With the exception of my senior year at Penn State, when we fell to UNC in the National Championship final, our team’s season-ending losses were closely followed by the same, unmistakable desire to get back to work. Ending a season with a loss always left me feeling like something was unfinished – there was still work to be done. The gut-wrenching feeling of losing intensified by thoughts of “what could have been” made me want to put my boots right back on to start training for the next season.
Luckily, winter break, the perfect outlet for these feelings, was right around the corner.
Regardless of when a college season ends, most teams have a large break between the end of the fall season and the beginning of spring training. I’ve compiled a few of my suggestions to make the most of a winter break:
1. Time flies when you’re having fun
A four or five week break might sound like a long time. As we all know, though, vacations always seem to fly by. Recognize that winter break is an opportunity to improve your game and don’t let it slip you by! To avoid this, I always liked to physically see, on paper, the time I had at home. Some players will have a suggested training regimen or plan to follow. However, if you don’t, print out a calendar and plan out your weeks off.
2. Don’t discount the importance of rest
We all know our own bodies the best. Some players finish a college season logging hundreds of game minutes over the course of a few months, while others might have only seen time in a couple games. Figure out what your body needs. Based on what your fall season looked like, do you need to amp up your fitness and running? Or could you benefit from some light, lower impact workouts to maintain the fitness you built during the season?
3. Mend your mind
The daily grind that comes with playing at the college level coupled with the academic stresses of being a college student can take a toll on your mental game. Winter break presents a time free from classes and, for many, a change in scenery. Take advantage of not having class, exams, or homework, and make time for things you otherwise don’t have time for while school is in session.
4. Creativity is encouraged
Depending on the workout equipment, gym, or field space you have available to you during your break, I encourage you to be creative with your workouts. I personally live by the simple rule of, “sweat everyday.” This can be accomplished in many different ways – I enjoyed biking, hiking, and playing soccer tennis with a friend in a racquetball court. If you can, definitely try to get touches on the ball over break, but remember that there are plenty of different, fun and challenging ways to break a sweat and maintain fitness.
5. Be mindful of nutrition
This one is pretty simple. Make sure you enjoy your holiday but be disciplined with regard to nutrition. Enjoy the holiday treats, but try not to go overboard. Indulge in moderation. You’ll thank yourself when you’re told to “get on the line” in a few weeks.
6. Spring season opportunities await!
You’re on your own for winter break. Your coaches aren’t there to tell you what to do, and your teammates aren’t by your side. It comes down to you. The work you put in will directly impact your success in the spring. Many coaches look to the spring season to see what players will step up as leaders and fill the void left by a graduating class. Spring begins and new leaders must emerge.
The importance of the time in between fall and spring season can often times be over-looked. The most successful college athletes realize you cannot just put in work during the fall season – success at the college level requires a year-round commitment. Make your break a win! Good luck!