I hated every minute of training, but I said,“Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life a champion.” – Muhammad Ali

“Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.” – Paul J. Meyer

Athletics, sports, and the athletes within are changing. It is becoming more and more common to see (and to work with) a single-sport athlete. Sports are becoming faster, more competitive, and more demanding. So, as a coach/trainer, how can we properly prepare these athletes for their sport and for everything else? The answer is simple, but the process behind it can be quite a challenge. The answer is that we (strength coach/trainer, athlete, sport coach etc.) need to devise an effective and smart program and execute it to the highest level that we can.

So, what does a smart and effective program look like? What should it accomplish? Here is a list of items that a program should cover:

  • Sport Specific Movements
  • Strength Development
  • Motor Learning/Technique Development
  • General Strength Movements
  • Mobility and Flexibility
  • All 3 “Seasons” – In, Off, and Pre
  • Speed and Power Development
  • Reaction Time and Agility
  • Movement Across Multiple Planes

Having looked at that list, we can now see that there is a lot that goes into an S+C (Strength and Conditioning) program. However, the single-sport athlete provides a unique challenge to this list: they most likely do not have a defined “in-season” or “off-season”. Single sport athletes will normally compete for their high school, and then continue to compete for other clubs the rest of the calendar year. So, if an athlete wants to be able to compete year-round, their programming has to allow them and prepare them to do so. The question simply becomes “how?” The answer is simple: communication.

Communicating and knowing your athlete’s goals, schedule, and training experience is a process that takes some time, but it is a process that will make preparing them that much easier. Here is an example:

  • Athlete: Female Swimmer
    • Goals: Division 1 Swimming, Olympic Trials Cut Time(s)
    • Schedule: High School Swimming Late August to Early November (10-12 Weeks)
      • Trains at High School
    • Schedule: Various Meets Throughout the Year with Club Swim
      • Peak Meets and Training Meets
    • Training (Weight Room) Experience: 4+ Years

Knowing this information, we can apply the goals and the schedule into a program. We can assume that this athlete’s “in-seasons” are their high school season and their peak meets. We can also assume that the athlete’s “pre-seasons” are the 4 weeks heading into each peak meet and heading into high school season. That leaves us with around 20-24 weeks of “off-seasons”. As a coach/trainer, we must now figure out what to do during each season. An example of that breakdown may look like:

  • Off-Season
    • Rest and Recover
    • Build and Strengthen
    • General Strength Movements
    • Movements Across All Planes
    • Get Creative and “Have Fun”
  • Pre-Season
    • Maintain Strength
    • Speed and Power
    • Reaction Time and Agility
    • Prime and Prep for Competition
  • In-Season
    • Maintain what was built during Off and Pre Season
    • Tune Up Athletes – Maximize In Season Results
    • Mobility and Flexibility
    • Sport Specific Patterns – Grease the Groove

All of these ideas are just the “tip of the iceberg” in terms of coaching a single sport athlete. These concepts can be used to lay down the groundwork for building a program. From there we can move into movement selection, session intensities, set and repetition schemes, warm-up and cool down strategies, recovery strategies, and all of the other aspects that go into a well-rounded program. When push comes to shove, the program (and all that goes with it) is nothing without proper communication between the coach and the athlete.


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