Sports Performance training has been around longer than I have been alive. All around the world, athletes have been training specifically for their sport, whether it was the Olympics, college, high school or professional. Sports Performance Training is not new. Even with the long history of performance training, I still find myself explaining to people exactly what is involved. When people ask what I do, it takes a little more time to explain the “what and how” of sports training. Compare that to personal training, and it is night and day. People ‘get’ personal training for the most part, but many have no idea what Sports Performance Training is. Allow me to take this time to clear up some of the confusion about Sports Performance Training finally. Further, let me pitch to you why every serious athlete out there should be involved in Sports Performance Training in one way or another.
Sports Performance Training, The “who:”
Just who can benefit from Sports Performance Training? It is for ALL sports, and for ANY sport:
- Football, Soccer, Baseball, Softball, Wrestling, MMA, Martial Arts, Boxing, Swimming, Field Hockey, Ice Hockey, Lacrosse, Basketball, Track and Field,
Volleyball, Tennis, Cross Country, Triathletes, Olympic sports, etc.
- Performance Training is not just for Sports either: Dance, Fitness Competitors, and models, body builders, and Physical Entertainment.
What is it and what does it involve?
Sports Performance Training is using various training methods, programs and modalities to facilitate the enhancement of performance in individuals that participate in athletics. This includes, but is not limited to; Improvement in strength, power, speed, quickness, agility, mobility, flexibility, and timing. I have also used methods to teach and coach the mental side of things as well. Mental Toughness training and goal setting techniques have been key with many athletes, just to mention a few. Nutritional counseling is necessary with all athletes and is usually included from good coaches and trainers out there. Finally, any good performance coach will incorporate proper preventative strategies to help reduce the chance of injury. Sometimes known as “prehab”, good coaches and trainers will add exercises and techniques to ensure that injury prevention and reduction of injury are a priority for each athlete they train.
Many athletes, especially youth and high school leave their athletic development to chance. They grow up, play their sports and develop the right way or the wrong way based largely on the sports they play, the activity level they have and in what direction their parents push them. Some excel because of natural ability and others are left behind because they never had the proper chance to reach their potential and develop as they probably could have.
As the “lucky and gifted” athletes are recruited to play in college, they usually get into a decent strength and conditioning program. Strength, speed, agility and conditioning are part of the package for the sport that is played. Programs are developed for the entire team and one on one contact and individual specific programs are usually not found at this level, but still this is better than nothing, and most of these athletes get a tremendous amount of development from this college experience. If the athlete is gifted enough, and has worked hard enough, there may be the chance that they continue to play at the next level, which is usually in the professional ranks or possibly the Olympics. Here the athlete has access to some of the best training. Olympic athletes will usually get plenty of individual performance training, more than most others.
Athletes of Today:
Athletes today have a HUGE advantage over athletes of the past for one very good reason: Sports Performance Training is not something just for Professional, College or Olympic athletes anymore; rather any athlete at any age of level can receive and benefit from one-on-one, complete Sports Specific Training. Although there are plenty of Personal Trainers that claim to be Performance Coaches out there, without any real experience and education, there are just as many qualified coaches, and trainers with real world experience and education willing to help athletes of any level, age or background. I have trained and worked with ten-year-old baseball players, college-scholarship football players, and Olympic hopefuls all in the same day. Sports Performance Training is available and affordable as well. With partner and small group training as options, athletes have been able to split costs and receive the same benefits as professional and Olympic have. It is an exciting time to be a serious athlete of any age, level or ability.
Training: I am often asked what type of training is used in Performance. Performance training is much more than just lifting weights. Although strength training is necessary and plays a big role, performance training includes but is not limited to the following:
- Speed Training – Running mechanics, and techniques to improve form and efficiency. Strength and Power enhancement to develop proper running force.
- Strength and Power – Resistance training- Weights, body weight, bars, bands, medicine balls, cables, sleds, etc. Reactive training or Plyometrics for power – Explosive Jumps, Hops, lifts and other exercises.
- Energy System Work – Better known sometimes as cardiovascular conditioning. Sprints, interval runs, agility runs, long distance running, etc.
- Prevention or Prehab – Corrective training, mobility, stability, strengthening, flexibility, etc.
- Mental Training – Concentration techniques, Goal Setting, etc.
Who should be Training Athletes? It seems like everyone claims the ability to train athletes these days. Go to any personal training studio or gym and there is a sign that says, “Sports Specific Training.” Presently, there are “Speed Schools” popping up in every town too. There is no shortage of people and facilities that claim to train athletes, and all of those places do get their share of athletes and train them as part of their business. The truth is however, not just anyone should be training athletes. To be able to train an athlete effectively and safely, the coach or trainer needs to have a solid background in working with athletes. This means experience in dealing with athletes of all ages, and levels. People that train athletes should be educated in the sports training field of some sort, and not just formal education, but continual education too. If the professional is not keeping up with the latest research, literature, and attending conferences, and seminars, on a continuing basis, then they are missing the boat. Honestly, it is difficult for the consumer to figure out just who these people are. There is not easy answer. The hope is that the well-informed consumer does his or her research before hiring a sports performance coach or trainer. What are some things to look for?
- Degreed Coaches and Trainers – Make sure the people working with you have at least a BS degree and hopefully in a related field of study…meaning that it is in Kinesiology, Biomechanics, Exercise and Sports Science, Health and Fitness, or something in that area.
- Experience – Does the coach or trainer have real experience working with athletes? Ask who they have worked with and how many years they have working directly with athletes. Ask for testimonials or references. Good coaches will have them.
- Certifications – There are so many bogus certifications out there these days its hard to know what is real and what is not. Look for National and International Certifications that have some solid history behind them. With that said, certifications are not everything. I know people that have some of the best certs around, and are not very good coaches or trainers. Good certifications tell you that people have at least a standard level of understanding. Some of the better certs for sports performance:
- NSCA – CSCS
- NASM – PES
Things to question:
- Are there Experienced and Certified people working with the athlete at all times? Many places hire on interns in the place of experienced coaches. While interns are valuable and gain great experience, you have to decide between working with an experienced coach or an inexperienced intern.
- Programming – Is each program tailored to the athlete of group of athletes, or is the programming of the “cookie cutter” variety? Meaning, they give each athlete the same program regardless of their wants and needs.
- Is there an assessment of the athlete or athletes before, during and after the training block?
Putting it all Together: So, who can benefit from Sports Performance Training? Anyone that plays or participates in a sport or anyone that works in a physically demanding job. Stage entertainers as well as fitness models or competitors and body builders can and do benefit from performance training as well. If you are an athlete or know of an athlete that is serious about getting better, winning and most importantly, reaching his or her true athletic potential, then you need to check out Sports Performance Training. Check your local area and if you are lucky enough to have a qualified individual around that trains athletes for performance, sign up with him or her immediately and watch the never-ending improvement sharply increase by leaps and bounds. As always, beware of the inexperienced, non-certified “trainers” out there that lay claim to having an expertise in Sports Specific Training. Do your homework, and find someone with plenty of experience and education.