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Without a plan, you will be mediocre at best

Brian Grasso explains the benefits for young athletes of short- and long-term planning.

The most common problem facing Trainers & Coaches today with developing young athletes over time is the ability to plan long-term. The personal training and coaching professions are most typically based on a session-to-session consideration - clients pay per session most often, and Trainers create training programs one session at a time. The same is true for coaching sports - most Coaches script out one practice plan at a time, rather than create a relative flow for an entire month or even season.

Limited plan... Limited gain

The problem with this industry-standard as it relates to youths and adolescents is that this type of short-sightedness serves to limit the potential gains made by a young athlete. It is not unlike running a business or corporation - when business owners take the time to organize their objectives and action steps for a given month or year. They always are successful at implementing the plan. Far too many Trainers and Coaches feel as though their actions during a training session or practice is what will lead to positive change when it is the planning that occurs before these actions that accounts for the actual gains.

Become an objective monster

No one can learn how to create six or 12-month plans in a day. It takes time and diligent effort to acquire this skill. Still, your ability to get better over time will have a direct and positive impact on both your young athletes' success rate as well as your businesses/team's ability to attract new clients. Set an objective for yourself to create a system or plan that allows you to develop long-term and wide-focused agendas for your young athletes. Take several days or weeks if need be to create a system that is streamlined and easy to implement - although you are looking for a comprehensive system, the more basic you make it, the easier it will be to adhere to.

Action steps

Take a piece of paper and write out where you want your young athletes to be in 4 weeks. Create headings and then fill in each category. For instance, what skill sets are you working on now? To what degree of competency do you want an athlete or team to be able to demonstrate that skill set in one month? This can also be applied to elite adolescent athletes. Are you working on squat or power clean totals right now? If so, where do you want these numbers to be in 4 weeks?

Create a critical path

Once you have organized your thoughts on where you would like to be in 4 weeks, you have to consider how you are going to get there. On the same or a different piece of paper, write out how many training sessions or practices you have with this athlete or team between now and four weeks from now. Date each training session or practice on your piece of paper. Now, using your skills as a Trainer or Coach, fill in the blanks. Compare where you want to be in 4 weeks with the number of training sessions or practices you have between now and then to accomplish your 4-week goal, what action steps along a critical path must be taken? This is the essence of how to develop a long-term approach to working with young athletes. You will write out your next several training sessions or practices to meet the objectives you have set for four weeks from now.

Critical path & beyond

This system can easily be applied for 6 months or even a year. Follow the same type of procedure as mentioned above - set out an objective for the time frame and decide where this athlete or team needs to be within that time frame. Let us say you have had a 13-year-old athlete for six months, and you want to determine an objective and critical path. Take out a piece of paper and write out where you want this athlete to be in 6 months. Be descriptive with this - what skill sets do you want him to have mastered? What kind of movement-based techniques will he show great competency in? Once you have decided that, break those large objectives down into more manageable ones and make them your first 4-week objective. To get to your end destination, where do you have to be at the end of this month? From there break it down even further by deciding on how many training sessions or practices you will have over the next four weeks and design them following your 4-week objective. Next month, do the same thing.

The result you need

An amazing thing happens when you create objectives and critical plans like this. You will start seeing results in your athletes and teams beyond what you ever dreamed possible. Failing to plan is one of the biggest concerns facing this industry. It seems everything is taken on a session-by-session basis with no vision or thought to the long-term. It could be argued that individual Trainers and Coaches did not know how to plan for the future... well, now you do! Practice the skill of objective writing and critical path creation.

It will take time to design a system that flows well for you, but it is more than worth it to your young athletes', teams, and yourself.

Article Reference

This article first appeared in:

  • GRASSO, B. (2006) Without a plan, you will be mediocre at best. Brian Mackenzie's Successful Coaching, (ISSN 1745-7513/ 36/ October), p. 1-2

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • GRASSO, B. (2006) Without a plan, you will be mediocre at best [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Brian Grasso is the President of Developing Athletics, which is a company dedicated to educating coaches, parents, and youth sporting officials throughout the world on the concepts of athletic development. You can contact Brian through his website at