‘You’ve never turned someone’s weakness into their strength!’, those were the words from Dr Sophia Nimphius at the recent ASCA Conference held in Melbourne earlier this month. It was in reference to a question regarding how much emphasis should a coach place on improving their athlete’s weakness; in this specific example, Change of Direction ability.
It is 100% accurate. In team sports, athletes are usually selected in the first team for their ability to do ONE (maybe two) things exceptionally well. Not many athletes who play a huge chunk of game time are out there for their ability to do everything average; I’m sure there are some though. In individual sports, a series of skills and physiological qualities displayed by the athlete will determine the outcome of the event, however very rarely is the athlete strong in ALL areas.
So where do we place our focus throughout the training year? Common sense says we work on our weaknesses in the off-season/pre-season period, as this is the furthest time from the pointy end of the season. And if we don’t improve them at this time; will we have addressed the issue? However, others would suggest you look to work on both aspects concurrently; make your strength STRONGER, and improve your abilities in your weaker areas throughout the training year. This is generally my line of thinking.
If you neglect developing your strength at the expense of addressing your weakness, you may have made yourself a less valuable asset to your coach. Your coach is relying on you to do this ONE aspect of the game extremely well; not to do something else just a little bit better.
At the start of the season, profile each of your athletes and determine both their strengths and weaknesses. Train the athlete accordingly. Generally, athletes’ will enjoy training their strength much more than their weakness; this doesn’t mean you let them have it all their own way.
BUT, in the end, their strength is why you are coaching them and why they excel… Remember that.