In-Season Training - Maintaining Pre-Season Momentum During The Season
Damany Taylor, Senior Performance Coach, Student ATHlete
We’ve all heard the now popular saying “the best ability is availability”, and with the amount of time, money, and effort that is being put into preparing athletes for their sport, I couldn’t agree more. No matter how strong, powerful, or skilled an athlete may be, it means nothing if the athlete is not out there to showcase those qualities. This leads to the question and topic for today – Why maintaining preseason momentum during the season is important.
We’ve already touched on the first reason, the next reason is so we’re playing at our best at the right time. No one makes the team, gets a scholarship, or gets a professional contract for all the improvements they made or great performances they had during the offseason/preseason. We want athletes to perform and be at their best when it matters most.
Lastly, we have the psychological side of sport – confidence. The success is in the preparation, all the work we put in, all the gains we made in the offseason/preseason, we want all that to fuel our confidence. So, how do we maintain preseason momentum during the season? Well here are four ways that we can be sure to maintain our momentum to make sure we’re available, primed, and confident.
Test Test Test
The numbers don’t lie. One of the best ways to ensure we maintain preseason momentum, is to test in the preseason and use that as a baseline to compare our inseason numbers to. We can choose the key performance indicators of that sport and monitor negative deviations from the baseline. Sure, in some parts of the competitive year you would expect there to be a drop in some numbers such as a long road trip/back to back for professional/college teams, during finals for high school/collegiate athletes, and towards the end of the season as you build up more and more fatigue. But, sometimes performance decrements in numbers could signal that we are overtrained which leads to an increased likelihood of injury, or that there may be outside stress that is causing a decrease in our performance. We could also test to inform our decisions. For example, if I use a reactive strength index test to measure fatigue and I notice that my athlete’s numbers are lower than their norm, I can make a safe assumption that they’re probably fatigued and adjust my training accordingly. Without any of these objective measurements, I would be more so guessing if I am indeed maintaining preseason momentum. This is why it’s so important to have objective measurements.
Understanding the sport is an easy, but sometimes overlooked way to maintain preseason momentum during the season. Building from the last point – but super important for understanding the sport – is knowing when you need to be at your best. If you take a sport like college football, you can break when you need to be at your best during different points in the season. You want to be at your best for the start of the season, start of conference play, and then finally for the final games/bowl game. Knowing when you need to be at your best, will help guide your programming in-season to make sure you're building on the foundation that was laid in preseason and beyond.
Being aware of the common injuries, and common movements that occur in the sport also falls under understanding the sport. You want to make sure that you continue the prehab exercises done in the preseason during the season to maintain all of those gains.
Having a plan
The success is in the preparation – without a plan you’re setting yourself up for failure. During the season athletes will be fielding stress from all directions. They’ll have the normal stresses of sport such as training, practice, and games, and on top of that the stresses of life, such as family issues, school, finances, etc. So having a plan can make all the difference when it comes to maintaining all the work you already put in.
When you have a schedule where game dates and times are already known ahead of time, practice can then be planned around games, and training can then be planned around/with practice. All of this planning can make sure we maintain that preseason momentum by making sure that we compliment stresses and not conflict stresses. All stresses put us in a hole and if we don’t have a plan, and are not adaptable, we can begin to overtrain and not only lose our preseason momentum, but begin to perform at our worst.
Paying attention to training methods
The last way that I'll touch on to maintain preseason momentum during the season would be paying attention to training methods. With all the advances in technology and research available about peaking an athlete’s performance we can do a lot more to make sure the athletes are playing at their best. Technology such as tendo units can be used for velocity-based training. Velocity based training is great because it gives you a speed metric to refer your preseason numbers to. For instance, if in the preseason I was moving my power clean 85% 1RM at X speed, and in season I’m moving at the same speed or higher, then I know I’m maintaining that momentum or even surpassing where I was in the preseason.
Another big plus of utilizing velocity based training is being able to monitor exhaustion, ensuring that you limit the accumulation of fatigue. We can also use a style of training that decreases the amount of eccentric stress like ballistic activities where you let go of the load with moves likelike a med ball toss and/or trap bar deadlifts where we focus on limiting eccentric stress. This is a great option, and can go a long way in preserving performance throughout a long season.
If you’re a coach this is probably pretty straightforward for you, but if you are not a coach, you can see how vital having the right team in place is. A team that can make sure these strategies are being implemented. Again, I want to reiterate, no one makes the team, gets a scholarship, or gets a professional contract for all the improvements they made during the offseason or preseason, what really matters is what occurs during the season. My hope is that strength coaches and athletes alike can utilize this information to put them in the best position possible to maintain their preseason momentum and be at their best when it matters most. If you are looking for a team to hit on all the points that were discussed, Athlete Training and Health is a great place to start. The attention to detail is unmatched with evidence-led strategies and the technology/resources to go along with it.
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Student ATHlete: Athletic performance training for athletes ages 8-18
Next Level ATHlete: Seasonal programs for collegiate and professional athletes
Team ATHlete: Specialized, seasonal team-training for teams and organizations
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