According to Wendy LeBolt, Ph.D., in her new book “Fit 2 Finish – Keeping Your Soccer Players in the Game” the cycle of success boils down to “Develop – Balance – Observe – and repeat” to keep our young athletes fit and on the field, and taking their sport as far as their interest and skill can take them. Herndon resident LeBolt has some real skin in the game of soccer – literally. She’s played it at several levels. She’s coached it - holding the E and F coaching licenses through U.S. Youth Soccer. She’s studied it. Her daughters play it. But even with all that life experience, LeBolt (like many others, who perhaps still do), used to believe that young soccer players could become fit by simply playing the game. After all, she reasoned, “the game puts all the right demands on them. It’s the most specific training they can get, right?’
THEN SHE STARTED noticing all of the injuries. All of the knee braces, kids on the sidelines with crutches and kids limping about on the pitch. More research and she discovered that the rate of injuries, especially for girls and in particular anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries was being called epidemic. Parents from some of those teams that she observed started asking her to help. Why ask LeBolt? Well, aside from all that personal experience and vested interest in the health and safety of her own young daughter-players, she also brings more credentials to the field than any coach has strategies in his or her playbook.
Starting with a bachelor’s in Biology from The College of William and Mary, adding an MEd in Exercise Science from The George Washington University (GWU), then impressively topping off with a Ph.D. in Physiology from the Medical College of Virginia, LeBolt has also been on the GWU faculty, teaching Human Anatomy and Physiology, Kinesiology and Exercise Physiology there from 1991 to 1999. She also practices privately as an Exercise Physiologist. So it should come as no surprise that she accepted this next challenge. She started what she calls her “rescue mission” by asking a few basic, but far-reaching questions: Why are so many kids getting injured? Why are so many dropping out of sports? How do you get and keep all kids playing? What can you do to help those who want to play hard and compete further? How can you prepare kids, whole body and mind, for what the game – or any sport – asks of them? Those questions, and the answers that LeBolt continues to develop, led to the formation of her company, Fit2Finish, LLC, incorporated in 2005.
The company specializes in designing sport-specific, age-appropriate and engaging training to improve the young athletes’ performance, and more importantly, help prepare their bodies for the demands of their sport and reduce the risk of potentially debilitating injuries. For years, LeBolt has been working with coaches, parents and youngsters in group and individual settings and presenting seminars and workshops from injury prevention to proper nutrition for the athlete, conditioning, and even tips for parenting the champion athlete and how to incorporate fitness into the lives of today’s busy families. There is even a “Gap Care” program designed to help the sidelined athlete return from serious injury.
The training programs, seminars, workshops and individual assistance evolved to include a weekly blog, an informative website, a Facebook page, and links to videos demonstrating some of the training techniques and exercises that LeBolt recommends or has developed to meet specific needs and circumstances. Considering that she has hundreds of articles and columns with her by-line, and writes weekly for Soccerwire.com, it seemed the natural next step to condense a wealth of information into the handbook “Fit 2 Finish – Keeping Your Soccer Players in the Game.” Published in late 2014, LeBolt’s “trainer’s manual” just had its official launch. But don’t expect any fanfare to accompany its arrival. As LeBolt said, “It’s not about the book, but what’s in it. That’s what’s really important.”
Aimed at the professional as well as the volunteer coach, there is plenty for both to take away, not to mention the parents of the young players and even the players themselves. And it really does serve as a manual, including sections with recipes for optimum nutrition, what to keep in your field first aid kit, and caring for and managing common sport-related injuries. The writing style, laced with a bit of humor, makes the facts accessible. As she says both in her writings and during a recent interview with The Connection, “Sports, playing and practice, still have to be fun. I refuse to lose the fun!” Her mission is to “help kids develop bodies they will use well their whole lives…because they want to.”
THE SCIENCE AND THE METHODOLOGY outlined in the book and practiced as part of the Fit2Finish mantra, have earned numerous ringing endorsements, including that of the author of the book’s foreword, Diane Drake, head women’s soccer coach, George Mason University. Drake notes in her remarks that a disturbing number of young freshmen women entering her program arrive already injured, particularly with overuse injury. Drake, and LeBolt both cite lack of preparation and improper training as the major culprits leading to this unhealthy state of affairs. LeBolt has set out to tackle both and more in her book and through her company.
Fit2Finish, LLC, serves the greater D.C. Metro area, specializing in soccer, basketball, volleyball and lacrosse training. On the website Fit2Finish.com there is access to LeBolt’s book, blog, training videos and links to additional resources. Dr. LeBolt can be contacted for speaking engagements, consultations and more, etc. at Fit2Finish05@gmail.com.