By Terry Jacoby
Nicole Molen, a junior midfielder for the 2016 NCAA national champion University of Southern California (USC) Trojans, also excels off the field. The Westlake Village, Calif., native boasts an impressive 3.92 GPA as a human biology major, and – for the second year in a row – earned Pac-12 All-Academic First Team honors.
“I understand how things work and why we do certain drills and conditioning techniques,” said Molen, whose two knee surgeries during her senior year of high school set her on a path of biology and physical therapy. “I understand the mechanics of why we are doing something and how it applies to being better on the soccer field.”
Molen says a USC workout day includes conditioning followed by weight lifting. “Conditioning will be 300-yard shuttles with 30-yard increments with a time limit of 60 seconds. We will do one 300-yard shuttle and get two minutes of rest and do that six times. That will be our conditioning portion of that day’s workout.”
Then the team heads to the weight room for “total body training.”
“We have a primary block and a secondary block,” said Molen, who won the Dominance Award from the school’s strength coach. “They could include squats or chin-ups or bench press. We always pair our upper-body exercise with our lower-body exercise.”
Stretching also is very important.
“We do dynamic warm-up with stretching before workouts and always stretch during our cool down,” said Molen, who played US Youth Soccer for Real So Cal SC. “I try to get to practice early so I can get stretched out. It’s also important to stretch on off days.”
Molen’s Tips for Conditioning
1. Work the track.
For running in the off-season, USC has a distance day, track day, mid-distance day and a sprint day. “For example, on the distance day we will run a mile around 6:30 pace, and then rest for five minutes, and do another mile. Sprints will be either a 300-yard shuttle or 150-yard shuttle,” Molen said.
2. Work on ball control.
Molen believes it’s important to include skill work with your conditioning. “We do a lot of ball work at the start of practice – like different moves and touches with our feet individually – and then progress to passing patterns and technical moves,” Molen said. “We always start practice with ball work and passing drills.”
3. Stay fit.
“If you are fit, you will be able to do more on the field,” Molen said. “A lot of young girls are hesitant to go into the weight room, but it’s a very important part of conditioning. It really translates to playing soccer.”