Individual Training

Individual training is often understood as a training situation where one coach works with one or very few athletes. However, in our opinion the athlete to coach ratio is not what truly defines the essence of individual training. Even at a one to one ratio the coach can still apply an average training approach which makes the training not much more individual than if the same would be done with a group of 15 athletes.

The starting point for individual training is the fact that everybody is different. Different in social background, specific talents, body composition, adaptation to training and ability to recover from training, to name only a few examples. Two athletes pursuing the same athletic goal need different training regimes to reach this goal efficiently.

That’s the heart of individual training – specific guidance towards the athlete’s goals based on his or her individual characteristics and current needs. To a certain extent it is very well possible to conduct individual training with a group of athletes, if the group is assembled based on the athletes’ current training needs. Clustering athletes by meaningful criteria is an important prerequisite for raising the quality of training.

The situation is comparable to a classroom setting, where a teacher has to educate 25 kids at once. Typically the kids are assembled by chronological age. However age is only remotely related to what children actually need regarding their individual development. This necessarily results in an average approach, satisfying only very few kids while the rest of them will be either bored or overcharged.

In athletics training groups are often formed by goal distance – sprinters, middle distance and long distance runners. However, not all middle distance runners need to work on the same things. Some might need more speed training, others have their weakness more on the long distance side. Breaking up the rigid boundaries between these groups allows athletes to train with others, specialists and non-specialists, who work on the same aspects.

A common approach to tackle this problem is to introduce some kind of differentiation within the groups. This means that the average training plan gets adjusted for certain athletes in the group to account for their special needs. Whereas this approach might solve the immediate issues experienced in one training session, it does not provide a coherent long term training approach on an individual basis.

True individual training puts the individual athlete at the center. What is needed to facilitate the individual development process best? All practical and organizational issues should be subordinate to this as far as possible. In this regard a single coach can quickly find himself fighting a losing battle. The whole organization has to embrace the philosophy of individual development and provide the structure necessary to implement this philosophy on the field.


Ruben Jongkind & Florian Kugler, March 26th, 2011

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