by Petros Kyprianou MA, USAT&F, USAW
Boise State University combined/jumps events coach
In a society that demands perfection or desire to produce perfection, coaches must utilize their potential to sense the feeling of producing an ideal workout. All these can cause a lot of stress and many people end up burning their athletes not because they don’t know what they are doing but because of their excessive sense of competitiveness or lack of a needs analysis plan. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the benefits of a needs analysis and a new training model that involves a very interesting four week cycle that is based on the athlete’s needs analysis not the coach’s ego.
Last year, during our conference meet (western USA region championships) an ex-U.S.Marine guy that was with a team as a massage therapist saw me getting excited and yelling at my athletes. He had no idea why I’m doing that or what I was saying because I was yelling in Greek language to my Greek athletes. He pops up into my face and says to me: "Man I like you, you are like a football coach (i.e. American football coach), you demand perfection and if you don’t get it you get in their a..s (not appropriate to write!)"
He thought for some reason we were in a war with him being the captain!!! Anyway, I stood up and said: "I wish I could demand perfection but you cannot yell at somebody to produce perfection without first designing and helping him or her how to do it."
That is where the "needs analysis" comes into play and where the coach and the athlete must be very careful on how they distribute the volume and intensity in their training cycles.
The meaning of a super-compensation week has been miss-perceived by many coaches especially the ones that have no background in any of the Biomotor abilities of a decathlete or some kind of basic knowledge of how the neuromuscular system works. I have heard some coaches mention the half hour of pain or something like "the hour of torture", "no pain no gain" etc. If a coach thinks like that he or she better join the Marines or the Navy Seals to satisfy their torturing existence!!
We can push our athletes as much as we think is appropriate based on their needs analysis having always in consideration the cycle we are in and the goal of each cycle. Pushing athletes to the limit or exceed their pain tolerance can help but the coach needs to control his emotions and learn how to compensate through a training cycle. Always consider having a super-compensation week in the cycle.
The famous "Needs Analysis"
I have been throwing around that term since I tried it and really worked. Every athlete must have a plan and goal setting philosophy in order to succeed. The more organize a coach and the athletes are the more the chances for them to be successful. All of these are considered to be common sense but most of the people don’t pay attention to detail and most of the times don’t have any reference point to go back and search for the problem.
The "needs analysis" based philosophy generates a list of tasks or issues to be performed. This list is integrated into a questionnaire to be completed by the athlete, subject matter physicians or physiotherapists and of course the coach. The people that asked to complete the questionnaire are asked to evaluate the frequency, the criticality of each task to the successful performance of the athlete, and the amount of training required to reach proficiency. The questionnaires are then compiled and the coaching staff with the athlete establish a decision on what do they need to focus on the up coming year.
The term of needs analysis was borrowed from the business corporate world. As I mention to one of my previous paper we are here to produce and only produce.
A very interesting approach to this analysis or assessment really identifies the needing points of a decathlete or any other athlete. Robert H. Rouda and Mitchell E. Kusy, Jr. present a list of four steps to conducting a needs assessment. It is really interesting how much we can correlate business and decathlon training! Two of those steps can be very closely attached to a decathlete’s ‘’needs analysis’’
Every analysis should begin by performing a "gap" analysis. Coach and athlete should examine the actual performance of the athlete against existing standards or to set new standards. There are two parts to this part: The current situation that the athlete and the coach must determine the current level of skill, motor patterns and Biomotor abilities of the athlete. This analysis also must incorporate the person’s organizational goals, environmental constraints as well as psychological constrains. The second part to the "gap analysis" is the desired or necessary situation. It involves techniques to identify the desired or necessary conditions for success. It is important that the coach and the athlete identify the critical events or Biomotor abilities necessary, and not just observe their current practices. In addition, they must learn how to distinguish the actual needs from the perceived needs, the wants! Train more often the events that produce more points not the events that you want! The difference the "gap" between the current and the necessary will identify our needs, purposes, and objectives.
Always focus on what you need and ask yourself the following questions:
- Are there problems in the organization of practice which might be solved by training other events?
- Are there problems which do not currently exist but are foreseen due to changes, such as new motor patterns and equipment, outside competition?
- Could we gain a competitive edge by taking advantage of new technologies, training programs, health consultants or physicians?
- How can we take advantage of our strengths, as opposed to reacting to our weaknesses?
The second step to the analysis is how to identify priorities and importance.
In this part authors suggest that we must examine the events in view of their importance to our goals, realities, and constraints. We must determine if the identified needs are real, if they are worth addressing, and specify their importance and urgency in view of our needs and requirements. Therefore the questionnaire we must recruit for this section could be:
- How does the cost of the problem compare to the cost of implementing a solution? In other words, we perform a point - benefit analysis.
- Does the track club or team expect an improvement or score more points?
- Are many people or key people involved in that process?
We can summarize the steps of our needs analysis as follows:
1. Perform a "gap" analysis to identify the current skills, knowledge, and abilities of the athlete.
2. Identify your priorities and importance of possible changes in your plan
3. Identify the causes of your performance problems (Injuries, technical deficiencies etc) and/or opportunities
4. Identify possible solutions and athletic growth opportunities.
5. Compare the consequences if the program is or is not implemented
Simplicity is the key!
If you ever hear any of the great coaches out there that have produced big time athletes the only thing that catches my attention from what they have said in any of their papers or interviews is the SIMPLICITY of their training plan.
Training smarter than only training harder can help the athlete reach his or her potential. By wasting time in prolonged running or excessive weightlifting sessions or trying to turn a decathlete into a distance runner will never work. However, performing a needs analysis first and then designing the annual plan with every goal on the paper make the puzzle look easy to assemble! Basic understanding of a four week cycle according to conceptual training philosophy with a super-compensation week could turn the workouts to be great with 100% benefit to the athlete.
I have been talking about a four week cycle that can make the program seem simple and at the same time work your athletes hard with really "smart" conceptual sessions. What do you mean by that coach? Please throw some light on the subject… It seems complicated! No it does not. Simply train with high intensities in the first two weeks then lower the intensity below 70% and the fourth week the famous "transitional week" increase the volume before you enter the new cycle. Simple as that! It has been proven to be successful and avoid any overuse or overreaching syndromes but at the same time you really train your athletes hard especially the first two weeks working hard all possible modalities. The athlete really feels the intensity and gets his or hers compensation the fourth week. It can be design according to the "waive" training model or the pyramid model. It only needs a coach with imagination and exercise science background!
Below is a graph and a sample table explaining and rationalizing the concept behind this model: