Here is the scenario. A team or for that matter an individual makes a huge investment in their off season and their preseason training. Training camp commences which usually consists of multiple sessions a day and the emphasis is now entirely on the sport itself. Training of the physical qualities is stopped, or drastically reduced. There is minimal work done on strength training, power development or speed development outside of the actual activities of the sport practice. The process of the slow leak begins. All the physical qualities that were developed in the off and pre season begin to erode. Some erode faster than others. In the female athlete strength and power erode rapidly. The best analogy is that is like driving your car with a slow leak in a tire. For quite sometime it is virtually unnoticeable but a time goes on and the tire loses pressure the ride get bumpier and bumpier until the tire is entirely flat.
This is precisely what we do to our athletes if we do not a have comprehensive program to stabilize and even in some cases continue to build the physical capacities we have developed outside the competition season. Mind you that if the job has been done in the off-season then stabilizing those qualities during the competitive season is not especially difficult, but it must be done in a systematic manner. In season training is not a matter of volume, it is more a matter of very intense directed work designed to hone and sharpen specific physical qualities based on individual needs and sport demands.
All of this comes back to the law of reversibility- use it or lose it. Relatively small modules of speed development, power and strength repeated on a regular cyclical basis certainly can stabilize those qualities for the duration of the competitive season. With younger developmental athletes whose competition season is not extended you would be remiss to not continue to develop their physical qualities. If you do not, you are missing a huge window of adaptation, an opportunity to take advantage of the endocrine hormonal advantage their have during their developing years. For females generally this is in the age range of from 12 to 16 and for males from 14 to 18. Those are general guidelines that must be adapted to each individual.
If it is long extended competitive season then you need to look for strategic opportunities to have some more extensive periods of emphasis on various qualities based on individual need. Look at what qualities the games, matches, meets and actual practices address and reinforce those without adding stress to stress. My rule of thumb is that, as the season progresses I want to make sure to keep a good thread of strength training up to and through the peak competition phase. The female athlete must NEVER stop strength training, even up through and to the championship competition. The male athlete can reduce and sometime curtail strength training entirely during the taper with no ill effects.
The moral of the story is that to keep the tire from leaking you must train during the competition season. In future posts I will provide some strategies to achieve optimum training during the competitive season within the time constraints that usually exist.