By Colby Schreckengost BS, MS, CPT
As the school year winds down parents are faced with the dilemma of planning a summer for their athletes that will not only be productive but will allow for some fun as well. After all, they are still kids! I’ve put together some strategies to help parents make the most of their athlete’s summer vacation.
SCHEDULE SOME DOWN TIMES: One of the best things that you can do for your athlete is to give them a break. Scheduling some time away from their sport will do wonders to keep them fresh and recharge the batteries. Go on a family vacation, even if it’s just visiting relatives for a few days. It will help to bring the family together and get them away from their coaches and teammates for a while. They’re only young once, so try to enjoy them and let them relax.
Some athletes tend to take this to an extreme, going on 3-4 beach trips during the summer, getting lazy and not doing anything to get better as an athlete. Summer should be fun, but it’s also a great time to train without the pressures of school and classroom work.
CHOOSE SPORT-RELATED ACTIVITIES WISELY: With all of the pressures of trying to get noticed by college scouts; athletes turn their attention to combines, prospect camps and showcases. When it comes to youth and high school sports; kids and parents often feel the need to attend one of these events every weekend in order to ”be seen.” This can be an exhausting and financially taxing way to spend a summer. I get asked for advice on this all the time and I think its way over done. It’s getting to the point that we’re more focused on showcasing our talents than improving as an athlete and as a player. Is your athlete really putting in the “the work” that’s necessary to get better, or is he/she just training to be a “show pony”?
Getting a college scholarship is very competitive and I completely understand the pressure that these kids face. But, we get so caught up in the “being seen” part that we fail to do the important stuff like increasing our technical skills, getting stronger and faster and improving our overall athleticism. Getting better gets you noticed!
Game experience will definitely help an athlete mature in his or her sport, but the lack of fundamentals and off-season training can lead to devastating results. At an event held at Next Level, hall of fame lacrosse Coach Dave Urick gave his take on the subject. “All of these team camps and showcases have led to a lack of instruction and focus on skills. This leads to a lack of skill in a lot of our athletes.” He also said “in recruiting players, we’re always looking for bigger, faster, stronger athletes that we can teach the game to and improve their skills.”
So how do you find the balance between being seen and getting better, and which is more important? In my opinion, getting better always gives you a chance. As long as your goal is to keep improving, you’ll turn out to be a good player or possibly a great player. And if you’re a great player, scouts will find you. The vast majority of athletes end up playing in college at the level that coincides with the player that you are. Focus on getting better every day. It always amazes me how University of Alabama Football Coach Nick Saban can keep winning championships, yet when you hear him talk about his philosophy he never mentions championships, especially to his players. He only talks about getting better. Day-in and day-out: getting better every day! I think he’s the best coach in college football today and his four national championships are hard to argue.
AVOID OVERUSE INJURIES BY TRAINING SMART: Along with the intensity that comes with playing in showcase camps every weekend is the risk of overuse injuries and these are well documented. The physical demands of competitive sports are increasing, a lot of that due to a rise in travel team sports and the year-round, no practice or play restrictions and the athlete’s early specialization. However, there are ways to combat those injuries. Most importantly, a good strength and conditioning program combined with good nutrition and well thought-out recovery strategies.
Not long ago, I attended a week-long mentorship at Athlete’s Performance in Phoenix, AZ. I was amazed at the time they spent educating their athletes (mostly elite level) on nutrition and recovery. We talked a lot about breakfast strategies, pre-game and post-game nutrition and hydration strategies, as well as the importance of sleep. If it’s important at the elite level, it should be even more important for a 12-18 year-old because their bodies are still developing. In fact, it made such an impression on me that we’ve added nutrition and recovery education to Next Level’s athlete training programs.
TRY THESE 3 SIMPLE STRATEGIES IN PLANNING YOUR ATHLETE’S SUMMER VACATION!
Strategy #1: Plan some fun! Create some memories! Take your kids on a family vacation even if it’s a long weekend at your relatives in Chicago or a week at the beach.
Strategy #2: Pick one skills camp and/or one showcase tournament. Have your athlete list his 2-5 colleges that he/she is interested in attending. Reach out to those coaches to see if there is mutual interest. If so, do your best to get your athlete in front of those coaches, but don’t chase them all over the country, make a choice that will deliver the most “bang for your buck” and prepare for a great camp. You never know what kind of attention you can attract.
Strategy #3: Get in a good off-season training program that combines Strength & Conditioning, Speed & Agility, as well as Nutritional and Recovery Strategies. Avoid short-term (one or two week) speed & agility camp because that is not long enough to see results. Instead, choose ongoing training that will help them improve and develop good training habits.
Have a fun AND productive summer vacation with your athlete! You will both see the rewards!
Colby Schreckengost is owner/director of training at Next Level Fitness & Performance in Haymarket. He holds a BS and MS and is a former strength and conditioning coach at the University of Tulsa. He is a certified personal trainer and Sports Nutritionist. He also holds certifications with the Titleist Performance Institute and is a certified Functional Movement Screen Specialist. Next Level specializes in Sports Performance for Athletes and Life-Changing Body Transformations for Adults. For more information on programs at Next Level, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 703-754-0161.