Training Camps – the best and worst places for training and competition preparation. Some athletes love them, others loathe them. A necessary evil, a must and most of all, a time where both strong and weak performances are revealed and vulnerability is at its finest.
Bottom line – they can be extremely difficult and draining but rewarding all in one go. Whether you participate in an individual or team sport, preparing for big competitions is part of the process and most of all part of the sporting experience.
I have come to learn that it is in these environments (no matter what role you play as a coach, athlete or integrated support staff team member), where athlete growth takes off. It can be challenging to plan, prepare, participate and run training camps.
As a Sport Psychology Consultant, our role varies depending on what is being asked of us. Often, responsibility lies in facilitating some form of mental training session, being present for training, team building activities and on/off (court, field, rink, pool) training, and available to work closely with both coaches and athletes.
I have come to appreciate Royce Gracie’s quote about where the “fight” actually happens.
Preparing athletes to work through the trials of training camp and the demands takes a toll mentally and physically for everyone present. What comes to mind is the excitement and exhaustion that goes with it. So how do we prepare for it? I think it comes down to preparing in two different ways – from the coaching standpoint and then individually for the athlete (stay tuned for next week’s blog on athlete preparation for training camps).
After recently participating in a training camp abroad, I thought I would re-clarify my role for myself when working with coaches and offer suggestions for putting camps together:
1) CREATE A PLAN
Sit down as a coaching staff & discuss:
Who? - How many athletes? Certain ages/levels? How many coaching staff/chaperones are required?
What? – What are we going for? What do we want our athletes to benefit from? Really work on specifying purpose here!
When? – Is there a certain time of year, period of training within the competitive season that is better suited for training camp? Some things to consider (pre-regular-post season, burnout, off-season, peak performance, time management, student-athletes).
Where? – Is it beneficial to set up training away from the normal environment? Is it possible to include other aspects of training – physical, tactical in this location? Are there opportunities to train with athletes from other clubs or programs while away? Also, I would try to think critically about the possibility of performing in this location in future. It’s helpful to have athletes visit locations that they will be competing at.
Why? – Ultimately, how will this help our athletes prepare to perform?
Once completed, take some time to identify importance of training camp, duration, timing & purpose of training at this point in the season. Talk about expectations, goals & intended outcomes of the camp. Prior to departure, discuss this with your athletes (depending on age, competitive level & sport).
2) PLAN FOR CHANGE & EXPECT DISTRACTIONS
Every training camp I have participated in seems to require some adaptation or adjustment to scheduling, location, training or even athlete management (injury, conflict, distraction). At the beginning of camp, I like to go over the theme of “being open” to this instead of the catastrophizing that can easily occur.
3) ADJUST, ADJUST, ADJUST
Prepare to adjust. Communicate with coaching staff and athletes the importance of learning from things that may happen. As we know, we can’t control everything all the time, and just like in competition, there will be times we need to deal with the distraction or find ways to cope with challenges placed in front of you. Have alternative ideas for training, activities & time management in case of issues with weather, lodging, the food, trips to the hospital or time change. (If you need tools for this, contact us at c4success.ca as we have all experienced this in our role).
4) REVIEW & DEBRIEF
Once you return from training camp, take some time to review how everything went with the staff and athletes. What did we learn? Did we achieve the goals set out? If we were to do this again, what would need to change? Overall, what made this a success?
Food for thought - Most athletes are placed out of their comfort zone when away from their normal training setting and routines. Displacement is a good thing – and depending on their age and competitive level, exposure to the additional aspects of competition are required, especially if athletes will be travelling for their sport in the future. If they travel frequently for their competition, this gives ample opportunity to practice their competition routines, attentional control, and expectations of performance.
As always, if you have any questions, or require any further information, please don’t hesitate to contact us at www.c4succcess.ca!
Coach Reflection: What are some of the potential issues that may arise in your sport at training camps? How might you plan to deal with them with your coaching staff?