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Success for Next Year Starts in the Offseason
By Bob Ladouceur
From JV to Varsity
From JV to Varsity
A lot of kids on the varsity, juniors or sophomores, didn't understand fully what it took to prepare themselves for varsity competition until they actually got to fall football practice. And then they found out that they were too slow, or they weren't strong enough, or they didn't have the tools they needed to perform or to do the tasks and techniques we were asking them to do.
As much as we tried to tell them what they needed to do - how much weight they needed to gain, how much weight they needed to lift - they still had their own preconceived idea of what it was going to take. They felt the jump from junior varsity level to the varsity level was going to be minimal when, actually, the jump is much greater. The game is faster. You need more strength to perform. And it's more complex, with more blocking schemes and plays. It's a huge jump.
With the season winding down, now is the time I sit down with players who didn't play very much to assess their season. The rating works so that a 1 is an awful season and 10 being a great season. They are usually very good at assessing themselves. If a player wasn't starting, he will usually say, "I was a four or a five." My next question is why is that? They usually come up with the answers themselves. "Well, I didn't think it was going to be this hard." "I didn't think I was going to get pushed around like I did." So there is that self-revelation - they had to live it to find out.
The next step is what are we going to do differently to make sure this doesn't happen again next year? And a lot of them come back with new resolve, new determination. They are going to do the off-season prep work to get them in position where success is possible. At this point, in the season, that's all I want them to know. That they fell short, and there was a reason for it. Not because it was fate or it just happened. Or the other guys were better than they were. It was because of their failure to prepare and anticipate what was expected.
Then for the kids that do contribute, I do the same thing. They usually rate their season higher. But then I say to them, What is it going to take for you to become an All-League player, or an All-Regional player? Or even, if they have the size potential, what is it going to take to go on to the next level? Then we come up with a whole new set of goals.
This is the best time to do this because football is still fresh in their minds, and they can make a fairly accurate assessment of the season. If I wait, a lot of them will have gone off and done other things, or even their own evaluations may get somewhat tainted. They would get a different perspective. "Maybe I did give a good effort." They'll rationalize or they'll be in a certain denial, that other circumstances prevented them from playing.
As for the JV kids that will come up next year, I usually go around and get to them one-on-one instead of a team because they really don't believe you are talking to them when you are talking to the team. To each player I say, if you want to come up to the varsity and contribute right away as a junior or in a rare occasion as a sophomore, we have to lay out a goal plan.
A lot of them are kind of overwhelmed, and that's where they start making up their own scenarios, "Well, I'll lift, but I don't need to lift that much." They have their own preconceived idea. That's when the cycle begins: The kids who work hard end up contributing and the kids that aren't working that hard or aren't that consistent in their off-season weight programs usually end up realizing they didn't prepare well. Then they find out they have to do it all over again.
The time commitment issue is a bit part of it because the football season is so far away. Sometimes they think they can put off the work until summer. In all actuality, the most important time in prep time is from January to May. That is where our players become much stronger and much bigger. We're not into cardiovascular training now. We're into strength and size. That's where a lot of players' seasons are made or broken. As for players who come on just in the summer, that's when we're more in a cardiovascular mode of training. It's hard to put on weight because of the weather -- it's hotter -- and the amount of running we do. It's harder to get bigger and stronger then. That's why the furthest away you are from the football season is the most important time to prepare for it.
If you want to be a multi-sport athlete and you want to compete at a high level, then you have to put in double the amount of time. We lift Monday, Wednesday and Fridays, but for multi-sport athletes, they still have to lift but they have to lift at 6:30 a.m. Then in the afternoon they can do their winter and spring sports. We tailor their workouts for these multi-sport kids, but it takes a lot of dedication and time. In order to do that consistently you have to have a plan and be mature about it: Have a schedule. Know when you're going to work on track or baseball, know when you're going to work on football.
About the Author: Bob Ladouceur writes on the secrets to success. He would know. Few teams in the world have won as often as De La Salle High School's football team. The Spartans, perennially rated among the best prep teams in the country, are currently riding a record 100+ game winning streak. Ladouceur, who has been the coach since 1979, has comprised a 125-1 record in the 1990s and an overall mark of 238-14-1. The school of 900 boys is located in Concord, California, east of San Francisco.