I am often asked my opinion on things that involve football. The questions range from how to find which player position best suits a child to who I think will win the Super Bowl, and pretty much everything in between. I have many thoughts on the game, on coaching, and on improving performance, so I am starting Passing Thoughts to share some of those thoughts. I welcome your comments and conversation. –KR

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Five Tips to a Successful Off Season

With the new year underway, it is a great time to check in and see how off season training/activities are going. While there is no "off season success" formula that applies to every athlete, I would offer the following suggestions for things athletes can be doing right now to improve during the off season:

1) Have a Plan
If you do not have a plan for the off season, it will be gone before you know it. Get a calendar and draw yourself a map of your off season schedule! Include camps, individual training and workouts, and any other activity that is improving your skill or performance. It is fine to schedule some down time or weeks that don't push you to the max, but don't completely stop your training or put things off too long or you will miss the opportunities presented in the off season to really improve your skills and strength.

2) Set a Goal
As you map out your off season schedule, set some realistic goals for your improvement. Your overall goal might be to reduce body fat, gain muscle mass, maintain overall aerobic fitness, improve your speed, or develop sport specific techniques. Then give yourself some dates or milestones to measure your progress and help you stay motivated toward your overall goal. On any given day, an athlete can challenge himself on the number or type of drills he runs, or attempt to run faster, clean up footwork, or attempt a new skill. Those daily/weekly challenges can really add up to reaching that overall goal, so go after it!

3) Train your Weakness
After you set your goals, take the time to train your weaknesses. If footwork is your weakness, then find some time in every workout to address and improve your footwork. There is no time during the grind of the regular season for athletes to do that kind of remedial work. If you take the time and focus on your weakness during the off season, you will certainly improve your overall performance, and you may even turn that weakness into a strength!

4) Play Ball
Play ball...any kind... organized and competitive, or just for fun. I strongly believe that especially with younger athletes, participating in other sports is hugely beneficial. They learn the qualities of sportsmanship from every kind of sporting activity, they develop other skills and muscle groups that might not be developed with just playing football, and they challenge themselves mentally and physically in new and different ways. All of those things ultimately contribute to an athlete's complete development, and that overall development is what ultimately leads to personal success.

5) Think Ahead
For younger athletes, that means working to improve themselves individually and thinking about how they can contribute to their team in the upcoming season. There are bound to be changes with coaches or players, so looking ahead to the ways that athletes can positively contribute to a successful season is a great way to help those younger athletes get a sense of vision and commitment to a team and a program.

For high school athletes, the off season is critical for those planning to play college football! Many athletes don't realize how early in their career they need to start planning for college. There are a number of great resources available for high school athletes including MonsterPreps, Active and the NCAA Recruiting site. These are some of my favorite tips compiled from those sources:

* Prepare for NCAA Clearinghouse
* Start researching NCAA academic requirements during Sophomore year
* Get registered with the NCAA Initial Eligibility Clearinghouse during Junior year
* Make sure to request ACT/SAT scores be sent to the Clearinghouse
* Attend camps wherever you can--promote yourself by sending film or clips to college coaches
* Remember college football is played at many levels--don't restrict yourself to just one level
* Don't forget that your high school coach is also a full-time teacher. Coaches will do what they can to assist, but athletes need to be proactive and responsible for their own recruiting process.

So athletes...enjoy your off season, but remember that you will enjoy the next season more if you have used your off season time productively--to improve your skills and athletic performance!

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