In my experience, the most effective coaches are always looking for any trick or technique to evolve their programs and get more out of each workout, drill, practice, etc.
I’m also a big believer in involving my athletes in their training. If kids feel like they’re an active part of the training process (as opposed to simply being told what to do day in and day out) they’ll work harder.
With these two ideas in mind, I’ve stumbled across an extremely easy way to make every element of your program better starting at your next practice or training session…
You’ve probably used this before, but maybe not as a deliberate component of your overall program assessment.
What is it? The ‘On a scale from 1 – 10…’ question.
After every workout, practice or training session, I ask my athletes this simple question:
“On a scale from 1 to 10….
How did you like that new warm up?
How hard is the new lifting program?
How well did I explain and demonstrate the new speed drill we learned today?
How much do you like Workout A compared to Workout B you did last week?
You get the idea.
It sounds excessively simple, but if you don’t ask you’ll never know.
My kids know they’re allowed to ask questions and speak their minds without getting the stink eye.
So if I ask them a question, they know they can answer honestly without getting judged or punished. So they’re not going to tell me what they think I want to hear, they’re going to tell me the truth.
Kids (actually, people in general) really appreciate such an atmosphere because they’re probably not getting this type of treatment with their other coaches in their other sports. And that makes your program stand out in their minds.
Let’s say we’re doing a fairly high volume tempo workout that I want to be in the medium intensity range. So my goal for the workout, as I’m designing it, is for it to be a ‘5’ out of ‘10’.
When it comes to volume, intensity and density it’s all a guessing game. How many 200s should you run in practice?
Truthfully, I don’t have an exact answer to that question. No coach on planet earth has a concrete answer to that question, at least none that I’ve met. And I’ve met quite a few. (If you do have THE answer, please let us all know! I'll post your response and give you ALL the credit!)
We’re always guessing. But we get closer to truth when we analyze our results over the course of each practice, season, etc.
In this example, if the workout is too hard, then it’s not the workout I intended. It may mean athletes have worked too hard and it could compromise the remaining elements of that day’s training session or the next day’s workout.
If I don’t ask for feedback from my athletes, I have no idea if the workout was effective. Was it too hard? Too easy? Just right? I can’t modify and evolve the program if I’m picking numbers out of a hat.
Of course, if you ask a 15 year old for detailed feedback about how effective they felt a workout was, their brains are going to shut down and they’ll stare at you blankly like a deer caught in headlights.
I’ve been around long enough not to get that technical!
But if you say:
“OK guys, I need some feedback on today’s workout. How hard was it on a scale from 1 to 10? ‘1’ being so easy you can’t even call it a workout, ‘5’ being “Eh, not hard, not easy” and ‘10’ being the equivalent of getting shot in the stomach.”
I’ve given them parameters with which to base their number. If I don’t define what ‘1’, ‘5’ and ‘10’ are, everyone will invent their own scale and the answers are essentially useless.
Then I go around to all the athletes in the group and ask them how hard they thought it was. If you know your athletes, you’ll know who the tough kids are and who the babies are, so you can scale their answers appropriately.
If you hear mostly 4s, 5s and 6s, you know it was a well designed workout and you can put that in your notes so the next time that type of workout needs to be run, you’ve got data to use to make it better.
But if you get all 2s, 3s and 4s, you know you did a poor job of designing the workout. The volume was too low. Or the intensity was too low. Or the rest was too long. Or all of those things. But now you have some practical data to use to modify some or all of those parameters for next time.
If you get all 6s, 7s and 8s, you know the workout was too hard. The volume was too high. Or the intensity was too high. Or the rest was too short. Or all of those things. But now you have some practical data to use to modify some or all of those parameters for next time.
Try it out with your athletes. If you’re confident enough in your training and you know you’ll actually use the information when you write down your notes from the days training session (you do that each day, don’t you?) then you’ll find this to be a fast, easy and effective way to improve your coaching and your program. Plus, it gets your athletes involved in their training and that makes the sport more fun for them. And that's the whole point!
Use the ‘On a scale from 1 – 10…’ question with your athletes. It works and you’ll be surprised at how many holes you have in your planning and teaching that you never would have addressed if you didn’t let your athletes tell you.
Don't forget to post your comments and feedback below. It helps me know exactly what kind of information you want me to provide in my upcoming articles and videos!
I have not tried the grading scale yet, but I think I will start it this week. I have used what I call an “open door” policy. My athletes know they can come to me and give me feedback or discuss a workout any time. They also know that they need to be professional about it. They can’t just come up and say they didn’t like the workout. They need to discuss why either too hard and why or too easy and why. Of course the 9th graders are a little new to all of this and I have to spoon feed them, but it’s all new to them so with time it gets better.
An example, just the other day I had a 2nd year short sprinter come up to me and say “Coach, I think we are ready to move on to 25m with our flying 20’s, what do you think?” I was shocked that she asked me for feedback! It was the coolest thing! After my feedback to her, she then went on to how she wants to change the name of the workout to flying 25’s and so on. I was a brief moment, but it was a great moment in my young coaching career.
>>>Jay – Great job, man. ‘Open door policy’. I’m going to steal that. I bet your athletes work real hard for you and you see universal or near universal personal bests each season.
Thanks Latif! I agree in getting our athletes involved in the training we provide/subscribe. It has helped my athletes feel more confident about actually knowing the training, rather than just performing the training.
I agree with you wholeheartedly. I have done this for years and it really gets the kids involved and excited about the workouts.
Gidday Latif, I’ve been receiving your e-mail updates for a while now and I’ve been extremely impressed with what I’ve seen. Another great one today, as a teacher I don’t know why I haven’t thought of this before! I’m a relatively new coach in New Zealand (after having quite a long career in track) and I’ve had immediate success with a small group of talented young sprinters. I’m forever trying to improve myself as a coach and I really want to take these highly dedicated athletes to another level. I believe the program that you offer will help me achieve that. If I can only afford one at the moment should I go with complete speed training or complete program design for sprinters? Bearing in mind that I would hopefully be able to get the other one later on…The domestic season in NZ runs from October to late March. For secondary school athletes they need to peak for school nationals in December and then again in March for their other big competitions (4 of them). I do off-season work with them all from May to September. With this in mind I’m hopeful that I would be able to adapt what you have to offer for the timeframes I have to work with over here?
>>>Lorne – Sounds like you’re just the kind of coach I like. Here’s the answer to which program you should get right now: Neither.
Wait a couple weeks. Before the end of this month, I’ve got a big, track sprints specific announcement. That will be your answer.
This has always been a concern for me. I wrote programs based on “book-knowledge” and some experience but not sure of the training effects on the athletes. Through the years one can asses using daily notes what works or not. This questionnaire will give you historical data that is sure to be accurate as it comes from the horses mouth. And as mentioned, one needs to make notes on a daily basis. Thanks for the advice.
Jim hiserman, loren seagrave, ralph mann all have great programs, yet *some* conflicting training methods.
When converting max strength to power, then finally power endurance, at what intensities should these be performed (1RM) some say 30-35% others 75-85% with justified reasons.
Would you be-able to write an article on the topic as im sure its a key part of training. how many reps, sets, %, rest, exercises, frequency?
Have a tremendous day Latif!
>>> I’ll put it on my list. But in truth, I don’t use stress myself with percentages most of the time. I work with developmental (high school) athletes whose training age in the weight room is so low that nit picking over percentages isn’t an effective use of my time.
you are very democratic, I love your coaching style. The main thing is not only the ‘how’ but why certain things have to be done. The sweetest part of track and field is “reaping” EFFORTLESSLY pulling away from the competition. BUT many kids hate the hard pre-season an early season work.
some athletes just do it to please the coach but deep down hate. after graduation they left athletics, even though they may be well talented