Special to The Ledger
An athletes body is already difficult to maintain amidst the grind of a season, especially through multiple practices and games each week. However, the months where their body is not in season are just as critical for a player’s development.
Derrick McClanahan, soccer player, said he tries his best to keep his body in prime shape during the off-season.
“It’s definitely hard at times,” McClanahan said. “But if I want to be able to perform at the top of my ability, I have to be in the best shape I can be, during and after the season.”
Mike Jeffers, head men’s basketball coach, said keeping players active throughout the months where no games are played is one of the toughest parts of his job.
“Dealing with players having two-weeks to over a month layoff is not always easy to deal with,” Jeffers said.
Jeffers said he believes off-season conditioning is a tricky skill for any college athlete to master, much less basketball players. That’s why Jeffers said he urges his players to find time from late March through July to lift weights, stretch their ligaments and even play in summer league games, just to keep their bodies functioning all year-round.
“Any sport at the college level is 12 months a year,” Jeffers said. “It’s important for any athlete to be in tip-top shape all year.”
The same approach reigns true for soccer, which is why Fatai Ayoade, head men’s soccer coach, said he sets up individual training programs for each player to accomplish following the end of October.
These programs consist of a hefty dose of lifting weights, cardio exercises and rounds of futsal, an indoor version of soccer played with a smaller ball. Ayoade said he encourages his players to play futsal throughout the off-season, because it helps players maintain speed and quickness.
While maintaining a player’s physique is essential, injury prevention also remains just as a vital for an athlete during the off-season.
To ensure his players avoid any off-season injury, Jeffers said he advises his players to work on several over-head and low-body drills, centering around the shoulders, elbows, knees, and feet. Likewise, Ayoade takes the same approach to soccer.
Ayoade said he stresses to his soccer players to keep their leg muscles lean and strong, compared to burly and thick, so they’re flexible enough to cut, stop and change direction swiftly.
“Leg strength is critical for speed, agility, but also balance,” Ayoade said.
Ben Edwinson, assistant athletic trainer, said the best way to ensure injuries don’t happen in the off-season is for a player to gain strength and put a focus on proprioception. This means an athlete being more aware of one’s body position at all time.
Edwinson said this comes in handy to help prevent the nagging injuries a player might suffer, like a quad strain, hamstring strain and foot contusions.
“Athletes are always getting bigger, faster, stronger,” Edwinson said. “You have to have a good level of strength, so your body can withstand the forces you’re putting on it.”
To reach peak performance, athletes who participate in sports that require constant motion, such as basketball and soccer, need a balanced diet to keep them going.
Claudia Martin-Ayoade, registered dietitian, said 50 percent of an athletes meals should come from carbohydrates, 30 percent from protein, and 20 percent from healthy fats. Foods such as fish, rice, pasta, chicken, peanuts and any form of fruits and vegetables meet all of these categories.
Martin-Ayoade said she also stresses it’s not always what an athlete eats, but rather the amount of food they put into their body.
“Each athlete’s body is different,” Martin-Ayoade said. “But it’s always important an athlete knows the correct amount of food to eat, so they feel full and last longer.”