Create a Schedule for Peak Performance

by Matt Cuccaro, Ed.M.

Success in athletics (and life) is tied directly to planning and preparation. There is one major aspect of planning and preparation that is often overlooked when developing student-athletes…scheduling. Proper scheduling allows a student-athlete to be proactive with their training to work around important dates including tournaments, academic testing (SATs), and time off.

It is important to consider at what point(s) in the year peak performance would be most desirable. It is unrealistic to expect peak performance to be achieved all the time throughout the year, or even during the precise times they are planned. However, by setting out a specific schedule across a calendar year, an effective performance cycle can be produced to maximize the opportunity to perform at the highest level possible throughout a season.

The four aspects of an effective performance cycle include preparation, pre-competitive, competitive, and active rest periods.

1. During the preparation stage, an athlete is intently focused on the technical aspects of performance by improving current limitations and weaknesses. Instead of focusing on scoring, this time is used to produce a more repeatable physical motion by maximizing the number and quality of repetitions produced during a practice session. This stage is used to build new skills and focus on making changes to enhance physical performance.

2. The pre-competitive stage typically begins within a week of competition. In this stage, attention is moved from precise, technical aspects of training to more of a feeling and trusting mode of play. A high percentage of practice should be spent simulating competition and focusing on scoring with the techniques that have been trained during the preparation cycle. Mental toughness and purposeful routines are highlighted during the days leading up to competition.

3. The competitive period is the time for an athlete to test their current abilities and lessons learned throughout the training process. By effectively navigating the previous stages, the athlete should now be fully prepared to perform and compete at his/her current potential.

4. The final stage, which is often overlooked, is the active rest period. This time is used to evaluate current strengths, limitations, and establish a new standard to achieve through the next cycle of training. Active rest allows athletes to better learn about themselves, their tendencies, and also take some time to catch up on other parts of life that may have been sacrificed during the previous performance cycle. Once an evaluation is completed and the athlete has the opportunity to recover mentally and physically from competition, it’s time to get back to work in preparation mode once again.

By following this training plan, student-athletes will create effective habits and maintain a better perspective on themselves and their sport. Anyone who attempts to maintain the highest level of intensity without adding variety and purpose to training can expect lackluster performances and perhaps even burnout.

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