Soccer is a sport where physical prowess is a necessity. From crashing tackles to shots drilled into the net, the game is predicated on physicality.
Without overlooking the importance of the root of the game itself, midfielder Patrick Metcalfe is committed to unlocking both sides of soccer: the mental and the physical aspects.
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THE PLAN & THE DETAILS
“Even in small technical drills, focusing on the details, all the little things. Your mental aspect is kind of the root of how hard you work and the way you pay attention to detail,” Metcalfe said.
Metcalfe, a 21-year-old Vancouver native and Homegrown player, has grown to appreciate and utilize the benefits that come with concentrating on the mental and preparatory side of soccer.
Planning for the future is the first step for Metcalfe. Building upon those plans and enriching his training on the mental aspect is the next step.
“I have my goals set out for what I want to do this year and the next couple seasons. For the most part, I take it day-by-day and week-by-week,” Metcalfe said. “My mentality has been progressing as I've been maturing and getting older in ways that I'm using it and growing it."
Serving as a way to be ahead of the curve, mental imagery is one way that athletes aim to plan ahead and properly execute whether in a game or in training.
“I think it's the thing that's very looked over by professional athletes and it can be a huge aspect once you learn to get it correctly,” Metcalfe said of the skill. “It can be a lot of things, but what I’m trying to do is maybe before I go to sleep or before I go to training, I'll go over what I think will happen in the training session, very specifically.”
“It's one thing when you’re not in a training session or you’re not in a game, you can have all the time in the world to think of a situation,” Metcalfe said. “When you get into real situations in training or in a game, it's pretty much 100 miles an hour.”
“For example, if a fullback has the ball, I'll be thinking of where the player is close to me and how I would turn on him so when you get into training, it's like you've already been there,” Metcalfe added. “I really prefer doing those specifically because when you’re on the field it makes it feel like you’ve already done the move already and it makes it that much easier.”
When it comes to preparation, there are few things that are more crucial to Metcalfe and his teammates than film sessions.
“It is huge,” Metcalfe said of the sessions. “It’s done with the team as well, but I think to individually go through it yourself is even more important. After I play a game, I’ll watch it fully one time through and then I'll go over every single play where I don’t have the ball, where I’m near it, and when I'm on the ball. I look at all the mistakes and what I can do better.”
With quarantine adding a new layer to training sessions, Metcalfe describes how Zoom sessions - while less ideal - fill a void in the aspect of social interactions.
“It’s really good,” Metcalfe said. “We usually have it once a week or once every two weeks. We all go into the Zoom calls with a lot of staff and all the players and we just start talking at the beginning. Getting to see each other again is nice.”
“During this lockdown obviously, we can’t work too much physically, we can only do some stuff by ourselves,” Metcalfe added regarding his quarantine routine. “I think it's really good for me to grow my mentality in a lot of ways. Like for example, creating better habits, getting into a better routine, a more professional routine, because I’ve started to learn that you’re not a professional just from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. when you’re in the facility, you’re a professional 24 hours of the day.”
THE PRACTICE & THE FUEL
Transitioning from the pitch and to the mat, Metcalfe and the rest of the squad merge the mental and the physical by incorporating yoga into their training regimen.
“I just started getting into that during quarantine,” Metcalfe said of the practice. “I knew my flexibility and range of motion hasn’t always been the best, so I figured that’d be something I really want to improve on as well. We’ve had a yoga session set up with a yoga instructor from New York that we do over Zoom. I created my own mobility circuit to do before I go to sleep every night.”
Other than mental imagery and yoga, Metcalfe prepares for life as a professional by curating a specific dietary plan and reviewing film. As the team adjusted to life under lockdown, however, Metcalfe saw these two aspects of his training change.
“I reached out to the dietitian at the beginning of quarantine to say there's not going be as heavy training anymore. What should my caloric intake look like for a day? How much protein? How many carbohydrates? She set me up a food plan and I’ve been following that and adjusting it to how I like it.”
With the dietitian's guidance, Metcalfe shed 10 pounds after feeling heavy prior to the quarantine.
All of this is to complement the workload that Metcalfe is taking on, and he has made the most of the break to keep himself in peak physical shape.
The team engaged in a fitness challenge while the season was put in pause, tracking their workout hours in a friendly competition amongst teammates.
Metcalfe placed second, tallying over 120 hours in a month - that averages to around four hours of physical work daily if you don't skip a day.
"I did all of the workouts assigned by our strength and conditioning staff but that was only about half of the work I did," Metcalfe said. "Much of what I did was things I felt I needed to work on such as explosiveness, stretching, and core."
He is already seeing the results and seems to be in peak conditional shape as sessions are ramping up.
"I feel much lighter and quicker coming back to individual training," Metcalfe said. "I'm giving myself a better chance of playing better and earning my spot in the squad."
Whitecaps FC Performance Strategy, Research, & Innovation Director Dr. Ben Sporer touts the club's well-rounded and integrated program.
"When we go back through this and are able to retrospectively look back at how we performed, I think you are going to see that we can create an environment for players to be at a very high-level performance and do a lot of that training while still getting tactical acquisition within that window of time that the coaches need," Dr. Sporer said.
Metcalfe is one who has taken full advantage, and looks to be close to putting everything together.
Crediting his determination on and off the pitch, Metcalfe has unwavering confidence in himself and utilizes the training methods he described to propel him into the position he’s always dreamt of.
“Signing the contract back in January, I knew it was going to be a hard and tough process to go from a role player, to an important player, to starting,” Metcalfe mentioned. “I always knew that was going to be very tough, but I think I was very prepared for it. I want to work on getting as many minutes as I can as soon as I can.”
“I've always been my strongest supporter,” Metcalfe concluded. “I have 100% belief in myself that I can play an important role for this team very soon.”