High school sports have become year-round commitments.
Club teams, captains practices and weight training are available for athletes to maintain strength and condition throughout the offseason. While some coaches have mandatory offseason training, others simply provide options and encourage their players to participate.
NVD’s varsity softball players are instructed to keep up activity during the off season in order to maintain their strength, muscle memory and skills for the upcoming season, said varsity coach Johnson.
According to Johnson, softball specific training must begin as early as January in order for the girls to prepare successfully throughout their off season.
“I tell my girls that if you pick up a bat for the first time in March, you are already a month behind schedule,” Johnson said.
According to Johnson, softball season workouts should include Teels in Closter, Valley Stars Winter Softball Clinic, captains’ practices, and a weight, core, and shoulder training program he provides for his players on his website. Due to the amount of muscle memory needed to excel in the sport, being active during the off-season is crucial, Johnson said.
Player motivation is extremely important, Johnson said, as he can only supply them with the opportunities to better themselves as athletes and softball players.
“You cannot expect to be a good softball player, or any other player for that matter, without putting in the time and the effort,” Johnson said. “When you have a group of girls that have sacrificed the time and are focused on obtaining a goal, the team will have success.”
Unlike softball, coach Ives of the varsity swim team runs a special program for the swimmers over the summer at the Demarest Swim Club. For six weeks, they swim from 7-8:30 a.m., Monday through Friday. Ives opens the program to swimmers from college, as well as swimmers from other teams such as Bergen Catholic, Teaneck, Old Tappan, Northern Highlands, and River Dell.
The Demarest Swim Club program is not a requirement, but it is an opportunity to get better that many of our kids take advantage of,” Ives said.
Ives said that he also encourages the swimmers to play other sports at Demarest.
“I like when my swimmers compete for NV in multiple sports, and I often try to get to see them play,” he said.
Another option for Demarest swimmers is participating in a club. Several of them have joined for various clubs throughout New York and New Jersey. However, the swimmers are not pushed or encouraged to swim on club teams, according to Ives.
The football team’s offseason workouts are mandatory for all players, according to senior Will Seagaard. Starting in December, the players lift at the Varsity House in Old Tappan twice a week and at the school twice a week. In June, they begin practice with helmets as well as 7 vs. 7 scrimmages throughout the summer.
During the summer on Mondays through Thursdays, the players train at the Varsity House for two hours, and then they have actual practice at the school. On Aug 18, the boys will begin camp. Despite the mandatory training, there are not any club teams for football players, according to Seagaard.
Demarest baseball players participate in specific offseason training programs throughout the winter from December to March. Players are strongly advised to attend Wladyka Baseball Training in Rutherford and training at Parisi in Fair Lawn. Last summer, the Demarest players formed a team that competed in the Legion League, according to senior outfielder Jake Sharf.
For boys soccer, the training is all focused in the summer. The team participates in a summer soccer camp as well as a training program at Parisi. These programs are not mandatory but highly, highly recommended, said coach Gray.
“I don’t want to overstep my bounds on things such as vacation; I know families travel, but the boys are aware that tryouts are what they are,” Gray said.
The boys also compete in tournaments during the summer, which make the training more enjoyable than just workouts.
And how do the players feel about offseason training?
Senior softball player Stephanie Kelly said that the Sunday night sessions at Teels, a baseball training center in Closter, are a very convenient way to train during the offseason. At Teels, she and fellow teammates practice swinging, fielding, and throwing. She runs track during both the winter and the spring, but track practices end on the early side, leaving time after practice to lift or train after for softball, according to Kelly.
“Offseason training is definitely beneficial,” said senior swimmer Chris Lilli. “It helps you to be prepared for the practices of the season, especially the first few practices which are always painful.”
Jake Sharf, senior baseball player, sees a necessity in offseason training.
“In order to compete in one of the best leagues in New Jersey, it is crucial to work hard in the offseason,” Sharf said.