Peak Problems: The Athletes Fault
As coaches, we have all had those competitions. You believe the athlete is fully prepared, the stars have aligned, the 67 moons of Jupiter are in perfect harmony, you have planted all the bull horns at the four corners of your property, you have sacrificed your orange crush to the Waponi Woo and yet anxiety has fully settled into your sinews. Your athlete approaches their first attempt, their first throw, they walk to the line...and miss, foul or throw a pick-six. Everything was perfect, or so you thought.
It’s an awful feeling. You feel for the athlete, as a good coach you blame yourself. What happened??!?!?! How could this be? Is it truly your fault (most likely)?
I always take fault for the failures of my athletes. Occasionally, I like to blame others but never will do so. I know it’s not ALWAYS the coaches fault but even when the athlete does not compete to their capability, it is typically an issue the coach SHOULD have brought to light. So, for the enjoyment of this activity, let's blame the athlete. What are a few things that may go wrong for an athlete to cause a peak problem?
Many athletes struggle with building pressure. They place this pressure upon themselves. As a coach, I expect all athletes to execute their training programs as prescribed. If I notice someone adding in extra technical work, speaking to me excessively about their movement, being quieter OR louder than normal or simply shutting down, I know that the individual is struggling with their current training situation.
It is important for athletes to realize that some people can achieve full peak adaptations within 5 days while some may take 21-24 days! Know how things work, know your mechanisms to recovery and stay focused on logical scenarios. Training needs to be about technical movement while peaking needs to be about biological recovery, technical aggression, AND execution.
Causing External Fatigue
As athletes break mentally, they begin to question everything. They get into fights with their loved ones, they get frustrated/irritable and begin second-guessing everything. They add in reps to their competitive movement. Olympic lifters will add in movements they are better at, exercises that will make them feel good in the short term but will actually cause extra residual fatigue. Throwers will take double the amount of hard throws and go heavier during training. Then they will go home and drink more alcohol and. The stress will break them and in return, they will cause even further external fatigue that will hinder recovery.
Standing there prior to a major competition, the intensity is big and the preparation has been on point. The throws have been awesome the past week in training, the olympic lifter has performed everything to precision, the football team has executed all the practice plays in a precise manner. Then what happens? You take note of the body language and all of sudden it is verbalized.
“The circle is slow.”
“The circle is too fast.”
“These warm-ups are taking forever!”
“The chalk isn’t great.”
“These refs will be looking to call fouls….”
“The knurling on the bar is sharp.”
“Why is it so cold in here??!?!?!”
“The field is a little slow.”
“It’s hot outside.”
These are all excuses and external factors that I have heard verbalized by some of the best athletes I have ever coached. Not only are they acknowledging the externals they are also allowing them to have a negative space within their mind! These issues need to be addressed well before a competition and the athlete needs to be warned to hide these feelings and understand that they are not real. They are simply a manifestation of their lack of stress management! What can be done? Educate them on stress management tools and tricks.
Every throw will elicit a noticeable physical response. The head will shake, the chin will drop while the hands will flail in the air, they will be mad at everyone, throw something and even blame others for the simplest of actions. Instead of training with a precise technical focus, training will turn into a madhouse. The athlete will throw or lift as hard as possible, ignoring the actual technical execution they need to become a champion!
As an athlete, what can be done?
Discuss the expected feelings from tapering and set up for a big competition?
Approach the sport logically. Continue to focus on all things recovery. Know what is needed to be executed from a technical perspective and be prepared to spark an aggressive trigger for a monster physical response.
Sleep, eat, train, ignore social life! Even significant others need to stay home. Avoid BULLSHIT. No drinking, no smoking, no partying. SLEEP, eat and recover. Focus on positive music, take notes of your feeling and always think from a logical perspective.
Stop overanalyzing movement. Just focus on the exercise or competitive movement that is being tested and understand that you are headed down the right path. When full adaptation is present, the results will be there!
The number one rule is to communicate. Let the athletes know your expectation of them during peaking. Paint the results if they listen. Let them know what will occur if they follow the program perfectly. It takes time but will result in incredible standards!
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