posted 03.30.2012 at 11.53 a.m. by Stephen Berger

Bankin' On Berger: The Importance of Training

Stephen Berger

As all of us athletes know, getting injured and having to deal with the recovery involved is a huge part of playing sports. Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have stayed pretty healthy and only suffer from a few bumps and bruises from the everyday bump and grind. Other than falling out of tree when I was in elementary school and then breaking my collarbone trying to hit the biggest guy on my Cobra Lacrosse team in middle school, I haven't had any significant injuries worth talking about until I was in my fourth season in the MLL. I think much of that success can be attributed to my hard work, dedication and training that has kept me in the best shape possible so I could compete at the highest level and push myself to the limit! For those of you that don't know me, I am a very competitive person when it comes to...(well, really anything). But I know half the reason one can be so good at something is because of the hard work and time you put into it beforehand!!

As a young player and throughout high school, I took for granted the preparation it took to be a student-athlete. I say that because well we all know that if you don't take care of the books in the classroom, then there isn't a practice or game to play in. That being said, you need to make the time and plan ahead if you truly want to make yourself a better athlete. Don't procrastinate! It's the little things. Running around on a field, doing some wall ball or having a catch with a buddy is not considered "working out." That should be part of your daily routine. What I am referring to is the time you dedicate to getting in the weight room, doing some sprint workouts or doing some stop-and-go running similar to what is required of you on field. If you are serious about taking your game to the next level, then these things are a must. Practice like you play! Now don't get me wrong; it wasn't until I got to Washington College when I really took that next step as a lacrosse player to elevate my game on and off the field. It wasn't always easy at times. In fact, it was brutal! But it truly helped shape the person and player I have become today and because of this, it has also influenced the level of determination I have as well.

Coming out of my senior year at WAC, I was at my very best when it came to playing that level of lacrosse. But when I started playing in the MLL, my level of determination became even greater because I realized that I was competing in a completely different game of lacrosse. At this level, everyone was at their best and I knew just how important it would be for me to find the time and dedication to put the hard work into my game to compete against these players. With that, the offseason becomes such an important piece to the puzzle in taking your game further and to compete at the highest level. You have to pay your dues playing in the MLL, especially with how much bigger, faster, and stronger all the guys are. You need to find your niche and work on it day in and day out. Everything I have learned about myself and the game of lacrosse has come from my experience. It is such an honor to play professional lacrosse alongside some of the greatest players in the world. To be able to consider myself in those ranks is something pretty special. It continues to motivate me each and every day I am able to play. It didn't happen overnight and I know that without my dedication to getting better in the offseason, I would not have had this type of success.

With that success, often comes struggle (Nothing worthwhile is ever easy, right?). During my MLL career, I have had to deal with two of the worst injuries I have ever had while playing the game I love, both an ACL and a broken thumb. I broke my thumb in our WAC Alumni game — going "Air Berger" — so I will leave it at that. Nevertheless, I knew these injuries would only push me to get back to full strength. Of course injuries are the worst thing that can happen to a player, but it absolutely reflects the type of person you are when you can overcome obstacles such as these and come back even stronger.

I have been fortunate enough to train with Jay Dyer, the Johns Hopkins Lacrosse Strength and Conditioning Coach, during the offseason. He has really helped me prepare for my upcoming MLL season and although I still have a few more weeks to make sure I am at full strength, I am confident I will be ready to rock when that first game hits! Having two of my best buds, Paul Rabil and Kyle Hartzell, to train with has also been helpful. The friendly yet competitive environment keeps things in perspective. To be the best, you have to train like the best.

My three final tips that I would like to leave you with are:

1) Do what you love and love what you do. When you train you must have fun!

2) Push yourself. Grab some of your buddies to join you!

3) Stay Motivated. Blasting beats is an essential!

Stay tuned for some training tips that I like to do to make my game better....

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