What does it take to completely master a given craft? It obviously requires dedication, passion and persistence, but is total focus every single day of one’s life necessary to ensure full mastery? In reference to sports, does an athlete need to dedicate 365 days a year to their given sport, or is it okay to actually take OFF during the off-season? While training regimens differ for athletes in different sports, do you think elite athletes use their down time to remove themselves from their given sport? Although I believe that every athlete is different and requires different practice and training procedures, I do think there are certain things that superior athletes should be doing the same. This essay will answer these above questions based on what I personally think about the topic (disclaimer alert: the following information is based SOLELY on my personal beliefs and experiences).
While this post is mainly about an athlete’s time in the offseason, it is going to focus specifically on the sport of baseball. Why focus on baseball you may ask? Because, baseball is the best sport ever, obviously. But seriously, an elite baseball player’s offseason is going to vary drastically from an athlete who is attempting to excel at another sport.
Any player who wants to take the game of baseball seriously should be taking swings and throwing as much as possible. This differs for the amount of work they should be putting in during the season and out of season. During the season, I believe that players who are serious about the game need to be practicing at least five days a week. Think about it. Major League players are playing and practicing six if not seven days a week while they are in season. Playing games daily keeps their skills ready and reflexes sharp. Similarly, amateur players should be practicing and honing their skills this often. While most non-pro players will not be playing in games this often, they should be throwing and dry-swinging the bat six days a week while they are in-season to maximize their full potential.
During the offseason, training regimens should most definitely differ from those implemented during the season. The main difference between in-season and offseason training is that a player should be spending less time on the baseball field and more time in the weight room/running track. For younger players, offseason plans may include participating in other sports or athletic activities. Individual workouts will vary, but children under the age of 12 should not be performing heavy weight lifting exercises. However, younger children may perform activities such as resistance bands, stretching and body weight exercises. In my opinion, the most important aspect of the offseason is a BREAK from baseball. Despite what some people may think, even the most avid baseball-lover should take at least a two week hiatus from the game. This time-off is necessary for a mental and physical refreshment and is necessary for every player. The answer to how much time-off is needed depends on the age and personality of the individual athlete.
For pitchers, taking a break in the offseason is of utmost importance. Pitchers must rest their arm at least once a year for at least two weeks. Some experts stress the need for pitchers to take off from throwing for up to three months. Others believe that only 2-3 weeks is necessary to avoid throwing completely. So what does this mean? Since every athlete is different, the amount of time that a pitcher takes off from throwing also differs. It depends on how an individual pitcher’s arm feels after the season and how much they intend to improve on their pitching for the next season. Obviously, if a pitcher’s arm is sore/injured or extremely tired after months of extended throwing, more time is necessary to recover and recuperate for next season. On the other hand, if a pitcher wants to modify/improve their mechanics or focus on developing a specific pitch for the upcoming season and their arm is feeling good, less time should be taken off from throwing. So, the amount of time a pitcher should not throw during the offseason varies, but it is absolutely imperative to not throw anywhere from about two weeks to three months depending on the situation.
I hope this post can be a valuable reference for parents and athletes who take the game of baseball seriously. To be a successful player, it takes extreme dedication and hard work to utilize your maximum potential. During the season, strict focus is required to be the best that you can be. For players at the high school level and up, I recommend practicing and performing reps six days a week. During the offseason, I stress weight lifting and improving flexibility and agility. While you may be one of the most dedicated baseball players that you know, a break during the offseason is still necessary. Even if baseball is the thing that you love most (like me), everyone needs a mental break from the game at some point.