How To Balance Busy Sports Schedules With Training

During the late 1990's, when I began working with the St Bernard's football program, having time to train in the off-season was never a problem.
Football lasted 3 1/2 months, and even with many playing other sports we always seemed to have plenty of time to get our development work in.
Youth sports certainly have changed a lot since then.
Today, nearly every sport is year-round.
"Development" training is done more often now, but usually with little regard as to whether the workouts are actually making anyone a better athlete (keep in mind that bigger doesn't necessarily make you better).
Having seen a full generation of athletes' careers play out to a wide range of outcomes, and with a host of research in sports science to draw from, today I'd like to offer you some truths as to how athletic development works best.
Hopefully what follows helps you to make the most informed decisions for your kids.
Consistency Is Better Than Cramming
Each summer and winter we get a burst of interest in our program from families who have '2-3 weeks to get ready for the season'.
There's literally nothing we, or any other program, can do to really move the needle in situations like this.
Imagine not eating all week, then trying to force feed 21 meals into one day to make up for the lack of nutrients you've acquired previously.
It won't work, and neither does training at the last minute.
The athletes who have always come out on top have been those who found a way to make quality training a consistent part of their schedule, regularly devoting just 1 to 3 hours per week to it.
They may miss a week or two here and there, but over the long haul they got their work in at a rate their bodies could keep up with.
Training is an adaptive process that, much like the old fable of the tortoise and the hare, is won by those who methodically stick with it over time.
Make Sure The Time You Get In Is Quality Time
Too many are fooling themselves by thinking that because they work out regularly, that they are becoming a better athlete.
Oftentimes the kid who works out at home or with their friends will stick with the things they are best at already, or what they enjoy most.
Actual development training involves identifying and then working on your weaker areas, the things that make you vulnerable to being outplayed or injured in competition.
Usually, that requires someone else pushing you to do the things you wouldn't do on your own.
When you do have time to train, make sure you make the most of it.
The last thing you need is to burn your rare free time on training that is only minimally effective, only to find out later on you're being outplayed by the kids who trained more effectively.
Microburst Training When You Can
When trying to balance a year-round sports schedule with physical development, rarely is the ideal scenario going to occur.
One compromise that produces good results is to occasionally ramp up your training workload for a short period of time.
This can be during a school vacation week, or a lull in the competitive schedule.
Provided you aren't starting from scratch, a short-term overload of training creates a stimulus that requires your body to adapt and grow. Even if it is only for a week or two, when you go back to your regular routine you'll get a leveling up effect.
Microbursting your training is not recommended if you haven't been training regularly, as the huge uptick in volume can easily lead to injury.
And if you don't follow it up with regular training afterward, the effect quickly goes away.
Done as part of a consistent training schedule, this is a really nice way to maximize your development within the confines of a year-round sports culture.
Don't Force It
One thing that never leads to a productive outcome is when an athlete is forced to train.
Many years ago we had a group of college and pro hockey players train with us through the summer. One day after a session we got into a discussion about how hard they were pushed to succeed.
Every single one of those very high achievers said their families were always 100% supportive, offered to help at every turn, but never forced them to do anything they didn't want to do.
Pushing a kid to work out may lead to more progress that day, but in the long run it leads to burnout and watered down performance.
Training is meant only to bring out the best in someone. If an individual is not actively bought into the process, it's best to step back and try again down the road.
Keep The Big Picture In Mind
When it comes to physical development training, it's important to always keep in mind that this is a long-term process.
At times there are going to be injuries, busy periods, and a lack of motivation to put in the extra work.
Everyone will have these periods.
What will separate the high achievers from everyone else is that the best will continue to get back on track, they won't let the short-term setbacks derail their commitment to maximizing their potential.
And really, that ability to persevere has been the biggest factor in separating which of our kids became top performers from everyone else.
Today nearly every kid, regardless of sport or gender, does some form of performance training.
The ones who get the best results don't necessarily put in more time than everyone else, they just stick to it and follow a smarter plan.

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