“How to Train in the Off Season” Written By Keri Casas
The off-season is extremely important for the development of female athletes. Many parents allow their athletes to take a break from training when their season is over and this could hurt them in the long run.
When athletes are in season, their main focus is on practice, tournaments, and playing almost every weekend. It is difficult for athletes to really grow and develop individually in this time as their attention is on their team. When in season, the team must perform as a unit to accomplish their goals, leaving little room for the betterment of an individual athlete. Sure, female athletes will continue to train, take lessons, and practice throughout a season, but it is to maintain and perform at their skill level consistently. Making alterations to an athlete in the middle of the season could hinder her playing ability and affect her team performance.
The best time to develop young, female athletes is in the off season. During this time, athletes have the ability to make changes, develop their skills, and mature without the consequences of it affecting their game. When a female athlete wants to better their skills, they tend to go backwards first, then with practice, refine their newly-learned skill.
The reason why female athletes’ skills diminish before they get better is simply because they are stubborn. Once they have learned something, female athletes tend to be set in their ways and refuse to change what is “working”. When a newly-learned skill is not perfect, they don’t like it, don’t want to do it, and don’t want to change it. This is WHY we have the off season; to work through both physical and mental issues with female athletes. Now, I’m not saying it is easier to deal with stubborn, female athletes in the off season, but it does give an instructor or coach more time to work with them individually. Female athletes need a lot of direction, especially when they do not want to change something, and the off season allows them to work on things without the pressures of playing in a tournament on the weekend.
So how should my female athlete train in the off season?
Get your athlete into private lessons. The best way to give them the individualized attention is to do so through private instruction. This allows the athlete to connect with an adult who has played the game, has the time to work with her for an extended period, and wants to help your athlete grow. This does not necessarily mean that your athlete needs to be in lessons every day, every week, but it does help to develop skills more quickly. Giving the athlete the opportunity to take private lessons allows them to receive quality information that both she and her parent can take home to practice. Not only will private lessons help, but with it being the off season, the athlete has more time to work on her skills without worrying about school, excessive practices, tournaments, and traveling. This is their time to develop their skills and show as a better athlete when the season comes around.
I do understand that competitive sports tend to have a minimal off season, and many young athletes are burnt out by the time spring and fall seasons are over. With many sports only having a 1-2 month break between seasons, it is understandable that parents want their athletes to still enjoy being a child. With this said, I still do not believe this means “taking a break” from any and all training. An athlete can definitely tone down their playing time to enjoy being a child, to focus on their school work, and to have time with their friends.
The best way to encourage training with your female athlete that wants to socialize in the off season is to create a daily schedule allowing them time for school, friends, and sport. Having something written out and displayed for your female athlete gives them structure for a daily routine that will not hinder their athletics or academics. This is also a great way to show your athlete that all of their time is NOT consumed by sport, but equally shared between their wants and needs.
It is greatly important to understand that the off season is the best time for a female athlete to grow and develop into a successful player. Giving them instruction and practice time without the pressure of needing to “be ready” by the weekend tournament is vital to their successful development.
Key Points for Training in the Off Season
1. Female athletes are stubborn and set in their ways. They need time, patience, and consistent instruction to develop better skills.
2. The off season is really “training season”. An athlete’s skill level will typically remain the same during the season as they are focused on being part of a team rather than an individual. The off season is best to allow the athlete to focus on themselves.
3. Allow your athlete to be a child. Just because you want them to train in the off season does not mean you have to take away socializing. Create a daily schedule that allows an athlete to focus on school work, spend time with their friends, and develop as a female athlete.
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