Ultimately, there are going to be thousands of ways and thousands of methods that you could possibly choose to use with your athletes. If you narrow the potential methods and combinations of methods that work, we are probably down to the hundreds, and if you narrow the methods down to those that work, that are appropriate for your athlete, and the ones that are truly feasible for your situation, then you’re probably down to tens of options.
My goal behind this post is to discuss some of the things that you should consider before choosing a particular technique.
First and foremost, the effectiveness of the technique or method is of primary importance. Before you consider anything else, you have to be sure that what you are choosing to use with your athlete actually works. Yes, I realize that this sounds like an obvious assertion to make, but do you really go through the effort that you should to make sure that your methods are effective? One of the hallmarks of being an evidence-based practitioner1 is that you have done the homework to check if there is scientific evidence to support what it is that you are doing. Many times there may not be- but if there is, it should at least help you keep away from the methods that we definitely know don’t work. In an ideal world, you will be able to assess the proposed method, checking to see if it works, if it works in your population, if it works under your time constraints, etc. Most of the time, you don’t get the luxury of perfect evidence, so you have to do the best you can.
Secondly, you have to assess if the method is appropriate for your particular athlete. Does it make sense for them based on their ability level and trained status? Does it make sense based on their chosen sport and position? We are getting after some of the things which show up in what is generally called the “Needs Analysis”, which is the analysis of all of the particular ways in which training must be focused around the athlete’s needs. You have to consider injuries, sport, training history, and much more to do a good job at a Needs Analysis. Secondly, we are also getting after the question of specificity, namely, whether the technique is “specific” to the athlete’s sport.2 Appropriate training methods should be both specific and effectively adapted to the current needs of the athlete.
Thirdly, you have to take into consideration the practicality of the technique. Do you have the facility to do it? Do you have the equipment? The time? The manpower? The coaching expertise? One point I was trying to hammer home in my discussion of Strength and Conditioning Ethics is that a method that is overly expensive or a training-time bottleneck is less useful than an equally effective method that you can actually afford and can get all of your athletes to do within a training session. If you have 25 athletes that you need to get through training, and all you have is 3 squat racks- ya gotta figure something else out. This doesn’t mean don’t strive for more optimal training-you have to do your best to fundraise and get some more squat racks, improve your coaching skills so you can teach athletes more complex exercises, etc. At present, under your current circumstances, if you can’t feasibly use a technique, then it isn’t for you and your situation.
The end result in all of this is that yours and your athletes’ time isn’t wasted- and that you are as effective as you can possibly be in your current circumstances.
1: Head over HERE for a great article from the Strength and Conditioning Journal on this topic. I use this at the beginning of the semester for my Athletic Strength and Conditioning Course.
2: In a post from awhile back, I discussed the Importance of Context, and how it plays a substantial role in how in the specificity of training. I think this old post adds some depth to the application of the principle of specificity.