Performance Cycle: The Key to Continuous Improvement

by Matt Cuccaro, Ed.M.

Athlete development is a long-term process. Although many gadgets, instruments, and training aids are sold as the ultimate “must-have” item, unfortunately there are no shortcuts or magic pills that allow an individual to reach their ultimate potential without time, energy, and introspection. It should be understood that the only way for an athlete to get where they want to be is through preparation, experience, and continuous learning through evaluation. I utilize the following model to ensure each one of my students gets the most from themselves and their training on a daily basis. This model assists athletes in their journey to reach their potential on and off the field by creating a mindset of continuous improvement.

The prepare stage of the performance cycle is the longest in duration for all athletes. These are the days, weeks, or months set aside for training between competitions. This time is used to develop the technical, tactical, physical, and mental skills required to compete at a high level. This stage of the performance cycle typically starts with a high percentage of instruction in order for the athlete to learn new skills and improve technique. As the cycle continues, the athlete engages in quality repetition of movement to create the feel and trust required to compete without excess technical thought as competition nears.

The compete stage is the time to execute and showcase the skills that were developed and improved during the prepare stage. This is not the ideal time to try something new or uncomfortable that has not been practiced. Competition is naturally a time of higher stress, so an athlete’s mind and body will automatically revert to doing what it currently knows best. This will allow the individual to see where their game actually stands. The compete stage is the opportunity for an athlete to measure their current potential and show how well they can manage the physical, tactical, and mental  aspects of performance in a public forum.

The evaluate & active rest stage of the performance cycle is often skimmed over or eliminated altogether because it may not show any immediate results. However, if the athlete does not have an opportunity to assess themself and take time for other off-the-field needs, long-term development suffers. Success in life is a continuous process of evaluating, learning, and developing; which takes a significant amount of time and energy. Without proper evaluation and rest, athletes typically lose perspective on their sport and life as a whole, which results in burnout and shorter, less fulfilling athletic careers. Once the evaluation is complete, it’s time to create the next training plan to increase overall potential by preparing once again.

This model is clearly the opposite of a “must-have” item or magic pill. It is a training plan that exhibits the time, energy, and evaluation required to excel in sport and life. After going through this cycle a few hundred times, elite performance and skill mastery might begin to show itself.

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2 Responses to “Performance Cycle: The Key to Continuous Improvement”


  1. 1 Total Development December 10, 2011 at 10:31 am

    What’s up, just wanted to tell you, I enjoyed this article. It was great. Keep on posting!


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