Updated: Jan 18, 2019
With the start of the winter sports season, I am reminded of the multi-sport athletes who are transitioning from their fall to winter sport. Some high school athletes will rely heavily on their coaches to make this transition for them, hoping that the conditioning and training sessions are enough to successfully prepare them for each sport season. Others may have started cross-training midway through their fall season so that they feel prepared to start their winter sport. While many of these athletes are able to successfully make the transition from one sport to the next, it is important to set personal expectations to help you to successfully transition from one sport season to the next.
For example, a high school athlete who plays football in the fall and wrestles in the winter has to transition from a football weight to wrestling weight (e.g., 225 pound football weight to 190 pound wrestling weight). While the prior sport focuses on the healthy weight gain, the latter sport focuses on healthy weight loss. Since it is not realistic for an athlete to start cutting weight during the football season, the athlete must make a plan or set tangible expectations to accomplish this goal. This could include figuring out a healthy nutritional plan and setting an expected amount of time in which he could manage-ably drop the weight.
The classic stereotype is of a wrestler exercising in a plastic sweat suit to shed as much water weight as possible while also starving himself or herself to make the required weight the day of competition. You will even hear stories of how wrestlers make it a regular habit of gaining and losing 10-15 pounds each week. Whether this is still the accepted norm or not, it is important to consider a healthier and more mindful approach. While this age old strategy has provided the wrestler with a weight advantage over his or her opponent (e.g., a male wrestler weighing in at 171 pounds but putting on his natural weight at 180 pounds once he starts hydrating and eating again) it also leaves the wrestler incredibly fatigued, which over the course of the season can lead to injury and burnout.
Therefore, setting short term (daily and weekly goals) and long term goals (expectations for the whole season and how to transition from one sport to the next) can be extremely beneficial to the athlete. Setting goals can keep the athlete healthy and rested so that he or she can compete successfully in multiple sports. Furthermore, goals can help to keep athletes motivated with their current sport. Just like competition, focusing on the moment – in this case, being present for the sport you are committed to during this season – is important. If you are always looking to the next sport season or the future, you are not allowing yourself to focus on and enjoy the present moment.
Remember, confidence is built on the foundation that you are physically in shape and healthy, that you take the time to develop the techniques necessary to be efficient and effective, and that you work on a strategy to prepare you for competition. For the multi-sport athlete, strategy also involves planning out the season. This includes getting in shape for that specific sport, getting enough rest, managing your diet, and staying healthy. If a multi-sport athlete takes the time to plan and set goals for each season, he or she will be mindful of the long term preparation needed to stay healthy and understand the necessary action steps needed to find success at each sport.