As coaches and educators, we all want the same thing. We want to develop more dynamic athletes and better teams. But, training high school athletes is a highly unique endeavor. Athlete schedules are vast and varied, experience levels differ greatly, and building universally prepared athletes is a daunting task. One must consider all of these factors when deciding on the most efficient and effective way of training our athletes.

Here at PLT4M, we answer these considerations by employing a holistic approach to athletic development. We believe in training the multi-sport athlete year-round as opposed to utilizing sport specific programs. Our belief is that we can, with one well-built and well-run program, build better overall athletes in the gym, which coaches can then turn into better players on the field of competition.

The Physiological Reasoning

Our aim here at PLT4M is to develop well-rounded and dynamic overall athletes. Why do we avoid programming “sport-specific” workouts? Our reasoning is threefold.

  • Training Age
    • We tend to forget that, when it comes to performance training, the athletes in question are just plain young and inexperienced. For the overwhelming majority of your athletes, their 2 underclassmen years will be the first time ever involved in an athletic strength and conditioning program. High school students lack a solid foundation of functional fitness on which to specialize. It is absolutely imperative these athletes are all given a comprehensive program that works to build a complete athlete from the ground up.
  • Multiple Sport Demands
    • Perhaps more importantly, high school athletes are NOT specialists. Beyond a lack of experience, our athletes have immensely varied physical demands. As football coaches, basketball coaches, lax coaches, etc…it’s easy to forget that your athletes exist beyond and outside of your sport. An overwhelming majority, though, of high school athletes compete in multiple sports (as they should!). If we have an athlete that plays 2 or 3 different sports throughout the year, how do we justify them specializing in their training at any point? Juggling various programs with differing physical goals simply leads to a lack of overall progress.
  • Imbalance = Injury
    • Worse than hindering progress, we can inadvertently lead to an increased incidence of injury. By definition, “specializing” in something must come at the expense of something else. What results, is a guaranteed imbalance. Imbalances are often the root cause of injury. You cannot be specialized and well-rounded at the same time, that’s not how exercise adaptation works.

What results, is a very clear need to approach athlete development in a holistic way – train to build the COMPLETE athlete that can be productive and successful in any endeavor they choose.

Scheduling

Not only does sport-specialization present some physiological issues, it can also be an administrative nightmare. Consider scheduling workouts for hundreds of athletes on dozens of teams within the same school – it’s far from a clear and easy picture when you try to employ sport-specific programs.

Take, for example, the Junior football captain who also plays lacrosse in the spring. When does he do the football workout? Just during the summer after Lacrosse? How about the Lacrosse program – only during the winter in preparation for the spring season? If we follow this system over the course of a high school career, this athlete will only ever train with any given program for maybe 2-3 months per year. This is FAR from efficient at providing positive results.

Additionally, when it comes to scheduling these sport-specific programs, it is almost inevitable that it will result in some animosity between teams and coaches. The football coach feels like he is losing his athlete in the winter and the lacrosse coach feels the opposite. Instead, a consistent and progressive program that continually develops an all-around athlete throughout his or her career can better serve everyone involved. The athlete is committed and engaged year-round, and both coaches receive a developed athlete to turn into the best player they can. All parties involved have thus unified in an effort to achieve success. 

Culture

Perhaps the most important piece of the training puzzle is this concept of shared culture. Schools that develop a winning culture throughout all of their teams and programs do so by approaching success as a unified front.

Power lies in numbers. When teams and athletes train together, they work harder and have more fun. When they work harder, they see better results. When they see better results they buy into the system and the process becomes cyclical. You can very easily begin to develop a winning mindset throughout your school’s athletic programs. Athletes will begin to take pride in their efforts year round. This is what it takes to WIN.

We are firm believers in the power of culture. If coaches and athletes work together, it breeds success.

*Continue reading Part II. Our next article on the multi-sport athlete in which we discuss how to approach building a comprehensive training program.*