Top 4 Priorities for Player Performance
If we are going to maximize the abilities of our players, we have to set them up for success. This is a long game that can either raise or drastically lower their ceiling of potential.
Before we even attempt to attack the technical, tactical and competitive side of player development, we must first address the fundamental foundations of human performance in sport. These are critical areas of athlete development that are often overlooked or neglected at all levels of sport. Done properly, we create more coachable, durable, and robust players who experience higher levels of both immediate and long-term success.
If these key fundamentals are neglected, we potentially expose our players to slower or stalled progress as well as higher rates of injury which is a major contributing factor in the current epidemic of player burnout and the rising dropout rates in sport.
We have established four top priorities that we address first and foremost when setting up our players, teams, and organizations for success – regardless of the level they are currently competing at.
#1. Sleep, Rest and Recovery
These factors are ground zero for maximizing player performance. Unfortunately, they are often an afterthought in program design taking a backseat to competitive schedules and sport specific technical and tactical practice time.
As you set up your daily, weekly, monthly, and annual plans everything you do should revolve around your players’ sleep as well as the amount and quality of their recovery.
In our programs sleep is by far the number one factor for maximizing performance. Once proper sleep is scheduled in around our competitive and training programs, we then address our recover strategies which are based on the type, volume and intensity of work being done.
To maximize player performance, you need to start at the beginning. In sport performance that means you must first consider, sleep, rest and recovery.
#2. Nutrition & Hydration
A remarkably close second, both nutrition and hydration are critical for optimizing player performance.
To eat and hydrate properly requires a continuous effort and to make it more manageable for our players, we break it down into daily plans.
Nutrition and hydration are discussed from the time we start playing sport but I ask you, when was the last time you worked with players who were properly hydrated or following a proper eating plan?
It’s rare, very rare.
When it comes to performing at higher levels, eating and hydrating properly are some of the lowest hanging fruit, the simplest way to positively impact your daily performance.
Nutrition and hydration are easy to talk about but not so easy to execute.
Keep discussing it with your players on a daily basis this has to become part of the team culture.
#3. Posture and Range of Motion
We are seeing very disturbing trends in player health as injury rates are on the rise across all of sport.
Proper posture and joint function are at the core of creating healthy, adaptable, and coachable players. While posture and range of motion screening and training may take some expertise you do not need to be an expert to understand the potential dangers of muscle imbalance, posture issues or extremes in the range of motion around our joints.
Not only are we greatly influenced by the repetitive nature of the sports we play, we are up against a true MONSTER when we consider the impact technology is having on our postures, especially among our youth.
Incorporating simple posture drills and exercises into your daily warm up and weekly practices can go a long way to reduce the risk of injury while at the very same time increasing the athleticism of our players.
In sport, our fourth performance priority is movement.
We must create movers.
This is a critical element of player development and one that can literally change the developmental trajectory of your players.
Movement training, also referred to as physical literacy, is closely tied to the developmental windows our players pass through as they grow and mature. Understanding movement, how it happens and what we need to do in order to become master movers is a process that takes time.
Make no mistake, if we are serious about raising our players ceiling of potential, we must teach them to be movers first and foremost.
Great movement skills set the stage for attacking the sport specific technical and tactical work that will allow a player to progress in the sport they love.
If we are really dedicated to helping our players realize their true potential, we need to provide the process that allows this to happen.
That process starts with preparation and set up.
For our players, that set up starts with these four foundational priorities.
It does not matter how much time you put in or how hard you work, it is impossible to be at or to aspire to your true potential if these four factors are not addressed right off the top.