April 29, 2017

QUESTION: How Do You Plan a Yearly Curriculum with HS Girls?

Question: How do you cycle their program throughout the year?  Most of the girls around here are playing almost year round.  Can you give me some insight as to your periodization model?

Answer: This is always one of the toughest questions to answer because there are so many variables to consider. For instance, is the player going to train with me for the entire year, or is this just a ‘seasonal’ activity for them (winter fitness training while it is too cold to get outside for instance). If she is a seasonal player, we need to strive to reach as many of her short term goals as possible, while still enhancing her form, focus and understanding of the small details (technical aspects) that she hopefully will continue to apply to her training when she is no longer with us. Fortunately we have very few ‘seasonal’ players in our system!

If we know they are in it for the long haul (3-6 years typically), time is on our side. We take advantage of this time by setting a very, very strong foundation in movement and technique. We spend time teaching them the WHY, WHEN and HOW, instead of just the WHAT. These girls fully understand the fact that 200 milliseconds of ground contact time might be great for a repetitive tuck jump set, but 120 milliseconds is still too slow for a quick foot (rapid response) agility drill. They know this, they know how to measure it, and they get to the point where they can recognize it without the measurement device.

So to answer your question in typical long winded fashion, lets start with the ‘seasonal’ player focus during the winter (since that is what we are getting ready for now).

Seasonal Curriculum: First we start of by setting goals and ranking importance of goals that can be achieved in a 3-4 month window. For the winter our goals will look like this:

1. Fitness:

  • Improve HR Recovery
  • Improve Distance Covered in Set Time
  • Improve Repeatability of Max Speed (5 second) Sprints

2. Strength:

  • Core and Postural Control
  • Understanding and Applying Force Quickly (at body weight)
  • Efficiency in Repetitive, Rhythmic Movements

3. Speed:

  • Running Form (understanding leg cycle, contact position and posture)
  • Improve Acceleration – from increased force production (see 2.b)

4. Agility:

  • Quick Feet
  • Positioning (feet, knees, shoulders)
  • Efficient Patterns
  • Focus (Anticipation, Recognition, Reaction)

5. Technical Aspects:

  • Rhythmic Control with Stick
  • Positioning Athletically when Moving to Pass/Receive
  • Changing Direction with Stick at Speed

Each session will focus on these things where we will focus on building up their confidence in high speed, repetitive movements with the following progression:

1.     Getting into good positions (Efficiency)

2.     Repetitive, efficient movements (Rhythm)

3.     Introduce powerful concentric bursts (Speed)

4.     Increase the load, intensity (Strength)

5.     Incorporate complexity (Reaction)

Some people have asked, what is your loading periodization for your strength training? Do you do sets of 12, 10, 8, 6, and how do you work your percentages of 1 Rep Max? This couldn’t be further from our focus with these players. If you refer to the progression above, whether we are talking about speed, strength or technical ability, the sets and reps really don’t matter with these kids. Instead, we want to have them move efficiently (teach them, coach them, encourage them).

Next we want them to move with rhythm, they incorporate speed. If this is as far as we get, that’s fine. We got them moving with more speed (confidence) in efficient, rhythmic movement (athleticism), which will most likely dramatically impact their confidence on the field. Oh, and by the way, they probably are quite a bit stronger, even though we didn’t really focus on how much weight they lifted and we could have been doing anywhere from 6-70 reps per exercise.

If they progress quickly, we start to increase the load and add complexity, if not we focus on our progression hierarchy: Efficiency before Rhythm before Speed before Load before Complexity. Sets and reps don’t matter until they have total control and a good understanding of what their doing.

Yearly Curriculum: For our long-term players we want to focus on changing the program throughout the year to challenge different aspects of their athleticism and skill.

Fall Season:

  • Speed and Strength Maintenance (Low Volume/High Intensity)

Winter Season:

  • Fitness, Strength, Speed Foundation (High Volume/Mixed Intensity)

Spring (High School) Season:

  • Speed, Footwork, Strength Maintenance (Low Vol. / High Intensity)

Summer (Peaking/Off) Season:

  • Peaking June – Speed Fitness/Power (Low Vol. / High Intensity
  • Off July – Fitness, Strength, Speed Found. (High Vol. / Low Intensity)
  • Pre-Season August – Transition (High Vol. / High Intensity)

I am not going to go into too much depth with this as I have already lost several readers due to the length of this post, but I will mention that many training centers / coaches have their curriculum backwards. Here are my top 5 mistakes that I see coaches make:

1.     Train speed in the off-season (and this is #1 by a long shot)… Why? We need to train speed during the season, not in the off-season! I have coaches that try and send me their players in the winter, but tell them not to train in the spring! Seriously? Let’s get you as fast as we can when you are not playing, and then slow down and lose strength when it matters most… Just plain silly.

2.     3-mile runs… What? INTERVALS! NOT MILES! We need to set up a base, sure, but then we need to structure our fitness based on a speed maintenance or heart rate recovery structure. I don’t want my players winning 5K’s, I want them winning the ball, all game long!

3.     Plyos are for jumping… Are you crazy? Plyos are for all kinds of things. Yes they help you get off the ground faster and higher, but they also help improve the rate at which you produce force and that is the primary component of speed and agility… we’re not just trying to improve your vertical here…

4.     All fitness needs to be done with the ball… Sure, if they have the technical ability to control the skill at a high speed. Otherwise, fitness needs to be done in a variety of ways…with the ball, against other players, and speed/intervals.

5.     Strength training will make me BIG… I have had girls that squat 225 and clean 150 and nobody would ever guess it by looking at them. Keep your volume low and intensity high, improve their core strength, and the way they produce force, and strength numbers go through the roof…without size and stand back and watch their speed increase.

Hope this helps get the conversation started. I am sure there will be many questions and a new post will soon follow!


  1. Awesome post!

    Our position is similar- we train everything ALL the time!
    The how much & how many is dependent on seasons & training cycles.
    But since there is no “speed only” “power only” “fitness only” portion of the game, we should incorporate all attributes in every session.

    We frequently have coaches bring us in/send us teams for a “speed session” claiming that we already lift at school. Our reply is a polite version of “you may lift….but not like this.”
    Being a sport coach (D1 bball asst for 8 yrs), I understand we tend to compartmentalize our practices, training sessions, etc. into separate blocks or focuses (defense, offense, speed, fitness). We lift weights, run sprints, practice techniques of the sport, and cross our fingers and hope it’s enough!
    But our goal should be to gradually work towards “simulated games” with the technical, tactical, physical, and psychological evident in everything we do.

Speak Your Mind