Sports will be returning very soon, which is exciting news, although are you ready to play sport? How do you know if you are physically and mentally prepared to return to sport? Is shear excitement going to help you perform at your best and prevent you from getting injured?
Perfect world vs Reality
In an ideal world everyone would start re-intorducing sport specific skills and training at a fairly low level, this is assuming they’ve been maintaining a general physical preparedness while in lockdown. If nothing has been done, then a 2-4 week period of general training (basic skills, strength, speed, agility and conditioning) should be undertaken before commencing any sport specific training. Sport specific training should be introduced gradually over 4-8 weeks, building to competition volumes (duration of session, distances covered) and intensities (contacts, game speed). Now unfourtunately this will likely not happen, instead most athletes will done very little to zero general preparation and will jump straight back into sport specific training and competition volumes. While they may be lucky enough to not get injuried the risk is very high, not only to sustain an injury but also for it to be very serious (high grade tear, ACL etc). To quote Dirty Harry “do you feel lucky, punk?”
(Image: Derek Hansen)
If you’ve been doing some kind of physical activity over the past few months you are well ahead of those athletes who have been doing nothing. Something is always better than nothing, although, now is the time to be thinking about getting specifically prepared for your sport. Are you ready to explosively jump, cut and sprint? If not then hold your horses Charlie you need to earn back the right to perform those physical qualities during sport. As stated above you need to spend some time reintroducing your body back to the movements of your sport. Through a gradual process an athlete can easily prepare themselves for a sporting season if patience is demonstrated.
It’s been a while since athletes have properly trained and it’s likely some of us have become accustomed to the more relaxed pace of life. Sport is not going to slow down for anyone, so preparing yourself mentally is just as important as being physically prepared. This will also include adapting to any changes to sporting seasons, rules and conditions. Again to avoid a spike in mental “load” athletes should gradually increase their mental preparation. Getting back into the habit of preparing your equipment and training clothes for a training session is a great start. Next is seeing your coach and team mates again in the sporting environment. Together you should work on a rough plan even with the limited information you may have, this will help you visualise what you need to do to get back to playing sport. Once you start training you will start to get the drive back, as you continue to train it’s important to accept that you will be a little sore and deconditioned, so it’s important to mentally push through. As your mind adapts so will your body.
Unfourtunately we don’t have a crystal ball to tell us exactly how to go about our return to sports. However, those athletes who demonstrate patience and understanding that to perform at their best they need to be prepared. Those who get it right may have their best sporting season to date.