A lot has changed since I played sports, only 10 years ago. Outside of football, most sports are played competitively to some degree year round. While this is great for young people to stay active and spend less time in front of screens, it changes the way they train since there is now limited offseason time. In some unfortunate cases, some aren’t even training at all. Actual gameplay and training are very different and should each be optimally implemented throughout the year. Unfortunately, I believe one is hammered into the ground while one is wildly neglected.
GPP vs SPP
General physical preparation vs specific physical preparation can be simply broken down. GPP can be defined as anything done in a weight room or non-specific setting where we are working on improving strength, power, muscle mass, mobility, flexibility, or recovery. SPP can be defined as actual gameplay, situational practice, or skill development. Examples are practices, games, or skill coaching such as a pitching coach for baseball players.
Risk and Injury potential
The common assertion amongst athletes and parents, especially younger athletes is that weight training can be inherently dangerous while playing the sport itself it relatively safe. On the surface, this makes sense. Putting someone under heavy weight can seem intimidating. However, nothing could be further from the truth. The most common pains and injuries occur due to over use. Constant in season activity can wear athletes down in specific ways. While young athletes have high capacities and should be encouraged to be engaged in multiple sports and activities, some type of offseason recovery should be incorporated.
In terms of whether a young athlete should be weight training, the answer is of course, YES! Nothing is more dangerous than engaging in full speed(or contact) sports without a certain level of strength. As previously mentioned, it is understandable that weight training at a young age could seem questionable, however consider this question. Is it more dangerous to weight train under qualified guidance, or to go out on a sports field, run and cut at full speed, and hit each other, without building strength? Nothing causes injuries more than a lack of strength.
Strength vs Skill
Each training session, whether in a GPP or an SPP setting, has a particular goal. SPP sessions whether it be practice or lessons, are usually tailored a certain skill. Example could be pitching, shooting, throwing, tackling, route running, batting, and of course many more. PROPER GPP sessions are focused on general strength, power, explosiveness, and mobility. The issue that many young athletes run into is that the bulk of their time is spent on SPP style training. While it remains important, neglecting the GPP aspect is a brutal mistake. Most actions in gameplay are a result of force production. A pitcher can only throw as hard as they can produce force through the ground. The GPP should be seen as the foundation while the SPP fine tunes the movement or skill.
The bottom line is that strength training should be seen as MANDATORY in the offseason and during the season. The results are too important to ignore!!!