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Ready, Set, Ask

Coaches have many responsibilities on a day-to-day basis. One of those responsibilities is to keep their players healthy and safe both in the weight room and on the field of play. But with so many athletes, how can you make sure you are communicating with each and every one of them in an effective way?

In a blog for TrainHeroic, former Track and Field Coach Carl Valle describes readiness surveys as one of the best forms of communication for keeping your athletes from overtraining and injuries. According to Valle, a readiness survey should be given to athletes daily and consists of short questions about how they feel and how they are recovering from training. Doing them consistently will make the biggest difference for both athletes and coaches.

“If they don’t have any information from the athletes they work with, coaches will worry constantly about overtraining or fatigue, and sometimes about being too conservative,” writes Valle. “Readiness surveys reduce either doing too little or too much...and sometimes shed light on the wrong type of training.”

There are many advantages to taking the time out of already busy practice schedules to conduct these surveys. First, Valle explains that it keeps athletes accountable for their own actions. Through the survey, players will have to account for their recovery and readiness. They will then hopefully recognize actions that are negatively affecting their training, such as lack of sleep or poor diet. But athletes aren’t the only ones who are kept accountable.

“Conversely, if the training program itself is the problem, the information from readiness surveys will force coaches to rethink what they are doing,” writes Valle. “Bad readiness trends and poor training outcomes will be enough to nudge honest coaches to go back to the drawing board.”

Next, readiness surveys help coaches catch any issues and nip them in the bud. As Valle explains, knowing about a problem earlier makes it easier to change training plans. And these surveys can not only help the coaches create better plans, but can also cultivate communication within an entire program.

“Quick summaries of readiness is an athlete’s dashboard internally and physically, and using them fosters not only communication between the athlete and the coaching staff, but also the support staff,” writes Valle. “Getting on the same page isn’t easy with teams and facilities, but readiness surveys force everyone to be working together collectively.”

One of the biggest difficulties in implementing these surveys is gaining athlete buy-in. Valle explains that coaches can do this by including a small section where athletes can write a note and share their thoughts with the coach. Even more buy-in is then created when the information and thoughts from the survey are actually taken into consideration.

“If an athlete doesn’t feel an equal exchange exists between giving information and the coach using it, they will rush through the questions and give information that lacks careful reflection and thought,” writes Valle. “If you don’t make modifications from the communications of your athletes, they will not put the effort in with the process.”

Of course, there may be times when you don’t feel training needs to be adjusted. If this is the case, keep athletes engaged with their surveys by talking with them about why you are keeping their training a certain way.

The questions found on these surveys can vary depending on the coach, the program, and what information is deemed most important. In an article for Strength Power Speed, John Abreu, CSCS, Strength and Conditioning Coach with the Canadian Sport Institute in Whistler, British Columbia, offers an example of a survey. The first ten questions ask athletes to rate themselves on a scale of one to five in different categories: sleep duration, sleep quality, soreness, energy, mood, stress, mental focus, nutritional amount, nutritional quality, and hydration.

In this survey, Abreu also includes a small box for general comments where he asks athletes to write any injuries, problems, specific situations and ideas. At the bottom of the survey, there are diagrams of the human body from different angles. Athletes are asked to identify their three most painful body sites and also rate the severity of pain from one (very slight pain) to five (severe pain).

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