Athletes often have to juggle lots of different things at the same time: sports practice/competitions, strength and conditioning training, school work, along with all the other stressors of everyday life.
Each of those things are an important (or at least a thing that can’t be avoided) aspect to be considered when it comes to overall preparation for the athlete.
When we look at training for an athlete, and the subsequent recovery, we can use the analogy of a bucket being filled with water.
The bucket is the ability of the athlete to handle stressors and recover from them. An athlete grows this bucket from prior training history (more prior training leads to a bigger recovery bucket).
Along with this comes proper nutrition (proteins, fruits, and veggies anyone?) and sleep habits (get them 8 hours – laying in bed checking the Face-grams doesn’t count). A bucket can grow slowly over time, but can also shrink and expand daily based on nutrition, sleep, and training from days prior.
The water is all the different stressors the athlete must handle. A lot of the time we think of this as the practice/competitions and strength and conditioning training we put on the athlete. But that isn’t all an athlete must deal with.
School work, friendships, and other relationships, along with all the other mental and emotional stressors can add water to that bucket. These are the stressors that are often overlooked that can lead to overfilling that bucket (and potentially leading to injury). In college athletes, injury risk is FAR higher during high academic stress weeks, such as midterm or finals week.
So, we must first try to build the biggest bucket possible for the athlete (over time of course), then manage training stress to account for how big the bucket is at the moment as well as how much water is already in the bucket going into training.
You can likely get away with spilling water out of the bucket a few times (stiffness/soreness), but continually overfilling the bucket is a good sign that an athlete is overdoing it somewhere, and needs to either address the size of the bucket through nutrition and sleep or the amount of water through training or addressing other life stressors (if possible).