To be the best player you can be, you need to be the best human you can be. What does this mean?
Gone are the days of sporting drills, gym work and running being the entirety of an elite team’s weekly routine. Being able to include work within your overall training regime to be more resilient, handle challenging situations better and control your emotions to your advantage are traits that all top-level performers practice.
True, all-encompassing training of an individual extends beyond just their physical abilities. This style of holistic training can be broken down into 5 separate categories; physical, technical, tactical, psychological and emotional.
Physical training can take many forms but all relate to the preparation of the body to handle movements and positions better. Running, jumping, lifting weights, throwing objects and holding positions are some of the main building blocks within the physical training realm.
This is one of the main two categories that the majority of people’s training will fall into and as such, most people aren’t lacking in this area. The effectiveness of your actual physical prep will differ greatly from person to person but there is likely little need to add additional time to this area, more so a reassessment of current methods if need be.
Technical training is your skill work that makes your sport your sport. A lacrosse player isn’t going to be judged on how well they can shoot 3 pointers. Even though there are many benefits to cross-training (avoiding burnout, repetitive stress injuries, new movement patterns, etc), the variation in your training means a lot less if you can’t perform the skills your own sport requires first.
Training your ability to perform the unique movements your sport asks of you is the second most trained category of the list here. The majority of team sport athletes will have team training sessions together which will have them practicing their technical skills in addition to any extra work you do outside those sessions.
Tactical training (TT) is where you combine your physical training and technical training in more realistic game-like situations. Sport-specific decision making, reacting to situations and making the right decisions for the play are all big factors of TT. Depending on the type of sport one plays, tactical training can take different routes.
Open play, chaotic environment sports like soccer, AFL, lacrosse are going to have a bigger TT focus on open drills that require reactions to an ever-changing field of play. The TT that athletes in these styles of sports do should favour decision making on the fly in real-time. The inability to ‘stop’ and think about what the smartest move to make may be forces the athlete to rely heavily on their innate perception of the field and subconscious decision making. This is a factor in why an averagely athletic player can run rings around far more athletic players on the field due to their ability to see the field and the decisions they choose to make.
This contrasts with more closed, less chaotic environment sports like baseball, cricket, American football to a degree. The amount of time a pitcher, bowler or quarterback is going to have between throws to analyse, think, digest and plan is going to be significantly longer than an open environment sports counterparts. This style of sport lends itself to tactical training being heavily composed of situational memorisation and pattern analysis.
Most team sport athletes complete 2-4 team training sessions a week that are a blended combination of physical, technical and tactical work. Depending on the level of participation, different position groups often split up to have their work more tailored to their positional needs.
Psychological training (PT) focuses on an athlete’s ability to control their mind to reach optimal performance in pressure-filled or mentally challenging situations. By practicing PT, one learns to overcome the perceived limits they self impose and see situations as they truly are, with less bias.
Everyone has a different level of mental strength and as such, what might be incredibly daunting and intimidating for one athlete might be nothing out of the ordinary for another. This isn’t to say mental toughness exists on a spectrum of 0-10. A navy seal may perform a covert infiltration mission with complete confidence and assurance. The same seal may be petrified of taking a penalty kick in front of 90,000 screaming fans during a world cup final. This is a prime example of how mental toughness is very situational. The toughness you develop is often as a result of your continued survival through tasks/situations you deemed as overly daunting.
PT has been coming more to the mainstream as of the last 10 years but still flies under the radar in most athlete’s training programs. Most high-level sporting organisations have psychologists on staff to assist with their players PT development in an attempt to reach optimal performance.
Emotional training (ET) could be almost viewed as the 4.2 of psychological training. The ability to regulate one’s own emotions is a much harder feat than it may initially sound. Humans are irrational, emotional creatures by nature. Being able to stay calm, cool and level-headed in a situation where tensions are sky-high, ball tips aren’t favouring you and the results are looking bleak is a very underrated skill.
When an opponent starts to trash talk after burning you on the last play, whether you respond with trash talk back or stay silent matters less than your internal reaction & response to his words. If their thoughts are lingering in your head after the play, you’re likely riled up and focused more on their words than the game.
Managing your emotions through ET can tie hand in hand with PT as when tensions are high, you’re stressed and the game is on the line, you’re essentially a bomb waiting to blow up. Practicing a stoic mindset and letting your emotions come and go without grasping and holding onto anything is key to avoid an explosion (AKA choking, a meltdown). By only focusing on controlling what is really within your control, you’re practicing the avoidance of this highly emotional, volatile state in which clear, rational decisions are not often made.
True, ‘holistic’ training encompasses multiple different avenues of training. If the entirety of your work comes from purely physical stimulus’, you’re going to be leaving a lot of potential performance upside on the table. Whilst some of the mental categories listed here get touched upon in sporting situations, they can be further focused on outside the sporting field to be examined in better detail. The combination of physical, technical, tactical, psychological and emotional training all work together in making the best human & athlete one can be.