May 25

Planning Components For The Daily Training Session

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Someone stated at the time I started my Website that information needs to be entertaining. Well, I beg to differ! Of course, it should be interesting but there is so much entertainment available these days that I feel strongly information should also be educational. The May Newsletter discusses the importance of effective planning and successful delivery…. and some may not find it ‘entertaining’! However, Planning and managing a training session successfully is the foundation of excellent coaching. Teaching/Coaching is based on ‘Pedagogy’ principles – Art and Science of teaching; it is education, and/or represents instructional methods.

Having educated over 24,000 coaches to date in Canada, USA, and other countries I had the opportunities to observe many coaches directly or as a Coach Mentor. In fact, the NCCP (Canadian National Coaching Certification Program) uses ‘Coach Developer.’ I really identify with this term. I have watched practices of Elite and Professional Teams, whereby the latter was conducted, in numerous cases, against many pedagogical principles, starting with the proper/correct Warm-up, flow of skill sequence and progression in that specific session. The ‘nicety’ about coaching pedagogy is that once one understands the fundamental concepts of planning and delivery, one can actually follow any sport lesson/session without having to be the technical experts in that sport – and I have observed hockey, basketball, football, volleyball, gymnastics, swimming, athletics, fencing, shooting, among others.

During 31 years of teaching in the Kinesiology Faculty at the University of Calgary, Student-Teacher Preparation was one of my annual assignments, which I truly enjoyed. It was a full-year course (2 semesters). Part of my creative approach was to have students Practice teach in the second semester from 8:00-12:00 at a nearby Junior High School. It was a super opportunity to get the ‘real taste of that very unique and challenging Junior High beast’ (my affable term). Ah … they can be sooo wonderful and caring, and then absolutely obnoxious!

UCalgary kinesiology students (males and females) taught a variety of classes: basketball, football, field hockey, rugby, gymnastics, track and field (athletics), and wrestling among others. Part of the teaching assignment was to prepare lesson plans for 12 weeks for the respective activities. My involvement included the grading of these prior to the actual implementation, providing guidance, resources, and then written observation of the actual teaching, which encompassed: language and communication skills, organization, and class management. It is the latter, which makes up the topic for this Newsletter. First of all, each delivery of a successful lesson/training session depends upon specific phases of preparation, which include the following steps:


1. Pre-impact – Planning

This process includes Warm-up and Cool-down activities, progressions and sequences of physical and technical skills as the Main Theme as well as the Post Session Reflection.


Let’s discuss the Warm-up, which several Phases:

  • General dynamic moving
    • General body warm-up
  • General dynamic stationary
    • General body warm-up
  • Specific Warm-up
    • Specific body parts
    • Specific body parts related to upcoming physical or technical session
  • Main Themes – Skills/Activities
  1. Quick Review
    1. Previous Session or Skill[s]
    2. Questions, clarifications
    3. Linkage to New Skills
  2. Teaching New Skills
    1. 2- Skills (3 maximum)
    2. Practice of skill
    3. Competition or Game simulation with set limitations*
    4. Simulate Competition or Game – no limitations set*
  3. Review Session
    1. Questions answered*
    2. Linking present session to upcoming one*
  4. Finish Session with known Skills*
  5. Cool-down Activities


2. Impact – Delivery

  • It is the actual delivery, i.e. teaching the session as designed, planned, and carried out by implementing the sequence and format outlined in Pre-Impact Planning

Note: In the Delivery – follow this Format

  • Review (previous) – New – Review (new) presents the so-called ‘sandwich’ paradigm. This approach provides a better and more positive learning/teaching/training scenario.
  • Review (previous)– relating known skills (previous taught) enables the teacher/coach to check the knowledge base of athletes, and helps to identify potential misunderstanding, reasons for under-performance, technical difficulties, or lack of physical components necessary for the respective skill[s]
    • Do they understand the concepts?
    • Are they able to link these to related skills?
    • Are they able to transfer this knowledge to the actual physical training session? (Example: transfer of dry-land Butterfly undulation movement to the actual performance in the water)
  • New– introducing New Skill[s] and demonstrate the Linkage to known or previous skill[s]
  • Review (new) – review the newly learned skill[s] to identify flaws, and to establish potential re-teaching for the next session

In addition, Coaches of Team Sports should organize training sessions in so-called ‘thirds’ (dividing the session – Refer to below). Depending on the phase of the seasonal cycle, ‘Thirds’ are adjusted so that reviewing skills is slowly diminished, and skills are instead refined. This means that time spent on simulation of the game without limitations increases so the body gets used to the physiological and psychological stress factors. In other words, skill and mental ‘breakdown’ need to occur (should occur) here so coaches can address these, and not have to deal with ‘surprise’ happenings in real game situations. In essence: Practice the way you want the athletes to perform – No surprises!

The ‘Thirds’ Formula:

  • Review Previous skill[s]
    • Practice these skills (1/3) to determine physical or technical flaws
  • Teach New skill[s]
    • Introduce the skill[s]
    • Practice skills (1/3)– simulating the game with limitations (example: soccer passing without defenders and goalie)
      • The purpose is to observe physical, technical flaws under pressure conditions
    • Practice new skills (1/3)– simulating the game without limitations (example: soccer passing with full team on the field, and game time)
      • The purpose is to observe physical, technical, and mental ‘breakdown’ in full game stress conditions
  • Review current skill[s] with Linkage to previous
    • The purpose is the establish the cognitive process of connecting to the skills chain or skills pyramid


3. Post-impact – Reflection

It is the Reflection and Evaluation of the session and the physical performance by athletes

It is the Reflection and Self-evaluation of the Coach and Coaching staff according to the following criteria:

  • Was communication effective?
  • Was training managed effectively
  • Were performance objectives met?
  • Was the training plan completed?
  • What could have been taught better?
  • What was good?
  • What should or needs to be re-taught, re-emphasized, or refined?


Based on this reflection, each subsequent lesson or training session may need modification or adjustment


Reason for the Warm-up and Specific Considerations

In my coaching approach, daily training starts with the Warm-up. I tell my athletes to ‘listen to the body’! This is not the time to socialize because this training phase sets the ‘tune and attitude’ for the rest of the day! Warm-up activities are an integral part of each training session with general and specific exercises in a progressive sequence. These should create the ‘link and flow’ between physical preparation and technical skills of the day. Coaches also have to consider the specific needs of individual athletes. The biggest error is to assume or ‘treat everyone alike.’ Consideration also has to be given to male and female differences to prevent potential injuries (according to research, females are more prone to knee injuries based on structure, for example).

Warm-up activities, or the so-called ‘exercise complex’, are changed in accordance to seasonal cycles (Pre-season, Early season, Mid-season, Late season, and Championship Preparation – in so-called Micro-Meso-Macro cycles = days/weeks/month).

The Purpose:

  • Physiological Preparation
  • Warm-up muscles and/or muscle groups
  • Increase the heart rate (HR)
  • Avoid injuries


Three-fold Reasons for the Warm-up

Physical Preparation for Skills or Tasks Ahead

  • Develop and/or increase general motor function and motor fitness
  • Develop specific physical components needed
  • Conditioning

Special Preparation for Technical Skills or Tasks Ahead

  • Create the linkage of physical components to the technical skills on hand
  • Develop physical and technical ‘cues

Psychological Preparation for Physical and Technical Skills or Tasks Ahead

  • Develop mental pictures
  • Develop physical and technical performance ‘cues’


The Efficient and Effective Warm-up:

The “5-Ws” of the Warm-up

“WHY”– is the Warm-up needed?

  • The body – ‘expensive body engine’ – depends upon ‘tender loving care’ (TLC) to be fully warmed up and tuned
  • Cold engines perform poorly and ineffectively, leading to defects, i.e., injuries
  • Warming-up is important as a mental preparation for the respective skill training or refinement


“WHERE”– does the Warm-up take place?

  • Depends upon the available facility
  • All activities have to be conducted in a safe and positive teaching/coaching environment


“WHEN”– does the Warm-up take place?

  • Timing of Warm-up activities is crucial
  • Organizational requirements (equipment set up, etc.), procedures, information, and daily objectives have to be completed prior to the actual Warm-up session
  • Sitting down or kneeling for instruction after warming up the body totally defeats the overall purpose as muscles now cool down


“WHO”– is warming up?

  • Developmental age (versus chronological age), growth factors, maturity level, physical ability, and skill level have to be considered
  • Elite and professional athletes need to include general, specific, and personal Warm-up activities based on need


“WHAT”– is warmed up?

  • General Warm-up- includes the total body
  • Specific Warm-up- involves body parts of the upcoming skills session, and is based on the individual athlete’s need
  • Progress from large to small muscle groups – working from head to toes – if this is the dynamic stationary part because ‘sitting down’ lowers the HR, which has to be maintained.


“1-H” – “HOW”– is the Warm-up performed?

  • Variety of activities is the absolute ‘key’ to avoid boredom, especially for younger participants
  • FUN and dynamic moving activities can be implemented prior – even for elite and professional athletes


Principles and Concepts

  • Time allotted to the Warm-up is about 20 percent of overall training time to achieve the three-fold physiological purpose as stated previously
  • Warm-up activities remain the same wherever they take place but adjustments are made for potential space limitation or safety concerns (walls or floor surface)
  • General complex includes exercises for postural alignment, agility, balance, coordination and speed (The ABC’s of physical literacy), strength, power, general, sport- and skill specific flexibility, muscular and cardiovascular endurance to maintain technique without fatigue
  • Warm-up is the start of the training session – focus needs to be solely on performing the respective exercises correctly (‘listening to one’s body’) instead of socializing in ‘chit-chat (or ‘goofing around’)!
  • Traditional stationary exercises such as vigorous forward/backward arm swings or outdated side-to-side jumping jacks are often ‘just done’ without a specific purpose. Why are these even performed? How do they relate to subsequent technical skills?
  • Key to any meaningful training is the ‘flow’ of each phase: a) general dynamic moving to specific dynamic moving; b) general dynamic stationary to specific dynamic stationary; and c) transferring the preparation of physical components to subsequent technical skills
  • Proper footwear, sweat pants, shorts, sweatshirts, T-shirts should always be worn to keep the body warm, even indoor field, gymnasiums, or pool deck. Supportive footwear is needed to avoid ankle or potential shin splints.


Reason for the Cool-down and Specific Considerations

The Cool-down is the final phase of training. It is the physiological and psychological closure, and like the Warm-up also consists of progressive exercise sequences, relating directly to the muscle groups previously used. The duration should be about 8-10 percent of the overall training time, or longer depending on individual needs or physical components needed.

The main purpose is to lower the heart rate (HR). Post-training conditioning is composed of specific functional and motor fitness: strength, power, strength and flexibility, agility, mobility, and the desired combinations of these components, etc. In addition, it is the psychological ‘come down’ effect. Exercises from the specific seasonal training cycle can be selected as after-competition activities.


Three-fold Reasons for the Cool-down


  • Lower the HR
  • Increase ‘stretch reflex’
  • Rid muscles of lactic acid
  • Reduce injuries



  • Increase flexibility
  • Increase functional strength, combined with ROM (Range of Motion)



Understanding the concepts of the Cool-down is critical. It is the way to ‘come down’ from intense workout, activity, training session. Progressive relaxation, Yoga, or other enrichment activities can be incorporated here. Younger participants often leave the training area early, or spend little or no time in the Cool-down process. As well, parents may be eager to return home as soon as possible because they deem this activity to be unimportant. Therefore, education on the role and function, contribution to recovery, and the prevention of injuries is essential. This can be explained by using the ‘gum in the freezer’ image: ‘stiff gum breaks when stretched, whereas warm or soft gum stretches easily.’ Muscles operate the same way. On the other hand, elite and professional may not spend enough time in this process because this phase is also based on individual needs (some athletes need more time). Frequently, games or competitions finish late or ‘go into overtime’, which may lead to ‘short cuts’ afterwards.


Principles and Concepts

  • Cool-down is the psychological process ‘that brings the body down’ from previous training effects
  • Regeneration (recovery), prevention of injuries, and physical enhancement are the primary objectives
  • HR needs to decrease gradually, approximately 5 minutes
  • Focus is on flexibility and functional strength
  • Stretching exercises are based upon the major muscle groups used in the training session
  • Attention is given to the importance of correct recovery, which includes post-training rehydration and nutrition


Principles and Concepts discussed above are now applied to every Lesson/Training Plan in a specific format, which is discussed and shown in this Article.

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