Performance training for athletes can be designed to help the following qualities:
Well that right there is 7 qualities. Sometimes we only have 4-12 weeks to help an athlete get ready for their sport. That is not a lot of time to work on quite a few things.
This is one of the reasons why any type of in season, long term training can be incredibly beneficial to an athlete’s development.
Deciphering what an athlete needs is actually pretty easy. The athlete themselves or parents can usually describe what they would like to improve on.
Where things get confusing is the strategy to get there. Lets define a few things before we start.
- Speed- aka sprinting, running- the ability to run fast, usually in a straight line
- Quickness- aka agility, change of direction- the ability to change direction rapidly
- Conditioning- aka endurance, wind- the ability to maintain performance for an extended period of time
- Strength- the ability to produce force
- Power- aka explosiveness- the ability to produce force quickly
I know that you probably won’t find these definitions in a exercise science textbook but they I like them for their simplicity.
Balancing which qualities you should be working on is not easy. We ask all trial athletes to fill out a waiver and it asks to check off things they want to accomplish. Most parents joke “where is all of the above?”
Taking a look at what makes each quality different from each other can be helpful in determining needs.
Speed vs. Conditioning
This is where the biggest mistakes come. An athlete who needs to get faster uses the strategy of conditioning.
Conditioning can mean a million things but the most common method is long, slow distance. This is a long work period, low intensity, and long/no rest period. This typically is anything 800m+.
Sprinting is high intensity, short duration, and needs a long rest period. If you need speed you need to practice sprinting really fast and resting.
The key to figuring out what you need lies in your performance on the field. Are you really fast for a couple of sprints at the beginning of the game but then appear to get gassed? You probably need conditioning.
Does it seem like you are slower than everyone else on the field but it stays constant throughout the game? You need speed.
When you need speed, you have to work on your ability to sprint. This is technique and allowing yourself to go all out. Some athletes need to be told that a sprint needs a long rest period to avoid going into pacing.
A lot of athletes need speed work but get excessive conditioning.
Speed vs. Quickness
Change of direction separates quickness from speed. Quick athletes can stop, change, and speed back up better than their peers.
Improving quickness means addressing those three things. Athletes need to work on decelerating themselves, under control. The faster you can slow down, the sooner you can start back up.
Getting going in the opposite direction requires a quick acceleration. Having speed can help with your quickness.
If you are good at separating in the open field but you cannot create space you need quickness over speed.
Strength vs. Power
The difference with strength and power is the time it takes to do something. We are talking fractions of a second but a shorter amount of time moves an activity towards power.
Strong athletes are usually those that play the body well. They can sometimes seem slow or lacking quickness but they are great physically.
Powerful athletes are more springy. They are quicker, jump higher, shoot harder, etc.
We use a vertical jump test to see the difference between a strong and powerful biased athlete. We do a vertical jump followed by a drop jump. We take the height to see where the bias lies.
Stronger athletes will perform better in the vertical jump and powerful athletes will be better in the drop jump. We can then give stronger athletes more power work and vice versa.
I also like to look at both numbers. If the vert is higher but it is relatively low, then we need to know the athlete because they could benefit from both.