Varsity athletes use the summer to take a break – for at least a week or two. Then, it’s time to start up select or club league play and begin the off-season conditioning program in preparation for the next school year’s season.Off-season conditioning is now becoming a season of its own in terms of developing conditioning regimens for athletes across all sports.High school athletes at all Mansfield ISD schools are taking the opportunity to participate in a six-week conditioning program at their schools, regardless of sport, including both boys and girls.In many areas of North Texas, there had been a prevalence of third-party companies conducting the conditioning programs on behalf of the school systems or offering competing, private conditioning programs. But Mansfield ISD is putting its own coaches to work on the program, limited to six weeks by the UIL, said Lake Ridge head football coach Kirk Thor.“We are able to make sure the kids are taught correctly,” Thor said. “It’s also another chance to help and coach the kids.”Injury prevention is key, and the athletes are coached through exercises. “It’s very important to us and we do the best we can in conditioning to prevent injury in muscles, ankles and knees,” Thor said.Coaches from all sports are assisting in the organized program, which is conducted Monday-Thursday from 7-9 a.m. Proper technique is the top concern at the outset.“We teach Olympic-style form and technique,” Thor said. “Movements are to improve functional strength to move faster, change direction and focus on explosive lifts. It’s a lot of plyometrics,” he said, referring to a style of exercise that builds speed and power.“Athletics have changed a lot,” Thor said. “It’s more than how much weight they lift. Regardless, it’s about explosiveness.”The focus, said Thor, is on quickness and agility, not just building strength and muscle. That includes the use of drills and exercises which incorporate change of direction in sprints, jumping rope and boxes more so than running distances. Being quicker, faster and more explosive can translate to any sport, the coach said.“It’s different than what we grew up with. It’s all movement-oriented,” he said in terms of the workout strategy. “We want to improve balance and build better athletes, and it translates to whatever sport the athlete is competing in.”After the six weeks of training, the athletes are given the remainder of the summer to train on their own or to just take time off.“Sometimes kids just need a break,” Thor said. “There’s a tendency to over-train. They need the chance to be kids. Whatever they do on their own is great, vacation or whatever. It’s great when they come and work out on their own, and it’s fine if they don’t. They just need to be ready.”The programs are open to any enrolled student with a current physical in grades 9-12 and Thor said there’s a good mix of boys and girls. The full spectrum of varsity sports are represented, Thor added.