Matt Bersano is a Redshirt Senior at Penn State University completing his Masters degree after graduating from Oregon State this past winter. Matt has been blogging for us at The Athlete Story detailing his quest to become a professional soccer player. If you missed Matt’s previous posts, feel free to take a peek at numero uno (INSERT LINK HERE) or numero dos, (LINK), or numero tres (INSERT LINK HERE)
A Day in the Life: Pregame
Matt Bersano, Reno FC 1868 goalkeeper
College soccer can be madness. Ten weeks, eighteen matches, opponents all over the country. At times we travel at 5am the day before a game and turn right back around after the game and head home, sometimes arriving at 4am on a school day.
This is what my pregame preparation looks like at Penn State.
Thursday - Day Before Match
I wake up and head to the locker room around 10am to grab breakfast. While eating I download our next opponents scouting report onto my iPad. I like to look over the material prior to training in order to be prepared for our team’s scouting session. Repetition breeds familiarity with your opponent.
After breakfast I like to get a good stretch in to start the day off right. If needed, I may also take a contrast bath (hot and cold tub). At 23 years old I’m already realizing the benefits that injury prevention and body care can have on you as an athlete. This kind of age and experience has granted me the nickname around the team as Grandpa; I prefer the word Veteran. Sadly, it’s hard to disagree with the guys.
Once my prevention work is completed it’s time for me to start thinking about my early afternoon class. It can be a lot to ask of the mind to focus on a class about Nuclear War and Conflict Management when all you want to do is skip forward 24 hours so you can be lining up to play in front of your home crowd. Student-athlete... even though that’s our label, moments like this make you wish soccer was the only priority in our daily lives.
After class it’s time to head to our training facility on the end of campus to prepare for training. I try to arrive as early as I can every day and do my best to get loose in order to be adequately prepared for training. Grandpa at it again.
Once the whole team has arrived we head into the video room to watch the scouting clips on the big screen. If a team likes to play the ball over the top and behind our defense, we know. If set pieces are our opponents key to winning matches, we know. With help from the volunteer assistants and video coordinator, a lot of work goes into putting all the necessary clips together for us to be prepared for game day. While the presentation can be daunting at times with so many opponents in such a short season, the values outweigh the negatives. What we learn in our video session translates to what happens next on the training field.
At keeper training we cater our drills to the way our opponents like to play. If they love through balls and connecting short passes in our defensive third we work on short range reaction shots, focusing on getting set, and keeping the ball in front of us. If they like to be physical and send in long crosses from the wings Thursday can be a great day to tighten up our footwork and overall management of crosses and balls from outside the box.
After keeper training we join the rest of the team and work on defensive and offensive set pieces. This dress rehearsal is done every day before a match. Once the team training finishes up I like to work with some of my teammates on my distribution before calling it a day.
After training we head to dinner as a team. Each player has their own routine the night before a game but for me there is nothing better than putting the legs up and watching a movie with the roommates while focusing on staying hydrated. I’m a very mellow person so being in that kind of relaxing mood is just about all I need to get my mind right for the game the next day.
Friday - Game Day
On Fridays I wake up a bit earlier for my 9:45am lecture. After class I head back home to rest up for our 7pm match. This has to be the worst part of the day. I always try to take a nap because there is honestly not much else you want to do besides fast forward to game time.
I wake up around 2:45 in order to catch the bus to our pregame meal with the team and coaching staff at Noodles and Company. Along with lunch we go over the final details from the scouting session that need review. After our meal we walk back as a team to the locker room in preparation for our 7pm match.
Again, this is a time when everyone’s different. I don’t stress too much about consistency. My mood dictates my routine. However there is one thing I like to do every pregame, take a shower. This helps calm my body and prepare for what lies ahead. I was never a huge fan of visualization prior to my time in college or playing with the pros but when nerves or pressure begins to build up, hot water running down the back of my neck with my eyes closed, replaying all the things I can do to help my team get a win can be the most uplifting exercise to get my mind right. Toss in a bit of reggae music to the whole experience and I feel invincible.
Afterwards it’s off to the training room to get my ankle taped up by our training staff. The only phase left in the preparations is to head out to the field for pregame warm-ups before ultimately lining up and competing against our opponents for the day.
As I’ve learned between the two different schools I’ve played for, every school does their preparation a bit different, but they all have the same intentions: make their players the most prepared they can be. Student-athletes do a lot more than train and go to school. Crazy to think but this preparation was just for a home game. Imagine all of this being done on the road, in a hotel, including all the travel. It’s the details in the preparation that create a home field advantage.