No break from the game

Women's volleyball coach Art O'Dwyer poses for a portrait before practice at SAIT in Calgary on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. (Photo by Dawn Gibson/ SAIT)

Women’s volleyball coach Art O’Dwyer poses for a portrait before practice at SAIT in Calgary on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. (Photo by Dawn Gibson/ SAIT)

For many of our SAIT Trojans teams, the winter break comes in the middle of their busiest season.

In between final exams, practice and trying to get some relaxation during the holidays, the Trojans try to stay active to avoid dampening their skills.

“Most of the players are more mentally tired than they are physically,” said Art O’Dwyer, head coach for the Trojans women’s volleyball team.

“We talk a lot about [how] when you’re studying, it’s a good idea to get a workout in,” as it’s good for your mental and physical health.

O’Dwyer has been head coach for the volleyball team for five years and has seen the effects the winter break can have on players.

“During the season, we train three days a week at Peak, as well as practicing four times a week,” O’Dwyer said.

Peak, as O’Dwyer mentioned, is the private training facility that all athletes on SAIT teams have access to.

The facility, which stays open during the holidays, practises gold-level training, even for its amateur athletes.

“My expectations are that [the athletes] need to get at least 10 workouts in those 20 days.

“We are on a strength and conditioning program all year round, so they’re pretty used to [constant training],” O’Dwyer said.

“Usually, we’ve built a pretty good base with everyone by this time in the year, so they don’t want to lose that.”

O’Dwyer knows his athletes work hard to hone their skills and most use the winter break as a decompression time, while still practising–in order to avoid losing the results of all their hard work.

As well, the team works in small groups to motivate each other, and O’Dwyer has one-on-one meetings with each athlete on the team.

“We have individual meetings, so if there are specific things I want them to work on, I tell them now,” O’Dwyer said.

“For example, one player, I would want them to work on their foot speed, so I tell them to do cardio over the break.”

O’Dwyer and the volleyball team is already off to an impressive start, winning their last nine games in a row, a “running of the table,” as the head coach puts it.

At this level of play, both the players and coaches know that a championship comes down to one or two games, and being ready after the winter break is of utmost importance for the momentum of the team.

“I trust the team,” said O’Dwyer.

“When we come back [though], that first practice, I’ll know right away,” he laughs. “It’s not hard to tell who’s been practising.”

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