An athlete has just finished up a big season of training, racing, and travelling to events. They are now taking an off-season break (we hope!). They are freshening up and ready to jump, head first, into preparation for the next year’s big objectives, everything is possible! Time to leave last year in the rear view mirror, right? No!
So much can be learned from a good review of a past season. In that review, coaches and athletes, together, can always find lessons to apply to the next season. It could be how an athlete responded to certain training sessions, nerves the evening before a race, race day nutrition, and so on and so on. The information revealed in reflection almost always outweighs the information we thought we had going in. The saying “20/20 Hindsight” rings pretty true.
OK, so we have sold you on review (wow, you’re an easy sell!), what is the first step? We believe there are two, equally important, aspects in reviewing a season. The first component, in a good review, is the qualitative, or subjective, component. Often this is where the coach can learn the most, from the athlete. For us, the qualitative component of a typical season review involves asking our athletes a series of questions. What the exact questions are is less important, than the questions being asked. In the day and age of data that we live in, it is easy to get blinded by numbers. However, at the end of the day, every athlete is unique, and every athlete knows what he or she is feeling, better than a number can portray. The goal is to create a dialogue, where a season is examined, from the subjective sense. Here are some questions we have found to be a useful spring board, for this dialogue:
- Regarding execution and preparation for races, what did you do well this year? What did you do poorly?
- Regarding training, what do you feel worked well for you? What would you want to try differently going into next year?
- What do you see as your biggest strength as an athlete? What do you see as your biggest weakness?
- Were there moments, in this past season, where you felt exceptionally good? Were there moments, where you felt exceptionally bad?
- What did you enjoy about this past season? What did you not enjoy?
The analytical tools at a coach and athlete’s disposal today are massive, which means it is very easy to get overwhelmed by numbers. Numbers are only useful if they make a difference in performance. This sounds simple, but is difficult to implement. Our approach is to outline a few task specific metrics, such as peak powers or course times, and track them. These task specific metrics are going to be different for different athletes, because different athletes have not just different events, but also different limiters within those events. Inevitably, when tracking metrics, there are going to be components that contribute to performance, which you may not track. By narrowing it down to a few metrics, it also means coaches and athletes avoid drowning in a sea of numbers. Pick metrics that have a high correlation to how an athlete performs in competition. If you notice that the metrics you are tracking are improving, and competition performance is not, or vice versa, it does not mean the metrics are worthless. It could mean that the nature of the competition is changing and training needs to be focused elsewhere, or conversely, that the athlete is improving other performance parameters, such as tactical sense, and that is outweighing the fact that quantitative metrics have reached a plateau. All possibilities lead to really valuable information that can positively influence preparation for future events.
Here is an example of some metrics we are tracking with one of our athletes that competes in events where the critical moments are often about the power one can produce under fatigue. We have picked some metrics tailored to that:
Now that all this information is collected, the next step is to set some goals for next year, and go smash them! We wish anyone reading, good luck, in their upcoming pursuits…but if you’ve done a good review of the previous season, it will not have much to do with luck!