Return on Investment


In a financial sense, a Return on Investment (ROI) deals who how much money you invest in a company, stock or property; compared to the net return you receive upon selling or the company or property’s net value increasing. It is the extent to which the benefits (or outputs) exceed the costs (inputs).

In a physical preparation setting, since athletes’ have finite training time, it is of great importance the ROI must be extremely high; especially in the professional team sport setting where the pre-season is short (and becoming alarmingly shorter); and subsequently intensive. Identifying weaknesses and improving strengths are factors all good coaches will want to address but how this is undertaken requires great thought; as time is of the essence. Managing the investment from coach and athlete is tough; as the needs of some athletes require A LOT of time to fix.

As the coach who is programming the sessions, whether the athletes are part-time semi-professional or full-time professional athletes, you need to know the physiological adaptation (and cost) which will be caused by the workout. As Vern Gambetta frequently states, something to the effect of, ‘making them tired is easy, but is it making them better?’ Any coach can prescribe a workout where athletes finish on their knees; knowing that they worked really hard. This is easy and requires little thought. But, if athletes’ are going to invest their time and effort in completing the workout(s), and the internal and external load is high, you better ensure the net return to the individual’s fitness is high also.

These are some of the ways I think you can increase your ROI for your athletes (and some of this is common sense…for some):

  • Rather than complete individualisation, group athletes together based upon a needs analysis. It makes the workout more specific for the group, but doesn’t remove the competitive nature of the session by completing individually. (This is something I need to do better with my athletes).
  • ROI for technical changes takes time (and if a senior athlete; a lot of time!) and should be cued and practised frequently, rather than a one-off session.
  • ESD will have a rapid return on investment, especially the anaerobic glycolytic system, but always remember, everything is good in moderation. 
  • In pre-season, let the fatigue set in. Don’t go crazy with recovery modalities. Monitor it, BUT allow the investment to give you the full return.
  • If the athlete thinks a particular session or set of sessions gives them a good physiological return; then go with it. The buy-in from doing their session; may provide an even greater psychological return.
  • Be smart with your programming. Within a pre-season, if the acute and/or chronic load is too great, the net return will decrease due to a fatigue hangover one session or one week to the next.
  • Exposing athletes to a superior group of athletes, or athlete, can give them the highest of stimulus (ignition) but also great ROI for that training week or cycle. Once they know of what is possible, or the level they need to rise to, the investment from the athlete becomes deeper as they have new psychological standard which must be reached.

Invest a lot, but invest wisely!

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