Offseason Work is What Leads to Athletic Breakthroughs

Sam Obitz / July 12th, 2012 / No Comments »

As is the case with most things in life, it is the unseen work that people put in that leads to major breakthroughs in whatever they are pursuing. As Michelangelo said, “If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all.” This is especially true in the field of athletics. Unfortunately, our media is obsessed with the notion of overnight success and talent, perpetuating these myths in many of their stories, despite evidence to the contrary.

Whether it is an astonishing athletic performance from a previously unfamiliar athlete (think decathlete world record holder Ashton Eaton who is likely to take the world by storm in the London Olympics this summer), the sudden emergence of a miraculous new drug (think Lipitor which revolutionized the treatment of high cholesterol), or an invention that revolutionizes the way we do things (think smart-phones; hard to believe the earliest model arrived on store shelves just 13-years ago). All of these took years of behind the scenes work to come to fruition.

With NFL teams just a few weeks away from the opening of their training camps, and the NBA in the midst of their offseason, many may have forgotten that a year earlier both leagues’ seasons were in doubt. A year ago, all of these players were barred from any contact with their team’s personnel or training facilities.

As a result, many athletes (often across several different teams) organized their own informal groups to train with in the off-season. One group of NFL players included some college stars in their workouts at a local high school in LA. NBA players Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love worked out together in what was said to be the hardest offseason regimen most had ever seen.

Others however, found that the lack of structure and availability of their team’s training staff made it more difficult to adequately prepare for a season that may not have even come to be, and put in minimal work in the offseason. Not surprisingly, once their seasons finally did begin, a lot of the players who had not adequately prepared in the offseason began to suffer an inordinate amount of injuries ranging from nagging to season ending ones.

I do not believe this was a coincidence. Not a single player who stayed with me during the offseason suffered a significant injury in the first three fourths of the season last year. More than half of those who cited the uncertainty of the upcoming season as a reason to forgo our normal offseason work, were injured by the end of the first month of the season last year. In my experience, those who are dedicated to mental training in the offseason are more likely to put an equal or greater importance in their physical offseason training.

One of the challenges of mental training is that you can’t look in the mirror and see the results. I think that is why my clients seldom take time off from working with me during the season. Our work during the season is often more focused on immediate concerns so the results are often evident immediately. Contrastingly, during the offseason our work is focused more on long-term growth and can go unnoticed for longer periods of time.

While both are important, the offseason work is where you develop the habits that will propel your career to higher heights. As Muhammad Ali said, “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” Are you putting in all the effort you can when no one is watching? If you aren’t, you can be sure the people that end up taking your spot have been.


You can follow Sam on Twitter: @SuperTaoInc



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