In my experience many athletes are unable to correctly identify & exploit their own strengths. They are very good at critiquing peers and often focus too much attention on their own perceived weakness. A good training plan/ log shows individual development patterns & rates of improvement, highlights strengths, identifies when fresh ‘input’ is needed, builds self-belief and improves performance in competition.
I have recently had a flurry of clients from different sports all with aspirations to be athletes with a restless desire to launch into heavy training and follow a steep development curve. Which is great, but unfortunately many young athletes;
- don’t truly understand why or what made them good
- don’t keep training plans/logs or understand their importance
A training plan is only as good as the action undertaken to deliver it. As a coach we need to know how closely the athlete can follow a plan by clearly comparing each day of ‘the plan’ to what was ‘actually achieved’. The training log recording the ‘actual work done’ is the most valuable information to the coach, but more importantly to the athlete!
If the athlete has no training plan/log they have no database to draw their conclusions and rely on ‘feelings or opinions’. By asking questions a coach can identify individual strengths & weaknesses but often I find this information is incorrect when we get into training sessions. A common trend I see is athletes identifying their strengths or weakness through a comparison to peers. Comparison to peers can be a good gauge but can damage or build misplaced confidence. Incorrectly identifying their individual strengths can lead to issues in confidence around competition leading to self-doubt, post-competition blues or ‘lost feelings’ where they just don’t understand why they did not get the result they expected. In my opinion competition in training is good, but should always be second place to focusing on an individual’s development requirements, which is driven from a good training plan/log.
From a coach’s point of view we need facts as the basis of an analysis. Unfortunately the majority of young athletes are called ‘natural talents’ with no real understanding what created that. Most have developed by listening to peers, copying and training as often as possible. Then they plateau (often when the body fully matures) and desperately want to continue that steep development curve, craving to learn something new and open to fresh ‘input’ from any source. But in order for a coach to help them they need to know what training session combinations they have tried, what gave the most development and what they enjoyed doing. So, my first request is, ‘show me your training log, I need to know how you got to where you are’, which is where we come to a common stumbling block.
Just this week I wrote a gym training program with an athlete (who had no training log, but existing gym routine) and when we hit the gym it was clearly evident he had been gauging himself against peers, following a routine designed for a different body type that would have seen minimal benefit no matter how hard he worked. By refocusing the athlete back to himself, we corrected poorly learnt technique, pointed out his strengths & weaknesses, and re-designed training sessions tailored to him with a clear outcome focus on ‘exploiting his strengths’. Suddenly the ‘penny dropped’ and he could see how the sessions were going to work, he could feel it and this made him enthusiastic and confident. He realised what his strengths & weakness really were and what he needed to focus on for his development. Prior to that session he believed he was strong enough, but in reality his body type lends itself to massive gains in strength development. Raising the question, if an athlete gauges their ability against training partners how can they identify the potential waiting to be unlocked within themselves?
Athletes must keep a detailed training log ‘for themselves’ to clearly catalogue how they improved. Adding social environment and emotional information is equally important in gaining a holistic insight into past training situations. A factual training log clearly identifies past development patterns and clinically selects the right ‘input’ needed to be added into training sessions and provides the development they seek (providing the athlete does the work).
Regular reviews can alert the athlete when a plateau is happening and highlight when to seek fresh ‘input’ (and the coach can prepare the right information to feed to the athlete). An athlete that does not have a training log will have to run through a system of ‘trial and error’ with their coach in order to find the right ‘input’ which wastes precious development time.
In my opinion confidence built on an ‘athlete’s perception of why they are good’ is often misplaced and shows through in frustration for ‘not being as fast/good as a training partner’ or ‘post-race blues’. They know something is wrong, but don’t know why. I believe that confidence built on facts gives self believe and the mental stability to be open to take on-board ‘fresh input’ more often ultimately seeing more development, building an athlete with unshakable confidence in their ability that goes into competition knowing they have developed at the maximum rate possible.