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Analyzing the Demands of the Sport

Before you can design an effective functional training program, you must first analyze and understand the demands of the sport. Think about the sport. See a picture in your mind. What type of sport is it? Most sports are either endurance sports or speed and power sports. Almost all team sports are speed and power sports. Individual sports such as gymnastics and figure skating also rely primarily on speed and power. Racket sports, including tennis, are speed and power sports.

Matching Type of Sport and Type of Tests

Back in the early 1980s, when professional sports teams and top amateur and professional athletes began to seek training advice, they often turned to the wrong people. Consultants employed by professional teams and sport federations were most often exercise physiologists with little or no experience in addressing the needs of athletes in speed and power sports. Generally, they were endurance sport athletes themselves.

Train Slow, Play Slow

Many an athlete has performed poorly because of a simple training mistake: cross country. Countless athletes (often escorted by their upset parents) have come to me after a disappointing season for which they believed they had trained so hard. They can’t figure out why all those miles they ran never paid off. Some even report feeling a step slow, lacking that burst—quick, explosive movement —when they needed it.

Identifying and Improving Key Qualities

Noted speed expert Charlie Francis wrote a landmark work in 1986 called The Charlie Francis Training System (reissued as Training for Speed, Francis 1997). In it he described the characteristics of a sprinter and how to properly train these characteristics. This information has been the basis for our program design and philosophy since that time.

Conclusion

To train for sports such as soccer or tennis, athletes must sprint and decelerate, often from top speed, to be prepared to play the game. Will they develop this ability in five-mile runs? Probably not. The same logic can apply to almost any power sport.

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