What School Can Teach Us About Sport Performance Training
With a Master’s degree in education and a wife who is a High School science teacher I am passionate about making a difference in the lives of our student-athletes. So as a Performance Specialist and Founder of Driven Fitness and Performance it was my vision to create not just a training facility but a learning experience for all of our athletes.
We know that teenagers perform best when they are empowered and given the tools, lessons, and environment to be successful. What makes Driven so special and so effective at creating athletes who thrive in our program is because of what we know about education and how we apply it into the real world.
A major goal for education in the 21st century is to create a classroom that puts the student at the center of their learning. Many outstanding teachers apply this model to increase student engagement, collaboration, and responsibility. With that said, with limited time and a lot of content to get through this may not always be the most realistic model day in and day out. But at Driven, I have taken “student-centered learning” and implemented it in how we train athletes to create a more effective training experience.
The traditional model for sport performance training is that kids would go to a facility and the coach would put them through a work-out. For inexperienced student athletes the drills, exercises, and tools would be new for them. If there are advanced athletes in the group, there usually would have to be a middle ground for complexity or in some circumstances they would be there own group. Every 10-15 minutes the coach would then talk them through a new set of exercises. And so on for about an hour until the athlete would go home, usually exhausted.
While this structure produces fatigue it doesn’t create independent learning, a specific line of progressions, or individual modifications for sport, injury history, training history, or training age.
At Driven, this is NOT how we structure our training sessions. We believe there is a better, more effective, and more rewarding approach to training ambitious student athletes. At Driven we write PROGRAMS for each individual athlete so that each training session is about 80 % already written down for each athlete. This is equivalent to treating each athlete like a student in the classroom. They may in the same class but individual students are at different levels of mastery within the content.
At Driven, each athlete that trains at Driven has two sheets of paper. One has specific speed, power, and conditioning exercises and the other has their strength training. Each program is designed for the entire month of training and the exercise selection is based on the individuals experience, ability, and mastery. My job as the coach is to teach them the vernacular of the program, coach them through each exercise with great technique, and then hold them ACCOUNTABLE to the effort that is required to get the most out of their program.
For on-boarding new athletes this may seem overwhelming for the parents, but I assure you it is not. Kids are remarkably fast learners and want to be at their own pace. Therefore, my job is really about instilling a standard of excellence for technique, effort and focus. Then I let the kid get after it! This new ‘student’ is not thrown into exercises or progressions that are overly complicated or beyond their physical ability to perform well either. Instead, they are able to master a specific set of progressions and then move up the ladder next month.
This is how we can have a small group of athletes with different demands and different levels all training at the same time. This is how we take the onus off of the coach to walk them through every exercise every session and put it on the athlete to follow the program as it is laid out. This is the same model that elite college and professional athletes follow! It is also the model of superior classroom settings where the teacher isn’t the center of attention at all times.
What ensues is really remarkable to witness. Athletes of all levels train with great focus and intensity. They write down the weights in their own programs, you can see them talking about their program amongst each other, they challenge themselves to OWN their technique without me (knowing I’ll be there if it’s not perfect), and they have FUN because it is at their own pace and they control their destiny.
For students of athletic preparation, nothing builds confidence quite like competence. I could hold their hands throughout the process and they would get better and they would see results. But just like in a classroom there is a difference between getting an “A” on a test versus going through a learning experience that leaves you motivated, empowered, and invigorated for the next challenge. Yes, “A’s” are nice to see on a test but we all know that the true purpose of education is to enhance the students’ ability to think and not just regurgitate information.
As a young father I find myself watching these kids train and feel so proud of them. They are training like professionals and yet they are only 14 years old. Who cares how fast they run or how high they jump?! These kids are working hard, following directions, comprehending elite level training, and doing so with a smile on their face. What could be better?