The Oklahoman

Across pro sports, coaches value rest

- Janie McCauley

SAN FRANCISCO – Joe Maddon has long been a believer in the importance of rest and recharging. Each year, he provides his players with an extended mental and physical break by putting them through “American Legion Week” – that is, show up, lace up the cleats and take the field.

The players can appreciate some lighter, stress-free afternoons compared to the typical daily grind of early hitting in the cage, fielding drills and rounds of batting practice.

And as the playoffs near, the teams that are fresh and injury-free might be the ones with enough stamina to reach the World Series.

“I know in the 80s, I’m going to go back a little bit, that’s when coaching became greater than. It was many more concepts put out there and all of a sudden we went from just showing up and taking batting practice, a couple ground balls, maybe a round of infield and going and playing your game to the point where you had to come out at 3 o’clock for extra work,” Maddon recalled.

“And there are times when that’s necessary. When a guy is really ascending and he needs to iron some things out, absolutely. There’s the redundant component to it, it’s absolutely important to do that but once you’re reached the level of competency, I think it needs to be brought back. I believe in rest, I believe in sleep,” Maddon said.

These days, coaches from college athletics to the profession­al leagues weigh how much work is too much: it’s rest vs. reps. And as baseball enters the postseason after a six-month grind, players’ health and energy levels will be paramount.

That doesn’t mean practice and fine-tuning a craft has lost its importance. Many coaches and managers insist it’s about finding what’s right for each individual. In San Francisco, second-year manager Gabe Kapler gives players days off even when they might not want a break or know they need one, such as during a hot hitting stretch.

“The good thing about our staff is they don’t demand anything like that of you, it’s what you feel like you need,” Giants infielder Tommy La Stella said. “I would be surprised if that wasn’t the case most places. I’m sure they encourage recovery. If you feel you need the extra reps I’m sure they’ll be made available to you.”

It helps many profession­al and college athletes these days train so efficiently on their own during the offseason and take care of their bodies in different ways that they aren’t as far behind when reconvenin­g with their teams when their sport starts up again.

“The last couple years I think you’ve seen a trend in that direction of a little less volume,” Maddon said. “This game is taxing, the travel is taxing, the 3½ hours on your feet playing is taxing, so a lot of that is being factored in. Today’s players do such a good job of trying to keep themselves in shape, keep their bodies in a good spot to where they can handle those long seasons and workloads.”

Doing less is now more prevalent throughout profession­al and college sports. Especially amid the pandemic, when the pressures have been far greater in other ways: COVID-19 testing sometimes multiple times a day spreads players and staff even thinner.

Stanford football coach David Shaw served on an NCAA committee that studied best practices when it comes to practice. His approach this season was largely formed from having dealt with so many injuries up and down the roster last year.

“The sleep part is big, the nutrition part is obvious, the hydration part is obvious, but then there’s the recovery part,” Shaw said.

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