For young athletes, getting better is a priority for many reasons.
From middle school through high school, improvement can mean everything from playing time to travel ball roster spots to college scholarships and even dreams playing professionally. Due to those and other reasons, it can be easy for a young athlete to want to push themselves to train harder and longer. For a teenager, feeling strong and even invincible often comes naturally, but for those who work with young athletes, making sure to strike a good balance between training and down time is key.
“One of the biggest keys is that work to rest ratio … the typical strength and conditioning mentality, at least the old-school mentality, is you run them into the ground and that’s a good workout when they throw up at the end. But we really try to stay away from that as much as possible here,” said Aaron Port, one of the trainers at Green-based 440 Performance. “We really focus on, depending on the athlete’s ability levels, they’re on a one-to-three or one-to-two work to rest ratio. If they’re more out of shape, we increase the rest to the let them recover so they’re able to put out at a high level because that’s when you get faster and better, when you’re performing at the highest level in that 80- to 90-percent range.”
Port and fellow 440 Performance trainer Ian Conners work with a dozens of high school athletes and both know that each sport carries with it a specific risk of injury based on its motions and physical nature.
“In some of the high-impact sports we definitely have to watch out for the overuse injuries that happen a lot more frequently. Depending on the mechanics of the sport, we also see overuse injuries in certain joints, especially knees and shoulders,” Connors said. “That’s where the art form comes in our our end because we don’t always know exactly what these athletes are doing outside the building.”
Port noted that in sports where motions are more sudden and over shorter distances, rest while training is often shorter. Going through drills with less rest increases an athlete’s threshold, but there’s also the need to make sure that an athlete doesn’t burn themselves out.
Veteran Green cross country and track coach Jacob Saylor pointed out that because sports such as running can place more of a training burden on athletes, it’s important to have a system in place and to have athletes trust both that system and those working with them.
“I think that with good communication and building positive encouraging relationships with the athletes they are willing to trust you and let you know what they are doing and how they feel,” Saylor said. “Trust is very important between the coach and athlete because it allows them to share what they are doing, their thoughts and their concerns. Most of the time athletes are honest and will let you know what they are doing outside of practice as long as they respect you.”
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
Anyone involved in an athlete’s training, from coaches to parents to trainers at a place such as 440, directly oversees only part of what a young athlete does. For that reason, Connors noted, it’s vital for everyone to communicate so an athlete isn’t trying to do too much in the name of shaving time off their 40-yard dash or earning a varsity roster spot.
“There’s times where after working with an athlete for a couple months, mom and dad finally open up to us and tell us they’ve been playing like eight games a week through the travel season and at that point, you really have to watch out for overtraining,” Connors said.
Saylor and his staff use their own means to monitor what athletes are doing and how much they’re training in an effort to make sure everyone is resting as much as needed.
“Runners have to log their summer mileage in our log book with the team. As far as on their own, my coaches and I maintain contact with the runners throughout the summer and talk to them about anything else they may be doing and how they are feeling.,” Saylor said. “If they are really tired or sore one day in the early summer I always tell them to rest that day. Also, I make sure the training is appropriate and builds them up at the proper amounts to limit the amount of injuries.”
Another 440 trainer, Joey Tupta, said convincing young athletes that taking a day or two off could benefit them more than grinding through another workout if they are feeling tired isn’t always easy.
“We get a lot of the kids that mentally think they need to be doing something every day, whether it’s their coaches telling them or from a parent standpoint, we get a lot of kids who come in and notice that they’re getting better so they think the more they do, the better they’re going to get,” Tupta said. “It’s very hard for us to get across that they may need to take the weekend off or stay home and stretch.”
FINDING A COMFORT ZONE
While teams often have certain standards for training, including times and frequency, there is variance from one athlete to another in terms of what the body can handle.
“Typically, we want our athletes to be in the building for three times a week to really see the results. We have multi-sport athletes, so that’s not always feasible, but typically one to two days of rest depending on how busy they are in their sports and then coming in here, we like that they have a full day to recover,” 440 trainer Alexis Kroah said. “Sometimes we have them come in here and do recovery sessions with foam rolling, active release and things like that to speed up the recovery process.”
The training pace also changes over the course of the year, altering during the season and also depending on other factors. For Renninger, learning how to take care of her body has been a work in progress.
“’I would definitely say looking back as a freshman I didn’t care as much … I didn’t care about doing abs or core strengthening,” Renninger said. “When I was a freshman, I carried pack of Oreos and ate the whole pack during the day at school … I did some crazy stuff.”
Eating better, getting rest and finding a good training balance are all are pieces of a much bigger puzzle, one that athletes and their families have to figure out with input from their coaches and trainers, but the consensus seems to be that rest isn’t only beneficial, but it’s essential for an athlete who wants to be at their best in both the short-term and for the future.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
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