A common misconception about performance in aging players is their perceived expiration date. Through no fault of their own, they feel the ramifications from years of chaotic training programs. In the sports performance world, we are discovering how planning for a variety of inputs can improve the recovery process.
In this case, total training load is the totality of inputs accumulated over the athletes playing/training career . Various stressors create similar impact on the body regardless of intent. For instance, Playing sport (i.e. practice and competition), strength and conditioning, physical therapy, massage, even mobility training stress the body in some way. Stress impacts the system influencing a cascade of responses when gone unchecked.
Traditional training methods, and a mindset of go hard or go home can surely contribute to wear and tear over the course of an athlete’s career. Combine suboptimal training and recovery strategies with poorly executed repetitive movement patterns and you have a recipe for early retirement.
It's not uncommon for me to work with players who are led to believe they are in the twilight of their career. In professional sports today, thirty-five is the new sixty-five… or at least its perceived as so..
To the athlete or coach reading this, I’m writing to tell you, it's not the end. In my experience almost anything can be undone and performance can be improved through an educational training process that address the right details.
Professional athletes are the worlds greatest compensators, ask any pro, if they’re being honest most don’t understand movement or human performance in general, at a high level. This is where we as coaches often miss an opportunity. Assuming an athlete knows more than they do is wrong, treat them like babies, nurture and teach them everything, the stuff at the beginning is the appropriate entry point in most cases.
“ THEY DON’T CARE HOW MUCH YOU KNOW, UNTIL THEY KNOW HOW MUCH YOU CARE ”
For any client I work with, my primary personal goal is to educate them to a level beyond what any other coach ever will. Not out of arrogance, but because I know holding them to a higher standard, and teaching athletes about their body will empower them to be accountable for their own performance outcomes.
This is easier said than done… Communication is key to any successful relationship, open conversations and attentive listening is they only way I’ve been able to gain buy-in to a long term process. Process, is a series of actions taken in order to achieve a particular goal… Buy-in is the key to compliance and all the advanced training methods in the world can’t help if there’s no compliance.
Process contains two components:
Education: Speak at the listeners level, in terms that they can relate to.
Adaptation: Cells and Nervous system respond to stimulus over time.
Process takes time, one cannot pour high level knowledge in overnight, just as we cannot speed up biological adaptation. Plant the seed, cultivate trust, and give them time to grow.
These are just a few things I consider when working with an athlete who is thinking of hanging them up early. Look for the the game changers, simply teaching a veteran athlete how to breathe can change the way they feel and perform. Everything matters, even the little things. I’ve built a career on taking the time to make little changes that often went overlooked, even if this squeezes out one more contract year, it’s a hell of a win.