BY DR. VIRGINIA SAVAGE FOR FLORIDA TODAY
Now that you have goals set for this season, let’s talk about a plan that will help you to stay motivated, avoid injury and burnout, and increase your skill level so much that your opponents will run away when you are on the field.
A good action plan begins with knowing where you are now. Ask yourself (and ask your coach) this question: what are your strengths and what are your weaknesses? (I prefer to call them challenges). If you know what your strengths are you can enhance those too, and it’s good to know where to begin.
Target the skills you need to play your best season: physical (fitness), technical (training), tactical (competition), and psychological (mental toughness). Pick one element from each area to begin with and work on it for the first two months. At the end of that time you can determine where you want to make changes to fit your needs.
Plan to work on each target area on a weekly basis. I am going to familiarize you now with what is known as Periodized Training. This kind of training progressively makes you work harder, learn more, challenge yourself more and gives you a systematic (and vital) period of recovery, after which you begin the next cycle all over again at a higher level. Here’s how it goes:
Week 1: Start with your base level (where you are now) on each target area.
Physical: Measure your basic level of endurance, strength, and flexibility.
Technical: List the skills training that your coaches put you through and where you stand on each one.
Tactical: Identify what you need to work on in competitive situations.
Mental: Recognize and address your mental strengths and challenges. Ask for some feedback from your coach.
Week 2: Increase your effort in each area by at least 10 percent, record your time and reflect on your performance. Keep a journal so you won’t forget and can plan better.
Week 3: Challenge yourself at your peak level. Increase your work effort in each area by another 10 to 20 percent. Again, record your performance, your challenges, your strengths.
Week 4: This week is about recovery. This doesn’t mean you become a couch potato and watch TV during practice time. This means that you simply go back to Week 1 and perform/practice at that level. There are very good reasons for this kind of recovery and here they are:
You can measure improvement (how much easier it feels since the beginning, how much you have improved).
Your body and your mind will be able to rebuild and regenerate.
Motivation is greatly increased.
Burnout is avoided.
Injuries are avoided because your body and mind are rested and strengthened.
The next cycle (month) begins at the level of Week 2 and the same kind of increase and recovery are repeated again each and every month. The more serious you are about improving your game, the more it all makes sense to plan well and improve steadily until you are at the top of your game.