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Balance first, individualization second

As a high school athletic development coach one of the first questions I always get when talking to a parent is if I individualize the program or do sport specific programs. It is also one of the most irritating questions. Just like the terms “activation” or “posterior chain” the terms “sport specific” or “individualization” have become buzz words the last number of years. I am not sure of the reason why. Maybe because the person I am talking to wants to sound smart on the subject or maybe it’s just because they heard others refer to the style of training they are doing. Regardless, I do not think individualization should be the first thing on an athlete’s mind when it comes to start a new training plan or working with a new coach. 

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Individualize the delivery, not the program

Ask me 10 years ago about the key to successful coaching and it was all about individualization. Ask me now, and I think most coaches individualize too much. Maybe I’m just getting set in my ways, but the longer I coach the more I see individualization as simply the icing on the cake. It’s nice to have and can make all the difference, but the true substance is the program underneath it.

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HMMR Podcast Episode 253: Individualization (with Dan Noble and James Gardiner)

Coaching is about meeting the needs of your athletes, and micro adjustments to meet special needs of individual athletes can make all the difference. What is described as the art of coaching is often just how we make decisions to individualize or not individualize a program. On this week’s episode Dan Noble and James Gardiner from GRIT Athletics Toronto explain some of the factors that go into their decision making, along with examples of individualization in practice.

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Tips to individualize training in a team setting

The expression ‘there is no I in team’ is often used in team sports to suggest that no individual’s needs, abilities or ideas should take precedence over the combined skills and efforts of the entire group. From a team culture perspective, I would tend to agree with this saying. However, the core principle of individualization also suggests that coaching and training should be based on the athlete’s actual state of training, experience, athletic potential, and characteristics. Research has clearly shown standardized training program will produce a wide range of adaptive responses, with the same training producing large, small or negative responses among different athletes. How is a coach to deal with these seemingly contradictory points?

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A practical approach to individualization

To paraphrase Kelvin Giles, ‘If your coach: athlete ratio is 1:25 then you are managing a crowd, not coaching.’ Some coaches can only dream of that ratio because they regularly manage groups of 40 or 50 people in a session. Coaching large groups presents unique problems. For example, individualization may seem impossible and we have to hope that everyone gets some improvement.

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Sports Science Monthly – June 2020

Every month we take a deep dive into the latest research in sports science. In the June edition we take a deep dive into several articles on building mental toughness and resilience in training. Mental toughness is a term that is thrown around a lot, but without many coaches knowing exactly what it is or how to train it. We then look at the importance of individualized recovery, and how coaches commonly monitor athletes. Read more

It’s always about difference

When I think about long-term athlete development, the first word that comes to my mind is difference. My first guiding rule as a coach came from my mentor Roger Eischens: “It’s aways about difference.” That couldn’t be more true when we start talking about long-term athlete development. Coaches need to account for different bodies, a different society, and different priorities while maintaining the same purpose. Read more

Technical models, good technique, and finding your style

Around the throws world you hear people talking all the time about how this individual or that individual has “good technique.” What exactly does that mean? Read more

Training speed appropriately

Plow horse, quarter horse or a thoroughbred race horse, you can’t train them all the same. They all have different inherent qualities that must be taken in consideration. Read more

HMMR Podcast Episode 187: Train different

Throughout the year we’ve had the pleasure of hosting 34 guests on the HMMR Podcast, including coaches of Olympic champions and world record holders. On this week’s podcast we’ve pulled together some of our favorite moments with athletic development coaches that think different. We cover a wide range of topics such as the art of coaching, individualization, circuit training, transfer of training and more with guests Michael Lepp, Jerome Simian, Boo Schexnayder, Steve Myrland, Dan Noble, JB Morin, and James Marshall.
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