By Tommy Christian

It’s been said that the secret of success in sports can be found in seconds shaved. It’s what sets the difference between JV and varsity and between high school and college, a key consideration because the start of fall sports is closer than you think. Here are five steps your athlete needs to take this summer if he or she wants to become a better athlete by the time of fall tryouts:

  1. Evaluate Your Strengths and Weaknesses: You need to start with a complete assessment. Think of your body as a machine and you need to understand the state of your movement mechanics. Baselines should also be set for speed, agility, vertical jump, mobility), and stability.
  2. Create a Development Plan: Based on the results of your evaluation and goals, you can then determine your summer improvement plan. Keeping with the machine analogy, your plan should take a systems approach. Solely working on one area of the body or one key metric can actually negatively affect another. Stories abound of those who have worked on developing their strength, only to end up becoming slower on the field. Don’t settle for a development plan that isn’t comprehensive.
  3. Make the Commitment: Your athlete needs to continuously and consistently work at their plan and make speed training a priority. You simply can’t be successful without it.
  4. Don’t Neglect Recovery: All athletes need to get their sleep, typically about nine hours per night. Plus, they need strategic days off to avoid overuse injuries. Proper rest is important because this is where the actual improvement occurs as muscles get rebuilt and energy gets restored. If you’re a multisport athlete, you must also be particularly aware of the potential for overtraining as you juggle the practices for your multiple sports. One more consideration for all athletes: You must maintain proper hydration and nutrition, eating right every day, even during the summer when, away from your teammates, the urge to relax their dietary habits increases. After all, without the proper fuel, your machine won’t perform optimally.
  5. Be Prepared for the Long Haul: For success, athletes and their families need have the right mindset. Both often give up when they don’t see immediate progress or might hop from one approach to another, never realizing the benefits of any program. But training takes time and often happens in miniscule increments. Have faith in the plan and work it.

Successfully achieving these five steps takes a skilled coach, someone who is athlete focused – not sport focused – a need that becomes more pronounced for multi-sport athletes. You might think of your coach as the guide for your athlete’s overall development. Coaches know what to assess, how to create a comprehensive yet manageable program customized to the individual’s needs and interests, how to maintain motivation, how to keep the experience fun, and, most of all, how to get results.

As you and your athlete(s) plan their summer sports activities, ask yourself, “who is looking out for the needs of my child?” This answer alone should give you reason enough to seek a skilled coach today.