One of the main questions I get, especially when I do phone
consults with customers, concerns the best way to set up
a training program for an athlete or group of athletes.
With the upcoming high school winter (depending on where you
live) season just about a month away, you *should* already
be preparing your program for this time period.
As I started preparing for the new season, one in which I
have to introduce my system to an entirely new (and large)
group of athletes, a few things came in mind I feel will
The key to a successful season from a performance standpoint
lies in being organized.
The more you prepare in advance, the less likely you are to
be rattled by unforeseen inconveniences, which you are all
but guaranteed to encounter.
So I came up with 4 fundamentals to organizing your season.
Three of the 4 action steps should be completed *before* you
actually sit down to periodize your season. Following
these rules will make structuring your program considerably
easier because you’ll have a framework
from which to operate as opposed to doing what typical,average
coaches do…make it up as they go along.
Remember, these rules apply no matter what sport, age,
skill level or gender your athletes are.
1. Review Your Previous Season’s Program, Notes and Results
As I said, organization is essential. This year’s program
simply can’t be better than last year’s program if you
don’t have some data to work with.
Examine your microcycles (weekly plans) and mesocycles
(generally monthly plans, but can be longer) and compare
your athletes’ training results with how they performed in
Were you using to much volume?
Running them too hard? Too easy?
Did performances fall off during a particular period of
training or did they improve across the board?
Asking questions like these and looking for answers within
the notes and records you kept last season will help you
make improvements to this next season’s program and ensure
your coaching system is evolving in the right direction.
Because either you’re going forward or going backward. And
if your intention is to regurgitate exactly what you did
last year, what kind of improvements are you expecting your
athletes to make?
Hey, maybe you won the National Title last year. But that
doesn’t mean you can sit back and keep patting yourself on
the back this year. Don’t you think your competition took
the time in the offseason to learn how to get better so
you don’t win again?
If you want to keep improving, you need to keep detailed
yearly statistics - or at least something consistent.
So if you’ve never kept training records in the past, start
You’ll thank me for it.
2. Establish Goals for the Season
Now that you have last year’s training and performance
records in front of you, you can set goals for the season.
And by goals I mean goals for the team, goals for individual
athletes and just as importantly, goals for you as a coach.
Neither you or your athletes can get to your destination
if you don’t even know where that destination is.
So goal setting, to me, is one of *the* most important
parts of any program.
Write your goals down in as much detail as possible.
Is the goal to improve your 40 by .3 seconds by the
start of the season or improve the team’s average 40
time by .2 before the first game?
Do you want to win a State Title in the 100 or place
3 athletes in the finals at the League Championship
If you set generic goals like ‘make the team faster’
then you won’t accomplish them. You have to set your
intention on a specific goal by focusing on the end
result and then working backwards.
As you’ll see later this is one of the most overlooked
and also difficult components of the training plan.
But if you don’t start with the end goal and end date
and work backwards, you can’t get a true understanding
of how to progress your training.
Now that you’ve looked at last year’s results and have
some ideas on what did and didn’t work (so you can make
any required upgrades to your system) *and* have
established goals to work toward, you will have a much
clearer understanding of what you need to do to achieve
the goals and improvements that will lead to optimal success
3. Review Your Favorite Training Resources
Now that you have an idea of what needs to be done, you
need to go back and review your favorite training resources.
We all have a few whose information has gotten us steady
results and you should review them each year. Because I
can just about guarantee there’s some knowledge within
those resources you’ve yet to tap into. And with a different
focus than last year, the path to you new goals will
begin to present themselves now that you are looking for
It’s like if I said to keep an eye out for yellow cars.
You didn’t notice them before, but now that the seed has
been planted in your mind, you’ll start to see them
But, since you’re not the typical coach, you’ve also learned
some new information since last year. These new resources
you’ve added to your library are going to be pivotal in
the continued evolution of your coaching and your program.
After all, how can you improve on last year if you haven’t
learned anything new?
So if you’re in need of some effective new training
resources, click here:
4. Put the Pieces in Place
Now that you’ve covered the previous 3 topics, it’s time
to look at your program and and break down the actual
movement skills and energy system demands required for
These other topics should provide the framework, but there
are still some critical elements that must be addressed.
You may think some of these assessments are too basic.
But in my experience, erasing the board and taking a
fresh look at the entire sport/event, etc. before upgrading
my training program is a fundamental reason why my athletes
compete at such a consistently high level…
1. Make a detailed analysis of the demands of
A football player and a soccer player aren’t going
to be on the same speed training program.
Is there a significant aerobic demand to your sport?
(It’s probably much less than you think.)
How about agility and change of direction skills?
Does your sport focus on acceleration or top end speed?
Do your athletes hold, swing or carry an implement in
2. Establish a list of qualities and abilities needed
to succeed in the specific speed applications of your
sport. This should be based upon your analysis of
- Absorb impact and then accelerate.
- accelerate while in a state of extreme fatigue
- develop consistent acceleration pattern out of blocks
- hit a moving ball while running at top speed
3. Create a list of specific training activities. This
list should be designed to address and develop the
identified list of qualities and abilities.
- specific drills teaching athletes how to take a hit
and effectively accelerate
- fartlek runs and whistle workouts where athletes
simulate the types of starting and stopping while fatigued
that they’ll experience in a game
- drive phase development and block work session to teach
a consistent, explosive sprint start
- drills teaching athletes techniques for striking, kicking or
dribbling the ball while running at full speed
4. Create a list of general training activities. These
should be designed to prepare the body to undertake
more specific training, when specific training is
considered too advanced for the learning athlete.
- an athlete must learn how to separately absorb
contact and learn to accelerate before the actions
can effectively be combined
- athletes must develop their aerobic power, lactic
capacity and acceleration ability before they can
succeed at combining those three elements successfully.
- athletes must develop a consistent acceleration pattern,
understand the drive phase and perfect running mechanics
before successfully developing a fast start
- athletes must learn how to kick, strike or dribble the ball,
as well as learn acceleration and top speed mechanics before
they can combine these skills
5. The list of both general and specific training
activities must be organized in a logical fashion into
a valid training program.
With any speed program, skills must go from general
to specific, basic to complex.
Athletes must establish general conditioning before
doing complex lactic acid workouts.
They must develop the ability to accelerate before
doing speed endurance.
And beyond that these skills must be broken down further
as well as addressing other biomotor abilitiesthat we will get
6. The training program must actually be administered
and should undergo constant evaluation.
Even the best plans must be modified. Weather, injuries,
and a myriad of other situations and circumstances
will arise that force you to change what you are doing.
Sometimes something you plan just plain doesn’t work.
That is why a detailed plan, as well as note taking
and testing, will give you a good idea if your planis
progressing as expected.
So start going through these 7 steps and taking specific
notes on how they can be specifically applied
to your team, sport or training.
Because even these 7 topics are just a general overview
of the pre-planning behind the training plan.
Once you’ve established your lists and have gotten
more focused on the general areas that must be developed
you can start to get more specific.
That’s why I strongly recommend you take a look at the
Complete Speed Training program. Of all our recommended
resources, this is the one that establishes a foundation
for all the previous topics in the greatest detail.
And it’s the only one that covers all training demands -
speed, strength, flexibility, coordination, conditioning,
agility and power - in one seamless package.
Plus you and I can get on the phone for 30 minutes and
talk about any aspect of training you want!
If you haven’t already, check it out now:
Complete Speed Training
Latif Thomas CSCS, USATF II