Lessons Learned: The History of Our Bridge Program

Bridge Coaster Fun

The Early Years

When we began the Berkshire Soccer Academy, our goal was to create a place where girls would have their skills and confidence transformed over 2+ weeks. We wanted girls to elevate their game AND to be exposed to new activities with other girls just like them from around the world. One of the main questions we had was how to structure a camp session for this immersive experience. Most college and club overnight soccer camps offer 2-4 day sessions. Alternatively, traditional camps offer 4-7 week long stays.

With this in mind, in our first 2 years, we created 4, 6, 10 and 12 day sessions. The story of our Bridge Program really begins with the learnings and insights gleaned from sampling a these varied session lengths.

The Beginning of Bridges

If there was a single moment that helped us realize the need for our Bridge Program it came during the summer of 2013. Our first Visiting Pro, Heather O’Reilly (HAO) was answering questions from the girls around the campfire. One camper asked about her weekly training schedule, “How often do you train?” Her response was not haphazard; she recited her training schedule automatically.

“I train 6 days a week, no more than 4-5 hours a day between field and fitness.”

HAO is renowned for the work rate and training intensity that she brings to her team, so staff and campers admired her commitment.  However, a few of the key leadership staff members connected the dots reflecting on the 12-day session that had concluded the previous week. The training volume during that session (for our 10-16 year old campers) exceeded HAO’s work load. Our athletes did not need to train more than a USWNT Olympic gold medalist.

In the subsequent conversations we agreed to pull back on the reigns. For our athletes to get the most out of the Berky experience over 1-3 weeks, we needed to refine the structure of our sessions to include a work to rest ratio that was intentional, effective and sustainable. Thus, we created the Bridge Sessions.

A Day Off During Soccer Camp

During that 12-day session back in 2013, we had actually replaced training sessions during day 7 with cool and restorative activities. We did this because the girls seemed too tired to train, and it was very hot. Yet, deciding to forego soccer training on that day was a difficult decision. After all, we’re a soccer camp. It felt inauthentic to take a whole day off from soccer, but that’s what the girls needed.

And the girls LOVED the sleep-in morning, extended rest and waterfront times and a day full of electives. This was really the first Bridge day. A 24-hour break from their cleats and shin-guards was just what they needed. Even though the girls enjoyed the programming surprise, and they needed it, it didn’t feel good to deviate so dramatically from the typical daily schedule that most parents were expecting. From that day forward, our Berky leadership team committed to re-inventing the structure of our sessions to include a better balance of training for our athletes.

5:2

Even though we thought we learned our lesson from HAO about offering a more sustainable ratio of rest to training, our summer 2014 season was still too soccer heavy. We actually took HAO’s prescription and offered 6-day Sessions and 1-day Bridges. However, the girls were still running on empty by the time the 6th day came around. For 2015 we arrived at our current formula of 5-day Sessions and 2-day Bridges. This ratio is a magical combination that offers deep training, but provides rest before it is necessary. It is perfect for all of our age groups.

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Recover, Relax, Repeat!

Because the training and electives during a session can be taxing, our Bridge Program is designed for athletes to down-shift mentally and physically after the session ends. As illustrated above, Thursday evenings are the mellowest part of a week at BSA. After a relaxing evening and sleep-in morning, the girls are ready to get back into some action. On Fridays, all of our off-site trips are to adventurous and exciting places that require low physical exertion. On Saturdays, the girls spend quality time with each other at camp doing special, immersive versions of electives that can only be offered during a Bridge due to the time required. While most girls that attend a Bridge stay for the following session, some campers leave on Saturday.

What We Learned

Even though we set out to discover a balanced approach to soccer training over 2+ weeks, it took us a few years to find the ideal work:rest ratio. Thankfully, we can now offer extended stays that are effective and balanced for girls to see their skills and confidence dramatically improve. To speak with one of our full-time staff members click the button below.

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