As we wind down the Summer and the high school athletes head back to school, we have been able to reflect on our first full Summer of offerings at KPI. One of the large issues we encountered, and this will prove to be a perennial issue for us and the athletes are getting athletes to maintain their training while they are on competition trips and missing large chunks of training time. High-level baseball and softball players play on high-level teams, and those teams often have aggressive Summer schedules since there is not a school day to work around. On top of that, many high-level players have individual events to attend, like the USA Baseball Development Program or the Area Code games. This can lead to a choppy training schedule that does not benefit the athlete’s health or development. But since this situation is pretty much unavoidable and it affects so many athletes, we need to examine different avenues to deliver development while athletes are on these long trips.
Here are the steps to take to deliver development while on a long trip for a tournament…
Step 1 – Know Your Current Levels
Before an athlete heads out on a long trip, they need to know their current physical levels so they know what they are maintaining, and when they get back, how they might need to adjust their programming based on the state they return in. Fortunately for us, we have Hawkin Dynamics Force Plates. With our force plates, we are able to constantly evaluate the state of their Central Nervous System and we get a very in-depth look on their strength and stress levels. We track these levels by date and it is very easy for us, and the athletes, to know where they stand before they leave on a long trip
Step 2 – Communicate with Your Trainers
Before an athlete leaves for a tournament, and during tournament, it is important for the athlete to communicate with its trainers on the trip, the setup the athlete will have to train, the competition schedule, and the duration of the tournament. The trainers can do a lot of work on the front end and put programming in place that will accurately reflect best what the athlete needs while they are gone. We are very fortunate to use Traq, Driveline’s online software that allows us to instantaneously adjust an athlete’s program and the athlete gets their changes on their phone immediately. We are also able to monitor if the athlete does the workout on Traq, so it gives us insight into what they are doing while they are gone. This communication, and the software we use, allows us to adjust programming based on what the athlete has available and what is going on in their tournament.
Step 3 – Evaluate Setup
There is a multitude of setups an athlete can have while on the road. They could be stuck in a hotel with a bad weight room. They can be in an Airbnb with no supplies whatsoever. They might be playing 1-2 games a day and do not have any time or energy to dedicate to training. Once the athlete has a lay of the land, they can communicate to the trainers constantly and the trainers can adjust programming accordingly. The initial Covid lockdown last Spring provided us an opportunity to build out strength and mobility protocols that do not involve weights or machines, so we are always able to provide a workout, regardless of the setup the athlete has on the road.
Step 4 – Listen to Your Body & Prioritize Recovery
Athletes go through an incredible amount of stress during tournament weeks. On top of the normal stress levels competition provides, they are usually not sleeping as well, have poor nutritional habits, and are dehydrated (amongst other things). So cramming more training on top of an overstressed body might not be the best route to develop on the road. We prioritize recovery with our athletes and provide them with structured recovery protocols. We often tell them to do their mobility routines while on the road because we know their body is overstressed and they are naturally going to lose mobility while traveling. We sometimes send them out with equipment, like the Marc Pro electric stimulation recovery device, to assist them with their recovery. Sometimes it is appropriate to train while on the road, but often backing off and prioritizing recovery is the right move.
Step 5 – Check Status Upon Return
It is extremely important to re-evaluate the athlete’s strength and stress levels when they return from a long trip. Common thought would be to just dump them right back into their normal training routine, but the elevated stress levels from competition and traveling can linger for days and we might be exposing the athlete to an increased chance of injury if we have them go right back into training. This is where our force plates serve so much value, we are able to evaluate their strength and stress when they return and compare it to when they left, and then determine the best course of action for their first few days of returning to training. It has become commonplace for us to see a deficit of strength and/or an over-stressed nervous system after athletes return from a sustained duration of the competition. We are getting proficient at putting different protocols in place for the athlete until they recover and return to their previously held levels.
The ability of an athlete to take a systematic approach to development while on the road for a tournament is key to their long-term progression. High-level players are going to spend large chunks of time on the road and they need to have a plan and a system for that environment. We are extremely fortunate at KPI to have access to incredible technology to help us objectively monitor the athletes and a great crew in place that can adjust programming to fit each athlete’s unique needs.