One of the most difficult things to change is a culture. Regardless of the sport, many sport coaches share the same dogmatic, culture views that assumes this; “if a little is good, more must be better”. For example, I was talking with a soccer player earlier today who was describing his conditioning schedule for the summer. His team has a 2-3 hour practice multiple nights per week, in addition to conditioning, as well as multiple games on the weekend, and finally his time spent in the weight room lifting.
It’s easiest for us (the strength coaches) to make adjustments and modifications to his training volume based off of his week because he is likely tired, undernourished, and probably has poor sleeping patterns. I think we can quickly see that it becomes damn near impossible for him to completely recover and prepare for the next game if he is following everything to a T. This is why it’s important to keep training programs flexible and make adjustments as needed. This is also why we utilize RPE (rate of perceived exertion) with our athletes because of sport demands, school demands, and attempting to navigate the awkward terrain of high school or college.
I think one of the things that sport coaches push on their athletes is this; “if you don’t compete year round, you will see a decrease in performance”. I definitely have some push back against that for several reasons
- Skill re-acquisition takes less time the longer you are involved with a sport. Here’s what I mean; I took 6 months off completely from all Olympic lifting movements and gave myself a mental and physical break from the monotony of training. Then, I decided to re-evaluate where I currently stand after time off. To my surprise, I hit 85% of my personal best after a substantial time away. Why was I able to do that? Well, I retained basic strength qualities during that time, so that helps, but here’s the rub; I had practiced those very specific skills SO MUCH prior to time off that my body remembered how to perform those movements. Time off for athletes is beneficial because it provides mental and physical breaks so they return to the sport invigorated mentally and physically their body is LESS likely to develop overuse injuries.
- The best athletes I know play multiple sports. This not only gives their body a break and reduces the likelihood of overuse injuries associated with sport specialization year round. Secondly, athletes who specialize too soon can develop disdain for their sport because of constant pressure they feel from coaches, family members and friends with the constant questions of “how’d ya do this weekend, where’s the next competition etc”.
- Practice new sports, new exercises, and new types of training so that you may increase your overall coordination (both inter- and intra- muscular coordination). Intermuscular coordination is the coordination that exists between different muscle groupings (basically how your muscles talk to each other). Whereas, intramuscular coordination is the coordination of the individual muscle fibers that exist within a muscle group (basically how a muscle group within itself). Now, this is one of the many reasons why it’s important to NOT specialize in one specific sport too early. If you only focus on one sport, you only develop coordination for that associated sport. Now, if an athlete plays many sports they develop more overall coordination and increase their overall athleticism so they are better prepared for when they do specialize.
The bottom line is this:
- Play as many sports as possible
- Don’t specialize until your sophomore or junior year of high school
- Prior to lifting weights, master body weight exercises first. Examples include push ups, pull ups, bodyweight squats, bodyweight lunges and HAVE FUN TRAINING!
- If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us here