Springtime weather in Maine can be quite unpredictable. It can be 70 degrees and sunny one day, and 45 degrees and windy the next, and high school athletes must acclimate to these conditions.
As high school baseball and softball pitchers and catchers open tryouts this week and track and field and lacrosse athletes follow suit next week, Phil Mateja, an athletic trainer at Brewer High School, has some helpful pointers to help athletes this season.
The first tip for pitchers and catchers: “Just picking up a ball and going and throwing, they’re going to have an arm problem,” Mateja said. “We went through the whole routine as far as how to stretch and get ready.”
That’s essential for any baseball or softball player, especially pitchers, particularly in softball, as most varsity teams typically rely on one or two pitchers.
“The worst thing you can do is tell me three weeks from now your arm is bothering you,” Mateja said.
But players can’t forget about their legs.
“We always worry about our quads, but people forget to stretch their hamstrings and that doesn’t take a whole lot of time,” Mateja said.
The last piece of advice Mateja has for pitchers: “Stretch your shoulder and your elbow and biceps. Especially up in this climate where it’s not going to be the warmest climate until hopefully mid-May.”
Track and field athletes have a long grinding season as well, and Mateja warns athletes not to try to peak too soon.
“It’s going to be awhile before they get into meet shape,” he said.
The weather will certainly be chilly over the first few weeks of the season, and Mateja noted that some athletes don’t put a sweatshirt over their uniform top upon the conclusion of a race or stretch, which can slow the recovery of the muscles.
“What you have to remember when you exercise your muscles are warm but short, when they get done they have to make sure they stretch,” he explained.
Another key piece of advice Mateja offers is staying hydrated, and that doesn’t mean pounding sugary sports drinks during the school day.
“I’ve seen kids in cross country particularly, drink and drink Gatorade and Powerade and we see it all over the course and in garbage cans at the finish,” Mateja said.
Racing with a grumbling stomach is typically a bad idea, too.
“You need to eat properly, you don’t need to overeat but need to eat properly, then after get (the sports drinks) in you,” said Mateja. “You don’t need that sugar while you’re running.”
Another thing runners — especially teenagers — tend to forget is to do a cool-down jog after racing, and that’s another vital piece to muscle recovery.
“Cooldown is just as important as a warmup,” said Mateja. “They need to take the time, it’s not a lot of time but very important to their body.”
The first countable high school games and meets get under way on April 16.