All sports require conditioning training. Conditioning is the base work required for the sport, and varies form sport to sport. It is NOT just cardiovascular endurance, what is often termed fitness training. It is about bringing the body to the desired state for use in the particular sport. As expected this type of training largely occurs during the pre-season in the preparation phase of competition.
Conditioning of the athlete should be sport specific and mostly be developed during the pre-season, before competition begins. However, if the sport has a long competition phase, then reconditioning and maintenance of conditioning needs to occur. The timing, intensity and volume of this type of training is vital. If any aspect is done wrong it will decrease athlete performance and leave them at risk of injury.
An athlete’s condition relates to injury and performance. A good condition will help to prevent injury and improve performance, while a poor condition leaves the athlete vulnerable to injury and leads to poor performance. Conditioning covers ALL of the components of fitness, both health and skill related. An athlete that is weak in one aspect relevant for their sport, has a higher risk of injury and will not perform as well as the athlete who has all the components covered well.
When understanding conditioning it is important that you also refer to content covered in Factors Affecting Performance: How does training affect performance? particularly the principles of training. The content covered in Improving Performance: How do athletes train for improved performance? is also helpful.
As an example, the conditioning required for rugby league includes high levels of cardiovascular and muscular endurance. Good speed, muscular strength, power and coordination. As well as agility and reaction time. In essence each component needs to be well developed in order for good performance.
When considering a training session, the amount of time spent on conditioning should match the requirements during competition and the need of the athletes. Generally 20+ minutes is set aside during a training session. The effects of this training should be considered by the coach, as fatigue will affect the rest of the training session. If the focus of training is the end of the game and the coach wants the athletes to perform well when fatigued, then conditioning should be done at the beginning. But if focus is on skill development, conditioning should be left until the end of the training session.