Question: I'm going to be speaking at a clinic. The topic is "Training the Multi-Sport HS Athlete." Anyway, I have my own experiences obviously, but was wondering since you are training HS kids now, have you had any experiences with kids who are multi sport? Just wanted your input.
So this answer is going to be a little disjointed and done in a bullet-point fashion. So these aren't listed in priority, just how I thought of them.
- For a HS athlete, the in-season is not a time to maintain; if all you did was maintain strength, all 3 sport athletes would be the same strength from fresh to senior year. HOWEVER, this doesn't mean they will make strength gains at the same pace as an off-season athlete or will there be strength gains from a "workout to workout" fashion. One should look at the "big picture" i.e. the yearly picture. So yes, there will be "bad days" and possibly a bad month. So training needs to be seen as a 4 year process (and even longer if can get the junior HS to be part of your program). When you do this, you don't try to shove 4 years of training into an off-season, and the slower you progress from day/day, the FASTER the strength gains. Yes, this is a paradox but it works very well AND you rarely overtrain and NEVER get the athlete hurt. This is largely due to not overloading the athlete with too much of a load AND allows you to train a higher volume of work without any negative side effects.
- What you do "in-season" is largely dependent on what you do in the off-season. What this means is the program from off-season to in-season has to compliment each other. This is why the entire school should have a unified strength program and the sport coaches MUST buy into this. The sport coaches need to put aside their egos and realize they are sport coaches, not strength coaches. It's ok to admit you don't know everything and more so, a great leader delegates this stuff to more qualified people. It takes a load of their backs, so to speak. To further this point, strength training is nothing more than GPP for athletes. And the basic movements that help the football players will help basketball, track, tennis, etc. This is especially true with HS kids.
- To expand on the last point, HS kids need limited movements to train. I think we can all agree about the fallacy of "changing movements" as a way of "confusing the muscle". This is very important for HS multi-sport athletes because they know the movements, get good at the movements and the most important point - once they develop their base of training, they don't get sore from training. This allows the kids to train in-season, make progress and still are able to compete at a high level of their given sport. Personally, we use only seven movements (not counting neck work and any prehab that the individual athlete may need).
- The volume at which you train in-season, again, is going to be determined by your off-season approach. Obviously, volume is going to be reduced. Your training program should be readily available to adjust for this without missing a beat. The strength coach must also communicate with the athletes AND sport coaches (and attend some practices, if possible) to see what the kids are doing and what changes need to be made to the strength program. Remember training must compliment, not detract, the sport. Personally, we have built-in "governors" for some movements as well as a fall-back program when things need to be reduced. In general, I like to have the kids do the minimal amount of training in order for them to make progress; no more.
- While HS kids have a seemingly endless supply of energy and recovery ability, it does NOT mean you run them into the ground. Once they build (for your program) and appropriate work capacity, no training session should leave the kids wiped out. This is one of the biggest misconceptions of training, or rather "working out". The same stupidity that floods trends and even TV commercials of puking athletes to achieve glory IS IN NO WAY APPLICABLE TO A SPORT ATHLETE OR ANYONE THAT HAS AN IQ OVER 70. Training doesn't have to be rocket science nor do you need a PhD to be a strength coach. However, a little common sense goes a long way.
- Always have a plan. ALWAYS! This should be written out for weeks/months in advance. HOWEVER, nothing ever goes to plan so you must be flexible and smart enough to deviate from the plan and still wind up in the same spot. This is where experience comes into play as well as communication. There is no book that will teach you how to do this. At the same point, the strength coach must have a working knowledge of his program, inside and out. Literally an expert at HIS program - this will allow him to make these changes.
- Sport coaches should not be strength coaches (unless they have the requisite background) - the demands on HS coaches (and some small colleges) is immense. They are coach, often a parent, mentor, teacher, "friend" and psychiatrist. Asking them to also be in charge of physical development is ridiculous. It's like asking a physics teacher to teach English. This is NOT an indictment on sport coaches; it's just recognition that they are asked to do much more than they are qualified to do.
I hope this helps. Remember that the training world is always learning and evolving. Understand that for much of training, things have remained the same for the last 100 years (and will continue to do so). However, there is always going to be some changes, developments and different approaches. 5 years ago, I never thought that I'd begin the most vast and productive period of training and learning since I began doing this. I cannot wait for the next 10 years; once your base of knowledge gets to a certain point, things can (if you work at it) increase exponentially.