The idea of “pre-season” is common amongst every sport. The pre-season is the time where a team comes together a few weeks before the season starts and puts in some practice time to try and grow the team and create an understanding among the players so that once the seasons starts the team is in mid-season form. The pre-season is also a way for the team to develop a chemistry that will bring them together and help them get through the long haul that will be the upcoming season. In almost any sport (soccer, football, basketball) every game is important and could make the difference between a successful season and a disappointing one. Pre-season training and conditioning is VITAL to the success of the upcoming season. Without a proper pre-season it is impossible for a team to be fully prepared for the start of the season. Although most athletes never really have an “offseason” because they’re forced to work out year round to stay in shape, the pre-season is the time where they get back in game shape and work side by side with their teammates to develop a chemistry that will drive them into the season. With that said, how a pre-season is run varies greatly depending on the sport.
Football is a very unique sport in that it requires players to be in tip-top shape from Day 1 of training camp all the way until the end of the season. Football is a very grueling game, perhaps the most intense sport today, and it is very important for players to properly prepare their bodies for the season while in training camp and the pre-season. A majority of the time that is spent on the field during training camp is done without any real hitting, for obvious reasons, and is usually focused on the execution of plays and scenarios for the team as a whole. This is why I believe that the pre-season games are important in the NFL. With the lack of real game like hitting that takes place on the practice field, the teams are in need of a place to “spruce up” their hitting. For those who follow football as much as I do, you’ll see that in the few (sometimes even into the 2nd) game of the pre-season the hitting on both sides is quite poor. For most of these players it has been 7-8 months since they played real-time football and its obvious their timing is off. NFL pre-season games allows players to get their timing back on their hitting while also being able to be in real game like situations. Many people complain about the pre-season and how “it’s not real football” and most of the time it’s mostly guys who will never sniff a NFL regular season game but the pre-season in the NFL goes beyond just the gameplay, it’s about preparing the teams for the upcoming season to ensure everyone is at the top of their game come week 1.
Baseball is the sport where pre-season (Spring Training) is probably the most important. Many people believe that hitting a baseball is one of, if not the hardest, things to do in sports. To be able to hit a baseball at a major league level you have to be strong throughout your body. The best hitters in the game have strong legs, hips, arms, wrists, hands and most of all a strong core. Baseball players also need impeccable timing to be able to make proper contact with the ball. Spring training in baseball allows players to build up strength and timing for the new season. Although many players stay in shape and occasionally hit BP during the off season, nothing compares to seeing live Major League pitching in Spring Training. It could even be argued that Spring Training is baseball should be even longer to allow the players more time to get their timing right. Spring Training is important for pitchers as well. Being a pitcher in Major League Baseball is an extremely grueling job, especially for relievers. Relief pitchers in baseball usually pitch 3-4 times a week so they need absolutely impeccable arm strength and durability to be able to last throughout an entire season. The same goes for starting pitchers. Starters will most likely start every fifth day which gives them more rest than relief pitchers but starters also put a lot more strain on their arms by throwing more pitches. Spring Training is vital for pitchers to gain arm strength and durability to be able to last the whole season without their arms failing on them. Spring Training also provides the fans a chance to see in the future a little bit. Especially early in the preseason, the big league clubs tend to bring some of the more promising young players from the lower levels up to play games with the big boys. This allows the fans to get a regular look at some players who could very play a role on their team in the near future.
The pre-season in the NBA is really more of a way for the young players to try and impress the coaching staff and try and secure one of the last few spots on the roster, if there are any spots open. Most NBA teams play a series of exhibition games in relative proximity to where they play but don’t necessarily get the exposure to the NBA. During the NBA pre-season games the “star” players usually take a backseat to the players trying to make a name for themselves. Most of the preparation done by the teams takes place during practices and scrimmages and not really during pre-season games. Pre-season games in the NBA do not necessarily prepare the roster for the season but provide coaches a chance to try and catch lightning in a bottle with a low round draft pick or cheap free agent signing.
Now onto the sport where I know the most about. soccer. Pre-season in soccer is probably the most important, except for football. Soccer requires players to be in impeccable physical and mental shape for the entire season. The regular soccer season usually lasts 35-40 games and, especially late in the season, requires a lot of preparation and physical and mental capabilities. Pre-season for soccer players in essential to how the season will go. Without a proper pre-season by the time the end of the season comes around, players are so tired from the long haul of the season that they can’t compete the way they would like to or like they did at the beginning of the season. Pre-season training in soccer is geared mostly towards conditioning and fitness because those are 2 of the most important aspects of the game. In order to properly get through a season, soccer players have to be at the highest level of fitness possible. The majority of the pre-season games played by soccer teams are mostly to secure a style of play that will fit the team for the season and also to get the players in “game” shape. It’s one thing to be physically fit but it’s something completely different to be in soccer shape. The amount of running and physical work it takes to get through a 90 minute soccer game is unlike any other sport which makes having a proper pre-season training schedule a must.
Overall, pre-seasons are vital to all sports as it serves as a way for the team to come together and prepare for the upcoming season. Some people may question how important it really is but no one really understands the full important of pre-season until they’ve actually played a season without one.