Trainer: Andy McDermott
Trainer and former pro, Andy McDermott is no stranger to the game of soccer. Being thrown into the game at a young age, he quickly rose through the ranks with his determination and passion for the world's game. McDermott, after highschool took the opporunity to continue his career at Northwestern University where he played 72/74 games and had a very successful career.
After his college career as a Wildcat, Andy would go on to play professionally for 7 years. He completed 6 seasons in the old A-League of the USL while also spending some time with the Colombus Crew. He also was able to play one season overseas with SC Freiburg in Germany.
After his playing career wrapped up, Andy didn't stay away from the game as he tried to spread as much of his knowledge and experiences through coaching as he could. He has been the head coach of Broad Ripple High School in Indianapolis, an assistant coach at Northwestern and a youth coach at all different levels. He is currently the coach of Los Angeles United Futbol Academy US Soccer Academy teams: U16 and U13/14 Academy. Also, U9 boys team which happens to be his kids team!
His personal fitness days started in 1999 at Bally's Chicago. He has certifications from NASM, TRX, and AZPOST. Currently, he is a montly column writer and body weight trainer for Muscle & Fitness. Here are 18 questions with our new featured trainer Andy McDermott!
What is your full name?
Where do you live?
Where are you from?
Grew up right outside of Chicago
What is your background in the sport of soccer?
I started playing when I was 5 years old for whatever reason, it was probably because it was the sport that my parents threw me into. I had way too much energy as a little kid and I just fell in love with soccer. I played everyday until I was about 28. I played in club soccer for a club called the Chicago Sockers. It is a much bigger club now than when I was there; they do a great job there. I was fortunate enough to go on to play at Northwestern University. Graduated in 1998. I got to play there; the team struggled a little bit with .500 seasons. We struggled against some of the Big 10 soccer powerhouses like Indiana. It was a great experience because I got play in every game and got to be a captain for 3 years and was all Big 10 for 3 year. I got to travel all over the country and go to school with a lot of intelligent people.
Did you play as a freshman at Northwestern?
Yes I did, I played every game except for two. I ended up playing 72/74 games after 4 years.
What about the sport made you fall in love with playing soccer?
I think right after college I got to play 7 seasons professionally, mostly in the old A league. I got to play a game for Columbus Crew. It was a blast to get to play all over the world and play against some great teams. It was a good league back then in terms of salary and international players. But getting back to your question, what allowed me to play so long was that I was never the flashiest or fastest guy but I worked really hard. Its what I love about soccer, if you work really hard you can be effective for your team and if you don’t work hard then it shows.
What is one skill that every player needs to cultivate?
In terms of a technical skill, someone’s first touch is very important. If you don’t have a good first touch you can’t advance yourself through the levels of soccer. I call it a preparation touch. At the higher levels you get two, maybe three touches at the most so that preparation touch is crucial.
You were playing professionally when soccer was growing and gaining traction, so what was it like to play at that level when soccer was not that big in the US and players didn't get as much recgonition as pro players do now?
For me, it was a dream, because not that many people get paid to play a sport. Soccer has allowed me to do a lot in my life. In the early 2000’s, we were basically at the same level as Triple A baseball. We took a lot of bus trips and we played a few games at big stadiums like Soldier Field in front of thousands of people but we could also play games at a tiny venue like in Toronto in front of a few hundred people. It wasn’t because people didn’t like soccer but it was everything that affected it. The MLS does such a good job now with marketing. For us, you had to be self motivated because you weren’t going to be motivated by your salary, or a huge fan club; you just had to go out and fight for your position and fight for your team because it wasn’t the luxurious professional athlete life.
Could you compare the developmental system at that time to what it is now?
I think now, we are definitely on the right track. I am a coach for a club here in California for a club called Los Angeles United Futbol Academy. I think US soccer is doing a great job of trying to develop these players. They are taking kids from neighborhoods in LA and giving them a chance to play where as these kids would never have gotten a chance to play back then. Now these kids are being watched closely and getting the chance to play 3-4 times a week with good fields and good equipment with US soccer putting money into it. And now the MLS teams have these youth clubs, which is great. I played club growing up but it was just someone’s dad coaching so we didn’t really know what we were doing but we just played because we loved it. Kids now at 14 and 15 are treating themselves as professional players, which is a big difference from when I was that age. They are a whole big step above where we were growing up.
From a nutritional standpoint, what advice would you give young players on the type of food that they need to eat to keep their bodies in the best shape possible? And what do you normally see out of kids these days in terms of their diet?
Unfortunately, kids are smaller versions of parents and kids get bad habits due to their parents. I see very clearly the relationship between the fuel we put into our bodies and behavior. I know it affects me, if I eat a bunch of junk, I feel like junk. It is more magnified with my 8 year old who weighs 50 pounds. If he eats candy or drinks Gatorade, then I see him get crazy. Unfortunately bad habits are hard to correct, but I have tried to coach these kids to eat as much whole and healthy food as possible. This has to come from the parents because they are the ones who have to go to the grocery store and make good choices instead of just grabbing what is quick and what is easy. Because what’s quick and what is easy are not the best type of fuel these bodies need. If these kids are training really hard and putting the work in, bad food is going to break down and when we get to be 12 and 13 kids are not going to perform well when putting junk into their bodies.
As a trainer, what is the most important thing for a soccer player to focus on in terms of a physical standpoint?
I think for off the field as kids start to be 8,9,10 and even more so hopefully they are into strength and conditioning program. Even my kids do little strength circuits. Kids don’t need to be lifting weights but pushups and core strength stuff that my kids do are good for kids. Training total body is important. Training your whole body as an athletic machine is very important and not just focusing on a single aspect. It is important to have your body work as a single unit instead of all separate muscles. On the field, of course kids need endurance, quickness, agility and power but I am a big believer on fitness with the ball. In an hour and a half session we should be able to be running enough where we do not have to spend a whole hour session on fitness. I think that fitness with the ball is huge for these guys and keeping the intensity up with not a whole lot of standing around in training. The very best way to be soccer fit is to be playing a lot of soccer.
After fitness or training, what are some of the best recovery techniques for soccer players?
I love swimming pool workouts if they don’t have practice the next day. I love to do slow jog with a stretch and a circuit workout. It is important to get off the field and let your legs recover and a lot of this comes from really good nutrition and hydration. Good clean fuel is key. If your muscles are really sore, its not just about icing and massaging, it has to be internal healing. It is also important to prepare yourself before you train or play through self massage, rolling out your muscles and warming up your muscles along with stretching out afterwards are all part of the recovery. Through good sleep, good hydration good fueling, self care of your muscles, you can be ready to train the next day. The recovery is a holistic approach in my eyes.
What are specifically some foods that you recommend for players after workouts and for recovery?
I try to keep it open as much as I can. Sometimes as humans we default back to what is easiest. And instead of doing this it’s best to prepare before hand through going to the store. Right after practice its key to drink water, along with fruits and maybe a good salad. And if you are going to have a meal for lunch or dinner that could include good lean meat and good whole grain carbs or potatoes, sweet potatoes and brown rice. And then green vegetables are important. You really can’t eat too many colorful vegetables. They are great for your body. I tell people that a good hearty spinach salad does more for your body than a workout does sometimes because your body craves that kind of fuel.
Should players be taking vitamins or supplements? If yes, at what age would they be doing this and what should they be taking?
I am a fan of probiotics. Guarding of Life does a great job where I take my entire supplements through because they are natural and organic. In terms of my vitamins, probiotics and protein supplements, Garden of Life is just a really clean source. I do have my own kids on probiotics so when they get sick instead of killing the sickness with antibiotics;the probiotics are already they’re helping out. I tell kids that until they get closer to being their adult size, they don’t need to be worried about supplementing their diet. They just need to be worried about their actual diet. Good fuel and good calories are equally as important for kids at the younger age.
What are the best types of drinks in helping the recovery of your body?
I am not a fan of the sports drinks, but I am not trying to offend anyone who works there or works with those products. But if we are talking about someone who is an NFL running back or you are playing in the MLS, you might be needing a sports drink to keep up with the activity but I tend to see that 90% of kids don’t drink enough water and if they were just drinking water more often. Drinking water throughout the day and before and after competition accompanied with good food is good enough where they don’t need those electrolytes through Powerade which is basically sugar and all kids of synthetic stuff. You can’t drink enough water.
For players that want to get faster, what kinds of exercise do you recommend for them?
I think there are a bunch of tools that have benefits like ladders or hurdles or cone drills that can help, and if you have those then that’s great to help with explosiveness and agility. As you get bigger you can have a strength day, a quickness day or a power day. But for kids as they are learning how to use their bodies, you can do stuff each day to help them out. You can use exercises that use short, quick steps and emphasizing athletic positions that will help. A lot of the kids who feel like they aren’t fast may actually just not be moving correctly and so to teach these kids to have an athletic position and to have their knees bent to get all of the muscles in their lower body activated can naturally help them move faster. And as they start to do these things and carry themselves the right way, their reaction times and quickness will improve. You can get more out of your body if you run correctly.
Is there a difference in players at the age of 17 and under and older players in terms of keeping their bodies in shape?
It is harder to exhaust little kids bodies because of how much they play when they are little. It is important to look for signs of exhaustion at a younger age, so its good to ask kids how they are doing and how they are feeling. As they get older and muscles start to lose that rubbery elasticity, you have to check how they are doing during seasons. For instance if they have a game on Saturday, you may have a recovery day on Sunday and then Monday and Tuesday you can ramp it up a big. A coach that keeps pounding on his players no matter what age they are, there comes a time when their bodies stop recovering and then they are performing at lower levels on game days. As they start to get to more physical maturity, that’s when you can start training specifically more plyometric and treating players more like adult athletes.
Is there one thing that you see pretty consistantly that soccer players are lacking?
I think it is all of it. It is a different approach at different ages. At older ages, I challenge these kids to try to treat themselves as professional players because they are the only ones who know how they feel and they need to come out and their machine is ready to train physically and mentally.If these players aren’t willing to mentally focus and prepare their bodies to improve and advance in soccer then they shouldn’t be wasting their time and the coaches time.