Can we tailor training to the individual within a team setting? Fernando Signorini gives us the answer. Let’s take a look.
The principle of individuality is one of the most fundamental training principles, no matter which the specific training discipline is. Cool, let’s check the science.
Principle of individuality: It is one of the most important but most difficult principles to apply, especially in team sports. It is well known that there are numerous factors that affect individual response to the same training load (García and Cols., 1996b): heredity, maturation, nutrition, rest and sleep, fitness level, motivation, environment, health and gender. To these individual factors it was necessary to add the different energy and technical-tactical requirements of each specific position in soccer. According to Ozolin (1983), the principle of individualization requires that the objectives and the physical exercises, their form, their intensity, duration and character, the methods of performance and many other aspects of the preparation that the athlete must carry out, must be selected in correspondence with the sex and age of the practitioners, the level of their functional possibilities, in the sports preparation and their state of health, taking into account their peculiarities of character, psychic qualities, etc. – ‘EFD Deportes’.
Ok, great, we know that now. Billy and Johnny can be different in five million ways and training should be mindful and planned around this. That makes sense.
Now comes reality and we are one coach with 20 players at times, so it’s hard to adjust training to Johnny’s and Billy’s ‘individuality’? So we always end up with four sets of six-eight reps of whatever we are trying to train and sorry ‘principle of individuality’ but that’s life (in this post, we’ll skip the discussion about how irrelevant the 4×8 of pure physical activities can be).
The problem about the four sets of eight reps is not only that you didn’t care much about Johnny’s and Billy’s individual needs but also that it might be inefficient in terms of training loads.
Let’s start from a basic concept: General Adaptation Syndrome. You need to create an overload for the body to overcompensate and increase the baseline level of a certain valence. Now, the overload can’t be ‘as big as possible’, that like going to the gym after six years of sedentarism and trying to lift 200 pounds in chest press. You’ll get injured and take a month to step back on the gym, if you even manage to lift it once.
The same happens in football training, so here’s a real life example to understand overloads: In my U17 Boys team, Marco spent the summer doing Triathlon training, and Martin on the opposite, did very little because he had a slight fracture in a lumbar vertebra, so if I do a 4×8 with 2′ rest at 3/4 speed in 40 yards with 1:3 work rest ratio, Marco is hardly sweating and there’s not enough of a physical incentive to at least sustain the current baseline (principle of reversibility, this is another important one), and Martin might be borderline to getting injured (the overload is too big for him right now).
That’s the problem, so what do we do about it? Check below.
During the webinar hosted by our Sporting Director, Pablo Toledo, Fernando Signorini -former conditioning coach of Diego Maradona & Lionel Messi, among others- gave us a brief, but most valuable Masterclass on this. Watch below with English subtitles!
PT – Undoubtedly we tailor training based on our game model and the overall education of the player that we are pursuing, but how could we adjust training to develop a specific physical valence?
FS – We frequently talk about the fundamental valences, which are strength and speed, but I think speed and strength endurance are much more important. Why? Because if I have Usain Bolt, who is the fastest man in the world, but after four sprints he gets tired, it doesn’t work for me. I prefer someone who can do 30. And the same thing happens with strength. Soccer is 90 minutes long and the emotional system will always be involved. For me, the most important valences are worked through sensations and not time. Because it is also the best and the only way to train individually within the team setting. For example, in a drill with or without the ball, I say ‘let’s do five seconds of maximum intensity with the ball’. In five seconds they have to develop maximum speed imagining the situations of the match. And the five seconds that follow, walking or doing something different. And they have to constantly vary, for example throwing a long ball, and then they slow down. So, I am increasing the number of repetitions, and perhaps a player, when he reaches the threshold of fatigue, the organism sends a message. ‘Today, this is your limit’ – it says, but yours, not someone else’s! Then one player leaves and the others continue, and so on until the last one is done. Why? Because that allows the player to connect intimately with his possibilities today, which may not be the same tomorrow. That is why individuality must be respected.
PT – And where would you place it in the training session? I tried at the beginning once but then they were exhausted for the technical-tactical part.
FS – That comes with experience. You also have to see what the coach does. It’s always best to send fresh players to the coach. Begin leveling with simpler workouts, which have to do with the game, and when the first week has passed, that is the one with the greatest risks of injury, start with more aggressive exercises, but always keeping in mind that the main thing is to practice the coach’s idea. If the coach ran a really demanding session, we have to balance that. The only thing I would suggest is that 48 hours before the game, the efforts have to be minimal, because there is very little to win in comparison to what can be lost.