A Different Look at Programming

Thoughts on Program Design

Here are my thoughts on program design. Please understand these thoughts are not standards, but simply additional concepts that can make your programming more thoughtful. Remember, training is not just a science; it is an art.

Program design may be the single most important area when it comes to training athletes. How you address the needs of the athlete(s) ultimately determines the results the athlete(s). Yet, I believe there are many aspects of programming that may be missed. Here are three ideas that you might want to be consider when programming. These are not in order of importance, just additional thoughts on program design:

Compartmentalized vs. Non-compartmentalized Programming

Is there a need for “meshing” together areas such as strength, power, endurance, speed, quickness, and agility? What I mean is, doesn’t sport express all these areas during play? Certainly not all sports but many do. Football and wrestling require power, strength, agility and endurance. Why not challenge athletes to express these areas of athleticism all in one shot? If the goal is to drastically improve the individual areas of strength, power, etc., then we might be best compartmentalizing the workout in order to achieve maximal results in each area. This is simple something to think make you about.

“Feel Training”

Twenty-five years ago I would not have been very good at this concept of training. Now this might completely contradict what I said previously, however let’s dive deeper. A big part of coaching is having a “feel for the moment”. This might be my personal biggest attribute as a coach. Having the ability to coach the moment, not from the piece of paper. In other words, coaches must have a “feel” for what is happening and make adjustment on the fly. Over the years, I have become very good at writing my programs with much more wiggle room. I now write based on what needs to be accomplished each day but allow for freedom to adjust on the fly drill selection, set/rep selection, rest period, and volume. Without a doubt, my results have proven this to be an effective concept for me to stick with.

Game Speed Training

How often do we design a program for multi-directional speed training and have every drill at maximal effort? The problem with this is athletes play at various speeds all game long. The most effective athletes use change of pace to lull defenders. What I like to do is allow my athletes to work at speeds, less than maximal then add in explosive moments to the drill. This teaches the athletes use their speed to “make a play” rather than always going a thousand miles an hour and missing the play.


One of the most important traits a coach can have is adjusting “on the fly”. Just as players who are in the zone don’t have to think, they just play. A coach must “get in that zone” as well. This “zone” happens when a coach can relax and address what is in front of him rather than always relying on what was on a sheet a paper written the night before. Coach the moment and you will be amazed at how freeing it is. You should always do your work and have a plan, but allow that plan to have different shapes and colors based on the mood and needs that day. Now that’s coaching!

Many years ago I worked with a group of European tennis players at Bollettieri’s Tennis Academy that didn’t reposition their feet well when recovering from wide groundstrokes. I put together a series of drills using a low box that addressed this issue. Coaching is about “Coaching” not regurgitating. Low Box Training for Athletes is a product I developed from this experience. I allowed myself to address the moment and not just coach traditionally.

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