What are your Non-Negotiables to achieve optimum athletic performance?

As a beginning coach, only just finishing my first season coaching a group of sprinters, it is probably something I have reflected upon the most since the season finished a few weeks ago. For my athletes, what are the aspects of training, which in my opinion are complete Non-Negotiables for them to achieve their goals? I think the easy ones to consider are aspects of training such as attendance, attitude, therapy, buy-in, but I was more interested in the specific details of the sessions, the training/competition schedule and overall programming. How could we do this better to elicit improved results?

Now, of course I do not have all the answers and I am not embarrassed to ask my athletes their opinion. So, I sent a text to my most experienced athlete asking ‘what are the Non-Neogtiables which we must follow for you to achieve your goals’ (the season just gone, this athlete achieved a goal which he has been trying to fulfil for a decade which was a great moment for all involved [and showed we had a good formula]; and although very close, fell short in another goal which just happened to be the final race of the season). I had already drafted a short list in my phone, but after a few texts back and forth we came up with a list of seven points which must be Non-Negotiable in an effort to achieve the next goal (assuming no sickness, injury, crisis etc).

Without being too specific; they were:

  1. Only THE goal matters

This must be the sole focus for the athlete. They must pay the fee (Focus-Energy-Engagement) at all sessions and Win the Workout (stolen from legend Vern Gambetta)

  1. Training density must be maintained until xxx 21st

As mentioned above, we did get very close to achieving two major goals this season. But, in reflection we removed too many training elements too early (related to point 4). So we agreed to keep specific sessions in until a set date, regardless of local performance.

  1. Must be in ‘specific shape/time’ by xxx 31st

Short term goals must be achieved over time so we are not chasing our tail or playing catch up. Whether this is by increasing the racing schedule or making greater use of Freelap Timing System during training; we intend to monitor set distances more closely.

  1. Do not chase performances interstate

Athletes must be able to demonstrate high performance in a local setting without thinking they need fast runners or fast tracks to perform. Of course this will help, but if you cannot run fast on your local deck; chasing time interstate might be grasping at straws if it hasn’t been previously programmed.

  1. What everyone else says does not matter (I’ve tidied up the language here J)

Everyone is entitled to an opinion. Some voice their opinion without knowing the context.

  1. Stick to the process

Rain, hail or shine you must not divert to Plan B unless something has crippled Plan A.

  1. Re-read Point 1

Just for reinforcement in case you forget!

Once the season starts and athletes/teams begin to compete, at times it can be difficult to stick to the plan. We can become reactive, short-sighted, or get ahead of ourselves and lose sight of what was set out during the pre-season. When programming for the next season, although we cannot be too prescriptive at this point, the above seven points must be at the forefront of the planning process.

Depending on the event or sport, the Non-Negotiables may be less or more specific than the seven points above but I think all coaches and athletes could and probably should develop their own list.

If you already know your next major goal, you are half way there!

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