The decisions coaches make need to be driven by testing and monitoring. Ideally these decisions are individual and and address specific athlete needs. As a coach, we need to have both long and short term plans for athletes. These plans should be flexible enough to account for the day to day variations and challenges and also structured to maintain growth and development. There is an art to this type of coaching.
Its easy to let our egos and biases get in the way and hinder athlete development and program design. In the past, when I wanted to get an athlete strong, I planned strength sessions around complex movements pushing heavy weight. This worked, but it didn't work for everybody, and sometimes it came with a cost. My bias to this type of training was holding my athletes back. Something had to evolve.
Now I know more about different types of strength; absolute, general, power, reactive, and strength endurance. I've learned that athletes need to have a certain level of development in each. Through testing and monitoring I'm now able to identify, with more specificity, what has been developed and what needs to be developed. Testing and monitoring are the checkpoints and maps that take athletes through a program.
A test is a skill or movement that I can assign a number to. Testing involves gathering hard data. My favorite movement test is the Functional Movement Screen. My favorite test for strength, speed, and power is the Quadrathon. To test endurance and or strength endurance I've used a variety of test; timed 300m, 40 second run for distance, and shuttle runs. All three of these I've found effective.
Thinks of tests as waypoints or checkpoints along the path to an athletes goal. Testing is usually done at the beginning or end of a new mesocycle which I roughly think of as 3-4 weeks. This time period is about what it takes for the body to adapt to training before a plateau.
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If testing are the relatively infrequent checkpoints toward a goal, monitoring is the more frequent, even daily, observation of the athlete. A good monitoring system is one that is non invasive, quick to administer, and provides valuable data. I've collected hard data when monitoring athletes and I've also used subjective methods.
When gathering data, a Google Survey can work well. Come up with a few questions, put them in a survey, and administer to your athletes regularly. This option automatically tracks the data for you so you can see trends. Other subjective monitoring techniques include simple honest conversations or acutely watching the warm up. Both methods have their place. I use monitoring two ways.
I have not experimented with different Apps, FitBits, HRV, etc. This is something to try in the future.
First, the information I get on a daily basis allows me to be proactive with their training. With an athlete whose monitoring results indicate they are stressed, tired, overly sore, sick, etc., I'm able to restructure the workout so that it doesn't contribute significantly these issues. On the other hand, if an athletes monitoring results come back high, it might be a day to push intensity and or volume.
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