You have 3 hours a week to train, what do you do?
Developing as an athlete is a tricky balancing act – the only resource inherent to everyone is time. We all get 24 hours in a day but how it’s dispersed effectively remains a challenge in athletic development. With more at stake to “make it”, the demand to be faster, quicker, stronger, and ultimately more skilled intensifies.
Being a strength/conditioning coach at virtually every level of sport in the last two decades, the vast majority of athletes and parents I’ve encountered are lost on the subject of training:
“Where should we start?”
“What should we be working on?”
“What should we do throughout the season?”
“What should we aspire to achieve?”
Insert Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD), created by Canada’s governing sport bodies. LTAD outlines nine levels of development that are all clinically proven to maximize efficiency by adequately matching your body’s natural development timeline. The one missing component however, is the availability of standardized results. How do we/you successfully define “physical improvement” if we have no benchmark to compare to? As a strength coach, do I continuously add strength until an athlete’s wound so tight it risks injury, OR have I reached peak performance in that specific area? Has an athlete progressed enough physically to consider more skills training? The precise balance of time between training and skill development remains unclear. What is that necessary balance? I wish I could provide a definitive answer.
So, where do we start? If, for example, we have a 14 year old athlete looking to improve conditioning. Well, our first check point is to establish a baseline. A mile run test is performed, a 7:26 time is achieved. Great! We now have a basis to improve upon. Nex, a 6 week running program is designed. We then re-test the mile run upon completion. Our athlete has now improved to 6:46 – Progress achieved! Now, the dilemma, has our athlete achieved enough of a step forward to implement dedicated skills training or do I continue to better this result? Sure, the mile time result is better but how does that stack up to the field? As a strength coach, I strive to create tangible proof that my athletes trend on the right path. However, without a standardized fitness metric across the athletes sport, I struggle to understand if I’ve done enough or if I need to continue. Of course, I always want to do what’s best to achieve optimal growth in my athletes, whether it’s guidance I can provide, or recommending another coach.
REPerformance’s team fitness testing software (https://app.rep-team.com/signup) was designed with the premise of providing “at least” an insight as to where an athlete measures individually and compared to his/her teammates. Understanding tangibly where improvement can be gained is the pivotal piece to unlocking an athletes development.
So, you have 3 hours a week to “get better” – where are you starting?