Training all year is a challenge for many athletes; this is especially true for high school athletes who have to balance the stress of school, sports, social life, and growing up. While being a challenging feat for the high school athlete, training year-round is an extremely important factor to consider when looking at an athlete's development curve.
Growth and development are the goals for any athlete looking to make it to the next level. The ability to continue forward on a development curve is often what sets apart players from making Division 1 compared to Division 3 or from making AAA compared to AA. I believe there is no question in regards to training off-season. The sports world is so competitive now that usually everyone trains in the off-season; however, in sports like ice hockey, the off-season is rather short compared to the in-season. Missing out on 6-8 months of training during the in-season can have a drastic effect on this development curve. Compared to off-season training, the training does not have to be as grueling, but being able to maintain strength, power, mobility, and speed during the in-season is crucial for both in-season performance and training during the following off-season.
In the example below, the physical abilities are shown for two different athletes: Athlete A and Athlete B. Athlete A trains two times per week during the in-season, working on their physical abilities- strength, power, and speed. Athlete B does not train during the in-season. Below, there are some specific points on the graph that are important for discussion.
Both Athlete A and B enter the in-season with 100% of their physical abilities; basically, this means that they trained hard in the off-season and are healthy and ready to go for the in-season.
For this exercise, Point 2 is considered to be the post-season or playoff period. Now by this point, Athlete A did a superb job in-season with their training and is entering the post season with 90% of their physical abilities. Why is this important? Well, this essentially means that the wear and tear of the season did not affect their physical abilities in a large degree; their physical ability levels have been mostly maintained. On the other hand, Athlete B, who did not train during the in-season, lost about 30% of their physical abilities. The drastic drop-off seen is one that could easily happen in a 6-8 month in-season period with no training. Now, if you had to guess which athlete has the best chance at performing during the most important time of the season, who would it be? Ding Ding Ding- Athlete A! Of course it'll be the athlete who put the work in during the in-season.
By this point, both athletes have had good off-seasons; they trained hard and increased their physical abilities by 35%. However, because Athlete A maintained their physical abilities better than Athlete B did over the in-season, Athlete A is now entering the next in-season at 125% compared to just 105% as Athlete B. What this shows is a development curve that has been favored for Athlete A. Now think about this over the course a 4-5 year timeframe. Though this is just an example, over 4 years of this same development curve pattern, Athlete A will experience a 200-225% increase in physical abilities; meanwhile, Athlete B will experience only a 120-125% increase in physical abilities. In comparison, these are drastic numbers when considering the chances for scholarships and reaching the next level.
The last discussion point: strength plays a huge factor in injury prevention and if an athlete is to develop; this requires them to stay in the game and continue to increase their playing time. Athletes who are on the sidelines due to injuries will not get this opportunity. Furthermore, athletes who maintain their strength qualities usually remain healthy longer and to preserve strength, year-round training is necessary.
In conclusion, year-round training is vital in shifting the development curve into a positive direction. Now, we're not saying that breaks cannot be taken or that training has to be difficult all year; we want to emphasis the simple point that going multiple months without training will hurt any athlete in the long run. If an athlete wishes to make it to the next level, adopting the mindset of a year-round training approach will be especially beneficial.
If you have any questions about how to train year-round, reach out to us!
-Edson Performance Strength and Conditioning