Association Training

Posted: October 27, 2011 in Coaching Concepts
Tags: , , , , ,

Performance factors – Association training.

We have all heard or know about the 4 performance factors in sport.  These are namely; technical, physical, tactical and mental.

Some interesting questions come about when we start to think about these practically;

Where do we start?

Do we isolate performance factors in developing players?

Does one come before the other?

Can one occur without the others?

Should there be emphasis on certain factors during long term development?

I am not going to address these questions directly but I am going to try and provide a thought provoking piece how these factors are networked.

In the game based approach one argues that a tactical outcome or desire must be present and that the rest fit as tools to achieve the tactic, function over form.  I have adopted this for the most part but, (and there is always a but) the degree of quality in simple tactics are limited by the other performance factors.  As an example consider the “over and in” tactic in tennis.   There are hugely differing qualities in that a player can hit with poor technique and get the ball over and in.  A player of the same age can try and hit with pace, spin and flight to achieve the exact same tactic but clearly there is a differing quality factor.  We may think that this is just progressions and can be done as players mature.  This is true although consider the highly technically and physically competent young player who can hit good quality.  Shouldn’t we all strive for this?

The issue now becomes that arguably the tactic has moved on from simply over and in and now it involves taking time away from your opponent, keeping your opponent neutral to name two.  This could be cognitively too advanced for our young player (see previous article) and remains over and in just we have entered into a situation where the degree of technical and physical (and mental) capability limit the outcome or tactic.

Logically we can now see that yes technical and physical factors limit ones tactical quality and that the tactics can remain very simple as we strive to increase the quality.  Obviously there are mental factors such as a desire to reach this quality, concentration and focus and a work ethic that constitutes the overall potential of the player in question.

This is just one example of how the performance factors limit each other.  Technique compromises of physical sequential movements and without this coordination one cannot execute and therefore indirectly cannot execute the desired tactic.  Suddenly everything is reduced to physical factors as this precedes all of them.  At this point I will mention that this is not to imply that one should work physically until sorted, then choose another factor and move on in this manner.  This is suggesting that the performance factors limit each other in an intertwined network and it is that as coaches we must be able to locate the limiting factor(s), improve it or them, understand how they are linked in each individual case and enhance the overall performance (the game hence tactics).

In the case of a new player at a young age one can assume that there is limited physical capability and that a portion of time should be spent here.  Under the physical umbrella I place functional movements such as arm spirals to aid in racket manipulation, footwork, large muscle group function and of course our hand – eye work.  I have found that players are able to move the racket and sequence complex movements at a very young age and that this enables them to strive for the tactical quality regardless of how simple.  Movement itself, as an isolated entity also plays a huge part in executing tactics (see emergencies and opportunities) that simply states if a players positioning to execute a skill or action is compromised then the player can fulfil the complete tactical opportunity available.  There are things such as reception and reaction that precedes the movement but which performance factor does this fall into?

Now assuming that a player can be in position so that the movement into position is not a limiting factor and player now has technique and mental factors to use as tools to execute the desired tactic, in this case “over and in”.  So we begin to look at shape, contact point, racket path/angle/speed all of which resort back to physical competency and the “brain continuum” which demonstrates how a human’s movements become autonomous.  So once again we are limited by technique and physical attributes.

The overall aim is to bring up or increase the level of quality associated with the tactical desire.  In examining this we can logically see that our physical and technical (which is physical just minus the play) ability limits us.  Similarly, mentally, if the movements are not yet autonomous we have a brain learning process to master.  The point is that within a session or learning component a player needs to associate what they are doing with the overall outcome.  If we are learning to physically rotate our arms from the shoulder or rotate the core we need to understand why and what the effect should be in relation to the tactic.  This extends to movement training in that we move into positions to execute skills and there are a number (infinite in theory) tactics to consider from that position.

We can use this theory/model at any level of player imaginable, purely because each of the factors are interlinked and networked to achieve the final outcome.  In observing GB level sports I have used this approach in terms of movement training to enhance performance.  There will be article on this approach but in short looking at a player’s tactical desires from positions of strength and weakness and designing drills and associated rules in terms of technical/physical factors.  This stems further in attempting to condense the game into bouts of work and rest that can replicate intensities.

In summary the 4 performance factors are networked and closely related and have limiting effects on desired game outcomes and that the degree of quality is compromised.  In development or performance enhancement associating these factors with the exercise and the teaching and learning is key for maximised improvements.




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