True or False? No Pain. No Gain.
While this saying may be appropriate for some situations, it is certainly not my motto. Even still, I can tell you from extensive experience that most competitive athletes are playing in pain. Studies show that up to 70% of that pain comes from overtraining. Unfortunately, when an athlete begins to show signs of fatigue, parents are more likely to sign their athlete up for some form of additional training than to allow some time off or even possibly a massage. There is much more to becoming an elite athlete than practice, drilling and playing on multiple teams. Sports in general places tremendous stress on the human machine for both the competitive and recreational athlete. If athletes want to get the most from their bodies, then maintenance (inside and out) and care are warranted.
You Can’t Change A Flat Tire On A Car That’s Still Moving.
Let’s consider your average competitive baseball player with a sore elbow, soccer player with tight hips, and volleyball player with painful knees. The first advisement would be rest but that usually falls on deaf ears. Parents, coaches and athletes alike need to realize there is no magical quick fix for injuries. I repeatedly say you can’t change a flat tire on a car that’s still moving. Unfortunately, it’s true. The best way to support an athlete thru an injury is to understand the mechanism of the injury and allow the natural healing time the body demands.
Most athletes will typically continue playing in a state of compensation until the affected area creates so much pain that it can no longer be ignored. Some athletes have enough pain tolerance to keep operating with pain until an injury occurs and forces them to the sideline. Please hear me: this practice must stop. Nothing is more frustrating as a coach to see a youth athlete put in hours and hours of dedicated work, only to be sidelined because they can’t take the necessary time to rest and heal an injury. What parents and athletes alike can’t see is the irreparable harm they are doing to their bodies in the process of trying to quicken the healing process.
Inconvenience > Pain
The inconvenience factor of resting injuries far outweighs the presence of nagging pain. Athletes and their families need to begin considering all components of becoming successful in sports. Priority number one must be the health of the athlete. This is paramount to their success. Athletes simply cannot perform at an elite level and be successful with physical compensation. So what’s the answer in a competitive world where pressure reigns supreme and fear of missing an opportunity weighs heavily?
Time management is crucial to the modern athlete. It works hand in hand with discipline. Sleep, nutrition, conditioning, flexibility, and mobility training are all pivotal pieces of the puzzle. When one piece is missing, the whole body suffers and cannot operate at full capacity. Once time management is achieved, discipline is all that is needed to improve and maintain the athlete’s status of health.
A Mind-Set Shift on Athlete Health is Long Overdue.
With today’s culture of high-level competition at earlier ages, it is critical to implement health strategies as a foundational component of the athlete’s long-term development plan. As a professional in the sports performance industry, I feel that it is my responsibility to push the narrative of athlete health and not just athlete performance. A more holistic approach to long-term athletic development will better serve our aspiring young athletes of today. When we place as much importance on health as we do performance, we will reap the benefits of happier, healthier, more dynamic, competitive youth athletes. Because in the end, we have to remember they are still kids and they depend on us to make sound decisions before they are capable of being independent adults. They give their best and should expect nothing less from us.
FOUNDER AND MASTER ATHLETIC SPECIALIST
Coach Pace has been working as an active strength and conditioning specialist since 1998 and has been certified with National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) since 2002. He also serves as a member of the NSCA Oklahoma Advisory Board and holds certifications as a sports nutritionist through the International Sports Science Association, certified C360 master trainer, and a certified USA Weightlifting Level 1Sports Performance Coach.