- The Pre-game Routine - 12/01/2016
- Fundamental Technical Elements and Exercises by Terry Schroeder - 12/01/2016
- Training in the Off Season - 12/06/2014
US National Men’s Team Coach
US Team Won the Silver Medal in the 2008 Olympics
Training in the Off Season
Perhaps the most important part of your training is the off season! Are you surprised? Let me explain why I believe that this is so true. One of my all time favorite coaches is Marv Dunphy. Marv is the men’s volleyball coach at Pepperdine where he has won numerous NCAA Championships. He was also our Olympic head coach in 1988 when our men’s team won the gold medal. Marv once came and talked to our water polo team and here is what he said to the team – everyday either you are getting better or you are getting worse. There is no in between. You are either training to become better or you are slacking off and getting worse. Talk about staying in the moment and the importance of each and every day!
The off season is that time between competitive seasons – perhaps between high school and club or vice a versa. It generally lasts somewhere in the neighborhood of 4-6 weeks. In my opinion, the off season ultimately defines the athlete. This is the time when self discipline really comes into play. Here is the question that you have to ask yourself. How do you train when no one is watching? Do you sit around and do nothing?
Let me make this perfectly clear. There is no way that any athlete should train with the same volume and intensity that you train during the regular season. Training full speed year round – will burn you out physically, emotionally and psychologically. You will “blow up” eventually if you do this. We all need a break to recover, refresh and regenerate. A good off season program should allow you to stay in condition (I will explain below) while keeping you fresh and “hungry” for the season to come. In a sense, it is like having a long period of active recovery. Meaning that you are staying active (not letting your body go to waste) while you recover from the season that you just played. You are not just sitting around doing nothing.
How do we find a balance in all of this? The trick is to do enough work to maintain 65- 75% of your peak condition level during the off season. This will make it so much easier to come back and get your body back in shape. If you totally let yourself go (and most of us have done this at one point or another in our life) then it is extremely difficult and painful to get back in shape. By maintaining that 65-75% condition level you will also decrease your risk of injury as you work to get back in shape. On top of this you will also make a very positive impression on your coach if you come back in decent shape.
Another significant part of off season training should be to work on specific skills and balance.Every sport creates it’s own set of imbalances. There are certainly sports that are much worse than water polo as far as creating imbalances, however water polo does create some. For example, most players will use their strong arm/hand almost exclusively during the regular season. The off season is also a great time you work on your weak side – spend some time in the water using your weak arm/hand and develop skills that you really don’t have time to work on much during the regular season.
Fundamentals and technique should be focused on during the off season. Talk to coach that knows you well and most of them can tell you what weaknesses or bad habits you have developed during the season. Spend some time working on these habits to correct them and improve on your weaknesses while the intensity of the training is not as high. This lower intensity training should allow you to stay focused better and work on technique a bit more. A good example of this would be to work on your ball skills – maybe working on your fake or work on picking the ball up correctly from the water as you go from a swimming position to a shooting position. Work on passing with a friend and concentrating on your body positioning and balance in the water. I also like “elastic band” work for the shoulders during the off season. It is not too taxing but can keep your arm strong and healthy during this time. I think you get the idea.
Anyways keep the training fun and short. The intensity and volume should be 1/3 to 1/2 of your season. So if you were training for 2 plus hours during the regular season you might want to cut that to 45 min to 1 hour (3-4 days per week). Swimming creates its own postural imbalances (rounded shoulders and forward head) which can lead to shoulder problems, so cross training is important. I would suggest bike riding, playing basketball, ultimate frisbee or some other sport that you can enjoy while getting some “work” in. Here is thought to help you from “over training”. Try to finish the workouts feeling better than when you started. Your goal for the off season should be to come into the next season mentally refreshed and healthy.
The off season is totally in your control. You get to make the decisions of when to train, how long to train and what to do. Don’t waste this time. Make a plan that will help you to become better and feel refreshed and ready to go hard from day 1 in your season. The off season should be a balance between recovery and maintenance of your fitness.
You could argue that off season training is the most important phase of any sport-specific conditioning plan. Not only will it help the athlete to recover physically and psychologically, it can be used to address some of the physical imbalances that are inherent with playing any competitive sport.
So what’s it going to be? Are you going to get better or get worse during the off season?
I hope that you can find a balance with your off season training. As always please feel free to email me if you have any questions or comments at [email protected].
See you at the pool.