by Thomas Kurz
In the previous article I wrote about individualizing teaching of the fighting skills. Now, I will write about more general reasons for individualization of training for sports and martial arts. In my book Science of Sports Training: How to Plan and Control Training for Peak Performance, the principles of individualization and of accessibility are listed as one. This is because the individualization of training makes this training accessible. Without adjusting a selection of exercises and the workload to what is suitable for each individual in a group, some athletes would train below their potential and some would be overloaded.
Athletic training and education should take into account the individual abilities, health, age, and sex of athletes. The coach’s job is to know each individual athlete well and to adjust the means of training so each athlete develops his or her fullest potential. The variety of personalities necessitates applying the principle of individualization in both training and competition. An athlete’s temperament, while it does not determine the outcome of competition, determines the choice of techniques and tactics. In fencing, for example, choleric, sanguine, and phlegmatic temperaments all fight differently, and all can win.
In training, the athlete’s temperament, and especially his or her reactivity (sensitivity to stimuli and intensity of reaction), determines what training methods and loads will be optimal. Assigning the same exercises with the same loads to different athletes is contrary to the principle of individualization (Czajkowski 1998a).
In sports where the athlete is subjected to protracted physical strain, different people react differently to stress (Repin 1988). In some adrenaline intensively enters the blood, while in others it is insulin, a hormone that reduces the glucose level of the blood. With more insulin, glucose is used to better advantage in muscle tissue, but the athletes themselves endure lengthy strain poorly because low level of blood glucose impairs function of the nervous system. With the knowledge of such important facts about each athlete’s body, every beginning athlete can be given recommendations for a particular type of sport where he or she can be successful.
Athletes of different physical predispositions react to the same efforts differently. Soccer players predisposed for speed can run all-out for 45 meters or more without relying on anaerobic glycolysis and without producing excess lactic acid because they have a large store of phosphocreatine. Soccer players with an endurance predisposition run out of phosphocreatine earlier and so rely on anaerobic glycolysis even for sprints of 30 meters (Chmura 1993).
The exercises used in training should be accessible, i.e., not too far beyond an athlete’s potential. The accessibility of exercises changes in the course of athletic training with the increasing abilities of the athlete: What was inaccessible at one time becomes accessible later. Knowledge should be served in portions and in a form digestible to the student.
An instructor with a professional attitude, who stays current with state-of-the-art exercise science, physical education, and sports training, will know which games and drills are age- and fitness-appropriate for a workout group, how to adjust loads for each member of the group during a workout, and how to instruct to match different personalities.
References are listed in Science of Sports Training (Kurz 2001).
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