Remember when you asked one of your athletes how he felt and you got the standard, "I'm good, coach," then witnessed the worst athletic performance of his career?
There's something frustrating about trying to control what your athletes do in the hours following practice—especially if you begin to observe an unexplainable drop in performance or symptoms of overtraining.
You know that it's next to impossible to get a teenager to communicate his or her true feelings, let alone be objective about the possible cause of those feelings. Many athletes, regardless of age, never understand or even care about that sort of thing until it is pointed out to them.
Fortunately, there is a clear reason for the drop in performance. You are not asking the right questions and consequently not receiving the correct answers.
Let's face it, every coach wishes he or she could control what goes on off the field and outside of the weight room. But the fact is we only get a limited number of hours per week to impact the development of our athletes. What goes on during their off times is really up to them, right?
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There are tools you can use to objectively assess your athletes during the vital times when all your programming and coaching can get lost.
Asking the correct questions can elicit the answers you are looking for, especially if you've developed relationships with your athletes that make them trust that what you teach them will ultimately improve their performance.
Young athletes may not understand that their personal feelings, mood and how they spend their personal time all contribute to their performance on the field. This may give you opportunities to point out the effects their personal lives have on their performance and potential overtraining.
I can recall a young female swimmer who began implementing these strategies. The experience opened her eyes to the benefits of monitoring her performance measurements, so much so that she broke down with emotion and truly grew as an athlete. Her understanding of measurements outside of her race times took her to a new level and catapulted her past her peers at a young age. This athlete's mother noted her dedication to her training program as demonstrating the "buy-in factor" athletes experience when they have the ability to track and participate in their training.
Now that you appreciate the "why" behind the process, here are my top three strategies for monitoring your athletes' performance outside of practice.
Understanding an Athlete's Mood
Personality questionnaires have been shown to give coaches the ability to separate athletes based on an advanced level of emotional understanding. Scientists have shown that the Profile of Mood States Questionnaire (POMS) adequately evaluates personality states in athletes. They offer vital information necessary to adequately program for a particular athlete, thus mitigating many of the risks of overtraining.
Understanding an Athlete's Perception
The Rate of Perceived Exertion Questionnaire (RPE) offers coaches perspective, plain and simple. Coaches often develop programming without truly understanding its effects on their athletes. This concept is subjective for both coaches and athletes. When perception is close to reality, a coach can develop programs that meet the athlete's perception, and those programs will be more effective in generating a greater athlete response.
Understanding an Athlete's Recovery
The Total Quality Recovery (TQR) Questionnaire has been shown to effectively monitor athletic recovery. Recent studies have shown its effectiveness for monitoring training loads, thus preventing overtraining.
Performance questionnaires, many available online, offer coaches the opportunity to get perspective on their training program and learn how their athletes perceive their effectiveness. The three questionnaires mentioned above are amazing tools, available to coaches free of charge at www.sportably.com. These high-tech alternative measurements allow coaches to tap into free data analysis software with a simple web-based interface, getting around the financial restrictions many coaches have to deal with.
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