Everyone athlete has a similar dream growing up. Stepping onto the court. The pitch. The field. The rink. The gym. Senior night. Homecoming. Whether it is Friday night lights or a rocking gym in the middle of winter, there is always some allure to playing for your school as part of the best team. Not too many kids have goals of playing junior varsity growing up. Although there are an extraordinary amount of benefits to being on JV, here are some solutions that you can control to take you to the varsity level.
Two of the best things you can alter are your sleeping habits and your diet. Teenagers should be getting 8-10 hours of sleep per night. If you are a multi-sport athlete, that number should be closer to ten. I know that isn’t achievable every single night, but it is something you should strive for. As with diet, working with a nutritionist or dietitian can help optimize your health and allow your hard work to show up on game days.
Running fast will change your nervous system to adapt to the demands of your sport more than almost anything. The key to this is to time your sprints so you know how fast you are and if you are improving enough. If you doubt me, think how competitive your team would be if everyone on it knew their 40 time. Everyone would want to get faster and improve their athleticism. For more on this, check out Tony Holler and his Feed The Cats Program here.
3. Strength Training
Consistent, year round strength training is one of the best decisions an athlete can make to optimize their performance and take their game to the next level. Keys to this are having a plan made by someone who understands your goals and the demands of your sport. Lifting should be consistent, include heavy weights often and done with correct form. For more info on how you can achieve this with Bold Base Performance, click here.
Yes, do your schoolwork. You should also be doing your homework on other athletes in your sport. There is so much technology today that allows athletes to study the skills of professional, collegiate and even other high school athletes.
5. Questions, Questions, Questions
There are few things that a coach embraces more than an athlete asking a series of focused questions on how they can improve in their sport. If you don’t know why you aren’t getting the time you think you deserve, than ASK. It is hard to make a plan for how to improve if you don’t know what you need to work on.
6. Practice at game speed
There are a lot of times in practice it might be tempting to go 75%. Or 85%. Or even 98%. I know this because I have been there. It is a really hard decision because it is so easy to show that you are keeping up even when you have more left in the tank. These are the times where you have to focus and dial in on what you want to change. Going less than 100% in high speed drills will not get you to your goals. Especially the drills that are going to relate most to games (situational scoring, scrimmage, etc). Commit to your best effort in practice and you will be rewarded.
7. Shoe Selection
I have talked extensively on this topic (see here and here and here and here and here and here). Although your equipment in practice might not fit these standards, there is little to no excuse why your footwear outside of practice and games should be compromising your health and performance. Get a performance edge that not enough athletes are not taking advantage of.
8. Nasal Breathing
This is one of the hardest things you can change, but it is one of the most important. The best resource currently on this is The Oxygen Advantage. Buy it and listen to it on audible or any audio book platform. It was the biggest difference in getting me to understand why athletes benefit from nasal breathing over mouth breathing.