Failing to prepare is preparing to fail

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail”. I guess every coach on the planet has heard that saying more than once. The methods and tools to plan a whole season for individuals and teams are plenty and one is not necessarily better than the other. It might be a whole software platform, spreadsheets or something as simple as a notebook.

In this article I’m not going to discuss the tools available for planning and preparation, or the methods on how to plan, but what we decide to plan based on information we have from previous season. How can we plan successfully if we have no idea what needs to be improved? There are many things that need to be taken into consideration when designing a training plan. Tournament results, individual development, group development, retention rate in the group, moral, et.c. By gathering data from previous season, however you do it, and analyzing that data, you can make important decisions in your planning.

 

Practice plan in mobile

Practice plan in mobile

The TKDTrainer coaches use the XPS Network software platform to manage our planning, drill collection, training programs, nutrition diaries and communication with athletes. Drills have images, descriptions videos and other important information to describe the purpose and goal for each drill. The TKDTrainer coaches have hundreds of drills in their collection that they share among themselves. We are adding new drills and programs every week to our collection and they are then applied to groups and discussed afterwards. Those drills can be grouped into training programs that we can apply to different groups or individual athletes, and reused or improved each season. At the time of this writing we train 26 groups, of all ages, at different locations and at all levels. During the training session we or our assistant trainers use the mobile app to navigate through the drills for that training session.

Now, how can we measure success? Applying training programs to those groups gives us comparative data that we can analyze and then improve the programs if needed. It is not always possible to measure improvement with numbers so images and videos are used to compare results before and after applications of programs on those groups. The XPS Network software allows us to generate very detailed statistics on how we spent our training sessions which is essential so we have data to base on our decision making.

To demonstrate how this can be done, we will look at statistics from last season for one group, compare those statistics to tournament results and make a decision on how to improve. The group we will use is a youth beginner group. First we start with traditional Taekwondo, which is training in forms (poomsae) and then move on to sparring training. Only a few samples will be looked at in this article but each section is able to generate a new subchart that can be investigated further.

 

 Traditional Taekwondo – Overview

 

Traditional Taekwondo overview

Traditional Taekwondo overview

 

“The devil lies in the details”

First of all, I want to talk about the ratio between forms and basic technique. Based on the tournament results last season, this ratio will be swapped next season. There were 22 competitors from this group in the National Youth-Cup that returned the following results:

1st place = 4

2nd place = 0

3rd place = 3

Too much time was devoted on perfecting the athletes forms while basic technique was (almost) left in the dark. Small things in plans and schemes that are often overlooked can cause serious problems later on. The devil lies in the details. The difference between 2nd and 3rd place in a tournament is that devil.

If you have not read Designing Effective Practices for Team Sports then I suggest you do. I would have dropped “Team” from the title because it suits individual sports perfectly as well. In the book, the author talks about the non-negotiables, for rules and principles that are not negotiable in a team environment. Including athletes in decision making is the premise of the book, except for certain non-negotiables. Self defense is one of my non-negotiables. The 33% ratio is staying next semester. Remember that the group involved are young beginners where competition focus has not yet been established. Later in their development these ratios might change depending on what their goals will become.

 

Traditional – Basic Technique

Traditional - Basic Technique

Traditional – Basic Technique

When we look at Basic Technique chart, we can see that 44% of the training time was devoted to kicks. Kicks trained in this section are exclusively for forms where the focus is on palchuk (the ball of the foot) in both front-kick and roundhouse-kick and dvichuk (heel) in side-kicks.

Stances and blocks got equal amount of attention, which I think is desirable given that this is a beginner group. This ratio will be continued next season.

Hand strikes got a little less than half the training time of blocks and stances due to the fact that it is mostly the same strike so it gets a lot of attention, while there are number of blocks and stances. We could dig deeper into the statistics to see exactly which blocks/hand-strikes/stances were trained but we will leave that for later.

 

Traditional – Forms

Traditional - Forms

Traditional – Forms

This is an interesting ratio. Poomsae training in groups gets 16% and is a fairly new training method used by the TKDTrainer coaches and works well for middle and higher belts. The athletes are grouped with 3-5 athletes in each group. They present a form one at a time in front of their group for a peer-review and will focus on fixing the errors mentioned by their peers in the next round. This ratio is larger in groups with higher belts.

Poomsae training with instructior is up for re-evaluation. Especially after we started requesting videos from athletes where they presented forms outside the class. Almost every parent has a smartphone and this gives them an opportunity to participate more in their child’s development in Taekwondo. It takes around 2 minutes to watch a video I receive and send back a response with points that need to be addressed. This ratio will drop to at least 10% next season and basic techniques will get the other 25%.

Part poomsae is self-explanatory, we practice small parts of particular poomsae to enhance the rythm and flow of that part.

Conclusion:

With these statistics, important decisions can be made for next season. The goal is to win the next Icelandic Youth-Cup but that will not be done without putting effort in basic techniques at the expense of forms in training sessions.

 

Sparring – Overview

Sparring - Overview

Sparring – Overview

Earlier I mentioned that the group was in 2nd place last season but were not far behind the winners when total score was compared. In fact, the average points of this group in sparring was 2.89 against the winners 2.61 (5 points are awarded for 1st place, 3 for 2nd and 1 for 3rd). The winning team outnumbered this group by 7 competitors which affects the calculation of course but it does tell us that the group was close.

Let’s look at the sparring statistics.

When we look at Sparring Overview chart we can see that the group spent almost half of the training time on offensive training. Which makes sense since it is a beginner group. It is ideal that the prerequisites for defensive training are fundamental kicking, stepping, timing and then offensive training. With those skills the athlete is able to comprehend defensive training better since it includes all the above.

Physical training is also one of the non-negotiables for beginners. Without core stability, leg strength and flexibility in young athletes, specific training will suffer. First move well, then move often. Fundamentals are always first.

Sparring – Offense

Sparring - Offense

Sparring – Offense

Digging deeper into offensive training we can see on the Sparring – Offense chart that the group spent 81% of the time on kicking drills and 19% on footwork in offensive training. Footwork is sometimes included in kicking drills so we need to take that into account when analyzing these statistics.

Sparring – Offense – Kicking drills

Sparring - Offense - Kicking drills

Sparring – Offense – Kicking drills

Let´s take a look at the Sparring – Offense – Kicking drills chartAlmost the same amount was spent on back-leg and front-leg drills, which coincides with our fundamental training. Olympic Taekwondo developed fast when the electronic scoring system was introduced and most points are now scored with front-leg, so this ratio changes in groups training exclusively for competition.

 

Sparring – Offense – Kicking drills – Back leg

Sparring - Offense - Kicking drills - Back leg

Sparring – Offense – Kicking drills – Back leg

Our Sparring – Offense Kicking drills – Back leg chart demonstrates that we are introducing head kicks very early in the athletes development, even though they are prohibited in tournaments for competitors under the age of 12. The reason for this is closely related to our fundamental training principles, kicking flexibility and the most important part, introducing head kicks early in their training to reduce the fear of receiving and using head kicks at a later age.

Single back-leg roundhouse-kick and double roundhouse-kick was trained 28% of the time during back-leg training. When reviewing the video analysis from last season we are quite satisfied with the roundhouse-kick technique in the group so increasing the ratio in this fundamental kick is not needed.

 

Sparring – Offense – Kicking drills – Front leg

Sparring - Offense - Kicking drills - Front leg

Sparring – Offense – Kicking drills – Front leg

Digging into the Sparring – Kicking drills – Front leg chart we can see that slide front-leg roundhouse kick was trained almost half the time in front-leg sparring sessions. Like I mentioned before, this includes footwork which is the reason that exclusive footwork training to kicking drills ratio was low (only 19%). Fast kicks are quick roundhouse kicks with the front-leg without lifting the supporting leg. These are single kick attacks in close encounters. They count for 44% of the training time (body and head) which also improves timing and speed. Combinations starting with front-leg are introduced in beginner groups and then crafted with detail in advanced groups.

Conclusion:

We are satisfied with the development of this group’s sparring technique, both from video analysis data and tournament results. We spent almost 50% of our training time on offensive training which got the group in 2nd place last season. This goal for this group next season is to increase the number of athletes in the group with more invitations, online awareness, visits to elementary schools and so forth.


In this article we only scratched the surface, using a beginners youth group. Using videos and images to give users feedback on their progress has a huge effect on their overall motivation. It also helps us as coaches to compare image and video data and measure their progress.

Planning practices can be time consuming but using proper tools to organize yourself will make your preparation a lot faster. By grouping drills into programs that are designed with your athletes technical level in mind will make your coaching more efficient and your athletes will always progress naturally from beginner to advanced programs.

The XPS Network offers a 20 day free trial on their website, www.sidelinesports.com, contact us if you try it out. We might be able to assist.

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