By Carlo Alvarez
The high school football playoff season is upon us. Most team have played ten regular season games and are preparing to play another four to five games in their journey to the State Championship game. For those of you who coach or train high school football teams, I’m sure you understand how difficult a full season can be for an athlete. But, if you have made it this far, I assume that you have done some things right and your hard work has paid off. My goal in writing this article is to provide our readers a few key points to help you prepare your athletes for the grueling coming weeks and intensity of the playoffs.
Having a Plan
Having a daily plan is of utmost importance during the playoffs. Expectations are high, days are shorter and there are plenty of distractions. Daily communication with the head coach, athletic trainers, and nutritionist is vital as you make sure everyone is on the same page. Our scheduling starts the day after our last game. We make sure we get a handle on lifting and conditioning days, injured players, hydration strategies and pre-game meals. If everyone is on the same page it makes it easier to make adjustments throughout the week and it helps players feel comfortable that we are all on the same page.
It’s not hard to get hyped up for your first playoff game. Athletes are excited about the possibilities come playoff time. Everyone has a shot at the title, but keeping the right mindset can help your athletes focus on what’s right in front of them. In our program, we like to remind our athlete that tomorrow is never promised. We ask that they give us everything they have as we prepare for our games. No excuses, no regrets. By keeping the focus on the now, we can eliminate the distractions that are so easily infiltrated into a playoff week.
Attack Problem Areas
Our training program throughout the season is divided into three phases. First five games of the season, second five games of the season and playoffs. During the season, we make sure that we maintain our strength, power and explosiveness through percentage grading and progressive overload on a weekly basis. When we look at our injury reports throughout the week, we always have to make adjustments to individual programs. No team during this part of the season is 100%. So the teams that can get their players as pain free as possible by game time, is going to have the greatest chance at success. Make sure that injured or banged up body parts are attacked first in the workout. For example, if there are shoulder issues, prehab and maintenance work is performed first in the workout. This allows us to maximize specific work in problem area, while still attacking his good shoulder, torso and lower body. Make sure you have a look at the weekly injury report, as you plan your training for the week.
Lower Volume and Higher Intensity
The playoff season is not about gaining strength or breaking down muscle tissue. We focus on improving power and explosiveness every chance we get through systematic progressions in our sets and reps. At this point of the season, we make sure that we have a good grip on the total amount of football-specific fundamental work performed on the field with the coaches. Our job is to maximize our weightroom time and helps us maintain our power output on the field. How do we do that? We cut our workload in the weightroom by 20% and focus on density training. Our exercise selection is limited to a total of three to four exercises per training session. We like to progress our lifting and plyometric drills to the point where we are complexing the areas necessary to keep improving strength, speed and power.
W.I.N is an acronym we use daily in our program. W.I.N stands for what’s important now and it represents how we approach everyday throughout the season. Focus on what you can control on a daily basis and you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish. Never take your opponent lightly. If you have a plan, follow it diligently and it will help you prioritize any issue that may come up. The right mindset is critical in keeping your team focused. Attacking problem areas and managing your volume and intensity, will allow you to adjust your programming as necessary.
Good luck this week to those who are lucky enough to be part of the playoff season. Bring home a win.
by Carlo Alvarez