Undoubtedly, it would be silly to debate which of a race starters commands is most important, “Runners to your marks”, “Runners set”, or the firing sound of the starting pistol to signal “Go”. The command to “Get Set” does however assume a degree of preparation, a readiness to begin the competition. Without overusing this analogy, let’s just agree as track and field athletes and coaches that the readiness to compete or the long range organization and preparation prior to the call to “Get Set” requires thought out planning and a systematic approach to getting ready to teach, coach or compete properly and efficiently. Let’s begin with an overview of some basic philosophies and approaches in a year round schedule used by many successful athletics coaches to prepare track and field athletes for their competition seasons.
Factors to Consider with Thorough Planning and Diligent Organization
Planning “holistically” might be the best way to describe an effective method for a comprehensive approach to preparing for each track and field season. This holistic philosophy takes into effect the “whole person”, their particular schedules and their individual needs. Do they participate in other sports during the off season? Maybe they compete and train as well in football or basketball, cross country, soccer or volleyball etc. Perhaps track and field is their one sport and they are able to focus year round on their particular events. Do they have jobs? What are their class loads and schedules? What are their family dynamics and responsibilities? The particulars vary from athlete to athlete.
As coaches it would be daunting to near impossible to know every aspect of every athlete’s life and what their demands and needs are. This ability would be like trying to acquire knowledge of every athletic shoe size and athletic shoe model worn by every track and field athlete in your conference. Let it be said that it is ultimately up to each individual track and field athlete to juggle their needs in relation to their desires and goals to compete athletically. A team approach must be maintained or chaos will ensue. As coaches, we must have team rules and standards for all team members to meet and adhere to, but we must also remember that our athletes are individuals with individual responsibilities and expectations outside of track and field. While we should be most rigid with our team rules during the track and field season we do need to get to know our athletes and be willing to treat them as individuals with individual circumstances when need be.
We should also try to provide an atmosphere of flexibility during our off season. The best we can do is to provide opportunities to train, facilities in which to train, and especially guidance and encouragement. Most of us as track and field coaches and athletes are also bound by our particular sports governing associations as far as coach/ athlete interactions during the off season. This is most usually the case as far as coaching Middle School and High School athletics and may vary from region to region. The other part of this holistic approach is taking into account the “whole season”. Where does our concentration lie? What meets are we putting our focus towards? Young athletes and underclassmen may just wish to improve from meet to meet as the season progresses and find that the pursuit of PR’s is their only objective. Realistic expectations of medals and Championships may still be a year or two beyond their present level of fitness or expertise. Their God given physical talents and their attitude toward training and a continued striving for perfection will play into their level of future success. Generally early season meets are used as preparation for particular big meets later on, a chance to hone techniques and build fitness. Championship Meets are usually the focus of most track and field athletes, particularly upper classmen and those with experience and the skills to compete with the best at their level.
The beginning step to a holistic approach to each track and field season should be a general schedule that includes time commitments as much as possible for an entire year.
We’ll look further at examples of this approach to planning and training for a track and field season in the next installment of this article.