There are 2 types of taper used to make sure that the team performs their best for specific competitions. Not all tyes are Softball Tapering Types however. They are a progressive taper, which is mostly used for endurance and in many individual sports, and then there is the non-progressive taper which is more suitable to a team sport like softball. The reason that a non- progressive taper is good for softball is that our game is more dependent on psychological and motor skills instead of the physiological system for performance. That is not to say that players don’t need to be in shape, it is saying that the emphasis can be on the psychological and technical / tactical aspects. If you compare softball to a marathon runner which would be the easiest to see, the marathon runner depends almost entirely on physiological abilities such as endurance and the ability of the body to provide oxygen to the muscles.
When the coaches are planning a taper, if it is a longer taper, which would not generally happen in softball, the intensity would be less because the goal is to recover and maximize physiological abilities. A shorter type of taper, which is what we generally see in Softball, consists of higher intensity and shorter sessions, to keep the fibers firing as they say. Because of the complexity of softball, the psychological intensity is also a part of the tapering process. The long sessions every day that many teams will schedule, can be mentally taxing for the players. This is counterproductive because they need to be sharp and ready to go for the big event. The intensity should remain the same as the volume is gradually decreased as the tournament gets closer.
Types of Taper
Progressive Tapering Techniques
This is a taper where the amount of work or training load is set to is decreased to a specific volume for the duration of the taper. This type of taper has been known to have a more noticeable impact on endurance sports performance. It can be done done either linear, with a slow decrease in training or a fast decrease in training to the taper.
Linear Taper – Contains higher training loads than the other tapers and the taper occurs in a linear direction.
Slow Exponential – Slower reduction in training load with higher training loads than a fast exponential taper.
Fast Exponential – This taper is a quick gradual reduction in training, and appears to result in a greater performance gains than linear and slow exponential and should be used when peaking for an endurance competition.
This is a standardized reduction in training where there is a sudden decrease in training load. This needs to be done through volume reduction in order to decrease the potential loss of fitness and skill abilities during the taper. The amount of reduction will depend on the length of the taper and the training load prior to the taper.
Although this is less effective than slow or progressive taper for endurance sports, for team sports like softball, and for most minor teams, this is the will benefit the team the most in a 1-2 week taper as the main competition approaches.
The psychology of softball is one of the most important and influential parts of the game. A player who can not focus for the whole game is more likely to make a mistake in the 5th inning when she is fatigued. When we add the amount of training that many teams participate in, it can be grueling. So when we give the team a break, we are also giving their minds a break. A good way to tell if the taper is working as it should, is that confusion and the feeling of difficulty, might lessen as recovery works its magic and the players are more up beat and positive.
Training can be mentally grueling, which is why in addition to physical recovery, the decrease in training can also decrease psychological fatigue. Working at a high level for an extended duration can create a level of fatigue. During a taper, the perception of difficulty may dissipate which is a good indication that the taper is working. This is when the mood might change to a more positive outlook, and things such as effort seem easier.
Although technical skill work, tactical team work, physical recovery and nutrition are generally the focus during a taper, we can not leave out the importance of psychology and group dynamics. Team activities that promote your team culture and cooperation, can go farther than some might think in preparations for the main competition when you need it the most.
It is important to consider the activities that you will do that are psychological in nature. Recovery and regeneration methods for example can have a positive effect on the psychology and reduce psychological fatigue. Building self esteem and confidence in preparation for the upcoming competition will enhance the self efficacy for the event.
Psychological training during the taper might include relaxation, visualization, journal writing and gaining confidence in their abilities. As the coach, you can assist your athletes in building their sense of competence and confidence by refraining from practicing skills that they are not proficient at and will not likely use during a game. This is a time to solidify fundamental skills and build confidence.
It is not only training and activity that can effect the psychology of your athletes. You also need to be aware of any anxiety that may be present due to the upcoming competitions. The best way to determine how your athletes are feeling about their abilities and performance expectations is to keep an open dialogue with them and check in. Especially as you get closer to the tournament. It is important that you as the coach are aware of the abilities or the physical, technical/tactical and psychological abilities combined of your athletes and that you keep the expectations aligned with those abilities.