Sport Specific Training (SST) vs General Athletic Preparedness (GAP)
In today’s world the term specificity is being used to create value and drive up the prices in certain sports programs. Almost every parent or coach nowadays tries to find a way to make their athlete the best they can be. While wanting our youth to perform optimally is not an issue, the problem lies in the age in which we are doing this.
Ten to twenty years ago it was common for most youth athletes to play multiple sports. They would focus on the sport that was in season and then move right onto the next one. At some point we lost track of the benefits of this and began shifting towards a singular sport.
Don’t get me wrong there are definitely benefits to SST. Athlete’s can drastically improve in their performance if drills, exercises, nutrition, etc… are tailored to their sport. However, deciding on whether the timing is correct for that particular athlete is the KEY.
What is the big difference between SST & GAP?
The answer may startle many! In properly run programs only minimal differences can be seen. A good strength and conditioning coach will detect areas that need to be addressed in either situation and should begin attacking those problem areas immediately. Many sports have thin lines that are constantly crossing over. Let’s quickly consider basketball and tennis as examples. Seemingly two very different sports on paper but both require tremendous lateral speed and quickness, hand-eye coordination, similar anaerobic and aerobic conditioning, and a great MSF (Mass Specific Force). It is obvious to see that many drills and exercises will cross over between the two. The need to specify for an athlete develops in age and competition. As this gap narrows, a detailed approach to increase athletic ability is required.
Here are some common guidelines to use when deciding between SST & GAP
- Age: This is always a difficult factor to consider since everyone matures differently. However, a rough guideline is usually between the ages of 15-18. Specializing before this guideline can conversely be a detriment to the athlete’s chances of progressing further in the future.
- Level of competition: Typically the higher the level an athlete is competing at the more need there will be for SST.
- Athlete’s realistic ability: Although this may be tough for many parents to admit, they have to be realistic about their child’s ability and the likelihood of them progressing into higher level competitions as they age. I.E. College or professional levels.
- Maturity: Since every athlete matures at different rates this may also be an important guideline to consider. If your child has yet to hit their growth spurts or has mentally reached the point in which they can handle the added stressors of SST it’s best to continue to work GAP. Don’t rush your athlete since it may cause more harm than good both physically and mentally.