How you schedule your softball taper planning will determine the success of that taper and how prepared the team is for the competition. This planning can begin at the beginning of the season or even during the off season as you are preparing for the upcoming competition cycle. You may make modifications as the main competition approaches but having an outline and an idea of what activities you might do will make the process easier and create less stress for you as a coach when you are getting your team ready for the big show.
Softball Taper Planning Considerations
8-14 days is necessary for softball to reduce fatigue and while minimizing de-training. If a larger reduction in training volume is used, then a shorter duration of taper is warranted. This is entirely dependent on your schedule prior to the taper. A team for example that has a lighter schedule during the season such as 3 days a week and the occasional tournament might have a shorter taper such as 4-7 days. A team that attends tournaments almost every weekend and meets either at competition or training 2-3 days per week would benefit from a longer taper of 10-14 days. Travel to the main competition must be taken into consideration in this planning.
This decision is important because if the taper is too long, fitness levels can be negatively effected which will effect performance. If it is too short, the body will not adequately recover and fatigue will remain, lessening the ability to peak for the main competition. The relative decrease in training will have an impact on the duration of the taper which depends on volume reduction and previous training loads. If the training loads prior to the taper are high then the taper might be slightly longer. The shorter the taper is, the higher the decrease in volume would be. The longer the taper is, the lower the decrease in volume will be.
Duration of Your Taper
A frequency of 80% or more of pre-taper training will maintain the technical / tactical skills that have been built during the season. Although frequency may be maintained, this does not mean that the duration of the sessions should be the same. For teams that are not as busy during the season, you may even maintain your frequency while decreasing the volume of your training. For teams that practice and play often then the frequency and duration of sessions should decrease but the intensity must be high.
Training Frequency During Taper
The volume that your training includes will depend on the training load leading up to the taper. If you have had a busy schedule with many competitions and large amounts of training, your volume should be decreased by 40-50%. If your team is coming from a normal schedule of perhaps 2 games per week and a practice, your volume might only decrease by 10-20% to prevent the de-training effects that can occur.
The most common way to determine volume is by the length of a training session at the park. a 3 hour practice for example is not recommended as fatigue can develop even during the down time that requires attention and focus. If your team has been taking part in physical training during the season, the volume reductions would differ.
Following are some ways you can reduce volume.
- length of training sessions at the field
- amount of time at the gym
- strength training sets and reps
As the competition carries out, volume can naturally increase through the round robin games or games leading up to the championship game. For this reason it is important to monitor physical and psychological fatigue and have methods in place to enhance recovery between games.
The type of taper plan that you implement will depend on what you would like to accomplish with your softball team. Regardless of your plan, rest and recovery which includes at least 8 hours of sleep per night, will need to be important in your planning.
Travel might be a consideration that you need to take into account as you are planning your taper. If possible it is advisable to get to the location early enough before the first game so that you can have a light practice 2-3 days prior to the game to keep your team refreshed and allow your team to settle in and adjust to the new environment physically and psychologically. Including short intense exercises in the morning of competition can also enhance level of performance.
When designing your taper, keep in mind that you will benefit most from spending 70% of your skill training on tactical rather than technical skills. Your team will be essentially maintaining their fundamental technical skills during this time and sharpening their tactical skills.
Pre Taper Analysis
Taper preparation starts essentially at the beginning of the season. A pre-taper analysis can start with implementing a monitoring system that allows you to assess the various elements of fatigue, you can determine the full effectiveness and preparedness when it is time to go. This can help you to also make adjustments to volumes and intensities through the year to prevent over training and psychological stress.
You may be limited by your access to your athletes and the level of commitment they have to your program. The requirements for this can vary depending on the level that your team plays and your coaching philosophy. This will make it necessary for you to work within those limitations and to adapt your taper preparations to your specific situation. It does not mean that a taper will not be useful for a less committed team, it simply means that your taper might not be as intense.
You can use a questionnaire for example for self reporting with your athletes to have them also become aware of their bodies and how they are responding to training and competition. This will give you some indication on how the amount of ball they playing and how much training are they doing is having an effect on your athletes and how you can make sure they are the most prepared the final competition.
- Things to consider before your taper:
- Volume (hours per week) before your taper
- Frequency or sessions or games per week
- Intensity of training / competition
- tournaments vs league games
- physical training
The performance outcome goals of your taper are important in determining the type of taper you implement for you or your athlete(s).
In softball, the tapering will be more of a psychological consideration due to the complexity of this game.
In planning competitions for peaking, it is important to have a maximum of 2-3 competitions in the annual plan to ensure adequate recovery from training. This will be a consideration when the outcome goals are established for the event.
Performance goals for the taper must be realistic.