In-season Training – The Concept


Perhaps one of the biggest dark holes in training is what to do for in-season training, especially in team sports. How much should do? What should you do? When should you do it? In-season train is immensely important. Too many people still subscribe to the myth that once the season starts then training should go into a maintenance mode. That concept is outdated and wrong. If you start a “maintenance” program once the competitive season starts you will quickly be in a detraining mode. Based on the law of reversibility (use it or lose it) the physical qualities that were developed in the non- competitive build-up phase will began to erode. Some erode faster than others based on training age and background, the sport, frequency of competition and gender.

All physical qualities should be trained in-season, obviously not to the same extent as in the off-season. I divide the competitive season into manageable blocks based on the competition calendar. I use pretty simple divisions – early season, mid season, late season and championship season which includes playoffs and championships.

Then I carefully consider the demands of the sport. Is it a collision, contact or high impact sport? What is the frequency of competition? Are there more than one game or matches in a week? What is the make-up of the team? Is it a veteran team or all young athletes without much experience? Is it a developmental team or a seasoned professional team? Then I will look closely at the individuals. Who are the fast adaptors? Who recovers fast, who is slow to recover. What is their role on a team? Are they a starter or substitute that rarely plays.

Then I begin to layout my distribution of the actual training. This is all determined by the quality and extent of the work I have been able to do in preparation blocks. If there has been a good foundation then obviously I can begin to build off of that. Keep in mind that training accumulates form day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month and year-to-year. We want to be sure to take advantage of that and continue that process.

I want to dispel the notion that you need large blocks of time for in-season training. Look for time and use it to maximum benefit. Five minutes a day by five training days is twenty five precoius minutes that yoiu can use to get the athlete better. Warm-up is an obvious period to stress fundamental movement skills. This is the time to address injury prevention through modules that address movements and elements of the sport that put the athlete at risk. This should be transparent.

Speed development must be trained. All components of linear speed including max speed must be addressed. Very simply, fast people must run fast or they lose speed. One of the causes of the hamstrting injuries we are seeing is that the players only are going top speed in games and matches. Something has to give. Agility should be addressed but to a lesser extent, because practice movements will hit that component. Regarding agility you have to be careful that you are not adding stress to stress by doing more change of direction outside of practice.

Strength training is paramount. It must be an emphasis throughout, especially for the female athlete. As the season progresses strength training will assume a different role, it becomes a tool for neural excitation, rather than for force development. My rule here is, a little bit more often.

Obviously I am only touching the surface here. This is one the topics we address in the GAIN Apprentorship. In future posts I will talk more about the actual work and the changes in the emphasis during the various blocks of the season. Ask yourself one question: Are they thriving or surviving?
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Vern Gambetta

Vern Gambetta

Director at Gambetta Sports Training Systems
Vern is the Director of Gambetta Sports Training Systems. He has been the a conditioning coach for several MLS teams as well as the conditioning consultant to the US Men's World Cup Soccer team. Vern is the former Director of Conditioning for the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets. He has lectured and conducted clinics in Canada, Japan, Australia and Europe and has authored six books and over one hundred articles related to coaching and sport performance in a variety of sports. He has a BA in teaching with a coaching minor and an MA in Education with an emphasis in physical education from Stanford University.
Vern Gambetta


Athletic Development Coach & Consultant. Founder of GAIN Network. Proud dad. Love to read everything.
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