Why Coaching During the Off-season is Key to Athlete Success

Why Coaching During the Off-season is Key to Athlete Success

Whether you are coaching new or existing athletes for the upcoming season, there are many reasons why you should continue your coaching during the offseason.

Most importantly, off-season coaching provides the opportunity to get your athletes on the right track. Sometimes, the wariness of extra costs and the aversion to the “structure” of off-season coaching makes athletes feel that a coach is unnecessary. But, truth be told, off-season coaching actually saves athletes money long-term, prevents injury and burnout, dynamically increases the quality of training throughout the year, positively influences overall athlete success, increases athlete happiness, and more.

Athletes often do not understand that coaches switch focus during the off-season, but that impact is still as strong as ever in ways that rarely get highlighted.

1. Prevent panic training

Athletes sometimes only rely upon coaching during critical training cycles.

While peak performance is always the desired outcome, limited coaching can result in crammed training practices. The consequences of rushed training ultimately results in too little time to accomplish training and racing goals. Decreasing the rush cram training creates less risk for injury and builds fitness at a steadier pace.

It is especially important for new athletes or more experienced athletes new to coaching to start working with a coach in the off-season. As a coach, it is important to remember that new athletes might need extra time to adjust to coaching and the learning curve can sometimes be steep. When on-boarding a new athlete, the longer you can work together, the better, and the easier it is to plan streamlined, quality training when it counts most during peak season.

2. Strengthen weaknesses

Even though the off-season has the potential to be unstructured, it also gives athletes the opportunity to develop high-level skills. Small changes that have the potential to create huge impacts can be initiated during the off-season that would have been impossible during race season. Improvements can range from technique, strength, equipment adjustments, mental training, recover, or nutritional adaptations. Without coach direction, athletes tend to work on what they’re already comfortable with instead of working on their weaknesses. Coaching during the off-season allows you to offer guidance on the aspects of training they find most most difficult to make sure they improve in areas where they need it most.

3. Prevent overtraining and injury

Many athletes continue training at a level that is far too high in intensity, volume, and frequency during the off-season. Such practices do not allow for proper recovery necessary for next season’s success. Chronically overtrained athletes often don’t give their body enough of a break and wonder why they never reach their goals.

Coaching these athletes during the off-season prevents excessive training and creates an opportunity to focus on recovery. The off-season also provides the chance to create a dynamic, strength training enhancement period for injury prevention and rehabilitation.

4. Stay on track

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are athletes who have a tendency to lose focus, direction, and motivation in the off-season. Even if the athlete previously set strong goals, they might find themselves getting distracted with life events. Oftentimes, sport provides the structure they need by providing a constant in their life.

The last thing you want a goal-driven athlete to do is take two months off unless it’s necessary for other purposes. After all, it is always easier for your athlete to stay in shape than it is to get back in shape after several months off.

Promoting year-round activity strengthens the season’s starting point and decreases the overall time it takes for them to get back in race shape. By coaching throughout the off-season you can also prevent an athlete from only concentrating on easy workouts by including dashes of intensity.

5. Promote variety and active rest

During the season, you coach your athletes to do concentrate on the specifics. While in the off-season, you have influence to inject variety into your athletes’ training regime to keep it fresh, different, and fun.

Use this time period to develop multi-sport abilities. Activity in another sport breaks up the mundane sport focus you’ll be thinking about the rest of the year.

Cross-training is applicable to the in-season sport in ways that might not be apparent upfront. Suggest new routes, new workouts, or even some outside reading that applies to their sport. Consider suggesting some camps that help increase your athletes’ exposure to new skill sets and experiences.

6. Low pressure communication and reflection

The opportunity to reflect without the added pressure of competition is possibly one of the best elements of continuing or starting coaching during the off-season. It allows you to bounce various ideas around for future improvement.

During the off-season, you should still give your athlete some space, but also think about exercises that build motivation, prevent burnout, and promote full recovery for the upcoming season. Adjusting coaching guidance can create a space in which the athlete starts to miss their sport and will be ready to start for the upcoming season.

Your role as a coach is incredibly important regardless of the training period. While rest is crucial for any training plan, guidance during the off-season ultimately results in more forward progression. You, as the coach, take on the role in which you aren’t just there for them in-season, you are there for them throughout all dynamics of sport development. You have the power to create an influence that allows your athlete to make the most of your coaching relationship and develop a foundation for successful training, and much of that starts in the off-season.


Mackenzie Madison is a professional triathlete and USAT certified coach. She has been competing in triathlon for 18 years and coaching for 15 years. Mackenzie acquired her B.S. in Kinesiology & Coaching and Masters in Exercise Physiology. She is also a former D1 runner and elite cyclist. Mackenzie is also an instructor at the University of Oregon. Learn more about Mackenzie at www.kenzmadison.com.