The Difference Between Growing and Peaking
Combines. Showcases. Tryouts. Tests. Competitions.
There a dozens of reasons to peak your athletic abilities, but the training that it entails is often very different than what goes into getting better.
Look at combine training for football players.
Each year athletes from around the country are placed in programs that improve their bench press, 40 yard dash, vertical jump and other tests.
8-12 weeks of training is culminated in 1-3 days of testing.
This isn’t the way we want to setup our general training plans though. High volume sprints, repetitive agility drills that are repeated over and over without change, strength training focused on solely benching and jumping. All of this training is important when trying to achieve a score on a predictable test, however, athletics is not played in a predictable manner.
For long term development, it is important to challenge movements that build a better athlete. A better athlete to me is one that is capable of achieving success regardless of the surrounding environment. Changes in speeds, motion and power output are seamlessly executed at high speed – all in a random and ever changing way.
In this regard, while getting better at a 5-10-5 is easy to show improvement, it also has very little carryover to playing speed. Without learning to react to random and variable stimuli, an athlete is left as a great tester and a poor player.
Our athletes test well, but play even better. Regardless of sport across the board we put out the top athletes in each category. Our training with them is focused on developing a better level of athleticism, not just chasing test scores.
When and Where
If an athlete has a showcase coming up, we often will recommend 6-12 weeks of prep, depending on the age of the athlete and their previous training experience.
For an athlete that has been in a true athletic development program, we may only need 6 weeks to peak those traits necessary to test well. For an athlete that hasn’t trained with us, we may need longer in order to build a base of strength and technique that will allow us to tap into those special traits and improve scores.
If the training you are doing year round replicates the testing environment, you will limit your ability to improve overall athleticism that will carry with you forever.
Take Trevor Coston as an example
For our athletes they know Trevor well, for others, he was a D1 All-American athlete with a 43 inch vertical jump and ran his 40 in the 4.3-4.4 range – so in short he is a freak athlete.
When Trevor came to me following working with an experienced “combine prep” coach, his body was physically in shambles. He had just played for the Chicago Bears of the NFL, and he couldn’t even lift his left arm above his head.
This coach had neglected the issue in order to focus on improving the scores that would get Trevor noticed. While his scores were great, and the training opened doors, his training from that point forward needed to be different, and it wasn’t.
Still in the same pattern, Trevor never fixed the shoulder dysfunction, neglected working on his weak points like conditioning or power endurance, and it impacted his ability to play his sport.
There is a time and place for the different aspects of physical development, occasionally we need a focused attention to a small area, but for the rest of the year total development takes the lead.
Challenge Your Limits
One of the reasons that combine type training becomes a default training style is the idea of doing what is fun or what you are good at.
Basketball players want to play basketball and jump higher, not work on core control so they quit pulling their hamstring. Baseball players want to run a sub 7 second 60 and throw 90+ not work on anti-rotation exercises to prevent oblique strains from over using their rotational muscles.
This keeps you the same. You may get some small benefits from focusing all your time on the things you are good at, but it is often times the chinks in the armor that lead to our downfall and not a lack of skill or strength.
In training, we should be striving to fail and make mistakes as often as we can, then to invest ourselves in producing new movements and training in new ways to build these faults and add depth to our abilities.
Look at Dirk Nowitzki, pre-game he is out there shooting awkward shots that don’t go in, and creating movements that cause him to struggle with his shot. He isn’t sitting their doing the same old thing, because he will ultimately only get so much better. Instead, by creating new a varied movements, he is able to grow his body’s ability to perform in all ways, which leads to better skill and further advancement in his game.
If it is good enough for an NBA hall of famer, it is probably good enough for all of us as well.
The Windows Are Short, But The Hallway Is Long
We all here that the window of opportunity is short, and that we can’t miss it. In truth though, the time it takes to get to the window is a long one (the hallway). From the day we are born our body is learning what it can and cannot do, it is being challenged to forge new pathways to achieve success.
Once you start sports, your body is applying what it has learned in a new way, under new rules, and we learn and develop further. Then we start seeing windows of opportunity – a new travel team, a starting job, the freshman team, the varsity team, etc.
These windows can be planned for however, and in leading up to those windows it is important to remember to train the right way to be ready for the short time we have to hit them.
I would rather an athlete train to play well then test well, because a starting job will only depend on your 40 time for so long before the guy who can play gets the ball.