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Maximizing Skill Development: What's Periodization?

Skill Development 101: What is Periodization? Coaches helping skill development for athletes in softball, golf, weightlifting
Recently, I’ve been writing a lot about Skills Coaching, both in terms of its importance, and the role CoachNow plays in maximizing skill development.

I’ve found that, regardless of sport, the path to skill mastery is often misunderstood.

Specifically, skill coaches often focus way too much time on constant technical changes, rather than working through a systemized process that helps their athlete see the bigger picture of where they are and where they’re going.

In my eyes, skill coaches tend to overlook a vital component commonly found in team coaching: Periodization.

Today’s blog is a deep dive into the concept: what it is, it’s various phases and cycles, etc. I’ll also offer an example to drive the point home.

Let’s get to it.

Understanding Periodization

Periodization is a fancy word for the systematic planning of athletic training.

It involves breaking down training into phases, each with a specific goal, to achieve peak performance at the right time.

My Instagram post above focuses on the concept in golf specifically, but it applies to any sport where the development of skills and physical conditioning are crucial.

Think of periodization as containing four phases.

The Four Critical Phases of Training

Technical Phase:


  • This is where the foundation is laid. In golf, it might mean perfecting the swing or improving putting accuracy. In basketball, it could be honing shooting techniques. It's about ingraining the right techniques before ramping up the intensity. This is where the athlete will see the most growth, and where analysis tools are most crucial to ensure a solid foundation for growth.

Pre-Competition Phase:

  • As athletes approach the competition season, training becomes more specialized. For a runner, this might mean focusing on specific distances or terrains. In team sports like football or basketball, tactical play and teamwork are emphasized. Here you look at the specific event in front of you and cater your training to perform the best in that specific environment

Competition Phase:

  • This phase is all about performance. Athletes apply their refined skills and strategies in actual competitive scenarios. It's the culmination of the previous phases, where the focus shifts from development to execution. Mental training is crucial here - you want your athletes to show what they’re capable of when it matters most.

Rest and Reflection Phase:

  • Often overlooked, this phase is crucial for recovery and growth. It's a time for athletes to rest, reflect on their performances, and prepare mentally and physically for the next cycle. The hard work leading up to this moment should be recognized and rewarded. Don’t make the mistake of always moving the goal post and never seeming satisfied - give your athletes time to rest, reflect, and rejuvenate.

It's important to note - this isn't a one-size-fits-all approach. Some sports require these cycles to take place weekly or monthly.

Periodization also inevitably works in both macrocycles (the overall training period, often a year or season) and microcycles (typically weekly plans within these larger cycles).

And, of course, don’t forget to adjust your approach for your individual athletes - you want to always cater to their individual needs and progress.

Case Study: A Golfer Preparing for a Tournament

Imagine a golfer preparing for a tournament in three weeks. Training has officially begun.

In preparation, the golfer and their coach conduct an initial assessment. They identify key areas for improvement, such as swing accuracy, putting consistency, or mental focus. The technical phase commences with a focus on these aspects. Drills are personalized, targeting the golfer's specific weaknesses and reinforcing their strengths.

As the tournament draws nearer, the golfer transitions into the pre-competition phase. This phase is crucial for integrating technical skills into practical scenarios.

The golfer may play practice rounds, simulating tournament conditions as closely as possible. The coach works on fine-tuning the golfer's strategy, such as club selection, shot planning, and adapting to different terrains and hazards.

In the week leading to the tournament, the golfer enters the competition phase. Training intensity is reduced to ensure the golfer is well-rested and mentally sharp. The focus shifts from skill development to strategic execution.

The golfer and coach review their game plan, discussing how to approach each hole and manage the competition's pressures. The golfer might also engage in light practice sessions, maintaining rhythm and confidence without overexerting themselves.

After the competition, regardless of the outcome, the golfer enters the rest and reflection phase. The golfer takes a break from intense training, engaging in light, restorative activities instead. Together with the coach, they reflect on the tournament performance, analyzing successes and identifying areas for improvement.

This example highlights technical skill development, mental preparation, strategic planning, and recovery.

Each phase builds upon the previous one, creating a cohesive and comprehensive training plan.

This approach is applicable for any sport. Through periodization, athletes can achieve not just temporary success, but sustained improvement and long-term excellence in their sporting careers.

Wrapping Up

Periodization isn’t just a training methodology for team coaches. It’s a holistic approach to athletic development that’s equally valuable and important for individual sport-skills coaches as well.

It ensures systematic progress, prevents burnout, and significantly enhances overall performance.

Whether on the golf course, the soccer field, or the basketball court, it empowers athletes to reach their full potential, harmonizing skill development with strategic physical conditioning.

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