Regardless of your sport, the preseason is an exciting time for high school coaches, players and parents. After a summer break, it is customary to ease back into the fall grind, but for student-athletes and coaches, this process can be intense.
I remember the joy of reuniting with friends and teammates, as so much transpires over just a few weeks. What I didn’t understand at the time was the constant work of coaches, who are planning, preparing training schedules and then refocusing their efforts on academic and athletic pursuits once school starts. Pretty soon, the upcoming season will begin, and the floodgates of life open.
The preseason is both exciting and a transformational period of time for all involved. The preseason sets the stage and the rest is history.
While most preseasons center around intense conditioning, strategy sessions, and battles for starting jobs, I’d like to encourage coaches to consider a more holistic outlook on their responsibilities as individuals entrusted with the development of young athletes.
This can be accomplished in many ways, but here are my two recommendations:
First, include nutrition, hydration, and other personal health best practices into your teachings to ensure students can nurture a healthy individual lifestyle. Staying healthy is important! But even on the longest of days, you only have a few hours with your players. Teaching them to be self-sufficient in owning their nutritional and physical health is not only beneficial, but empowering. If they’re motivated to take care of themselves at home and in school, they’ll be better equipped as students, athletes and as global citizens.
Also, be sure to recommend plenty of time for rest and recovery as well. Ultimately, teaching students to manage their health in this way will reduce the likelihood of ailments due to dehydration or over-exertion.
And last but not least, emphasize the proper place that sports should occupy in the totality of their lives. Along those lines, I implore you to think about including time management, mental wellness, and even academic mentorship into your preseason schedule.
It’s hard to remember what life was like at 15 years old, but try to recall that this is a very hectic and confusing time! Even for star players, or kids with good grades, the pressures of balancing school, family, social life, sports, and of college admissions can be a lot to handle.
Offering student-athletes the opportunity to get better at managing it all will not only improve your team during the season, but it will help them develop skills that benefit them for life. To ensure the message resonates, be sure to highlight the connection of academic performance to lifelong success- I call it being an “Athlete for Life”.
Sports are an incredible way to learn personal accountability, gain experience managing group dynamics, and understand the benefits of prolonged dedicated effort. Showing your student-athletes how the development of these skills on the field will help them off the field and beyond is an extremely powerful active learning tool.