June 13, 2024

How do athletes manage to stay in shape during the off-season and not lose the mental edge they have worked to sharpen?

It is a combination of many things. Dedication is part of being an athlete, as well as receiving and maintaining support from coaches and the school. Especially when competing at the Division I level, it can be difficult to manage responsibilities year-round.

Softball players Deja Westbrook, senior business major, and Katelyn Mangrello, senior psychology major, shared some things they do to set themselves up for the coming season.

“We are in the weight room three times a week,” Westbrook said. “We are practicing every day. Basically the same thing as spring — maybe a little more intense in the off-season — because in the spring we start to unpack a little bit because we’re playing so much.”

Players will do other things to prep before practice whether that is practicing batting, working on catching or warming up their throwing arm for the pitchers.

Having to manage such a long season year-round can be tough. As there is so much time between one season and the next, much can happen and change. Consistency can be difficult to maintain. Westbrook shared strategies she has employed to stay motivated.

“(It requires) a lot of accountability — you have to be accountable to yourself,” Westbrook said. “They have workout plans they give us that we are expected to do, or do our own workouts to stay in shape because we will have tests to make sure we were doing what we were supposed to be doing, as well as fielding and hitting all on your own.”

Mangrello also emphasized the importance of time management, which she learned when working two jobs over the summer in addition to maintaining her off-season training schedule.

“Between juggling that and softball-related things and working out and stuff, I feel like time management is definitely important (for) staying organized,” Mangrello said. “Actually making it a priority (is important) because there will be times when you really don’t want to do this but no — you need to do this.”

While the individual aspect of the off-season is managed by each athlete, maintaining team chemistry and cohesiveness can be even tougher. To maintain team chemistry, the team finds ways to bond, both in season and out of season.

“We have weekly dinners with different mini-groups and they’ll change every week,” Westbrook said. “Going out to the beach together or having a movie night — things like that (help with) staying in touch with everybody.”

Trevor Gillum, professor of kinesiology and program director for exercise science, shared the more technical aspects that athletes should focus on. With putting so much stress on their bodies, it is important to be aware of the maintenance and upkeep of the body.

“Once the season is over, from my perspective, the recovery should probably shift towards the mental side as opposed to the physical side,” Gillum said. “We can periodize nutrition in such a way where the recovery from day to day or game to game is going to look very different than when the season is over.”

The nutritional aspect of year-round training is also a major aspect of the off-season. Gillum shared some of the ways his program lends its expertise to coaches and athletes.

“We do a little bit of nutritional counseling,” Gillum said. “Myself and another faculty member chat through bigger nutritional concepts as different coaches want it. So sometimes they want us to get in front of the team and talk with them through the importance of eating carbohydrates.”

Gillum emphasized the importance of athletes continuing to get enough kilocalories to match their training schedule. Maintaining this nutritional discipline is important for athletes during the off-season.
With technical knowledge as well as the dedication from coaches, staff and other student-athletes, prepping for the season is possible for our athletes, giving them more time to focus on the end goal: winning.

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