Monday, May 30, 2011

Article: Coaching without Periodization

Wayne Goldsmith has posted an thought provoking article entitled "Coaching without Periodisation" on his site Sport Coaching

Many coaches get bogged down with the process of periodization. Planning an athletes's season, including what preparation is necessary for the identified goal competitions, is the most common way for coaches and athletes to plan - i.e. work toward specificity in training, and then plan backwards to today, to build up towards those training and competition objectives.

Another way is to take the approach of where the is athlete currently, what are they capable of today; coaching in the moment, 'in the now' as Brett Sutton has described his approach. Darren Smith also talks about his approach in the comments below the article. This approach has advantages; allowing more time to develop capabilities and skills, which can often take longer than 'planned' to achieve, and give them time to bed in, and stick, ie. make real, significant and stable changes to performance. This way athletes only progress to new training objectives at the right times, rather than a pre-determined '6 week block' or other arbitrary period of time, or worse, progress because they have to 'peak by friday' for an upcoming competition. Many coaches following more 'text-book' approaches don't dedicate enough time to developing any particular capability, and thus limit the athletes' improvement, year over year.

The big idea here is the following:
"The key principle is this: every time we work with an athlete, it is our responsibility to ensure that the training we provide is the optimal stimulus for them – at that moment, at that time and specific to their unique physical and mental status as they exist right now; "
This is where coaching, or 'real coaching', as Dr Sousa would say, comes into play. The art of coaching is being present, 'on deck', observing, and communicating with athletes about what is the right session for the day. Working with the Canadian national team in Victoria, I'd often come to the pool, or training session with an idea of what specific training I wanted to accomplish with the athletes that day, but I would watch the warm up and get a sense of where each athlete was at before setting instructions for the main work of the session. This is why I tend not to write sessions on the white board at the pool, or simply write up one set at a time, in case I decide to change from the session I first had in mind while the athletes are warming up, after having spoken to and observed them, or when they are doing the first main set. I would rather they aren't aware that the set or session has changed, in order to avoid the feeling that they may have 'failed' by not being able to complete the original 'planned' session - which is not the case, it's simply my coaching process to make a decision about what is the right stimulus/amount/type of work on that given day. The method takes into account how the athlete has recovered from the previous days sessions, what they already may have done that day, or have coming up that same day, and what follows the next day. I see these as all in flux based on individual responses and adaptation to the training load, and it's the coaches job to make good decisions about what is the right training for each athlete on any given day. This process is hard to do effectively via distance coaching. The most skilled coaches can be very good at estimating what an athlete should be able to accomplish on a given day within a programme, however these skills are difficult to develop when mostly sitting behind a screen.

Planning is of course important, as much as a coaching process to drive thinking about where an athlete is and how they can progress toward their goal performances, however good coaching is about good decision making, and if the planning process over-rides observation, intuition and experience in the moment, then the 'plot' is being lost.

There are lots of other thought provoking articles on Wayne Goldsmith's site Sport Coaching Brain - it's a great resource for coaches or anyone interested in high performance sport.

1 comment:

  1. Very true about coaches getting too attached to the 'plan'. Humans aren't robots but rather are like the weather. You can make a guess what to expect from your athlete on a given day bearing previous training but you can never predict.

    Adaptation is key.