This generation of youth athletes are starting to specialize in a single sport as early as the age of 7, and our stance at The PITT regarding this topic is simple…. DON’T DO IT. Luckily for us here in Montana the climate and seasons help promote multi-sport participation, and trust me this is a great thing. During my time in Southern California I worked with hundreds of youth athletes who participated in their sport year round simply because they could. Football, baseball, soccer, volleyball, you name it and it can be played year round. However, the baggage that comes with playing a sport year round at the youth level more often than not consists of overuse injuries, burnout, and far worse, quitting! Some people are reading this and asking “well what about the case of Tiger Woods?” To that question I would refer them to the “eggs against a wall” theory coined by a graduate professor of mine Jack Daniels (not the whiskey, but the world renowned running coach). Every now and then if you throw a basket of eggs against a wall, one of them will not break! For every outstanding athlete that specialized and made it, there are thousands that got broken.
Fortunately, there are still lots of athletes who compete year round in a variety of sports, and this is and will always be the best method to becoming a well-rounded athlete. However, multi-sport athletes face challenges of their own. A task that many of them fail is fitting training into their busy sports schedules. By not allocating time to the weight room in a consistent manner, these athletes achieve sub-optimal performance levels in their respective sports while INCREASING their chance of injury. “It is better to look ahead and prepare, than to look back and regret” – Jackie Joyner-Kersee
Here is our strength training blueprint for multi-sport athletes at The PITT training facility
STEP 1: You must train during the summer or offseason
For most multi-sport athletes, summer should be the season that you commit to strength training over sport. Strength training improves speed, explosiveness, agility, and also reduces the likelihood of injuries. In other words, strength training improves the athletic foundation for success in all types of sporting events. Lifting frequency in the offseason for strength development should be two to four times per week. The goal is to build total body strength and power so that the athlete can optimize their speed, explosiveness, and agility while also being able to absorb the large amounts of forces placed on the body during sporting movements. Sprinting and cutting has been shown to place ground reaction forces equal to 2-4 times that of an athlete’s bodyweight. This alone should be reason enough for athletes to take strength training seriously. If you cannot efficiently absorb and reduce the forces going through your joints and muscles during high intensity sporting movements, you get hurt. I cannot tell you how many times I have had young athletes come to me experiencing some level of joint pain (most commonly in the knee) and all we did to fix it was implement a proper strength program for the athlete for 8-10 weeks. Strength training not only makes you fast and powerful, it makes you resilient.
STEP 2: Strength and power must be maintained during the season
The biggest mistake you can make as an athlete is to discontinue training during in season competition. Athletes fail at this most often because sports coaches do not prioritize training during the competitive season as field/gym/practice time comes at a premium. As long as it can take to develop strength and power through means of a vigorous strength program, the gains diminish at a much faster rate. In other words, if you stop training during your sports season, you lose all the progress you made and hard work you put in during the offseason. Far worse, as the season goes on, the competition increases, the pressure of playoffs rise, games get more intense, and all the while you are getting weaker. That is the perfect recipe for injury, and a pretty damn good one at that. You need to devote a minimum of one day a week of strength training and ideally two days to maintain your strength and power levels. More often than not, your coach is not going to set aside this time for you, therefore it is on you to find the time. Elite competitors are elite preparers.
STEP 3: Repeat Step 1
Sean Herrin – Sean is the Performance Manager at the PITT Training Facility located in Bozeman, MT. Prior to returning to Montana, he was the Sports Performance Director at Velocity Sports Performance in Redondo Beach, CA heading the performance programs for athletes ranging from the elementary level all the way up to the professional and Olympic level.