The off-season is often the most under-appreciated time to develop your athletic abilities and work to become a more complete athlete. Every year athletes look forward to the beginning of their competitive season and all the fun and excitement that comes with the anticipation wondering how it will turn out. The truth of the matter is that before the season starts the athletes that will be champions were already champions before they stepped onto the field, mat, or turf before their season started. Champions are made, if you do not know, when no one is looking at them because they are doing the work in silence, without a coach, teammate, or even a parent keeping them accountable.
The goal of off season training should be focusing on strength and conditioning that is completely different from what an athlete is going to be doing in season. Everyone has their own idea of strength and conditioning, when those words are thrown around, but in reality strength and conditioning means you identify weakness and test resilience through your training. Athletes know their strengths and how well they are conditioned but they will avoid things they are weak in and dont have the resilience or ability to keep training without fatigue going to training sessions that make them not look as good as they feel they should be performing. The way I can best phrase this is a blacksmith forging a new knife in a forge. If the knife comes out in great condition and is solid then the blacksmith sharpens the edge and knows it’s ready to cut whatever is in front of it. Now take that same exact situation and the black smith leaves the blade in maybe too long or takes it out too early and a large crack is seen across the blade. It seems solid enough so the blacksmith decides to do twice as much sharpening to make it have the sharpest edge of any knife they’ve ever had. No one wants to cut something with a knife that could break at any minute, but plenty of athletes are willing to train with a weakness, a compensation, or an imbalance that may lead to injury or keep them from having their game be as sharp as it could be.
This is why strength and conditioning is important to keep athletes developing throughout the year. As the athlete is in their off season they should focus on becoming a more well rounded athlete, spending a majority of their time working in the off season on developing more muscle, flexibility, and endurance by making that a priority with little to no skill development sessions, approximately 80/20 strength and conditioning vs skill development. As the season gets closer the focus should shift closer to a 50/50 split in preseason months leading up to the season. Once the season has begun this is the time to focus on skill development and use strength and conditioning as a maintenance tool to prevent injury and maintain the improvements we made during our offseason, shifting our training to around 20/80 strength and conditioning vs practice & skill sessions once the season starts. The easiest way to remember this athlete’s body is a car, maybe a work truck, a racecar, or a hybrid depending on the sport. The off season is about increasing our engine size, improving our suspension, and getting rid of any check engine lights. The in season is all about making the driver the best driver they possibly can be and testing their ability & skills as much as they can for their specific race course.