Getting an athlete ready for their sport is a long term process.
Right now, winter sports are about 2 months from beginning. This is the time when a lot of athletes are playing for a team that will end before the high school season in the hopes of being ready.
Too often parents or athletes over extend in the wrong areas of preparation.
A lot of these athletes make mistakes that could limit how well they do in their sport.
Randomly picking up another sport
Let’s use basketball as an example. Basketball is a winter sport and there doesn’t seem to be a ton of fall leagues. AAU basketball typically thrives in the spring/summer.
So the next logical step would be to run cross country to become a better basketball player, right?
This is one idea that I really do not understand. Cross country runners are going for distance at a slow pace (compared to sprinting) with no recovery. Basketball is a sport of short, fast sprints with a long recovery time.
They have opposite energy system demands. Training for XC is not going to get someone ready for basketball.
Running those kinds of miles is going to put a pounding on the joints of the body. Most basketball players have banged up knees, ankles, and backs. Adding the extra stress in the fall is not going to bode well in the winter.
I hope no one finds it surprising that Physical Therapists are thriving on treating patellofemoral pain in high school athletes.
Ignoring strength and power training
The most disappointing mistake we see is with an athlete that trained all summer to get stronger, faster, and in better shape just stop training in the fall.
Training for the summer and then taking 3 months off does not sound like a plan for success.
For a winter athlete the summer would be a good time to get stronger, more mobile, and better conditioned away from their sport.
Once we get closer to the season, we have to shift more towards a power emphasis. This training will help an athlete be quick and explosive when they get to their sport.
A lot of athletes will skip out on fall training because other things have popped up. There is nothing wrong with that, but someone who wants to be the best at their sport must train for it. It is just about how much the athlete wants it.
Preparing for the Season
The typical timeline we like to see for an athlete to really get a leg up on the competition is as follows.
4 weeks before the season: 60% in sport training, 40% out of sport training
8 weeks before the season: 40% in sport, 60% out of sport
12 weeks before the season: 30% in sport, 70% out of sport
4-6 months before the season: 10% in sport, 90% out of sport
As we get closer to the season, the more specific training needs to be. Hockey players should be skating, basketball players need to be on the court, and wrestlers should be wrestling.
In the 2 months leading up to the season we need to be focusing on power training. This is really developing force, quickly.
i like to use a lot of jumping, throwing, and resistance training for speed during this time.
This training almost seems “easy” to a lot of athletes because there is no real muscular fatigue like heavy strength training would provide.
The athletes should still be lifting fairly heavy but it is not the emphasis of training.
8 weeks out is also the time to really ramp up the specific conditioning for the sport. There are a lot of ways to do this but we should be looking at the demands of the sport.
A typical hockey shift is 30-45 seconds with probably 2-3 minutes of rest or more. So we train them with that 30-45 seconds and give them 60-90 seconds rest and repeat for a while. This is similar to the demands of the sport.
Going for distance runs, long bike rides, and maximal strength training are all things that are much less of a priority leading to the season. Those are tools used to potentially build the base in the summer.
Once that base is made we can add qualities on top of it. We cannot have power with strength and we cannot repeat sprints without any kind of aerobic conditioning.
The timing of the training can really make or break success in the sport season. Under no circumstance should an athlete break away from training for their season if they are dedicated to that sport.