For the love of God you don’t need to get ‘fitter’ during the off-season. As we draw to the close of another long (seemingly long-er than the last) winter sport season, clubs and athletes are already preparing for what’s next. I can bet that most parents reading this have had their kids playing and/or training for multiple sports no less than 3 times per week if not everyday since the start of the year. It seems that the off-season is becoming shorter and shorter each year. When we talk to athletes and ask “what are your plans for the off-season?” we often hear them respond with “I’m going to work on getting fitter for the preseason.” This is interesting as athletes wanting to get fitter for the training block where you improve fitness. Below Jamie Wilson provides some recommendations for parents and athletes regarding what to focus on during the off-season.
After such a long season and huge amount time commitments a week (or two) of doing nothing is completely acceptable. If your child has had 40 weeks of training and games then how does that compare to one week on the couch? Rest is necessary and allows us to hit the reset button so we can actually see improvements from training.
(2) Join a sport or activity that is completely different
I’ve had many conversations with parents who tell me their child is doing an ‘excellence program’ in the off-season or that trials have already begun for next season. Astonishingly, this is occurs generally a week after the regular season! Although these programs seem like a great idea for improving your child’s performance they are actually working toward early “sport specialisation” – a practice that the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine claims can lead to detrimental effects such as burnout and overuse injuries (DiFiori., Benjamin., & Brenner et al. 2014). Having your child participate in a completely different sport or activity not only lowers the risk of overuse injuries and monotony but it also introduces new movement patterns and skills which are vital for physical development. More importantly you could find that your child enjoys this sport more. The biggest advertisement that your child will not be disadvantaged from trying something different is Ashley Barty who back in 2014 took a one year break from tennis play cricket just because she enjoyed the sport more than tennis. Fast-forward five years and now she is the number one ranked female tennis player in the world.
(3) Work on the specifics that complement your sport (Strength, Speed & Skills)
It is common for these three components to actually get worse as the season rolls on. With the high volume of aerobic team based work and low recovery time between sessions there is little time left to work on anything else. The best time to improve all three of these components arise when athletes are at their freshest. Furthermore, strength training has been shown to reduce sports injuries by one-third which should be the main focus during the off season because you are trying to mitigate the risk of future injury as your child goes through accelerated growth (Lauersen., Bertelsen., & Andersen. 2014)
Key take home messages
The off-season is the perfect chance to hit the reset button and the best opportunity your child has to rest, recover from any little niggles from the previous season and develop skills of their game that they wouldn’t normally have time to work on. Remember you don’t need to be ‘fit’ before the pre-season starts so save the desire to perform high volumes of fitness work for when it matters.