World Records in practice? Lazy or easy workouts leading to monster performances? Indicator runs? Predictor sets? What gives? The answer is it depends on the athlete and program done, but you must improve practice performance over time and see how that correlates to your actual performances. This is not easy as often the phase of training and the specific athlete may be improving their ability to train. Many coaches are scared to be great Thursday and fail to perform on the weekend. With the interaction with many elements such as lifting and jump work, the actual event training becomes a tricky to see what works. Also each meet has it’s unique interaction with training in the Calendar year, not just the meet conditions. So how to address this?
- Testing is Training and Training is Testing- All workouts should measure something and test something. Intense training should be a great wealth of information and less intense information is often more qualitative. You don’t need to do testing days just do time trial like workouts with the appropriate dose. Newer athletes don’t need testing they need instruction. Testing without quizzing the athlete is foolish and often dangerous as athletes will try to do something they have not done in training at maximal loads. I have seen this with those that use 5 rep squat training with max effort tests that looked like Dick Cheney interrogation. The same thing with fly work or speed endurance tests. Make sure people are actually training the way you want them to test.
- Make training Boring and Clear- Exotic is sexy but at the end of the day what information are you getting? The new breed of coaches are constantly doing very complicated schemes on athletes that need fundamentals. No matter how talented one is the key is their skill sets and getting them to do the very direct methods. Can they hold spring form. Can they accelerate from various positions. Can they run various distances and speeds. Can they jump with one, two legs, in various run up speeds and obstacles? Then when the clear aspects are there work on the more demanding tasks. For example the 100m dash needs 50 meters or so of top speed mechanics so you should eventually prepare to do that. After a fly test other sub tests such as plyos and joint restriction screens and exercises can be done.
- Record Data when Necessary- If you record it use it. I find it odd that many people catalog the data but never seem to address it. Or people want to record things that will wash out after a few months. Many times I have failed to video something and found out by the time I would have shown the video to the athlete three workouts have passed and it was addressed and no longer applicable. Data should be used to compare year after year and system to system.
- Coach First, Labcoat Later- Don’t let testing administrative duties interfering with your job. If you are a slave to your camera or lactate analyzer and the athletes are not improving or being coached we have a problem. Collect and sample but if you do it all the time make sure you are still coaching otherwise you are a sports scientist and not a coach.
- Have a great Meet Schedule- Get the best meet schedule you can and then tweak the meets. Consistent meet schedules with the right levels of competition and venue can make a big impact. Don’t go to meets that you have not competed at unless you have some inside information.
- Refine your program- Don’t make drastic changes to your program year to year, otherwise it’s nearly impossible to see what you are doing better or worse. Athletes that play musical chairs with coaches often find that they don’t get better or inconsistent. Big coaching changes often are legendary or tragic. Good coaches can adapt athletes to their programs but a dramatic switch often leaves the athlete feeling great or confident early and wonder why they can’t do it in meets or why they fail to improve as much as the workout seemed to help.
- Compare the Context- Don’t compare yourself to other athletes too much and don’t think you are super unique or special. Outliers exist but remember that you are what you do in meets and practice. Eventually your meets will test what you are doing and have done in the GPP and SPP. Communicate with other coaches to see what they find in certain circumstances or talk to athletes that have done the same program or better yet talk to your coach.