Training a Specific Athlete, Essay Example
Sport and Athlete Selected
For the purposes of the training program development, the athlete to be trained is a young, female gymnast. She is 13 years of age, four feet and seven inches tall, and weighs 83 pounds. The girl, who will be known here as Mary, has been involved in physical sports in school, and has exhibited talent in those activities requiring flexibility, speed, and agility. Moreover, and largely going to the choosing of her, Mary has attended ballet and other dance classes since she was five. Her ambition, in fact, had originally been to become a professional ballet dancer. Consequently, Mary already has certain skills critical to gymnastics, and she has thus far engaged in actual gymnastics, if not in a committed fashion.
The sport itself is selected because it embodies a wide variety of athletic qualities not necessarily present in other sports. Essentially, the gymnast represents what may be termed the total athlete, in that strength, speed, endurance, flexibility, and dexterity are the physical qualities required as both innate and to be developed in training (Arkaev, Suchilin, 2004, p. 138). The abilities needed are exponential in nature, in the truest sense of the word; excess muscle mass here is potentially harmful to a routine, as no amount of strength exhibited in executing a vault can compensate for a lack of timing, concentration, and flexibility. Also, and hardly unexpectedly, the entire body of the gymnast is crucial to achieving excellence in the sport, either in striving for an Olympic medal or in improving a personal best. From the toes to the hand extension in a floor exercise, the complete range of movement defining the sport calls for a complete mastery of the gymnast’s total physicality, as well as mental outlook.
The training model to be implemented is based on the competition cycles of women’s gymnastics at the national level. Periodization here must reflect some flexibility, in that Mary’s needs will be better ascertained through the training itself. Ultimately however, the model will be based on an annual macrocycle, primarily divided into pre-season and season halves, with a brief, post-season mesocycle at the year’s close. Four mesocycles comprise the pre-season training, increasing in intensity as they focus on different techniques. The first addresses the learning of new skills, intense stretching, and high-volume, low-intensity endurance training. Mesocycle 2 reduces the emphasis on stretching and focuses more on strength, along with further practice of newly acquired skills. In 3, skill specific stretching and strength are addresses, and 4 essentially concentrates on skill refinement. This cycle is as well the first transition period. Mesocycles 5 and 6 occur in the season segment, and consist of approximately 20 weeks of maximum skill and strength applications. Following this is mesocycle 7, the second transition phase and the post-season component of the macrocycle. Here, the intensity lessens and moderate stretching is combined with recreational training (Eubanks, Gonzalez).
In planning a periodization training program for a gymnast, it is critical to note the exponential factor in strength and skill development. In this sport, for example, there are rigorous demands on maintaining physically demanding positions for extended periods of time. Very often, and particularly in intensive and acrobatic sports like gymnastics, an inability to master a technical skill results from a lack of specific strength, rather than technical ability (Bompa, Haff, 2009, p. 148). In contact sports and those such as competitive swimming, stability of motion is less important or not at all applicable; for the gymnast, however, holding a difficult position on a balance beam for several seconds, or maintaining a handstand on the uneven bars, requires as much strength as it does technical skill (Bompa, Haff, 2009, p. 239). Consequently, as the exact length of the mesocycles will likely vary, so too will the training reflect this complementary factor.
The first actual assessment made of the gymnast occurs before any physical pre-testing, and concerns weight and body type. As gymnastics is an acrobatic sport, what is most looked for is a high power-to-weight ratio. A high percentage of muscle is desirable, but only in proportion to a safely minimal body weight. Any excess weight can drastically reduce performance in so complex and demanding a sport, yet insufficient weight will invariably reduce energy and muscle resources (Dunford, Doyle, 2011, p. 400). Beyond this, legendary gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi offers an interesting means of pre-testing for gymnastic talent. He and his wife, Marta, actually saw the potential in Nadia Comaneci while observing her play at school recess. Comaneci was six years old at the time, and the manner in which she ran and carried herself in play fascinated the Karolyis. What Bela Karolyi chiefly noted in the young girl was speed, agility, and an unusual degree of concentration (Cheyney, 1999, p. 22).
Mary, then, will be pre-tested in a range of exercises that require these attributes. For the purpose of judging her endurance, balance, concentration, timing, and flexibility levels, actual ballet will be an important test. As Mary has trained in this all her life, and as the art demands as much in the way of technical expertise as gymnastics, this is a “grounded” means of observing her abilities. Actual sports games will then be used to determine Mary’s response rates, and basketball and volleyball are to be the focus here, particularly as they demand consistent jumping while applying concentration. Lastly, Mary’s strength will be tested in basic work-out routines, primarily using chin-up and pull-down bars. This equipment will provide, not only a sense of Mary’s actual strength levels, but vital information regarding her grip, so essential to an acrobatic gymnast. Additionally, Mary will conduct work-outs revealing the strength of her quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. It should be noted that, in regard to the strength determinations, there is less concern for the trainer. Muscle can be added and toned, but the essential abilities of agility, grace, balance, and flexibility, revealed through Mary’s dance, will more dramatically affect the assessments and guide the trainer in a more specific agenda.
Arkaev, Leonid, & Suchilin, Nikolai. (2004). How to Create Champions: The Theory and Methodology of Training Top-Class Gymnasts. Maidenhead, UK: Meyer & Meyer.
Bompa, Tudor O., & Haff, Greg. (2009). Periodization: Theory and Methodology of Training. Champaign: Human Kinetics.
Cheyney, Arnold. (1999). Athletes of Purpose. Culver City: Good Year Books.
Dunford, Marie, & Doyle, J. Andrew. (2011). Nutrition for Sport and Exercise. Belmont: Cengage Learning.
Eubanks, Ashley, & Gonzalez, Juan. (N/A). Periodization Training for Acrobatic Gymnasts. Retrieved 8 Aug., 2012, from http://usagym.org/pages/home/publications/technique/2009/05/16_acro.pdf
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