(English) The aim is to keep players fresh so that they can give an optimal performance each time.

The first step is to understand what load the players are coping with, which will obviously be affected by activities outside of the team environment and over which the coach may have no control.

For example, physical load may be affected by commitments to other teams or school/work and psychological load will be impacted by what is happening at school/work or in their family life.

To help to understand the load that players are experiencing, the coach can:

  • have players keep a diary of their activities and regularly review it with the player;
  • have players keep a calendar where they include key dates (e.g. exam dates, holidays, when presentations/work is due). The coach should review this particularly to identify times that are likely to be particularly stressful and to reduce commitments during these times if possible;
  • liaise with other coaches to determine what their requirements for the athlete are. Can anything be consolidated so that the athlete does not have to duplicate training?
  • assess at training the physical load of each activity, which is both a factor of the activity itself (e.g. sprinting full court in a lay-up drill or short sprints in a “close-out” drill) and also the number of repetitions that a player does;
  • have the player record in the diary how much sleep they got each night and assess how they feel – an example of
    some checkboxes is given below.

(English) In preparing the plan for the season, the coach should be prepared to schedule breaks at times of heavy physical load, and this may include resting some players but not others (e.g. players that are involved in national programs as well as the club program may be given some rest after a national program commitment).

The coach should continuously assess during the season how players are coping with physical loads and be prepared to make alterations if there are signs of physical fatigue (which may be caused by other factors, not just the coach’s program). Changes might include reducing the length of practice sessions, changing the content of sessions (to less physically stressful activities) or cancelling a session.

Coaches should ensure that players understand the importance of physical recovery and may need to schedule aspects into their program such as doing a pool recovery session as a group.

Psychological fatigue can have just as serious an impact upon performance, although it is not necessarily as easy to predict or detect. Stress from work, school or family will impact performance and coaches may need to make adjustments to the program for individual athletes at these times (e.g. players may not train in the week of
school exams).

Players may need “downtime” or a break from the coach or from the program altogether, particularly during a long season. There are many ways that a coach can address this, such as:

  • have some sessions taken by assistant coaches so that the players are not only hearing the coach’s voice. It can also be worthwhile to have a coach from outside the program take a session from time to time (e.g. the senior club coach taking a session with a junior team);
  • use “cross training”, where practice involves other sports. This is particularly common when working on fitness,
    however can also work for technical skills (e.g. “pass and cut” and “screening” are effective in soccer as well as basketball);
  • schedule a social event (e.g. team dinner) instead of practice from time to time;
  • have players lead activities in practice – this could be them choosing activities that they wish to do (from a list provided by the coach) or a free choice of activities.