It’s been a little over a month since I’ve come back home from the US Open. It took a bit of time to settle back into my routine and gather my thoughts on what was a great experience. Having gone over the month that I was on the road, at three different tournaments (Cincinnati, New Haven and New York), I found myself wanting to share my professional experience with others that have the goal of traveling with a tennis player. Training concepts remain consistent whether you are in your own stable home environment or on the road dealing with different gyms and surroundings each week. On the other hand, having the ability to deal with an always changing environment is where the challenge lies.
Here are three points that every strength coach should adapt to their training concepts and philosophies in order to succeed:
1. Preparation: Like the famous quote says “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” -Benjamin Franklin. This is true at any level of coaching, whether on the road or not, but becomes increasingly more important at the higher levels of athletics. Do not expect to be successful if you plan on showing up and figuring out what to do within minutes of a training session. Elite athletes need to be precisely challenged for positive changes to occur. A plan must be set forth with goals and objectives that you, the coaches and the player have gone over. Without this path in front of you, the likelihood of spinning your wheels in one spot is inevitable. This means having a long-term plan with short and long-term goals. Weekly and daily planning is crucial. Being prepared for every training session is necessary in order to focus on the athlete and not guess at what you are going to do next. A good athlete is capable of seeing who is and who isn’t prepared. This preparation will give you and the athlete confidence in the training.
2. Be flexible: So with all this discussion of preparation, now you have to be able to adjust on the fly. One of the challenges is that with every city comes new surroundings. Mostly it has to do with adjusting to the gym that you will have access to for training. This includes the warm-up, fitness training and recovery work. Each site will present you with different problems including space, crowdedness and lack of equipment. It’s great that it is supposed to be a box jump day, but what if there are no boxes, or a leg training day and the heaviest dumbbell is 25lbs. This is where preparing ahead and being malleable is crucial. This can be achieved by trying to find facilities to suit your training or by being creative and challenging the athlete in other ways to obtain the desired results. What also helps is bringing your own equipment (tubing, TRX, cones, ladder, recovery tools, etc.) to help out in difficult situations. It’s about making the best of a situation that is not optimal.
3. It’s all about the detail: To me, attention to detail is what separates good coaches from great ones and good athletes from great ones. Yes, the planning should be very detailed, but I see detail in another light, detail to the athlete’s training and surroundings. When in a gym setting with your athlete, the gym is your office. When in your office, the person you are with should get all the attention. Focus should be on the athlete and not others around you. No detail is too small not to realign or correct. Other details to be taken into account are the sport specific needs of the athlete. This can be hydration, food consumption, appropriate rest and recovery needs. Understanding their individual differences, rituals or quirks assist in helping them achieve optimal performance. The difference that separates a lot of these athletes is often extremely small. In order to make up that difference, the details should be focused on and adjusted for success.
This was my third time traveling with a player and of course it was easier than the first. Like it is often said, “if I knew now what I knew then,” well now you do. Incorporate these tips and let them help you become the best coach possible. In the end everyone wins.