No vacation from training for motivated young athletes

A large part of high school athletics is staying in shape during the off season. For many athletes, off-season and often year-round training can be the difference between playing and not playing on their high school team and getting the chance for an athletic scholarship after high school.

Expectations are high, but what type of off-season training should a high school athlete and his or her parents consider during these upcoming summer months?

Most high school and college coaches acknowledge that off-season work is important to an athlete’s development and success in almost any sport. What they will not agree on is exactly what a high school athlete should do during this off season.

Coaches differ in their philosophies on cross-training versus specific skill training. Some coaches think that playing other sports or doing other conditioning activities is good because it keeps a young athlete from burning out in one sport and helps an athlete remain active and happy.

“I like to see my wrestlers go out for another sport,” said state championship wrestling coach Dave Vibber. “Sometimes I think it’s good to take a break from wrestling while continuing to work hard by changing gears with another sport. It keeps them fresh.”

Some other coaches feel that it is too risky to allow their athletes to play other sports. The main concern is always the risk of injury. Most high school coaches do limit other activities for their players during their own competitive high school season but off-season activities are often left up to the athlete and his or her parents.

Other coaches count on advanced skill development during the off season.

“I can really tell which one of my golfers has played in tournaments and taken private lessons in the off season,” said Central region girls golf coach of the year Pat Reed. “It makes a world of difference getting that kind of experience which is often not possible during our regular season.”

Many of Corona’s sports programs offer organized summer workouts that focus on improving the conditioning and strength of their athletes such as weightlifting and aerobic or endurance activities. Strength training and lifting weights during the summer months has almost become a given for high school athletes who want to be competitive.

“We want all our guys to lift and gain strength during the off season,” said Corona basketball coach Sam Duane Jr. “It really is a must to be able to compete in the region that we are in.”

“The game of basketball has gotten much quicker and more physical at the high school level because players participate in strength training programs,” said Duane. “I believe that any time you have a player working out to increase their strength and speed, it’s a good thing.”

Corona offers supervised weightlifting and strength training over the summer for the motivated high school athlete who wants to improve his or her core strength.

“We have coaches that work with our kids in our state-of-the art weight room right here at Corona,” said coach Vibber.  “It’s an awesome facility.”

Several affordable classes are also offered through the city of Tempe Recreation Department at the local Tempe Union high schools. One is the Boys Summer Weightlifting Program that concludes with a Power Lifting meet; another is the Girls Aztec Conditioning Program held at Corona.

Other athletes choose private training facilities in an attempt to gain an edge on the competition once the regular sport season starts.

“I trained at a local private Tempe training facility called Fast Athlete about two times a week three months prior to this baseball season,” said Corona baseball player Ryan Moore. “I loved the training and I definitely saw improvement in my game and my speed when the season started.”

The Kyrene Corridor has several private training facilities and options available for high school athletes. They range anywhere from private personal trainers to physical therapist who offer strength and speed training within their office complex to specific skill boot camps to complete facilities just dedicated to an athletes strength and speed enhancement.

The workout programs could include any combination of the following: weight training, aerobic or endurance activities, plyometric or jump-training activities, swimming pool workouts, bounding, agility and movement training.

Parents should realize, though, that private training is not cheap. Parents and their athletes should ask lots of questions and decide on a program that is specific to their child’s needs at the time and their budget. There is no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” type of training program for high school athletes. You need to choose the one that is best for your age and physical development.

“I don’t mind my football players being involved in private training facilities as long as they never miss a Corona workout or a passing league game,” said Corona football coach Gary Venturo. “The ones who do it all seem to be more flexible, and that’s the part I like. It also keeps them busy and involved.”

“Players who are stronger become more confident in their skills, whether that player is in a private program or right here in Corona’s weight room,” said coach Duane. “It comes down to how motivated that player is and what kind of work ethic he has.”

Other coaches use this off season to offer camps or other activities to help their team bond and to get a feel for the athletes new to their program. The city of Tempe offers high school basketball leagues where Corona usually has teams at all three levels in both their girls and boys basketball program. Current and future players are encouraged to participate.

Check out the listing in Tempe’s Summer Recreation brochure at http://www.tempe.gov/brochure/Brochure Archives/Summer 2009.

Other Corona athletes choose to play club sports to further develop their skills and knowledge of the game. It is almost mandatory for serious girls volleyball players, for instance, to play club in order to be competitive at the high school and college level. Soccer is another sport where both boys and girls tend to almost play year round. There is even an option for guys who really love wrestling.

“The Freestyle/Greco-Roman wrestling season starts up right after our high school season,” said coach Vibber.

“A few of our wrestlers also train at ASU with the Sunkist Kids Wrestling program. The competition takes place throughout the spring and most of the summer in both of these programs.”

Regardless of the means to an end, the concept of an athlete’s off season is simple. Work hard while in season but work differently off season to improve your athletic performance-mentally and physically.

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