At the end of the field hockey season, I encouraged my team to stay active throughout the year. There are some who play a sport in other seasons, and take the break between the sports and others who literally sit on the couch once the season is complete (some do this between seasons as well).
In this conversation, one of my players, asked a great question….. So, coach, what do we do? She further explained that she will be joining a fitness facility or the local YMCA to keep training over the winter and to be fit for lacrosse. She did this last year, but what she chose to do, was ineffective as she was not conditioned for her first practice in lacrosse season.
In my suggestions, we discussed her weaknesses overall in strength, balance, flexibility, endurance….. And other things that influence her athleticism, and then considered those things she needs for lacrosse. Since lacrosse is a spring sport, she has about three solid months of training to develop and build in her overall athletic abilities.
But what does she need? Overall athleticism. In other words, all those things that will contribute to performance as an athlete, and best prepare her for the games she chooses to play. She plays field hockey and lacrosse– what does she need for those sports (or any sport for that matter)? She also may need a mental break from school and her studies, in the off-season. Exercise creates this opportunity. The training should not be so demanding that it takes away from her academics.
In field hockey, the ball is played on the ground, for the majority of the game. The player needs to have the strength to squat low to the ground, lunge at players defensively, ability to change her body position and her direction quickly. She needs upper body and core strength to accelerate and decelerate her stick to generate and control forces through the ball (which becomes a projectile). **i love physics** In lacrosse, the ball is aerial and moved by utilizing a stick as well. She needs to be able to throw and catch the ball using the stick, and run with varying hand and body postures. She also needs to be able to sprint, change directions quickly and stop.
Both sports require speed and the ability to reproduce the speed throughout the game. In field hockey, we sprint long and short, gain possession of the ball pass it, and either follow the ball for continued play, sprint or move to reposition on the field or trot to observe plays unfolding to determine where she needs to position herself.
In her words, this athlete informed me in the off-season last year she ran on the treadmill almost daily, and yet died when lacrosse went for a two-mile run the first day of practice. (I am not sure why lacrosse went for a 2-mile run, but that is a different blog post entirely). My suggestion will be to run outside as much as possible, training on a field if possible. Ideas to train to build these sprint and transition demands include: 30-30s for a period or 10, 15, 20 minutes. (In the 30-30, the athlete is building to a sprint for 30 seconds and coming down from the sprint for 30 seconds. Work/recovery.); Random hard runs of varying lengths tossed into a 20 or 30 minute run (the hard run can be 10 seconds to 2 minutes, with a set number of intervals, and no set rest. The runs must be hard. The athlete can make it more game-like, for example: 10 second run, 15 second rest, 10 second run); sprints and recovery (set sprint time, like 10 or 15 seconds with a longer rest up to 90 seconds or 2 minutes, with a certain number of sets and reps. The athlete can run for a solid minute in between sets if she likes). In these the athlete is still training 'endurance' and the ability to play for an extended period of time, but she is not creating a habit of slogging or ugly running. The athlete can use indoor equipment on inclement days…. Running on a spinner bike, rowing, or other non running devices can create a variety and not the boredom of a treadmill.
But before any athlete should embark on any portion of cardio or training– she needs to warm-up. I like skipping, and shuffling and back pedaling, and then adding medicine balls, and walking with mini-bands around the ankles. I also have done some crawling type activities in the warm-ups. Using these in warm-ups, aids in overall preparation for sport, and specific exercises or games can be implemented to provide opportunity to develop specific needs. These activities are not necessarily 'sport-specific', but athlete specific in nature. For example an athlete may need more hip flexibility or have considerations because of scoliosis. I can spend more time working in specifics to aid in developing greater hip flexibility and strength, or keeping the athlete healthy. These are one or two exercises, activities, done well, consistently, over-time to see the changes or results.
And then after cardio, one can work on specific core work. Again I love med balls. Throwing, twisting, passing, catching. I include some stabilizing– and planks may or may not be performed on the floor. They may be standing or with arms overhead, balancing weight between feet and a barbell. At times, I need to be creative in considering sport, and the individual. I have even used some suspension equipment, to create and generate stabilization, balance and strength.
Lastly, circuits or complexes work well. Legs, upper body, overall. Dumbbells work great for these. Four or five, maybe six exercises…. Working on legs, for example: lunges, squats, DB hi-pulls, and skater jumps. I did these a few times with my field hockey team throughout the season and they seemed to enjoy it. Circuits are fun, yet challenging.
Not all of the strength activities performed are accomplished through circuits. These may be for a challenge or different day, or for an athlete I am comfortable training in this manner. If the athlete doesn't have the movement skill, or the strength the circuit is an exercise in fatigue, and nothing is gained. I may spend more time developing strength through traditional reps and sets, and add circuits later. I do not have athletes sit in machines to perform their movements. Each needs to be able to stand and hold dumb bells or a med ball or a barbell (I prefer dumb bells).
At the conclusion of the training session, flexibility can be addressed. Personally, I feel accomplished when I stretch after my work is done.