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Organized Functional Training: A Format for Success

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If you are an athlete wanting to become better, more successful, maybe even of state or national caliber, you will likely find a multitude of things, or pieces of the puzzle, that need to be addressed in order to reach the level of attainment you are seeking. It can become overwhelming if you do not create for yourself an organized and functional way of handling all that must be done. I know for myself, I kept moving forward by following a specifically organized schedule of training created from a thought process that focused on organization and functionality. This training schedule, and thought process, was something I added to and adapted as I moved up the learning curve toward objectives and goals I had set. And it was something I followed with religious vigor. My purpose was to make sure I “covered all bases.” I just was not willing to leave anything up to chance.

As I moved from the athletic arena into the coaching field and started applying the same principles I used as an athlete to the athletes under my direction, I grew to better understand the intricacies and effectiveness of this process. However, it was not until recently, and with reflection on both my coaching and athletic career, that I was able to simplify the thought process into its four principle parts.

I. Fundamentals

These are the skills, techniques, and strategies that make up the most basic components of any sport or activity – things you simply cannot play the game without. Being able to execute these at the highest level is what builds the foundation for an athlete to reach his/her potential. Like building a house of cards, your fundamentals represent the bottom row that all other rows are stacked on. The more sturdily this first row is put together, the stronger everything else placed upon it will be.

Practice of my fundamentals was definitely a central focus in my training. I currently see too many coaches and athletes neglect this, especially with younger athletes, when development of fundamental skills is most important. Those who consistently concentrate on their fundamentals, no matter how good they get, are most likely to reach their athletic potential.

II. Advanced Skills and Technical Elements

This is where the bulk of your training will be focused. Any skill, technique, method, or concept beyond a basic fundamental of your sport is considered advanced and would be included in this section. It is within this area that the strength of your fundamentals, discussed above, show their true merits. When foundations are strong, the harder skills in this section will be much easier to master. A basketball player working on a 3 point shot will have a much easier time becoming proficient at it if his/her shooting techniques are solid much closer to the basket. A volleyball player will only become skillful at passing more difficult serves if their basic passing techniques are sound.

III. Fitness and Conditioning Elements

This section focuses on the physical training that builds the skill-related fitness components of strength, speed, quickness, agility, power, balance, and reaction time necessary to master both I and II above. As athletes condition, train, and improve their fitness levels in these areas, they will see a dramatic improvement in the effectiveness and efficiency of all other skills used in the sport they play. Concentrated and focused time in this section will pay big dividends for any athlete seeking high levels of performance. In addition, a well designed, functional, and well executed fitness and conditioning program reduces the risk of sports-related injury.

IV. Mental and Emotional Elements

This section is one that few really take much time to consider. It encompasses all the intrinsic (internal) philosophical and supportive concepts and principles that comprise a significant part of an athlete’s belief system and which, in turn, determine how the athlete acts. They include athletes’ character and integrity, his/her work ethic and mindset (how they think), and even their goals, desire, and ability to persevere, to name a few. They are aspects that have their start inside oneself, but, more importantly, help to dictate any action that is taken. And just as Fundamentals build the foundation for Advanced Skills and Technical Elements; this section gives the athlete a solid ground from which to build all three of the components detailed above.

I cannot emphasize enough the interconnectedness between all four of these areas. The overlap that occurs, and support that each gives to the other, is necessary in order for this process to generate the maximum potential of any athlete. A guide in its simplest form, it is essentially the same process I used as an athlete and as a coach.