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When people think of tapering, they think about reducing the workload and regenerating the mind and body before a main competition. This is where the peaking and tapering for softball leads to. Preparing the body and mind for the competition with the appropriate amount of training, recovery, nutrition and re-energizing.
The Goal of Competition Tapering
Timing of maximum potential performance is the main goal of this tool. It is important to maintain softball fitness during this time however training loads with regard to maintaining physical components of softball skills are decreased in volume but remain high in intensity levels. This is how we decrease the load and prevent cumulative fatigue leading up to the competition.
This taper will not only allow the physiological systems to recover, it may even actually increase some aspects of softball fitness. Tapering will also contribute to the building of positive psychological effects. Confidence and the “ready to go” attitude most times will be the result in a quality plan.
Tapering for Softball Outcomes
The outcome of tapering is to minimize the level of fatigue while increasing the level of fitness. Fitness will remain over a period of time where as fatigue is a component of training that can come on quickly if not monitored. This is why the volume of training (which influences fatigue) is decreased during tapering.
It is important to keep the tapering phase to not more than 2 microcycles or 2 weeks.
Factors affecting Tapering
- training intensity
- training volume
- training frequency
- duration of taper
Types of Tapers
A systematic reduction in load that can be broken down into 3 further methods.
- linear – contains higher training loads than in slow and fast reduction methods
- slow – a slower reduction in training load with higher loads than in the fast reduction
- fast – the most effective method with lower training loads
Also known as Step tapering, this method is characterized by a quick decrease in training load which can contribute to a loss of fitness.
- create individual strategies that are 8-14 days
- maintain moderate to high intensity
- decrease training volume by 41-6-%
- maintain training frequencies at 80% or more for pre-tapering
- use progressive nonlinear models
- expect performance gains of approximately 3%
The most common approach to the lead up to a main event that I have seen for softball is practicing every day for 2-3 hours after a tournament and then the final and most important competition. This is a recipe for fatigue and can be counterproductive to creating an energized team for competition. What some do not realize is that the work has been done up to that point. You are not going to improve skills or make them better by essentially cramming before the final. The body doesn’t work that way.
It is more productive to as previously mentioned, decrease the volume while maintaining or slightly increasing intensity while building confidence. Use fundamental skills in training while working on strategies that your team already knows. Maybe even participate in an activity that has nothing to do with softball to allow the team to have some fun and relax their brain as they prepare mentally for the games to come. You could even do interviews with the players to see how they are feeling about the upcoming events to help them to prepare. This is not the time to drill drill and drill some more.
Planning for your Taper
If you have a complete schedule of all your tournaments and games up to your final competitions, you can plan when you will begin your taper and the activities you might schedule. If your players are involved in other sports, you need to know how those activities are going to affect the taper with regards to volume and intensities. Some of your players may be competing or training with other sports during your taper. It would be best in this situation to check in on those athletes to see what recovery and regeneration methods they may be using to prevent fatigue.
Consider as well the nutrition, rest and psychological aspects of your taper. The goal is to make sure everyone on your team is as prepared as they can be.
Softball is a thinking sport which requires a good carbohydrate diet. Maintaining a solid and well rounded food intake without making drastic changes will allow a continuous homeostasis or balance to occur.
This is one of the main reasons for tapering. Recovery and even more importantly regeneration is what will allow your team to execute skills with sharpness and accuracy. Maintaining skill level with recovery methods will decrease stress on the muscles and bones so they are good to go when it counts.
Where the body goes the mind will follow. This is how critical the psychological readiness is for performance success in softball. If you can make this aspect an important part of your tapering you will not only give your players energy but the stress and anxiety will almost be eliminated. When your team knows that they have done all they can for the season and are now simply applying what they have learned to the best of their ability without judgement, I can guarantee you will finish strong regardless of the outcome.