We had a track meet this weekend.  It wasn’t a huge meet, but I was trying to make sure a few of my athletes had opportunities to decrease their times.

One of my sprinters was in a position to improve her time for a couple of events and really solidify her position to qualify for the state meet.

The practice and training was adjusted accordingly so as we got closer to the meet on Sunday, she was doing just enough to tax the nervous systems and stimulate the muscles.  But nothing too taxing that could take away from a good performance on Sunday.

That was until she played in the intramural basketball tourney with her friends the night before the meet.

Her team made it to the championship game and then lost by a few buckets.  But, she ended up playing in 3 energy spending games.  Because of the games she got to her house late thus getting to bed a lot later than anticipated.

So what happened in the race?

She had been tracking running better with each meet.  That ended in this meet.  She ran alright, but not the times she possibly could have ran.  Afterwards, she said she just felt off and her legs were tight.  She would get them loose and warmed up, but couldn’t keep them that way.

We tend to think of young athletes like the energizer bunny.  They’re young so they can just keep going and going and going.  I think this has got them in trouble with injuries and cost them in how they performed in games.

Just because they say they are fine and can go doesn’t mean their body really is fine.  They will play because they want to.  The coaches have to be smart enough to adjust workouts so that the athletes won’t be overdoing it.

Kids love Fruit Loops.  Eating one bowl is fine and they might want to have another and another.  Pretty soon, you’re collecting sugar on their teeth, they have a tummy ache, and they’re all hopped up on the wrong type of energy.

Training and playing games is the same way.  If they do spend a lot of energy one day, then they need to have the appropriate amount of rest time to fully recovery.  Otherwise, they will be running on less than optimal energy.

I’m all for multi-sports, but not in the same season.  The kids just don’t have the time to recover to play at a high level.  That is why you don’t see any pros playing in two sports simultaneously.  It just can’t be done effectively.

If I do a high intensity practice one day, I can’t follow it up with another high intensity practice the next.  The practice has to be designed for another type of energy system.  It has to be more of a recovery day because your nervous system was fried from the day below, muscles are a little sore, and you would have awful results if you did that.

Now back to the original scenario.  Imagine the sprinter was your kid playing two sports.  It is the spring now so we will say travel basketball and baseball.  You have a basketball tournament where you play four games.  Then that evening or the very next day you play a baseball game.  You want to provide the same energy and play at a high level, but there is just no way your kid can do that.  You have depleted all of the energy stores and the nervous system needs to re-charge.

Either, you have to avoid one of the sports if you see there is a back to back like that.  Or you cut down and limit the games played in the basketball tourney.  Which I’m sure that basketball coach will like.

I’m not saying you have to like it, but you have to be smart.  If the sprinter had played one game the day before the meet, maybe she could have run close to optimum abilities.  But, playing two or three and expecting to run at your best the next day.  That is a tough task to accomplish.

Sometimes all you need is a day of rest after a hard game.  Or maybe you want to tax the system, but you do a less intense workout just to keep the muscles fresh.

To sum up, understand this concept.  It is very tough for an athlete to give maximum effort and play at the best of her/his abilities on consecutive days.  You need to have a strategy for resting appropriately and allowing the athlete to recover.  If not, then not only are you compromising an awesome athletic performance, but you could be setting the stage up for injuries down the road.