Beginning of an Off-Season Program
While my coaches and I are developing an off-season program for our teams there are a few things that we take into consideration for the beginning weeks. These include, age of the team, level of the team, previous season's strength's and weaknesses, success and lack of success, and what our expectations are moving forward into the next season. We are always going to hold our teams to a very high standard of competition and training and we want players to embrace the grind of practice and training. It is very important to have players in your program that enjoy practice just as much as they enjoy the gameplay.
Our first point of business at the beginning of the off-season is assessing team and individual health. We are a program that plays and practices a lot through the months of June-October, so our downtime between gameplay and off-season is not a significant amount of time. Typically will be anywhere from 3-5 weeks, and we are back up mid to late November. So when we get back we think about where guys legs are at, arms, and overall feeling. If a guy feels good and we see the player growing and going at a good pace, typically we will not slow that down by shutting them down throwing hard and swinging hard. We do this because the player might take a big metric-tool jump and we don't want to impede that by being to conservative with them. Contrary, if we have a guy who had a very high output season, or is battling an ailment, or for anything else, we will go very low output with that player for a period of time at the beginning of the off-season.
Another point of interest at the beginning of our off-season from a skills standpoint are some very basic hand-eye coordination work. Some of this work will include tennis ball catching, soft hand work, work with a ball off a bounce, work on catching the ball from all different angles to simulate needed actions in the game. We will do glove work during this time as well. We will take away the feet and emphasize receiving with a give, stick, bounces, forehand, straight-up, and backhand. We may get the feet going a little bit at the beginning as well. To refer back to the top a little bit, it just depends on where the group and individuals are at. For instance, we have a 14u group that we just took over, so we have to get them going and caught up with what we do right away. On the flipside, our 16u group which majority of the players have been around for 6+ years and have a good understanding of what we are doing, at this point we are more just trying to continue to sharpen their tools. A few other skills work we try to emphasize are our dry hitting routine. This includes breaking down each phase of the swing and really try to study and get an understanding of what the kinetic function is at that point of the swing.
Last thing I will talk about here is what we are trying to do with our body at the beginning of our off-season. During this time we are taking our time with our actives, we are holding poses (think yoga), static band work, etc. We will also work in heavy weight pushing and pulling. We do not look to do our heavy work for high reps or long distances at this point, it is just for our players to continue to feel resistance during a physically less draining time in the year. Often, this is where we find our guys making some jumps in gains. The body is not too stressed and they are fresh moving weight. We generally don't start to open the player's gate back up until after the new year. Again, this concept can and will vary based off what you're working with. Our 14s may have to get broken in early in the off-season compared to our 16s who have just gotten done with a marathon.
There are other things that go into the beginning of an off-season such as tone setting, communication, expectations, video work, and overall comradery. You have to assess your team, see what you got, what do you like and what do you not like and embrace massaging and manipulating until it becomes a little bit better.