For the football fans in the U.S., our glut of football excitement is about to run out. The NCAA football season ended when Alabama beat LSU. The NFL playoffs are in full swing and soon the Super Bowl will be played and over. So as to not forget our neighbors to the north, the CFL offseason is well underway. Of course, just because the season is over doesn’t mean that things are any less hectic for the coaches, players, and support personnel. No matter what level you are at, this is the period to get better. Coaches are looking for better players through scouting and recruiting. Even high school coaches scour the hallways looking to encourage a “diamond in the rough” to play next year. As for players, they are all (or should be) working to get better. This is the time of year to improve strength, power, and athletic skills so that they can be a better player. This can be just in preparation for next season, or it can be to get ready for various combines and tryouts. It is a very busy time of year for all involved.
If you are a player, right now you should be on a solid program to develop you strength, power, speed, agility, flexibility, balance, and coordination. If you aren’t, you are going to miss out. You will miss out on the chance to excel on the field and possibly miss out on a scholarship or pro contract. Years ago most players didn’t train during the off-season. Nowadays, if you don’t train during the off-season, you probably won’t see the field during the season. If you ask the guys from Alabama, LSU, or any other major college football program, this is when they start to get ready for next year. It doesn’t start in August, it starts now. They lift weights, run agility drills, and do anything else that is necessary to get better. So what should you (or your players) be doing during January?
3 Keys During The Off-season
Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate – Every player should be evaluated at this time of year. It is true that it helps to re-test them in their 40, vertical jump, clean, etc. In addition, it is a good time to eval individual players for lingering injury issues, strength and flexibility imbalances, etc. Whether you use a formal system like the Functional Movement Screen or do something different, you need to try to pinpoint any problems that each individual may need to work on. If you don’t do it while you have time to, you won’t do it at all. If these problems don’t get fixed, they will limit the development of the player.
A solid program – Every player should be placed on a solid strength and conditioning program. It should be well thought out and should include phases that will develop hypertrophy, strength, and power in the weightroom. It should also include plenty of flexibility, speed, and agility work. Just lining up to run sprints isn’t really speed work. I mean form and technique work. It takes a lot of reps to make a change permanent. Get started now.
Team bonding / competition work – This is also the time to begin to include some team bonding activities. They don’t have to be every day, but there is a long time from now until August. Start to include them now to help your team develop the chemistry that the need to succeed. As for competition, that can be worked into drills and other off-season activities. Some kids don’t have the competitive fire that they should. This can be developed but again, it should start now.
Keep these keys in mind while you plan your program.
I spent this past weekend at the USTA Tennis Performance & Injury Prevention Conference. I always enjoy going to events like this and learning new things. I also think that listening to the perspectives of others helps to make your mind work. It forces you to rethink the way that you have always done things. Hopefully this makes me a better coach.
The presenters did an excellent job of giving info that was useful for all that were in attendance. This says a lot because the audience was made up of individuals with all types of backgrounds – MD’s, Athletic Trainers, Physical Therapists, Tennis Coaches, and Strength & Conditioning Coaches from a multitude of settings. Presentations covered the biomechanics of the tennis strokes, strength and conditioning, warm ups, and there were many sessions on injuries specific to tennis. While each speaker had their own experiences and point of view to share, many of the presenters ended up “on the same page” with some of their advice. There also didn’t seem to be any big egos present among the presenters or attendees. To top it all off, the USTA did a great job of making everything was run smoothly.
I learned a lot about that not only will help me when I train tennis players, but some of the info will help me to train other athletes also. Look for some of tidbits that I learned in my future blog posts and newsletters.
Here’s a video post about heat illness. Since several high school athletes have died already this year due to the heat, I thought that it would be a good time to address it. The video discusses prevention, signs & symptoms, and treatment.
Last night I went to a local business networking event. It’s always interesting to meet new people and to connect with them. One lady told me the story about how much it helped her son to have worked with a strength and conditioning coach when he was in high school. Positive experiences about our profession are always great to hear. Then we got into the part of the story about her son’s athletic career after high school. That’s when things got interesting.
The son was a catcher in baseball and was active in the high school band. He played high school baseball in the spring and then played on other teams the rest of the year. Now, most of us can predict where this story is going. Eventually playing baseball and being in the band caused too many conflicts. Instead of his school trying to work things out he is forced to choose between the two. He chose to stick with baseball. Once he graduates he has opportunities to play in college. By this point: a) he has started having shoulder problems b) he’s burned out. Any ideas why this may have happened???? Playing year round baseball maybe???? The best jocks in high school used to be 3 sport athletes. Not anymore. Now everyone wants to “specialize” thinking that this will lead them to that brass ring that they all want, a college athletic scholarship. Yet all to often it winds up with similar results. The kid either doesn’t want to play sports in college or they play for a year and decide that it isn’t that much fun anymore.
Why does this keep happening? Are parents and coaches not realizing the issues? If a kid wants to play a sport year round, I am ok with that at a certain age. Like I said, if a kid wants to do it. It shouldn’t be because a coach or parent says to do it. I think that it’s a problem if a 10 year old is playing year round baseball (or any other sport). Let him/her try other sports. It will develop their overall athleticism and they might actually have some FUN doing it. Even if a kid only wants to play one sport, give them a break at some point. Let them recover mentally and physically. Focus on strength, speed, and agility training. That will develop their athleticism. It can also be a time to “prehab” the body to prevent injury during the season. Maybe some parents and some coaches need to take a realistic look at things. For every kid that is able to get a college scholarship in the year round model, lots of other kids end up hurt and burned out. There are reasons, for example, that major elbow surgery is being done on teenage baseball players. This never used to happen. What changed??? Think about it.
To bring this all to a happy ending, the son from the baseball story is now playing in an adult softball league. There is no pressure, it’s just for fun and he’s having a blast. I’ve heard similar endings to other similar stories. The athlete still enjoys playing, but they just want to do it for fun.
The take home point = the year round sports model needs to change.
Info is posted on our website about speed & agility training for high school athletes. The training sessions are twice a week from July 5th – August 4th. Check out the Sports Upgrade website for more info.