As athletes age past the Initiation Stage (ages 10 and under) and into the Athletic Formation and Specialization Stages (up through age 19), the goal generally becomes to create a more periodized training program for the individual or group. Periodization is the art of dividing training load into manageable segments in order to be more effective with the time the athlete is investing. This sounds like a nice, clean concept, and it is - however, like most things, it can get very messy in real life. Athletes get sick, have parties and dances, have to study for big tests, miss practices, don't recover as quickly as expected, and generally have interruptions throughout the course of their training.
Data would be less important if we could guarantee that athletes would be able to do every workout exactly as assigned every time. Unfortunately, this is not the case. So the real art of coaching isn't providing the perfect workout, but constantly evaluating athlete performance and adjusting the plan.
The following article is a nice introduction to the use of data and metrics beginning at the high school level, and how and why coaches are using these tools with younger athletes:
Do you see this being enjoyable for your athlete as he or she ages? We can see again why it is so important to "love the process," since providing this information every day could get tedious otherwise! However, it is essential to success for athletes wishing to be competitive beyond a local level. When athletes provide data, it allows me as a coach to understand how they are progressing, and whether or not we need to adjust our training approach.
Without data, every race is a surprise, and at a certain level athletes want to KNOW what they are capable of. How can you help your athlete track and provide data to help ensure his or her progress in the sport?
Hoping everyone has a wonderful Tuesday.