The following comes from an article written by Str & Cond Coach Mike Boyle:
Catchy title? This article is for all you parents who are trying to help your kid get in shape for a winter sport. I spoke with a mom the other day who inspired me to write this. There is a saying I use often in my talks. It is in fact the title of this article.
If you want your child to perform poorly this winter I have the answer. The answer is cross country. I have had countless parents over the years tell me that they can’t figure out why little Janie or Johnny had such a bad winter sports season. They worked so hard in the fall, running all those miles.
Lets get some facts straight. There are no team sports where you run for miles at a time. Even if you actually “run” miles in a game, those miles are actually a series of sprints interspersed with a series of walks or jogs. In the case of a rare sport like ice hockey, you actually sprint and then sit down. Running long distances does not prepare you to run short distances. There is a concept in sport called sport specific training. The concept basically means that from a conditioning perspective the best way to condition for a sport is to mimic the energy systems of that sport. If the sport is sprint, jog , walk, than the training is sprint, jog , walk. Makes perfect sense.
There is another very large concept to grasp here. It is simple. Train slow, get slow. The reality is it is very difficult to make someone fast and very easy to make someone slow. If you want to get an athlete slow, simply ask them to run slower, longer. Simple. They may be in shape, but it is the wrong shape.
Another problem with a steady state sport like cross country? Injuries. Did you know that something like sixty percent of the people who take up running get injured? Those are really crappy odds.
Last and certainly not least, who dominates in sports? The fastest athlete! The athlete with the highest vertical! Yes, conditioning matters but, train for the sport. Lift weights, jump, sprint. Gain power. It takes years to gain strength and power. You can get in shape in a matter of weeks. Most kids are playing their sport at least a few times a week in the off season so strength and power are much bigger concerns than conditioning.