The Individualization Principle dictates that sports training should be adjusted according to each athlete's characteristics and needs, such as age, gender, rate of progress, and previous experience. The goal of individualization is to capitalize on each athlete's strengths, exploit their genetic potential, and strengthen their weaknesses.
Training program revisions for individual athletes can come in many forms. Adjustments can be made to for skill level (see Individual Differences), size, medical conditions, injuries, motivational level, or other natural assets. While personal attention is time consuming, it can speed up an athlete's training progress.
1. Set Clear Goals. Goals set for team results can be personalized according to position and athletes' abilities.
2. Test. Getting your baseline measures and evaluating results is the most precise way to apply this principle. In addition to fitness and skill testing, health-related tests performed by trainers and other professionals offer implications for how training can be adjusted.
3. Optimize Shortcomings. Devise ways to overcome weaknesses as much as possible. For example, for athletes with low motivation, set specific goals and reward progress. For those who are naturally move slowly for whatever reasons, overload speed-related activities.
4. Gender Differences. Be sensitive to physical as well as cultural differences. Women have wider hips, a lower center of gravity, and carry more fat in these areas than do men. Training tasks may need to be adjusted for these physical differences. Encourage and support girls and women equally with boys and men, particularly when a sport is more accepted for one gender.
5. Positive-negative-positive. When offering coaching feedback, reinforce the good points, and also point out areas for improvement. This is especially helpful when an athlete has difficulty, whether on a given day or consistently due to personal weaknesses, positive reinforcement encourages him/her to persist.
6. Senior Athletes. Older adults may need specific attention compared to younger athletes. Coaches should be sensitive to decreased flexibility, postural deviations, body composition, and other orthopedically-related factors. Adults prefer to be active participants in developing training programs.
7. Youth Athletes. Competitive youth sports subject children to many opportunities, as well as many physical and psychological vulnerabilities. Positive early experiences marked with success can lead the way to healthy lifetime habits. Coaches and parents should be accommodate such factors as stage of learning, level of perceptual-motor development, and fitness level and capabilities. Children need acceptance and encouragement whether they win or lose.
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