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Preparing For The Games To Begin

It’s no news to anyone that COVID-19 has caused some serious lifestyle changes for us all, and we are the fortunate ones. Among these changes are shifts in games schedules and entire seasons that are creating a ripple effect of shifts and pivots throughout the strength and conditioning programming related to the sport season cycle.

Traditionally our athletes have an in season, post season, off season and preseason. These are predictable and we have the ability to plan for this year long cycle of phases. However, due to COVID-19 these predictable cycles are no more. How is this effecting our athletes? How are we shifting these cycles to account for this?

As we continue to get updates weekly (sometimes daily) on the forecast of the upcoming sport seasons these plans continue to shift more and more. While the initial few weeks of Covid were seen as"time off" and an opportunity to rest and recover from home, that is no longer the case. Athletes are easing back into a decent work capacity either from home or back in facilities and many are now in the midst of the traditional off season hypertrophy (muscle growth) phase.  This would normally only last a month or two, never 3 or more. Preseason training is all about speed and power and getting our athletes to thier peak power output going into their season. With no foreseeable season in sight there is no real way to progress these athletes into preseason training as we do not want them to peak too early, so what now? This ultimately leaves us in a never before seen phase; a longer off season than any of our athletes have ever experienced.

In this particular off season our athletes are also missing out on some if not all of their typical sport specific training. If they are training, they’re training in non contact environments; which is, from an injury prevention standpoint, the most important part of their training. So what do we do?

We coach. We make the most of this time and we coach our asses off. By being creative and resourceful we can and must find ways to address this unprecedented circumstance and get our athletes ready for their season; whenever that may be. When athletes can’t practice in contact environments the single most important thing we can do for their injury prevention is train their reactive abilities. We can find ways to incorporate numerous different stimuli into their drill work and teach them over and over again how to optimize their body control and movement patterns to be the most efficient and effective as possible. By fine tuning these patterns while simultaneously keeping them in a hypertrophy lifting program these kids will have the opportunity to develop as athletes in a way their bodies have never had the opportunity to before. 

Sure these athletes need sport specific training. Badly. This is critical to their sports performance at this time, but there are also ways to sprinkle that into their strength and conditioning. Basketball players implementing ball handling while doing their sled work. Goalies work on hand eye and cognitive drills daily. Rugby athletes getting scrum work in with yokes and bands. We as coaches have to be more creative than ever before.

Most importantly this can and must be done safely. We don’t need contact sessions to train them to be ready for that once the green light comes. These athletes will crave competition, let’s give it to them. In any form, their desire to compete is imperative. It creates an intent and an endorphin driven edge that they must get accustomed to. This period will make or break athletes. It will redirect the trajectories of so many athletic careers. If athletes capitalize on this time and make the most of it, it could propel them forward in a way they’ve never had the opportunity to utilize before. If they don’t make smart choices during this time, well, injury rates are going to skyrocket as we return to sport. 

It’s up to coaches to value this time and not get monotonous though it can feel like a never ending groundhog day cycle. Making the most of this time will build character, discipline, and lots and lots of patience. No matter how long this season may get extended there is always a way to do something now that will benefit you later.

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