Monday, April 21, 2008

Fatigue and Skill

Chris at Conditioning Research has an interesting post on a study examining declining skill levels in youth soccer players as their fatigue levels rise. Below is the comment I posted on Chris's site:

From a coaching perspective I think this points to the importance of tiring the athletes during practice, rather than separating the conditioning from the practice as is fairly common. I've found in training tennis players that I get the best transfer when I work on skills at an intensity comparable to or higher than match intensities. I don't suppose that's a shock.

Too often, though, when it comes to a skill like the tennis serve, the practice is almost exclusively done in isolation. The player rarely has a pulse rate over 100 during a serve practice session. What I prefer to do is have the player hit from 2-4 serves, then do some sort of exercise (varying the duration and intensity), then hit 2-4 more serves, etc for about 15 minutes. This seems to transfer much better to match serving than simply standing and hitting buckets of serves. This research indicates why. The tired player is different from the not-tired player. You must train the tired player.

A nice by-product of this sort of training is that the players get in better shape, too. They don't get tired as easily in matches. Plus, the intermittent nature of the training trains the recovery phase. Very important in a sport like tennis.

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