Training Multi-Sport Athletes: Part II

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In the last article about handling multi-sport athletes in high school, we discussed our reasons behind the holistic training approach as opposed to sport-specific training. For one, it makes administrative and logistics tasks for coaches far easier – saving time and maximizing results. On top of this, high school athletes are NOT specialists, and thus have a very broad physical requirement for competitive success. Frankly, we would argue that training any athlete is a more universal task than “sport-specific” training can accomplish. Either way, though, building an efficient training program for competitive multi-sport athletes must take into account a wide array of needs. We must build a universal approach that benefits all athletes, no matter their field of competition. Here at PLT4M, we break these demands down into 4 basic pillars of training.
There is not an athlete in the world that could not benefit from increased power. Power is the ability to combine strength and speed into “explosiveness”. We are not simply talking about mass-building at the expense of movement (think body builder), we are talking about the generation of force against resistance (think olympic swimmer). The way we tackle power development is through classic strength work (linear periodization of basic weightlifting movements like the squat or press), coupled with dynamic plyometric movements (box jumps, burpees, jump rope, etc). We also incorporate a good deal of olympic barbell work intended to generate high power output (cleans, snatches, etc). Throughout it all, we blend speed, agility, & conditioning progressions to ensure that with every ounce of strength gained, it can still be exerted with control and speed, over and over. In the end, what we get is an athlete that has dramatically increased his or her ability to physically exert their will on an opponent or the field itself.
Easily one of our most important philosophies, the idea that athletes must move well governs all that we do. As a coach, you can spot an athlete by the way he or she moves – coordination, proprioception, and economy of movement are all hallmarks of a good athlete. Luckily, this is something we can actively develop in the gym! We opt to work on this by introducing awkward and challenging movements like the overhead squat, barbell snatch, double under jump rope, or toe-to-bar. Forcing athletes out of their comfort zone helps grow that athletic awareness of one’s body in space and the ability to control it with precision. Combine this with progressive plyometrics, agility drills, etc, and you have an athlete that can not only control his or her body with precision, but can do it with strength and power as well.
Any athlete’s greatest asset is his or her health. No one can enjoy their sport, or find success on the field of competition if they can’t play due to injury. Because of this, at PLT4M we spend a concerted effort in our training to “take care of the little things”. Beyond our extensive mobility work, which obviously plays a significant role in injury prevention, we also spend time working specific injury prevention exercises. In order to reinforce the integrity of the vulnerable shoulder joint, for example, we employ a number of body-weight and band movements that focus on the surrounding musculature such as resistance band pull-aparts and scap push ups. Essentially we want to prepare for the worst. Athletes make great demands upon their bodies, specifically their joints. Our goal is to make sure that these joints can withstand large ranges of motion (through mobility and proper movement drills) with strength and stability (through intentional injury prevention work). Hopefully, we can keep athletes on the field and out of the training room!
Motor & Mind
Arguably the most important aspect of training an athlete is that one that deals with an athlete’s physical and mental motor – their willingness and ability to compete. As coaches, we know that “heart” and mental toughness often eclipse ability. We achieve this melding of mental and physical toughness through a number of strategies, most notably the utilization of MetCon workouts. MetCons force athletes into conditioning the 3 metabolic energy pathways through body-weight (or lightweight) strength movements as opposed to traditional “cardio.” Total strength, power, size, or even mobility is great, but if an athlete cannot repeat dynamic, athletic movements with the same discipline over and over at high heart rate and general fatigue, their value on the field of competition diminishes as the game wears on. Beyond physical toughness, one of the least touched upon parts of an athlete’s ability to compete is their mental toughness. Most young athletes are afraid of “the wall.” MetCon workouts are designed to push athletes to the point where they would normally quit. But, having teammates that rely on them, having the motivation of winning a workout, or the fear of losing one – this forces them to bear down and fight through the pain. Thus, we train that winning, “4th Quarter” mentality. Frankly, MetCons can help teach kids what it takes to win.
In the end, our hope is that we can spend our kids’ time in the gym wisely, developing the most dynamic and yet well-balanced athletes possible. Our athletes will be more powerful, more mobile, less susceptible to injury, and more willing to outwork the competition. We train with the idea of winning in mind!

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