It’s finally time for softball specialization. At least that’s what most will be saying. It is a seemingly long haul to get to this point however if the previous stages are most appropriately planned, this one will not be disappointing. The training history is a determining factor for athletes at this stage. Although the volumes and intensity of training can be increased, if the training in previous stages has not been progressive there will be limitations on the scope of that training.
Training still must be monitored to prevent injury even though trained athletes at this point that are now spending time on specific development are in an advanced state of readiness.
Softball Specialization Training Guidelines
- continue to closely monitor for any difficulties
- dominant motor abilities need to improve progressively
- increase specific training volume
- increase training intensity faster than volume however do not wok to exhaustion
- involve athletes in the process
- continue multilateral training
- teach the theory
- emphasize prime movers (muscles used in softball)
- develop aerobic capacity
- progressively increase volume and intensity of anaerobic training
- emphasize perfect technique
- emphasize perfect tactics
- increase competition amount progressively
- practice structured mental training
Motor Skills Training
Although most training is specific in this stage, it is still critical to maintain a 20% focus on multi lateral training. This is important in perfecting skills and coordination. Again athletes with previous training will experience less barriers in the perfecting of skills in this stage.
The continuation of multi lateral training will contribute to speed improvements in this stage. Strength and power training gains will also improve speed which is a big factor in softball, as more force is produced in the movement.
Strength and Power Training
The largest differences begin to be seen in this stage between girls and boys. The boys develop more muscle mass as well as benefit from the onset of hormones that make them stronger. Girls rarely display the same amount of strength as boys unless they have been training, and if the boys that they are comparing to have had minimal if any strength training.
The maturation rate will also have an influence on the athletes performance and abilities in the weight room. Some may experience a decrease in strength power during their peak height velocity or growth spurt and then an accelerated growth afterwards. It is important for boys especially at this stage to resist the peer pressure to increase their muscle size place of strength training unless their sport warrants it. Those sports might include football, and some gymnastic events.
- use injury prevention programs
- include compensation activities for all muscles including the abdomen
- refrain from only specificity programs
- do not use loads over 70-80% 1RM
- ensure proper technique
- never use faulty or worn equipment
As stated earlier it is still important to maintain multi lateral training. Circuit training is ideal for this particularly during the beginning of the off season. Ensure that weight increases are gradual and careful to prevent injuries and over training.
This is where endurance training gets specific. The best place to start is to determine the ergogenisis of the specific sport. This is done by determining the percentages of energy systems that are prominent for the sport. For example, the ergogenisis for rowing is 83% aerobic and 17% anaerobic. A team sport like softball, ergogenisis is more anaerobic alactic and lactic than aerobic.
To determine the level of endurance training required for softball, it is important to know the ergogenisis.
Although the specific training can be dependant on the sport, aerobic endurance is an important base for recovery and regeneration for any sport.
This is where it all comes together and it all begins for the high performance athlete. With adequate and well planned training the athlete will transition smoothly into high performance with confidence in their technical, tactical and physical abilities. Although it does not appear to be an important factor in much of the literature, mental training is critical for many aspects of softball regardless of the skill level.