Tier Lacrosse: Winter And Preseason Work Pays Off

Tier Lacrosse

Editor’s note: Please welcome Trevor Tierney back to the Lax All Stars! This week, we posed a few tough questions to Trevor about ATTITUDE, and how it can be the difference between good and great. For more information on recruiting and lacrosse in general, make sure you check out Trevor’s website, TierLacrosse.com!

Got a question you want Trevor to answer in next week’s post? Drop it in the comments section below and we’ll make sure he sees it!  And don’t forget to check out Trevor’s blog on The Greatest Gifts Of Sports: Presence!  It’s another killer blog post by TT!

Tier Lacrosse

People talk about fall ball and how important it is to spring success… a lot. But there is a couple-month long gap between fall ball and the actual season starting, and this portion of the year is often overlooked. With Thanksgiving and winter holidays both occurring during this window, it’s easy for players to get off track with their training.  So how can a player stay on track and actually improve during this period of the year?

This is an interesting question because it brings up one of the most important characteristics of being a great athlete, which is intrinsic or self motivation. You can win games by what you do when no one is watching.  Are you willing to push yourself hard on sprints by yourself? Are you willing to get that extra rep in the weight room? Are you willing to take care of your body, eat right and get enough sleep? This is really where the wheat is separated from the chaff in athletics.

At the University of Denver, we have a really interesting academic schedule. The students have their finals right before Thanksgiving and then they are done until the new year. This gives our players a huge break between our fall ball workouts and when we get back to start up for the spring. We actually tell our guys that this is the most important time of the year. College lacrosse has become so competitive now that if you fall behind in the winter, then it can really affect your whole season.

Our first game this season is against in-conference rival, Ohio State, who is going to be an awesome team this year.  So, if our guys allow themselves to get out of shape over the course of that break, it is going to be hard for us to get ready in time to start out our season on the right foot. If, on the other hand, our guys work hard with their running and weight lifting program and putting in the extra effort over break, then they can give themselves a better chance early in the season. The whole time, our players need to know that the other teams are working just as hard, if not harder, to try and knock them down from the season that we had last year.

I think the most challenging part for college players in this situation is that they do not have the same structure at home that they have at college. They don’t have college coaches breathing down their necks, they don’t have a weight room within walking distance of their house or dorm, they don’t have teammates to go workout with. So, it gives them the chance to become lazy. It also gives them the chance to see what they are made of and how much they really care. They can either cheat their teammates and themselves by slacking off over break or they can do their best to make their team and themselves better. It seems like a simple decision to make, but their is a lot of hard work that goes along with the latter choice.

Is it ok to take it a little easy and recuperate during this time period of the year if you’ve had a rough fall? Does it make sense to give guys some time off before things really pick up?

I think it is okay to get away from lacrosse for a little bit. I feel that any athlete can get burned out from playing one sport too much, so this is a good time to get away from the game and recharge. Some guys need this time to work against a wall and make sure they keep improving their stick work, but other than that, it’s fine to not be a lacrosse player for a month or so.

I also believe it is important to take some time to relax and spend quality time with family and friends. It is incredibly important for college athletes to find some balance in their lives when they are on break, since they are working so incredibly hard the rest of the year. Being able to step back and get some perspective in life is important for every athlete. There are other things in life!

However, that should not keep a college player from getting to the gym, running, going to yoga or exercising and being active for a couple hours each day. That college age is the prime time to improve as an athlete, so you can not waste the couple months that you have before the season.

One of the biggest traps that college athletes fall into when they go home is hanging out with old high school friends who are not playing sports anymore. The athletes go out or sit around on the couch all day with these friends who do not have teammates and coaches counting on them. Many college athletes have to remember that they were supported by coaches getting them into school or they are getting handed scholarships. It’s important for them to respect that opportunity as a full-time job and something they cannot take lightly just because classes are out.

For high school players who don’t play a winter sport, what can they do to make sure they don’t lose their edge over the colder months?

One thing that I do not like about the lacrosse world right now is that there is too much specialization in the sport. Growing up, I played football, hockey and lacrosse. Football and hockey helped me to be a great lacrosse player, just as much as playing lacrosse did! Those sports helped me to become a much better athlete and tested me in different ways than lacrosse did.

For example, I did not start playing hockey or even skating until I was a freshman in high school! So, it was a very humbling experience for me to work my butt off in practice and then ride the bench for most games. It taught me what it was like to be a good teammate and how to really work hard at something to get better. I had been born with a lacrosse stick in my hand, so it always came easy to me. After playing hockey though, I knew what hard work meant!

With that being said, I really recommend high school athletes play as many sports as they can. It’s such an amazing opportunity in high school to play two or three sports, so take advantage of that! Some of my favorite athletic memories in my entire life were from high school football and hockey. I am so grateful that no one ever pushed me to just play lacrosse.

However, if you do have a season off, then the best thing you can do is act like a college player. As I was saying before, get in the weight room, run hard, go to yoga and be active! I’ve always thought of it as living an athletic lifestyle instead of working hard to be an athlete. If you were born with athletic gifts, then take advantage of those on a daily basis. That’s why I live in Colorado – so I can hike, snowboard, ride my bike, go for trail runs, etc. I’m not working towards any athletic goals (other than to be a semi-pro ping pong player), but I just enjoy being active. I think it’s just one of those good habits that develops over time if you commit to it.

Do you remember any guys from Princeton who really stood out in terms of improving from the end of the fall to the beginning of the season? What did they do to make those jumps?

I actually don’t remember. It’s either too long ago or I’ve had too many concussions. However, it is very easy for me and the rest of the coaching staff at DU to notice the guys who have worked hard over break and the guys who have not. Any of our players who don’t work hard really dig themselves a hole and really struggle to compete with the rest of the team. The guys who come back in great shape though, usually end up having great seasons personally and help our team in big ways! There is absolutely nothing that can substitute for hard work in the off-season.

The one thing that I remember from my own experience was that after my junior year, when we lost in the NCAA finals to Syracuse, I was determined to make sure that we won the title my senior year. In the off-season, I would lift and run so hard by myself that I would throw up. I knew it was those times in the trenches that would win an NCAA championship, not when the TV cameras were there or when thousands of people were watching. I ended up being right.

I’m sure there are guys out there doing that right now… we just won’t know who it is until May!

Thanks for reading!

Kind regards,

Tier Lacrosse 

Check out TierLacrosse.com for more great articles from Trevor Tierney.