Keene State College athletes go through a tough and carefully planned program to make sure they are in the best shape possible for when their respective seasons begin. They improve on their strengths and conditioning, hone the necessary skills that pertain to their sports and monitor their diets to ensure they’ll have what it takes to make it through the grind of a season.
The thought process of many surrounding the KSC athletic department is that without a proper off-season training regimen, it is extremely difficult to achieve any kind of success.
Senior soccer player Eddie Mercer is no different in that regard. As an athlete who is currently in season, Mercer explained how important his off-season work has been and how it has affected him now.
“It’s very crucial especially in the beginning of the season,” Mercer said.
Mercer continued, “If you don’t come in fit, it makes it so much harder to win and do what the team wants to do. Guys do get in better shape as the season goes on and if they come in in bad shape they will get in better shape…but that’s like starting at a zero instead of starting at a three or a four. If everyone comes in fit you’re starting at a higher level than you would if no one did.”
Mercer said the men’s soccer team’s off-season training consists of voluntary workouts in the winter three times a week, and in the spring they continue to lift three times a week as well as practice three or four times a week for about five to six weeks. In the summer they work hard with Strength and Conditioning Coach Sarah Testo.
“Sarah does a great job with our strength and conditioning program…It’s three days a week where we lift and run hard, and other days are kind of like a rest day or for distance runs,”Mercer said.
Although weight lifting and conditioning work is crucial, Mercer said the best way to stay prepared is by simply playing the game.
“The best way to hone your skills is to play, get on a summer team, play in a few summer leagues and do your best to get on the field and use those skills in a real game situation,” Mercer said.
With his team currently in the off-season stage, Head Baseball Coach Ken Howe also understands the importance of preparation. When his club eventually does start its season it will be of great importance to not only have off-season workouts done, but to make sure their athletic progress does not waver.
“What we’re trying to do is maintain the strength that they gained over that sixteen-week period and try to be strong at the end of the year, so it’s more of a maintenance phase in the off-season,” Howe said.
Howe said the baseball team also does a great amount of work with Sarah Testo to do agility training and weightlifting,
in which players have separate programs for position players and for pitchers that include “slightly different movements.” Around the time of Thanksgiving the team will hit the weights hard and stay away from baseball related training to prevent overworking their bodies.
“We give guys time off,” Howe said. He continued,“We mandate they don’t do anything. The pitchers will start a throwing program again around Thanksgiving. We don’t want them touching the ball, we want them getting strong and doing everything they can strength-wise.”
Aside from advanced strength and conditioning training and managing proper rest periods for players, KSC athletes have benefitted greatly from advancements in nutrition. Howe marveled at the seamless ability students have to maintain a healthy diet.
“It [nutrition] is very important…Back in the day when I went to school there was one line and one option for the meals, take it or leave it. There’s been a big change in healthy living styles and the ability to eat with proper nutrition,” Howe said.
When it comes to putting the right things in your body to improve as an athlete, Howe also said the majority of his teams use protein shakes and vitamins.
“Athletics is such a demanding thing for them as well as their school work and everything else that they have going on as a college student,” Howe said. He continued, “So you need to take care of yourself nutrition-wise. Your body does need extra things…vitamins and stuff like that [which] you may not get in your daily meals.”But with a wide range of products for players to use, Howe stressed the importance of knowing exactly what his players are ingesting and its effects.“There’s a lot of different things out there for athletes to take, some of which is good, some of which is bad,” Howe said.
He continued, “We’re open to drug testing at any point. There’s a lot of things you can buy over the counter that would make you ineligible by NCAA standards. You can go to GNC and buy stuff right now that’s positive for something banned by the NCAA.” Howe said he stresses this to his team to “make sure everything you’re taking is cleared.”In addition to the work Sarah Testo and the athletic training staff is doing for the KSC athletic program, there is also a great amount of student-impact in the athletic training department.“A lot of times it’s students in the A.T. field that are in there working with the kids [players]. So it’s a great hands-on learning experience for them,” Howe said. Hockey player Sam Macnicol said he and his team emphasize off-season training and its importance, along with doing evaluations of how well his team has been training in collaboration with Testo.“Last spring I contacted Sarah Testo about conducting strength testing on the team to evaluate how much people have been training over the summer in preparation for the upcoming season.
I also created an off-season training regimen that was given to each player before heading home for the summer. In selecting the team, our coach looked at how well each player could play the game along with how physically fit they were,” Macnicol said.
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