Our 4-T model of constant assessment, implementation, review and education has put every workout we run under the microscope to see what is really working towards developing talent and what is not. Over the last decade, we have seen players take their speed, strength and power to levels that we never thought possible. But occasionally, this just wasn’t enough to win them a starting role. Enhancing a player’s speed was not necessarily making him or her a better soccer player. And increasing a player’s vertical was not always translating to success on the volleyball court.
This challenged us to look deeper and eventually redefine our definition of “Athleticism” from one that centered only on developing speed, power and strength to one that integrated the technical/tactical application with the physical preparation.
“Being athletically conditioned, to a high enough level, so that even in a fatigued state, at the end of a competition, one still possesses the ability to execute, with precision and skill, the specific tasks required with positive outcomes.”
Scott Moody, Co-Founder Athlete F.I.T.
We began to survey coaches, watch practice sessions, break down video of our athletes during games and really look deeper inside their thought processes in key situations. We realized, as most sport coaches will tell you, speed is great but only if the player can use it to their advantage. It was not always the height of the vertical, but sometimes the speed in which they got to peak height that makes a player “explosive. Other key factors revolved around the player’s technical ability at game speed as well as their ability to anticipate and react quickly in key situations.
As we began to create a new model of athleticism we realized that many kids don’t go out and practice on their own. They don’t create games in their backyard that expose them to a “free-play” environment where they get thousands of repetition in a fun (unstructured) atmosphere that develops creativity.
We were beginning to identify the gaps that were limiting the potential of our players, but before we could put it all together we needed to look at a skill development model for each of the sports we were working with. The model to the right was the start of our Functionally Integrated Training or F.I.T. Program.
In this F.I.T. Model, we noticed that if players were going to be able to execute a move with the ball and separate from a defender, they first needed developed a base of specific and non-specific abilities and then bring these two aspects together with a leveling or bridging motor ability…this was the birth of our Functionally Integrated Training model.
Setting a Broad and Solid Foundation:
This F.I.T. model all starts with a foundation set in elementary abilities, which we have broken into 4 unique modules. These modules, although different, all work together towards the ultimate goal. These modules should be integrated, not isolated, within the training session for best results. We start with the Foundational 4 (shown in blue below), which are represented as the basic building blocks of a sports development profile. Modules on the right hand side of the diagram represent non-specific skills (basic development for all around athleticism) and modules on the left hand side represent sport specific skills that are usually developed in practice and game settings. The middle modules are the bridge and have become the basis for our philosophy on training.
Bridging the Gap:
Represented as “diamond” shapes (in the model above) these bridging modules allow us to integrate and progress aspects of the Foundational 4 into more advanced training programs, which form 3, larger triangle shapes. The graphic above shows 3 “merged” triangles, which bring together all aspects of training in a developmentally specific manner. Many times, this is where the structure breaks down. Players that are very strong in one aspect often lack the skills developed in the Foundational 4 level and thus have trouble executing more advanced skills at game speed with proper technique, which will lead to a lack of confidence in their true athleticism.
A Complete Model of Sports Mastery…
The next step is to finish our developmental model by adding Speed and Power on the right hand side and Tactical Application on the left hand side. This is all capped off with Specific Periodization on the top. If you will notice in the diagram, Specific Speed connects almost every key module of the Pyramid of Sports Mastery. This represents game speed where speed of thought, understanding of situations, tactics, strength, skill and speed all come together and are executed time and time again over the course of the game.
With this model we now have a clear view of how the technical / tactical (left side) blends with the physical (right side) to truly integrate the approach to sports performance. An example of how this would look on paper might be a scheduled team practice that focused on typical small sided games, tactical situations, and technical skills, and a separate day with a focus on the right hand strength, conditioning and rhythmic movement patterns. This model becomes complete with a third day of Functionally Integrated Training where the focus becomes all about integrating speed training into a situational environment to enhance the mind body connection of how to apply this newly learned skills and tactics.
The model was now complete and it was time to start testing our theories. With this model we have been able to train athletes from age 6 up to 22 while creating developmentally specific programs that challenge every player to broaden their athletic foundation and increase their potential peak. For instance a U10 player would probably be at the very bottom of this model spending most of their training time in Rhythmic Movement Patterns, Flexibility, Mobility, Stability, Technical Ball Work, while a U16 player would be focused more on Speed/Power, Strength/Conditioning and Specific Speed during their day of more physical preparation.
As we start down this road, charting a new path for sports performance coaches, Athlete F.I.T. is now a fully built out, educational website with sport specific blogs that highlight each academy. This new site will hopefully bring forth new debate and research on the best training practices in youth sports, and together we will seek out the answers and elevate the knowledge base of youth sport coaches.