DOUG’S TIPS FOR OFF-SEASON ATHLETES
For all of you ELITEAMers who have a passion for non-snow sports like soccer or lacrosse, now is the perfect time to up your game! Many of you will be heading into your “off-season”. This is a great opportunity to prepare mentally and physically for your main sport without the stress and heavy schedule during competition season. When I was racing, I always made sure to take a break from the intense focus of ski racing in the off-season by doing 3 things… trying new sports, getting away from competition and working on my weaknesses – either physically, mentally or technically.
Try something NEW
There are a ton of fun sports and activities waiting for you out there. Now is the time to try them out! It can be really fun to try something new, and in the process, you’ll be gaining valuable skills. Things like skating, skiing, snowboarding, touring, snow-running, speed-skating, crossfit, XC skiing and biathlon. The most important thing is to remember is that you may feel awkward and uncomfortable at first, and that you’re likely to make lots of mistakes. That’s OK. That’s the fun part! Because you’re a beginner, yet also an experienced athlete, you will make gains fast which will give you a boost of confidence.
In addition to having a blast, the skills and agility moves you learn will help you in your primary sport too. Just like “high-knee butt-kicks” will help you in lacrosse or soccer, your new sport will add lots of agility, balance and coordination moves to your library of skills. Those, in turn, will help you raise your performance level in your primary sport.
Don’t Worry about Results… Have Fun
During your off-season, you can let your guard down and stop worrying about results. This is a time to just play for the fun of it. Play to meet new friends and learn new skills. Don’t worry, you will not lose your competitive edge by not competing. You just might find that you return to competition with more energy and focus after taking a break from all that competitive intensity.
While learning a new sport, take a little time at the end of each day or week to think about how much fun you’re having. It doesn’t matter if you did well, or fell flat on your face! Simply focus on how great it feels to just play. Then carry that feeling into to your main sport. Realize that the reason you first started playing your primary sport was because it was FUN, not because you had to win.
Work on your Weaknesses
The off-season is a great time to focus on one or two things you can work on to improve your physical and/or mental game, specific to your primary sport. Take time to evaluate a skill you need to improve and make it a goal to return to your main sport a better player. It could be overall strength, speed, or agility. Or maybe it is more mental like handling stress, being able to focus or remaining positive. Whatever it is, the off-season is the perfect time for you to turn your weakness into a strength!
A look back…
One summer, when I was about 17, I focused on improving two things during my off-season, so I could return to skiing a better athlete. One was overall strength as I was a small guy. I received a training program from my coach and followed it all summer. I tracked my progress in a Journal so I could keep track of my improvements, however small they were, and gain confidence because I was progressing.
The other thing I needed to improve was a mental skill… how to lose. I had just finished a year of skiing where I had had the good fortune of winning a lot, but deep down I knew I wasn’t great at losing or struggling. I would get really upset if I didn’t win. I somehow knew I needed to find someone to push me. Someone who was better at everything than I was. I found a guy named Felix to work out with and spent an entire summer chasing him, trying to lift as much as he could and trying to beat him at everything. I was never able to overtake him, but he got me to realize that it wasn’t winning that mattered, but trying my absolute best in every situation that counted. I learned how to give 100% every run, every lift, every sprint – even if I was still behind Felix. The following Winter I returned stronger both physically and mentally, and used both of those skills to continue working towards my dreams.
I may not be racing anymore, but I still always looking for ways to “up my game”. I already have two goals for my “off season” next spring and summer- learning how to ride a unicycle and swim 1 mile!