You train your a** off for months leading up to tryouts.
You feel bigger, faster, and stronger than before.
You put in as much work as you could.
…or did you?
As a Strength & Conditioning coach I see this scenario play out all too often. A high school athlete or parent expresses interest in a training program before their competitive season. They do their best for three months, thinking that it will “be enough”, and disappear for another few months while they are in-season.
Strength training becomes much less of a priority when practices and games come around, add in school work and hanging out with friends and training quickly reaches the bottom of the list. The unfortunate reality is that all of the hard work that the athlete put in during the off-season is soon forgotten and we’re left with an athlete that is slow, weak, and injury-prone when the heart of the season comes around.
How did we go from a confident, strong athlete, making improvements each week to an athlete that is feeling sluggish and beat up as playoffs start?
Why is it that some of the athletes on the other teams seem to be at the top of their game at that same time?
Numbers Don’t Lie
Let’s take a look at some simple numbers…
Pretend the athlete in the example above is named Athlete A. He/she trains twice a week for three months leading up to their competitive season and then turns his/her focus solely to their sport.
In three months they got 24 workouts in.
For an athlete new to strength training it will take at least 1 month or possibly more just to develop basic technique and learn the movements. Improvements made in the first 4-6 weeks of any training program are purely a result of motor learning that occurs in the brain. No actual muscle growth or serious physical change occurs. That leaves only 16 or less workouts to make serious progress that will stick.
Now pretend we have another high school student, Athlete B, who trained twice a week throughout the summer and fall but then their winter sport came and they stopped training. This is a “better” scenario because this athlete is able to get somewhere around 50 beneficial workouts.
Due to this athlete fading away from training they will experience the same drop-off in performance that Athlete A experienced, but at least they will come into the season slightly more prepared.
Let’s take a look at one final scenario, Athlete C. Athlete C is a student-athlete who trains twice per week all year, for a total of roughly 100+ workouts. They have accumulated at least 2 if not 3 times more experience in the training facility then their counterparts.
Ever hear of the 10,000 hour rule?
Athlete C will win every time.
Now, is Athlete C going balls-to-the-wall in the gym year round? No. However, Athlete C is making consistent progress year round, stays injury free and feels on top of their game even in the tail end of the playoffs. Plus, they will have an all-time high in confidence when they walk out on the court and see that Athlete A and B are stiff, sore, weak, and slow.
This is just a small example of the detrimental effect that yo-yo training can have on the development of an athlete over time. The scary part is when you take this small example and extrapolate it out over the course of an athlete’s high school career, it can be the difference between a Division 1 scholarship and your kid giving up on competitive sports forever.
A Different View
It may seem overdramatized to say that missing workouts is the difference between making a college team and getting cut. Take this same concept and apply it to other situations in life and the results become much clearer.
Consider saving for retirement, where compounding interest is crucial to being able to save enough money to live off of. The earlier you begin saving the better chances you have that your investments will multiply to the point that you need them to be at. If you only save money for three or six months out of the year, what do you think will happen?
A mentor of mine likened these principals to an even more basic scenario. Imagine if you only brushed your teeth for three months. You wouldn’t think to yourself “Damn Self, your teeth are really clean and look great. I can chew as well as anybody else out there. I probably don’t need to brush them again for another few months.”
When it comes to strength and conditioning this is exactly how many people think. We work really hard to get into great shape only to put training on the back burner for months at a time allowing our results to fade.
Will you be the parent of the child who can’t keep up?
Reasons Not To Train In-Season
Of course there are plenty of reasons why your child wouldn’t or shouldn’t train throughout their sport season. You and your son or daughter have to decide whether those reasons are real or simply stories you are telling yourself.
- Not Enough Time
Often times we hear that there simply isn’t enough time to train during the season. With seemingly endless practices and game times on top of school this may seem like it is the case.
The truth of the matter is that your competition is making time to get it done, and you can either do the same or accept the fact that you aren’t putting as much effort in as your opponents. I’m not proposing that you train every single day and in fact I would advise against it.
Getting in two training sessions per week shouldn’t be too much to ask for. If your child’s goal is to play at a higher level they will most definitely have more than two workouts in a week and now is the time to prepare.
- Getting A Ride
This one is tough for many parents. I understand most of the time school hours do not line up with business or regular work hours. It seems like “Mom’s Taxi” is constantly trying to catch up bringing kids to practice, school activities, friends houses, etc…
This can easily turn into a positive that often gets overlooked in the training process. Going through a tough workout with other kids their age quickly turns strangers into close friends. Utilize those friendships made in athletics for a carpool system when you feel time crunched.
Other parents feel exactly the way you do and would love to share the transportation responsibility to allow them so leeway when you are able to drive their kids. Try to help everyone out and volunteer to transport on certain days, that way you can be assured your children won’t miss any sessions when things get busy for you.
- Need To Focus On Schoolwork
This is without a doubt one of the obstacles we hear most often, and with good reason. In no way are the coaches of O.B. Training & Sports Performance suggesting that your school priorities should take a back seat to working out.
We are suggesting however that the student-athletes that effectively prioritize are able to get their work done and still complete their workouts. Those that want to succeed badly enough will put in the time required on their school work knowing that they have to finish that before getting to training.
- Too Tired
This is an obstacle that is more hypothetical than evidence-based. If your child is actually too tired it could be because of a combination of two things, either they are not eating enough or they are not sleeping enough. Both of these things are incredibly common with high school students but shouldn’t be used as an excuse to give up training entirely.
As a Strength and Conditioning coach I take it upon myself to educate my athletes about nutrition and recovery on top of the strength training we already do. I know that two athletes given similar skillsets will differentiate themselves by their ability to recover between workouts and practices.
The most effective way to do this is through proper nutrition and sleep. I know that nine times out of ten both the athletes that come through our doors for the first time as well as their parents could use some extra knowledge on both of these things, and that is what we strive for.
- Fear of Getting Injured During Training
This last obstacle usually comes from parents of athletes who have gotten hurt when working out before. For the most part these injuries happen when a) the athlete is working out on his/her own or with some of their buddies or b) when the team is working out together under the supervision of the sport teams coach not a strength & conditioning coach.
You hire a coach for everything possible in their sport…..They spend hours each week meeting with a dribbling coach, shooting coach, hitting coach, fielding coach, catching coach, etc… Wouldn’t you want someone who has experience in the strength field to handle the physical training responsibilities?
All of those skills are of course valuable, but only if your child has the physical tools to be able to use them. At a certain point in competitive sports there is a clear divide between who is big enough, fast enough, and strong enough.
If you want to put your child in the best possible situation to succeed hire a strength coach who specializes in sports performance. The goal is to enhance their abilities, never to hinder them or cause harm in any way.
So Now What?
I am sure there will still be naysayers with other reasons little Susie can’t work out because the Chess Club is overwhelming for her. If that truly is the case then fine, but at some point you will have to accept that higher-level athletics probably aren’t for your child.
If you think Susie does have what it takes but isn’t doing everything she can to make it, get in touch with a Sports Performance coach.
Let someone handle the responsibilities of creating an athlete.
Special thanks to Coach Joe Fitzgerald and the folks at O.B Training and Sports Performance for this series opening article as well as their unparalleled commitment to local athletes.
For more information on how you can benefit directly from the expertise available at O.B. Training and Sports Performance , visit them on the web at www.obtraining.com or give them a call at 315-765-6332.
Be sure to follow Coach Joe Fitzgerald on Twitter at @ob_coachjoefitz