If everything is important then nothing is important. It is necessary to be on target with those components of training that the athlete or teams need to do to improve. It is tempting to try to do everything to insure that all bases are covered. Unfortunately that approach will ultimately dilute the training effect, which limits long-term improvement. In order to prioritize training this is what I consider:
Want to do – This consists of ideas on workouts or exercises that look like they might be useful but I have never used before. File them for use when appropriate.
Nice to do – This consists of useful methods that I can use if there is time or if there is a specific reason. Too many nice to do’s will kill a training program.
Need to do – This is the nitty-gritty, no wiggle room here. These must be done.
Then I carefully assess the sport demands, the position or event demands and the qualities of the individual athlete. In regards to the athlete I pay particular attention to their current level of trainability as well as technical strengths and weaknesses. For me the emphasis is always on what they can do, not what they can’t do. Train the athlete to their strengths and that will pull up their weaknesses. In determining the emphasis in training for each block or mesocycle there are two categories:Major Emphasis and Minor Emphasis. A major emphasis will show up 3 to 4 times in a 7-day microcycle. A minor emphasis will usually occur 2 times in a 7 day microcycle, just enough to stabilize that component. Though that can vary with the time of the training year. I have found it to be a constant balancing act that requires daily observation and feedback from the athlete.
To aid in the prioritization process I also classify competition into three categories:
Developmental – Competition result is not of concern. The goal is work on technical or tactical factors in a competitive situation. No specific rest or preparation for the competition.
Important – This is where the competitive result can matter. Some specific preparation and rest is taken to prepare.
Crucial – Must achieve competition results, this is a championship competition or qualify competition. There is specific preparation and adequate rest to insure sharpness and competitive readiness.
You can’t be at the peak level optimum physical conditioning year around. Priority training can help you achieve continual improvement by changing priorities based on the time of the training year and the state of the athlete. In the words of Greg McKeown in his excellent book Essentialism always “less but better” be on target with training and results in competition will follow.