Organizing training for your teams during the season can be chaotic at the best of times. It requires a good deal of collaboration and your time in order to be available for as many team activities as you can make it to.
Naturally, the competitive season is where most people are going to be on heightened alert. Sports Medicine staff have to be responsive to player issues and keep them as close to their version of “good to go” as possible. Head and assistant coaches need to keep an eye on the W-L columns and make sure travel and meals go smoothly as well as develop tactical plans and strategies to give their group the best chance possible. Strength and Conditioning coaches have to find a way to keep players healthy and moving well, with as little decrement in physical output as possible.
When it all comes down to it, this is largely a multi-component effort of stress management for the most important part of the system – the athletes. For the performance professional, you’re going to feel like an afterthought most of the time. In some cases, you will get the feeling that your time is not anyone else’s concern as you become plan B for a lot of training interventions. Raining outside? Work ’em out. Practice facilities unavailable? Find another way to condition them. Travel game cancelled? You might be working this weekend.
No matter the case, it’s important to have a plan ahead of time that you can present to your coaches so that they can get a better idea of what it is you’re trying to accomplish. Additionally, this will be helpful in making sure you can keep track of your training objectives in the midst of a schedule that tends to be more fluid than concrete.
In an ideal model, the players always come first. Your convenience or time constraints are not really good excuses or rationales to put them through training sessions that don’t make any sense, and further, when athletes can’t perform or they get hurt unnecessarily, you’re going to look like you have no idea what you’re doing.
Here is a way I have had some success setting up training sessions in the past for in-season programs:
This is not complicated by any means, and when things get shifted around on you, you can refer to your organizational model so that you know what it was you had intended to accomplish that day. In addition, with summer competition and league play being the norm it’s a good way to help your players tailor their training weeks to match up with their own schedules. Send them home with progressive plans for Lifts 1, 2, and 3 as well as intensive and extensive fitness options so that they can modulate their training weeks based on feel.
Using a timeline which is sensitive to where games fall in the schedule can make a world of sense when you’re trying to determine what should and shouldn’t fall on each day so that you can give your players their greatest chance of success physically. I generally follow a 48-hour rule with respect to proximity to the next competition, and that is the reason for colour coding the days. Green days are safe zones, where you can take some chances with things that you wouldn’t necessarily do within 48 hours of the next game. Yellow days are “caution” days, you’re getting close or are in that 48-hour window of the next competition and should be wary of what it is you’re asking people to do. Of course, in my model some of these are variable based on whether players are major or minor contributors. My advice in this case would be to check with your coaches to see who those people are – don’t make that determination on your own.
Red (Gameday) – Hands off training your contributors, can be rehab days for others.
Orange (Gameday -1) – Tread carefully, Proprioception & Trunk Stability or Upper, OK.
Yellow (Gameday -2) – Be cautious, Upper or sub-max Deadlift type training.
Light Green (Gameday -3) – Roll the dice if you need to – can squat here.
Green (Gameday -4) – Same as Light Green, good time to add some variability if you need.
GREEN (GAMEDAY +1) – REGEN
One of the things I am a major believer in is regenerative sessions. This was a massive break for us over the last few years. Right off the bat in pre-season, we introduced regenerative sessions for players who are contributing a lot (60-90 minute players above). At that time of the season, nobody was feeling the compounding effects of the schedule so they didn’t appreciate it initially, but it was important to become a routine for them. Later in the season then, they saw increasing value in the regen sessions as they became more worn down and fatigued. It also adds the benefit of creating a bit of privilege-type exclusivity for that group of players. It was apparent that the people who were not making major contributions to our game day efforts were a bit envious of the regen group while training and doing fitness.
A regen day can be as simple or as complex as you choose to make it based on your time and resources. Typically I would make myself available to handle the regen group at practice and take them for the first 45-60 minutes of practice time. The objective here is to give them as much distance as possible not only physically, but psychologically as well from regular training. Some things we’ve had success with in this group:
- Light runs, followed by guided stretching and hip/trunk control or stability.
- Small games which incorporate different planes of movement.
Here is a sample of a regen session we’ve used in the past:
Here also are some examples of training programs I’ve used that follow the model above:
The moral of the story is that you can save a lot of stress and chaos by laying your goals out ahead of time. I like the timeline model for organizing training weeks so that you can look at what your goals are in an ideal setting or situation and then modify from there when needed. In-season is not the time for messing around with routines or training structure, and this can (and did for us) help you stay on track with training as well as keeping the athletes up to speed with what they can expect.