The off season is when players of any sport can concentrate on developing individual sport skills and can train to develop their overall athletic skills. The questions that parents and players should ask are "how much?" and "what do you expect to happen?"
In many sports the off-season training programs are linked to the in-season programs, and in some instances there is little difference from season to season. But one common theme is the cost. And off-season training seems very expensive, running as much as $100 an hour.
Many parents are confused and frustrated by this because they fear if they do not have their kids participate they will fall behind the other kids. They fear that the coach will not think the player is serious and will then favor other players who participated in the off-season programs . They may be right but maybe that is OK.
I have visited with many families who are really confused and angry that their player, after having done all the camps, leagues and recommended training still did not achieve the desired outcomes usually defined as a high school Varsity, college scholarship or professional opportunity.
To some degree the parents are right in their confusion. They have been told for years that the road to success is paved with great specialty trainers and off-season programs to make their child "Bigger, Stronger and Faster." The reality is far different.
In hockey alone we have 40,000 youth coaches who are by definition amateurs. So we have amateurs coaching amateurs. USA Hockey provides coach-education programs that every coach must take, however these coaches are not required to demonstrate any competency in that sport at all. Somehow they can become seen as experts. Even in the high school ranks in Minnesota there are few requirements for a person to be named a coach.
Many so-called development programs have a couple former professional players, so they are granted “expert” status even though they have no coaching experience and no training in the many disciplines that lend to becoming a good coach much less a great coach.
Parents should think hard about how they want their kids to spend the first 20 years of their life. The odds of any kid making a living in sports as an athlete are very small indeed. Less than 1 /10th of one percent make it.
If you believe that your children can train themselves to greatness think again. The research is clear that off-season training can only do so much over and above the natural talent a player already possesses.
If your dream is different than your child's then perhaps it is time to reassess. If your child's dream is to play in the NHL, NFL, MLS, NBA, Major League Lacrosse, WNBA and they are not exceptional athletes you might consider taking some of those family vacations instead of spending every moment at the rink, field, or gym.
While off-season training can help some kids, the issue is how much time and money a family should "invest" in pursuit of goals that – to a seasoned, honest eye – may clearly be beyond the child’s grasp. It is all about realistic expectations.
Sports are not life, they are games. Childhood is short and really important in terms of brain development, education, family, and simply being a kid. Being an adult lasts a long time. Chasing dreams that are unattainable is not in the best interest of your kids. All things in moderation.