I’ve worked with some professional athletes before.  It is truly awesome when you get to work with someone at that level athletically.  I enjoy training all my athletes (okay maybe some more than others), but a professional athlete is just FUN.

We had a basketball player who trained with us in the off-season from May until July then he went to the NBA summer league to play for a few weeks.  They started training camp in mid-September, season in beginning of November, then done by mid-April.  Off-season then begins.

Let me rattle off some schedules of a few more of my athletes.

A soccer player that has practice and games from mid-February until mid to late June.  August practice begins with games through mid November.  Then a month or so off until winter conditioning begins with some indoor games and practices until the winter breaks.  Travel all over the midwest for games.

A basketball player that plays winter basketball for her school starting November through mid-February.  AAU begins with practices an hour and a half away and games all over the place starting the end of March until mid June maybe July.  A little break time, then starting training/conditioning beginning of September, maybe a fall league, until official practices begin again in November.

Don’t even get me started with my gymnasts.  Maybe a slightly different scenario then the first two athletes because of the degree of difficulty.

Basically, 20+ hours practice a week, every week, with only 1 to 2 weeks off during the year.  4 – 5 meets, then states, regionals, and nationals.

Okay, here’s the million dollar question:

What exactly is the difference between these athletes that I have ages 14 – 18 and the professional athlete I described above?

Well the professional athletes has a sponsor.  Getting paid a 6 figure salary to do his sport.  The younger athletes are certainly NOT getting paid.  In fact, they have to pay to play on their various teams.  Checkmark for the first difference.

The professional athlete has a longer season about 5 1/2 months regular season.  More if you make a tournament.  If you need to play summer league ball, add three weeks.  Ok, but look at the soccer player.  He plays about 6 to 6 1/2 months of soccer with games and everything.  The basketball player even longer and with tournaments might even play close to the same amount of games as a professional ballplayer.  Alright no difference.

The offseason for the professional player is about 2.5 to 4.5 months roughly.  My young athletes with less mature bodies because they are still growing, maybe 2 months if that.  The gymnasts 2 weeks.  WTF??!!  Okay a difference, but not the right way.

So let me get this straight because the professional athlete is older that person needs more time to recover from the season.  The younger athlete doesn’t need as much time and should bounce back from the grind of the long season/practice almost immediately right?  I hope you can smell the sarcasm.

There is a reason why professional athletes play the number of games they do and part of it is because their bodies are physically able to handle that grind.  But, as the years move on they have to do outside training with a strength coach to maintain that ability to handle the stress.

What are your young athletes doing to handle darn near the same amount of physical stress on their bodies?

Probably nothing.

That is fine.  Be a gambler.  I’m sure your athlete is the one athlete that will be such a good athlete they don’t need to do any performance enhancement to get better.

I’m sure your athlete will be the one athlete that does NOT acquire any injury at all in their athletic career.  Thus, would not need to do performance enhancement to help reduce the chances of injury or if you got an injury enhance the recovery.

What’s your point genius?  

My point is this.  There is nothing wrong for you wanting the best for your kid by putting him/her on a team that will play year round.  If that is the case though, your athlete is essentially the same as a pro athlete, but not getting paid.

If you are going to do that, then you need to have someone like me in your athlete’s life.  Either independently or have your team hire a performance specialist, to develop overall athleticism and keep your athlete at an optimal level.

Otherwise, your athlete is going to breakdown at some point.  And when that happens, it might be too late to start working with your athlete to accomplish whatever he/she wanted to accomplish.  Then you might think about what if you had spent some of that money on me to keep your athlete healthy, rather than the numerous “elite” teams and traveling you paid for your kid.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Oregon Husky