With the spread of democracy and the growth of season travel/duration for athletes, your “plan” and “periodization” are no longer safe. It is certainly critical to have that plan, but also to bring a realistic expectation that players will be unable to perform some of the plan. Maybe they are burned out from travel the prior day, emotional stress from friends/family, poor regeneration from diet, and the list goes on to fill up the rest of this post so the question should center back on being prepared for the inevitable, a term often called audibles.
Learning from Sport Coaches
American football is probably the best example of audibles because it is a rare team that has set plays. This situation allows significant strategy and a plan by the largest coaching staff found in any of the world's sports. They incessantly plan for the ideal game plan, yet more importantly, they devise contingencies for certain situations should the plan go away. Training for sports should contain the same approach as performance coaches are often met with unexpected challenges. Far too often, the entire "game-plan" is rewritten or the athlete is completely shut-down to avoid any resemblance of the original plan.
How to Make Audibles
The solution is to solidify audibles, adjustments that you or your coaching staff can make when obstacles arise. The key is to define adjustments prior to the obstacle and communicate these “check-downs” to the staff so everyone can make the change to the next pertinent option, rather than the next nearest equipment or easiest substitution. For example, we have all of our needs prioritized in order of effect on the intended variable, whether it is the force plate (LOAD, EXPLODE, DRIVE) or more skill based activities like speed work for field athletes.
Field Speed #1 Sprint + Pro Agility
Field Speed #2 Bounds + Sprint
Field Speed #3 Resisted March + Resisted Shuffle
These effects provide a decreasing statistical effect on speed, but they also provide a decreasing eccentric stimulus (i.e. less impact) to serve as audibles while we are out coaching on the floor. So a team or group of players arrive for their sprint session and one athlete has a sore knee that starts to flare up during the warm-up, so we can audible to bounds/sprint (effect #2). If pain persists, than our #3 option allows almost a pure concentric, slower stimulus to reduce stress, while still addressing the planned variable of field speed. At Sparta, we coach in zones, so you would actually see/hear our senior coaching staff call out Speed3 (for Speed effect #3) or L3 (for Load effect #3) to the other staff to ensure the workout continues to roll smoothly with the best adjustments.
Historically, the audible would be to jump on an exercise bike, do some crunches or wall sits, or perhaps just stretch/ice/ultrasound. These are not audibles, but just randoms, because they do not make progress towards the plan.
Keys to the Plan, Effect, and Audibles
- Identify the variable (field speed)
- Rank the effects based of your culture/instincts and/or data like the Sparta signature
- Communicate with staff and enforce the audibles, not randoms