Periodization is the term used for an annual training plan that is divided into phases of training. It is a plan for success by training all components to peak at the exact time that they are required for optimal performance. It begins with an end in mind and works backwards to make sure you have addressed all aspects of softball with the most efficiency for the best outcome. This is softball periodization.
Inexperienced teams can benefit if the coach or trainer plans the training and activities for the season that are appropriate for the level. Experienced and elite athletes should be encouraged to be more a part of the process which will also increase the level of compliance within the program.
The most common focus in periodization is biomotor, or physical abilities which can effect the level of muscular fatigue. If not monitored, this can effect the ability to execute the intricate skills of softball with perfection. Add to that, psychological skills and strategies which can enable the athletes to make adjustments within the environment and demands of training. Individual abilities and training state will play a role in the design of your annual plan. I recommend that coaches focus on all aspects of the game rather than simply on the biomotor components.
Getting Started with Softball Periodization
Many coaches and trainers who use periodization will start with a quadrennial plan. which is a plan based on an Olympic cycle. From this quadrennial plan, Annual plans are then designed to achieve results that will ultimately provide the best performance for the end of the quadrennial plan. It is important to note that this use of periodization is not as useful for coaches and trainers who are planning for their teams best performance at the end of a season which would be local, state, provincial or national championships.
The beginning of your season actually starts at the end of your last tournament of the year. While your athlete(s) are recovering and regenerating from the season, you are evaluating the previous one and considering the next one.
A long term plan should be considered using the data and planning tools from the annual plan to ensure that progress from year to year is taking place.
All Training plans should start with a physical assessment. To know where you are going to you need to know where you are starting from.
Things to consider when preparing for your season.
Level of Competition:
- Recreation – not necessarily striving for high performance / fun and participation is the purpose
- Competitive – aiming for high performance but does not require it
- Provincial / Domestic competitions – aiming for high performance and striving for it
- High Performance / National – highest level of performance required
It is critical that you have the level of your athlete(s) in mind when you are designing your yearly training plan to ensure that adequate steps are taken not only to improve your athletes performance but to keep them engaged in the sport and their training program.
- objective evaluation is critical in planning an effective program
- a training program must include regeneration and recovery to ensure the best results
- goals must be designed with the athlete in mind, based on his/her overall abilities and the resources available
- goals must be specific and measurable including short and long term, leading to the main competition
- athletes must begin with a solid physical foundation which will enhance their sport specific training
- sport specific training such as power, agility, speed , coordination and flexibility are required to maximizing their softball potential and done closer to the beginning of the competition year
- softball is an anaerobic alactic sport which will require more high intensity training
- the ability to perform all technical/tactical skills required for softball under various conditions and done through perfect practice in and out of the competition environment
- with as many simulations and situations as possible leading up to the main competition
- team culture
- overall team abilities
- incorporating variety
- health / injury prevention and management
The type of skills in softball
- cyclic – repetitive motion … running etc.
- acyclic – a combination of motions that result in an end result …. batting, throwing, positional play
- acyclic combined – cyclic followed by acyclic …. baserunning, outfield
This will assist in training and teaching the skills. It will be easier to train skills that have acyclic skills as they can be broken down more simply. A skill such as running which is cyclic would best be trained using video analysis as it would be very difficult to break down each phase of a step in running for instance. You must also consider your athletes developmental stage in your planning.
Levels of Annual Planning
When you are working with local athletes who are not competing at the elite level, softball periodization still has its merits. To know what you are going to do for the season and how you are going to develop your team will not only make your job easier but will also ensure that at the end of the season your team has improved and everyone returns to this great sport.
Too often coaches think that this is not a tool for them because they are not going to be competing at a state, provincial or national final however I beg to differ. It does not have to be used to the extent that it is intended, it can be as simple or complex as you feel fit for your team given their age, skill level and competition level. There are principles that should be adhered to for all athletes and some that are more useful for the elite athlete.
These athletes are likely on travel teams or are going to be competing at the regional and state/provincial or national championships. You will likely use more of the principles than for the local teams but will most times have time constraints working against you as these individuals are participating in many activities at the same time.
You will need to be creative and find ways to incorporate their activities and down times into your annual training plan.
You will likely not have access to these athletes in your annual plan. You will meet with them and be training them from a distance unless you are at a training camp or an international event. This makes your task more difficult as it is on an ideal scenario for monitoring and testing purposes.