Efficiency is a vital quality in sports performance. More often than not coaches – both those on the field and those in the weight room – strive for efficiency in training and practice. Of course, this is a commendable goal, and frankly in most circumstances it is a vital quality of any practice or training plan. Nearly every coach will find himself wishing he/she had more time with their team.
But, effectiveness too must be kept at the forefront of our minds when planning and implementing our training and practice plans.
Effectiveness in Training
We all know the old adage – if it is important, do it every day.
This can apply to anything from tee-work to mobility, postural alignment to pitching mechanics. If it is an important performance quality that needs improvement, it should be addressed and worked on early and often. Especially those qualities that carry an importance that needs to be conveyed to the players: the more often they are required to do something, the more often they will be educated on its value, thus the more valuable it should become in their own minds.
My time coaching in high school baseball and in professional baseball gave me opportunities to see the value of diligently utilizing purposely selected programs every day (or nearly every day) to improve various aspects of baseball performance.
In particular I became fond of what our Head Coach, Andy Lyon, coined and implemented for what we deemed as important aspects of training during my time working for him at DeLand High School and Lake Howell High School:
Whether it was working on the essentials of baseball (e.g. baserunning, bunting, pickoffs, or double-play feeds) or more performance-related components, we allotted the first 10-minutes or so of every single practice (following the warm-up) toward our “Everydays”.
First and foremost our players learned what our coaching staff believed was important for our success as a team: we devoted a specific block of time toward what was important every single day. There was no confusion on what was most important in the eyes of our coaching staff.
Our ballplayers also improved in these areas as well. Of course, had they lost any focus or motivation to do our everydays (due to monotony) they would not have seen as much improvement. But, by providing the “Why” through education, and the “How” via thorough instruction and enthusiasm, the players typically bought in quickly. They even began to thrive in this routine, moving from station to station quickly and easily.
Everydays can be equally applicable to performance training goals. Want to improve core stability, mobility, etc? Make it an everyday (or near every day) focus.
For example, trunk stability and postural awareness are incredibly important to me, and are an integral part of my philosophy for training when working with high school (or even higher level) athletes. I have found that a small segmented section of the warm-up focused on pillar exercises such as the High Plank and Glute Bridge provide additional exposures to the stressors necessary to achieve these goals for posture and stability. Additionally, a block of time dedicated to some mobility drills has also proved highly effective in my experiences.
The fashion in which you implement your own form of “everydays” is only limited by your own creativity. The length of time allotted to these segments can be as much as 10-15 minutes depending on the drills involved, or as little as 1 minute in length (e.g. three 20-second postural reminders/trunk stability exercises).
A thorough progression of exercises/drills can not only break up the monotony of everyday work, but can also yield steady progress.
A rotation of everyday activities can be used as well. For example, “Everyday Offense” Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and “Everyday Defense” on the remaining days. Or, alternating a hip mobility focus with an arm care focus.
Surely, utilizing a block of time on just one aspect of performance each day may not seem as beneficial as, say, working it into bulk of the practice or session itself. Many, for example, will say that core and mobility drills should be inserted as fillers during rest periods during the workout, as this active rest maximizes time efficiency of the training session, allowing you to accomplish more in the same given time.
I subscribe to the above thought process in full; you won’t find a single rest period in my weight room training sessions that don’t have something inserted into them to achieve more bang for the buck during training. Yet, I also recognize the importance of effectiveness of training. Each training session should move your athlete(s) closer to the ideal athlete for performance. That means being effective, not just efficient alone.
To that end, if I deem it important in the training process, I have no qualms or reservations about devoting time to it often. Does this mean that we may not get to something else in training? Sure, the time that we have to spend with our athletes will always be finite. But, in the grand scheme of things, if a less (or the least) important aspect of training is lost during a session in order to emphasize a more (or the most) important aspect of training, then how great is the cost after anyway?
One final example: between the time it takes to perform a “core/trunk prep” program each day before/during the warm-up, I may cost myself 5 minutes of our 35-minute training session. Maybe this means I have to cut one to two sets of an auxiliary exercise from the program in order to get additional hip mobility work in with my team. Or maybe it means I have to cut the auxiliary work altogether that day. The cost of doing this each day may result in slightly less developed biceps/triceps/etc. (or whatever the goal of the auxiliary work may be), but the benefit could be something so much greater: potentially performance-enhancing and injury-reducing mobility.
Efficiency may take a hit on occasion, but setting aside time to focus on what is most important to you and your team can yield cumulative effects well worth the cost of time needed to do so.
If it is important, do it every day.