Most sports should, although some don’t, have an off-season in a calendar year where the athletes have time to “come up for air” a little. Sports that typically don’t include youth soccer and youth tennis. In my humble opinion, this is unhealthy and unsafe for young athletes.
I have had the opportunity and privilege to train athletes in pretty much every sport imaginable (including women’s Roller Derby) and there’s nothing more frustrating than when you ask an athlete when is your off-season and they reply, we don’t really have one.
The problem with this is that as a Strength & Conditioning Specialist you never have a chance to prepare the athlete properly for the upcoming season. All you can do is help them along and “hope” they don’t get injured. It is not a healthy situation.
As a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, I would suggest the following for every athlete in any sport, so they can enjoy a healthy, strong and long career.
As your season is winding down, hopefully you won the last contest of the season and you are now the champion, I would highly recommend taking some time off. Relax and enjoy another sport that is less physically challenging for a bit.
After about two or three weeks of rest, start training again. Here is the way I look at off-season training.
It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. You don’t go out and run a marathon the first day you train for a marathon. Most sports should have 3 to 4 months of downtime between the seasons depending on how well the athlete did in the post-season. The athletes need to be in their best shape right before training camp for the upcoming season, which is at the end of the off season.
I divide the off season into 3 phases.
The first phase is the “stability phase”. This is where we “fix” the athlete from all deficiencies and imbalances they may have (in many cases caused by the sport they play). We strengthen all the joints so their body can control the heavy resistance we put on them during the second phase. In the stability phase, we use mostly body weight for resistance. The second phase is the “strength phase”. In the strength phase, we add external loads and resistance such as free weights and cable machines. This is typically the most popular phase because this is where we get “jacked”! The last phase is the “power phase”. This is where we develop power and explosiveness. This phase is very taxing on the body, so we don’t keep our athletes here too long. By the time we get to the end of the power phase, training camp is just around the corner.
All these phases are individually monitored. Some athletes need to stay in certain phases longer and/or shorter than others.
If programing and exercise selection is done in a scientific, results driven manner and if they’re coached properly, your athletes will enjoy a healthy, strong and long career.