In an age where most youth athletes jump from one sport to another depending on the season and skill level, COVID-19 has put an abrupt stop on all sports.
Through the dark reality of a global pandemic, some youth athletes may be able to refine their skills, build strength, rid injuries, and take advantage of a true off-season training plan.
What is an Off-Season?
For those who may be unaware (because they train all-year-round) and off-season is a period in which sports and sports training volume decreases. The keyword there is decreased volume. If an athlete has a football season that runs 6 months of the year - the remaining 6 months should be an off-season. For most athletes, this is a time for them to join other sports - like track and field or basketball.
Do Youth Athletes Really Get Off-Seasons?
Sports don't really ever stop - and neither does the training. Take for example an NBA basketball athlete. When the season is over they might take a week or so to hit the links, but very quickly move back into the gym, weight room and physical therapist office to refine their craft.
Things are no different at the youth athlete level - especially as sports become more demanding and more serious each year. Most youth athletes play on a variety of teams. We're not just talking about moving from one sport to another throughout the year - we're talking about multiple teams in the same sport, during the same season.
You see it all the time. A high school athlete will play on their high school team and also join an AAU team to develop and play at a higher level. This is very stressful on the body - both physically and mentally.
With the development in sports running the entire course of the year and with athlete injuries constantly on the rise, a proper off-season is essential to refresh and recharge the batteries for many athletes.
How COVID-19 Can Benefit Your Training
We know that most athletes are not taking the time to recharge. They think they need to constantly perform, and sometimes it is simply because they do not have guidance from proper trainers.
Whatever the reason, through the pandemic that is COVID-19, youth athletes have been given the unique opportunity to take their off-season seriously.
Here are 4 ways youth athletes can use this off-season to perform at a higher level.
1. Periodized Programming
Periodization or periodized programming is a term used to describe the hills and valleys of physical training.
Every great trainer knows that you can't always train at a max effort. The ability to create a program that affords some workouts as max effort and others as recovery sessions separate high-performance athletes from injured ones.
2. Quality vs. Quantity
If you walked into a gym before COVID-19 and asked 50 people how many of them actually record their lifts and progress - we would guess that maybe 10% do.
Of course, this number might go up with serious athletes, but the point here is that so many people are focused on the pure quantity of exercise, and only a few focus on quality - that is, how well you are actually performing. I hope we can all agree that the guy doing 1 plate of bench press with clean form and pause reps is much smarter than the guy doing 2 plates with half-rep form.
COVID-19 has afforded many athletes the time to work on quality movements, without the time and recovery constraints of practices and games.
3. Work on Weakness'
Many youth athletes only have time to work on "what they're good at". You hear coaches telling their athletes to take advantage of their strengths - and I am not disagreeing that this is a good idea. This reality that athletes go through is generally due to a lack of time. COVID-19 has afforded every youth athlete with an unlimited amount of time. This means they can work on simple things like posture, mobility, core strength and many others without being worried about the upcoming game or team strength training session. Skills and weaknesses' that are largely avoided - for various reasons are now an opportunity to grow and develop without constraints.
4. Skill Development
Scrimmage and games do not work on skills - they put skills to the test. Off-season training is when you are able to develop things like better jab-steps in basketball, better wide-receiver escapes and more effective overall skills. Skill acquisition takes time - practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.
Prioritize your sleep, prioritize your training quality, mobility and skill development. Refine your skills through constant practice and record your workouts. Remember - when sports start back up, everyone will have the fire to get wins, your success will come through your preparation.