Principles to Optimize Training
To maximize learning, track and field practice should be well thought out and designed. Creating a productive learning environment for athletes requires planning, clear instruction, challenging tasks, feedback and communication. To optimize practice, the following principles and strategies should be incorporated into each session.
Coaches can start the session only when all of the athletes are focused, awaiting direction. Use a consistent predetermined signal such as a whistle to let the athletes know practice is commencing. Provide clear instruction including the purpose and goals of the activity. You may use demonstrations if appropriate during the introduction of skills during track and field practice.
Simplifaster has a great article on principles for high school practice design, including what good coaches do: “A good coach guides, teaches, and educates—they do not dictate”. Remember, coaches present skills and strategies for the successful execution of complex movements.
Challenging Learning Environment
Actively engage the athletes in the learning process by providing challenging but purposeful activities. Allow more experienced athletes to use activities that are self-directed by executing skills that need little to no assistance. An evaluation of improvement the coachwill evaluate progress throughout the session. As the coach, be active, move around to engage athletes, provide feedback and monitor progress. Watch and instruct all of the athletes, and provide some type of feedback to all of them. Coaches use various feedback methods including questions, comments, praise and encouragement where needed. Track and field coaches set the pace and energy level during practice, this will maximize learning and skill development.
When the track and field practice unit is complete, transition from one practice unit to another with minimal distraction.
Successful teaching for the events in track and field require patience and consistency from the coach. It is a slow and steady process, each step building upon the former. To ensure the athlete fully understands the correct technical patterns, the movements need to repeated with accuracy. The learning process requires separating a complex skill into parts. However, to execute the complete skill proper the entire movement must have rhythm and timing. Coaches need to use both part and whole teaching methods for successful coaching.
Review and Preview
At the conclusion of activities, take time to review the practice session. Preview the next session, then conclude with optional ‘homework’ to improve skills or knowledge.