The Process of Great Programming

By Sparta Science

November 5, 2013

Last week we talked about a coach’s job description, and the difference that coaches make in creating a great training culture. We highlighted three main areas where a coach’s expertise are the most evident:

  • Programming
  • Coaching
  • Motivating

Every coach has an area that they are more naturally gifted in than others, but great coaches know how to blend these elements into a perfect mixture based on the environment and the individual athletes that they are working with. This blending process is what creates a culture of intent, accountability, and effort. Today, we will dial in on the area of programming, as it is the first step for coaches to build a culture of intent.

In our world, programming is to record a planned series of future events, items, or performances. This process often begins with setting up a framework

  • Training days in each week
  • Weeks in each phase
  • Phases in each year

This framework is usually based around a specific goal like being prepared for a season or competition. This sounds pretty simple, and programming is really just another name for periodization. However, the difficulty comes in making the plan both realistic and sustainable. The best programs are a framework that guides the training process, but is flexible enough to adapt to changing variables like practice volume, injuries, and scheduling conflicts. Having no framework will leave you drifting with the wind, but too specific will leave you stranded as soon as the first obstacle arises.

The second step to programming is to create effective prescriptions. At the heart of creating a prescription is determining an individual or team's needs. There are many tools that can help with this needs analysis, however it is important to consider the objectivity, validity, and reliability of any evaluation method. As coaches, it is very difficult to remove personal biases from the evaluation process which decrease objectivity and reliability. In this case, removing the human element and relying on technology is a great way to improve the accuracy of your prescriptions.

The final step to programming is to adapt. This involves making long term adjustments after the completion of a program as well as immediate changes based on injury or fatigue. We call these last second changes audibles, and we plan them into the framework. After executing a plan, there must be a method for measuring the results and comparing them to the goal. The result of this comparison either validates the efficacy of the plan or serves as a guide for revision of the plan in the future. Great coaches are always increasing their knowledge, and learning from their experience. The perfect combination of consistency and adaptation is a sign of a great program.

Programming for Results

Every coach programs whether they realize it or not. The key is to be intentional about the process of planning a framework, creating prescriptions, and monitoring to make audibles. At Sparta, we use our Sparta software and the force plate as the foundation for programming. The software forces you to plan your training framework (exercises, sets, reps, etc.), but it is also provides the flexibility to make quick audibles to the plan.

Because of its objectivity and reliability, the force plate serves as the gold standard for determining an athlete's prescriptions by evaluating their Sparta signature. It also serves as the measurement for results - Did the program work or not? Were the prescriptions accurate? Did the plan effectively prepare for the goal? Technology provides the ability to validate the program and adapt.

Programming is a key element of being a great coach, and something that many new coaches work very hard to learn. However, it is important not to become consumed by the science and art of programming and lose touch with the importance of coaching and motivating. No one ever get better because of software or excel spreadsheets alone. It also takes a whole lot of focus, consistency, and hard work.

Stay tuned next week when we talk about the importance of coaching movement in producing results.

Passionate about coaching? Want to be a part of Sparta's network? Contact us about internship opportunities, coaching mentorships, and part-time coaching positions.

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