my situation and the idea of staying in Kansas City. The main reason I decided to leave was for potential playing time. I hope to be playing 30-35 games this season, and after hearing Popovic’s plans in my case, I was not happy with the role that he was prepared to be giving me. It is always important to remember that football is a game of opinions, and when things don’t feel right in a club and you don’t feel like you will be playing the role that you are hoping to play for a club, then it is smart to consider leaving. I will be returning back to Europe and exploring my options there.
"The cultural experience is one of a kind..."