Is summer “offseason” training actually in-season training?
By Chris Rivinius, CSCS, USAW & Nick Jolliffe, MS, CSCS, USAW
Over the last couple years during off-season summer training it is easy to see the high demands and workloads placed on the multisport athlete. We chose to write this article after sitting down at the end of summer and discussing experiences from summer training. The goal of this article is to help coaches, parents, and athletes understand the demands being placed on the multisport athlete during summer months. This article is not encouraging early specialization in a single sport or degrading individual sport coaches and what they have to offer to improve sport skills over the offseason. We need to come together as an athlete development team to help better manage the stress placed on an athlete during a time when they should be rebuilding, growing their athletic ability, and rejuvenating their passion for sports.
Finding a Balance
Let’s take Jimmy for example. Jimmy is a multisport athlete that participates in football, basketball, and baseball. During the summer, Jimmy has open gym for basketball skill development, summer training with the POWER staff immediately after, followed by a baseball practice or game for summer league in the evening. He also has sporadic basketball and football camps in June and July. Jimmy has AAU tournaments on the weekends where he can play up to 5-6 competitive games of basketball. On top of all the athletic obligations he is supposed to get a job for spending money and save up for college. You can see where this is going.
In this type of situation the athlete is trying to balance practice, competition, skill development, and also training in an attempt to please all of the sports coaches. From a psychological and physiological standpoint this schedule is not realistic.
Take Time to Recharge
As a coach you will start seeing overuse injuries and psychological burn out. Off-season training provides a time to rebuild athletes, increase their athletic foundation (strength, speed, power, mobility, etc), and address nagging injuries and muscular imbalance/deficiency. The time taken away from playing every sport in the offseason gives an athlete the chance to mentally recharge and look forward to the upcoming sport season.
At the end of the day sports are to build camaraderie, self-discipline, and learn to compete. We also need to remember that these kids are middle and high school athletes; even professional athletes take time in the off-season to get away from the repetitive stress of sports.
This is not to say that athletes shouldn’t be involved in multiple sports. Every sport has its own set of skills that builds and improves aspects of other sports (ex. Running back or receiver sprinting for the track team), but an athlete needs a time to train.
Training in the Off-Season
Training might be the most crucial aspect of the offseason and yet it is the most easily brushed to the side. From a strength coach standpoint, we are allotted only so many workouts to prepare an athlete for the next season of sport. If we only get 10 workouts during the whole summer to improve an athlete’s athletic potential, they are going to be limited in comparison to the athlete that has the whole summer to train hard, fully recover, and progress forward.
A properly designed strength and conditioning program can benefit an athlete by reducing likelihood of injury while increasing athletic potential. We see kids with the inability to hip hinge, very anteriorly dominant, and have other postural deficiencies and they cannot train or compete because of nagging injuries like patellar tendonitis, shoulder impingements, shin splints, or other overuse injuries. Training is like participating in another sport for an athlete that also simultaneously improves athletic potential while helping prevent common overuse injuries.
This article is a conversational topic and there is no clear-cut answer. But a few ideas we have discussed at POWER were implementing a mandatory 7-10 day off period during the summer/winter break where athletes get a break from all sport related practice/competition. Another potential solution and addition to first idea is having all athletes, coaches, and athletic directors sit down at the beginning of summer and lay out a schedule to try an avoid overlapping activities/practices. No coach wants to give up camp.
“All things equal, the stronger athlete wins everytime” –Mark Rippetoe