By Travelle Gaines

Travelle Gaines Jimmy Butler

Image provided by Travelle Gaines

Sports performance training can sometimes be misunderstood. Most protocols focus primarily on building an athlete’s size and strength, but there’s so much more that goes into developing an athlete.

All coaches would love to have the prototypical player — big and strong — with all the other qualities that go into building a star: fast with a great range of motion, strong with great endurance, agile with great stability, etc. Successfully developing this elite athlete depends on the type of training program used.

On every level of sports, it is pivotal for the athlete to understand the fundamentals of movement. Success is always rooted in these fundamentals, and the quality over quantity approach wins out every time. Training with optimal posture and proper technique is essential for maximizing muscle recruitment, increasing performance output, and decreasing the chance of injury. Start with simple exercises and, as the athlete progresses, add levels of complexity to challenge the athlete.

From the outside looking in, a lot of these coaching principles seem very simple. They’re often overlooked but very effective in improving athlete performance.

I break movement down into two parts: general and sport-specific. By learning and developing movement patterns first, the athlete learns the necessary motor skills needed to be more efficient. Then, I narrow the exercise regimen down to become more specific to the athlete’s sport and position. This teaches the athlete how movement translates to performance.

Most of my athletes train four days a week. Two days are linear-based days (acceleration and absolute speed), while the other two days focus on lateral and multidirectional movements. Always make sure to teach the foundation of each movement (postural alignment and proper mechanics) first. I believe this benefits the athlete tremendously by improving the quality of movement and efficiency and developing their control, which in turn limits the chance of injury.

Another key to getting the best out of each and every athlete is exercise explanation and demonstration. This teaching component focuses on helping the athlete connect the “What” with the “Why” — Why am I doing this, and what impact will it have on my sport and performance? Focus on the aim of the exercise, how it’s executed, points of reference and cues, and expected criteria for successful performance. This will help the athlete to build a better understanding of how to produce more power, balance, control, and fluid movement during games.

There are many different ways to train and coach athletes. Find your training niche, but be a sponge — never stop learning better ways to build upon your athletes’ success.