Transitioning Athletes to Off-Season or Winter Sports

The transition from fall to winter is upon us, but what does that mean for you? Here in the upper Midwest, it typically means you’re transitioning from football or volleyball to traditional winter sports like basketball or wrestling. However, we need to be prepared for two scenarios – athletes transitioning to a fall sport and those that are transitioning to an off-season. Keep reading for my ideas and suggestions for each. 

Transitioning Fall Sport Athletes to the Off-Season 

First, let’s take the individual who’s going from a fall sport, we’ll say football, and sliding into what is a traditional off-season. Traditional meaning that he doesn’t have a winter or spring sport, and solely plays football. And this athlete is going to try to prepare himself either for the next level or for the following year.  

As a strength coach, this is a great time for us because we really get to put some strength and size on an athlete and help them achieve their goals. But where do we start? 

Review Basic Technique 

 I recommend reviewing basic technique. So, first review the squat. Whether you’re doing front, back, overhead, or explosive movements such as a clean or snatch, make sure you review the basic techniques and movements before jumping in.  

Increased Volume 

Off-season athletes also get to increase their volume, which means higher reps and higher intensity (and added fun for us Strength & Conditioning Coaches). This is truly a great time to blend the strength and conditioning sides, and this mix will depend on what the athlete is going to be doing next. 

Transitioning from Fall Sport to Winter Sport 

Next, we have athletes that transition directly from one sport to another. For example, let’s say a football or volleyball fall athlete is now transitioning into a winter sport like wrestling, gymnastics, or basketball. In this instance, there are a few things to consider: 

Changes to Your Program 

First, do you need to make changes to your program? What are some of the typical needs that you might want to account for? For example, if I’m going from a volleyball program into a gymnastics program for an athlete, one thing I might want to consider is the highest injury rates. In these sports specifically, common injuries may be similar, like shoulder issues. In this scenario, I’d want to spend a little bit more time pre-habbing and rehabbing different movements that are going to help strengthen the entire shoulder area.  

Another transition you might experiences is from football to wrestling. Again, similar in that you might see shoulder and lower-body injuries, but different in the way the body is torqued. My best advice is to look at each sport, evaluate the needs of the athlete and potential injuries, and try to address them as best you can.  

Remember what coaches like to do frequently? They like to condition the heck out of their athletes early on. Obviously, before they’re hitting competition, they’re doing these types of things. Make sure that your weight room programs reflect that, or at least envelop the idea that, so you’re not overloading an athlete. They’re just coming from a season. They might need to have some recovery time, as opposed to really hammering them hard if they’re jumping into a sport such as gymnastics, basketball, or wrestling.  

Recovery is Important 

So, make sure that those come together nicely and that you have your thought process in place. I’d also suggest talking with the coaches to see how they push and condition their athletes to ensure they’re ready to go. Make sure that your weight room is not making it more difficult for athletes or coaches. Kids need to recover at the end of the day to get their strength back and to let that repair go on.  

So again, if you’re going from a sport to a complete open season or an off-season, build that strength. It’s awesome. It’s great to get all the recovery that they want, yet you can kind of hit them hard in the weight room. But if they’re going from sport to sport, be very careful not to overload them in the weight room because they might do a lot of conditioning in their current sport. Make sure you think about those things as you move forward. Good luck. Stay safe. 

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