Building Sport Specific Training Programs for Obscure Sports

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It's interesting how thousands of specialized sport specific training programs are designed and implemented for Football and Basketball teams across the nation but other more obscure sports receive almost nothing. The common cop-out of trainers that don't want to take time to serve more obscure sports such as swimming, diving, competitive cheerleading and dancing is to say “the best way to get better at you sports is to just practice more.” The reality is that the body is like Play-Doh. It's highly adaptive and can be molded into whatever you want it to be able to do with the help of a detailed training program. From a biological standpoint, the body is not biased to what sports specific training it will adapt to or not.  It adapts based on the demands placed on it.

By observing and studying three main aspects of every sport, you can design a structured program that can aid in the athletic development of athletes in any sport. First, one must look at the Common Injuries of a given sport and then develop a strategy to help reduce the risks for those injuries. Keeping athletes healthy and on the field/court should be the number one priority of any strength coach because nobody cares how good you helped make an athlete if he/she ends up with a torn ACL. The second area to study is the Biomechanical Demands of the sport. For instance; look at which muscles are being used and in what capacity they need to be able to function.  You should also study which planes of motion the athlete typically moves through. Finally, understanding the Energy Demands of a sport will give insight to how to condition a given athlete. There are 3 main categories of energy systems within sports; ATP-CP (instant explosiveness, <10s), anaerobic efficiency (short high intensity functioning), and aerobic endurance (longer less intense endurance). 

Just because your sport doesn’t require you to lift heavy amounts of weight doesn’t mean you should throw out the idea of a sport specific training program entirely.  There are several factors other than weights that contribute to athletic development such as fitness, injury reduction exercise, proper movement mechanics, nutrition, sleep & recovery education, motivation/sport psychology, etc. The key is analyzing what the athlete specifically needs and then building a program that will help support those needs in order to help them stay healthy and perform better.