General physical preparation (GPP) and sports performance.
What is the physical preparation (PP) specialist role? I often say in a slightly slanted way that my role is to make athletes' technique better. To make it better under the toughest constraints imposed by their discipline. This might blurr the lines between the skill coach and the PP specialist (PPS) but it is a way to start the discussion with sport coaches who define their role in a very similar manner.
In team sports the boudaries of the PPS intervention are easily defined. Sport coaches have a lot of work with game planning and skill teaching. It is not so in other sports like track and field for example. Physical qualities and technique are so intimately linked that it seems difficult to define separate roles. What else does a running coach do but develop acceleration, speed, endurance etc..? Isn't it the exact role a PPS on a rugby team? This is reflected in the fact that the first PPS in team sports were traditionnally track and field coaches.
Let me propose one definition of GPP:
GPP is the practice , teaching and planning of the non specific means of training in order to increase sport performance.
The PPS and the sport coach have the same goal: increase performance.
The foundation of my methods comes from the definition given to good technique as I understand it:
Good technique is the optimal sequence of contraction / lengthening of muscle, in the right order, the rythm and velocity adequate to the achievement of an intentionally predetermined goal.
The figure below is nor complete or detailed but aims at symbolising the process and it factors.
According to neurophysiologist Daniel Wolpert the real reason for a brain is complex mouvement production. Very simply put the brain is a prediction calculator that organizes movement in function of the feedback it gets on the success or failure of that prediction. Adjustment are made in case of failure and it is called learning. This process calls upon memory, perception and proprioceptive feedback.
What does the sport coach do? The most important part! She gives proper point of start, proper intention and feedback thus signifying to the athlete's brain what to store in memory or modify next time. (yellow circle)
The PPS does everything else. It means giving the athlete the means of achieving the intended goal. It means helping all the factors influencing the "optimal sequence of contraction / lengthening of muscle, in the right order, the rythm and velocity adequate to the achievement of the intentionally predetermined goal." (red circle)
Our role as PPS is not to produce bigger benches or simply higher vertical jumps but to give the sports' coach athletes that have all the capacity to respond positively to coaching. Practice of the specific skill should therefore cause improvement. Don't little kids run faster as they run more? Why does it stops when they become adults?
When this goal is pursued everything else is only method.