It’s almost April. For young athletes who are college bound that means that the summer conditioning and physical preparation packets will be arriving soon. They’re often received with a mix of excitement, confusion, shock and anxiety. Natural reactions to the challenge of moving to the next level.
We work with a lot of players to make the leap. Over the years we’ve found three things that help in the transition and give our players a leg up on the process when they arrive on campus in the summer.
Interpret and Translate
When you open that E-mail or packet it can be overwhelming. The language is new, there are calendars, standards, workouts, schedules, and often information on nutrition, rest and mental preparation. Even our most successful club and high school players find it daunting. So, the first thing we do is help them understand what’s there and put it in context. There’s a logic, goals and a set of principles behind the plan. Seeing the plan as a coach’s way of helping the team and players be successful can change something like the fitness standards from an obstacle to a stepping stone on a path toward contributing and accomplishing goals. It doesn’t make it easier but it becomes a challenge to rise to more than something to fear.
We often take all the pieces and lay them out in one place on a single calendar and help players see how the pieces fit together; how one phase leads to the next and how the elements like speed, agility, strength and stamina fit together. If there are standards or tests they need to pass we help them understand what they are, what they measure and how to prepare for them. Making the unfamiliar more familiar helps reduces some of the emotional static and makes the plan feel challenging but doable.
Once we have a sense of where we’re going, we get a sense of where we are. If the program has hang cleans in the work out and you’ve never been in the weight room then we need to build a bridge from here to there. If you’re expected to run ten 110 yard striders and you’ve never done one, then we need to start there. When we know where we’re starting we can create the steps to get players on the coaches plan and get them to campus ready to go.
On the physical side we look at what parts of the plan can you do on your own or with your team and what parts make sense for us to do together. Then we build a schedule. Every player is unique. Some will train with us 4 or 5 days a week, indiviudally or with a group. Others maybe once or twice a week. We create the workout schedule to fit the player and their needs. Certain lifts make sense to do with coaching, other parts of the strenght training they may do in our space but on their own. We’re there if they need it and they learn to work independently. If there’s a standard or a test to pass we’ll practice it to become familiar with it and benchmark it.
The mental side is often the bigger part of support. Having someone who is trained and experienced who can stand outside the process while you go through it is huge for a lot of players. Sometimes we challenge and sometimes we encourage. A lot of it is helping them reframe and deveiop habits that they can draw on when the get to school.
When we’re feeling challenged one of the most important things we can do is stay connected with our goals and values. Why am I doing this? What do I want? What am I expecting or hoping for? Those conversations happen both inside and outside the gym. Being able to go back to that is even more valuable in some dorm room in August when you’re away from home and exhausted.
For those who are moving to a new level it’s an exciting and challenging time. It’s supposed to be. Having a plan, being supported and remembering why it’s important can make it immensely rewarding as well. If you’re going to be taking that next step and you want some help. Let us know. We love getting players ready to leap.