One two separate occasions recently, I have had some sort of discussion about recovery for teen athletes. Once was with a coach and once was in response to a comment on my blog. Both of these got me thinking about the demands that we tend to place on teenage athletes. I don’t think that we always account for all of these when we plan out our training programs. As coaches, we often think that the athletes are only practicing or exercising when we see them. However, that isn’t always the case. So what does the “average” teenager do in a normal day?
- Chores at home/job
- Social time
- Eating, showering, and other necessary things
So what about their sporting activities?
- Practice for sport #1
- Practice for sport # 2 (if applicable)
- Travel time necessary for away games/practices
- Strength training/conditioning
- Miscellaneous sports activities – pick up basketball, PE classes, etc
While not all of these apply to every teen, this isn’t that uncommon for some teens. I have talked to many teens who are involved in multiple sports for a large portion of the year. They try to squeeze in as many practices, games, and strength & conditioning sessions as they can in the course of a year. So where does that lead? It leads to athletes who are physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. It leads to athletes who aren’t happy, who suffer academically, and who end up a physical mess due to never getting enough breaks and recovery time.
So what should we do as a coach to help?
- Get to know your athletes – Do they play other sports? When? How often do they practice/play?
- Try to coordinate – I’ve seen too many times that a coach tries to keep their athletes going year round and never give them a break. Try to work things out with the athlete and their other sport(s). Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to work out too often. Usually it’s because the ADULT EGOS get in the way.
- Give athletes ample recovery time – Plan it into your season and your training.
- Educate your athletes – I realize that athletes (and parents) won’t always listen to you. Regardless, you should still make every effort to educate them about recovery and overtraining.
- Don’t be afraid to make an athlete take a break – The best thing for them may be to send them home for a few days and make them take a break. Of course, you can’t control what they do during this time off, but hopefully they actually rest.
We can’t control everything that our athletes do, especially when they are away from us. Also realize that we haven’t even touched on nutrition, sleep, the growth state that teens are in and how they affect recovery. As a coach, we know that all of these things work together and drastically affect how our athletes recover and perform. However, coaches need to focus on what they can control. Make sure that you know all of the demands placed on your athletes, plan appropriately, and attempt to educate them. Even though many things are out of our control, hopefully taking these steps will help.