Football might have it right. What do they have right? The sports development model. The sport of football is probably doing it better than any other sport simply because they only have one defined season. The American football season starts in August/September and plays out over the next several months. There aren’t opportunities to play organized tackle football year round. While college and some states do have “spring football”, that isn’t quite the same thing. Spring football is generally about three weeks of organized practices. It isn’t the same as playing a true spring season. It’s not like soccer, softball, baseball, wrestling, volleyball, and lacrosse players that play travel ball and participate in tournaments during the 8 months that their school team isn’t in season.
So how does this help football player development?
- It cuts down on overuse injuries – what do you think causes all of the arm and shoulder problems in baseball? Year-round throwing maybe?
- It forces coaches to work on other things during the off-season – lifting, speed, agility, etc. According to most sport development models, there should be a defined “off-season” where these skills become the focus.
- It makes the football season more special for everyone – when you play year round on multiple teams, how much does each win or loss matter? The legendary John Wooden didn’t want his players playing in the off-season partially for this reason.
It’s too bad the so many other sports have taken other approaches to sports development. I’m not sure that playing year-round is good for the athletes and is the best way to develop them long-term. Unfortunately, there are a few youth football leagues that are starting to have a true spring season in addition to playing in the fall. Hopefully this concept doesn’t become the norm in football.