By Carl Valle
For the last few years many excuses for not timing surface and instead of rewriting the same explanation by debunking the myths over and over, the most common are shared below. No only are the myths not true for most coaching environments, they are actually points that should that the opposite is true, a point where electronic timing is actually the solution to their problem. Here are the top seven I have encountered and counter arguments of why timing is essential for serious programs.
“I have no time to time; I have a busy group and limited amount of contact with athletes.”
The most common excuse for not timing is the age old limited amount contact with athletes, especially larger groups. The problem with this excuse is that timing speed is also training it, since the act of testing brings about a huge arousal that is very useful for increasing the output of the athlete and activity of repeated maximal sprinting is part of training. Testing is simply adding a measurement component, something that doesn’t add time at all during the session if organized right. One of the misconceptions with timing is that it’s only one at a time like most infrared timing options, and different set-ups can be used with Freelap to be more efficient if necessary. Testing speed is the ultimate workout in itself, and doing so will be one of the best training days one can have if time is limited. With speed begin so coveted, testing is pivotal since a limited amount of time with athletes must be effective and efficient, so timing audits the program. Unless you are gauging improvement, one could be not using the little time one has at their disposal.
“Timing speed, be it linear or lateral, isn’t the same as the game? So why time at all?”
Doing well in field tests such as the short sprints and various agility tests are not a promise or guarantee in athletic success, but good general speed is a requirement for any sport that running is a requirement. Outliers exist with some athlete able to contribute without being very fast, but being fast never hurts an athlete’s potential. Training for speed is not a major time investment as noted earlier, so most athletes can improve both sport skill and speed without compromising either quality. Sport rules and game play may limit the raw ability or likelihood of using all out linear speed or agility, but for the most part big plays in sport such as goals in soccer and game changing events like kickoff returns or deep balls in American Football are ares that clearly show speed being important. Throughout sport, the ability to sprint over and over is a major quality and being fast does increase the changes of making a big play. Timing speed and then using that information can improve results and one’s changes with their athletes to succeed, something that leads us to excuse # 3.
“Electronic timing is too expensive.”
Like all equipment timing does have a cost, and budget decisions must be evaluated just like someones speed. Private facilities are looking to provide a good service and a value to the client since payment is exchanged for services, but schools, be it college or public grade levels have budgets that often to allow for much wiggle room. The truth is, if value exists, people, be it a high school or college will find the money if the tools is useful enough to make a difference. Electronic timing is also important in the private sector, to show a client that progress is being made and appreciate the difficulty of what coaches do. Anyone not timing and making claims about speed will forever be suspect when a competitor offers timing and they do not. Electronic timing doesn’t wear the same as medicine balls or other equipment, because it’s not about breaking down it’s more about changing the AA batteries once or twice a year tops. The value of electronic timing can not be overstated enough, since the value of objective information validates or refutes training decisions that develop athlete’s careers. Making choices to a training program, especially since most of them repeat the majority of the plan year after year, will be hinged on the information or feedback one has in practice and in meets. By using electronic timing one can see the precise changes, good or bad, that the training program elicits on the athletes. Short speed requires sensitivity a stop watch can not provide, and since the data collection is automated, it’s almost like hiring another assistant or manager.
“Qualitative movement quality is just as or more important than just performance numbers.”
The inclusion of timing doesn’t mean the abandonment of good mechanics or proper movement. Testing athletes with timing is easily done and can stay in the “background” if needed. Running fast is not a crime, and very few run fast with inappropriate mechanics. Usually times improve as technique improves or conversely better training will increase mechanical improvements, being indirect from self learning or cognitive suggestions by the coach. Technique improvement can enhance speed, efficiency, and injury reduction, but one must have a sufficient speed to be competitive or being available (not injured) or efficient isn’t valuable. At the end of the day, the ability to move one’s body quickly is the likely the final variable, and one must be able to provide evidence that they are performing better or similar to previous level if elite. If speed is the goal, electronic timing provides clear proof that the decisions in training design and coaching methods teach are working. A combination of quantitative (timing) and qualitative (technique) is necessary for ultimate performance.
“Speed can be recruited or drafted, so we focus on injury reduction when dealing with talent.”
Talent and near finished products such a professional athletes do leave the decision to be cautious to be a logical approach. Most professional teams are looking for keeping athletes on the field performing and enhancing speed is not always what the goals are. Unfortunately being overcautious is backfiring, since not timing creates two dilemmas with elite athletes. First, even if one wants to maintain performance one still needs to do similar activities and approaches that got them there in the first place, so testing is needed to know if they are even the same as the previous season. A decrease of performance is something that is not useful, even if the athlete is injury proof. Second, not timing workouts makes managing fatigue, a part of keeping athletes healthy, nearly impossible to do outside volume and perceived effort. Most levels one needs to develop talent that is recruited and drafted and inevitably training needs to challenge the body or one can’t adapt and get faster. Reducing injuries is not about removing risk from training the athletes are guaranteed to face in games, but to manage risk by reducing unnecessary fatigue by calibrating both the output (speed training) and the physiological responses with athlete monitoring options. The best way to reduce injuries is a good training program, and the precision of electronic timing is invaluable here.
“Timing is a burden and interferes with what we are doing because of set-up and storage needs.”
Not all electronic timing is the same, since in the past the cluttered fields from multiple tripods was not only time consuming setting up, but required a lot of space for the equipment, making it not very portable for travel. Freelap timing is a different beast.The small sensors are the size of dinner candles take seconds to turn on and place to where you want timed. Most coaches can store a complete team system in a track bag or over-sized lunchbox, and timing is very passive during the session. It is up the coach, not the limit of technology, how timing is used. If coaches feel that the data is important for testing then one can transfer the times on a laptop later or set the watches for instant feedback if one is trying to use an old school approach with clipboards. Regardless of the approach, getting times can be quick and easy for team or groups looking to get timing on their athletes. Compared to other testing options such as jump tests, lifting tests, and other measurements, electronic timing with Freelap is quick and simple for anyone, even for users that don’t work with technology that easy.
“Not all athletes are top performers and testing can hurt confidence.”
Athlete feedback using objective feedback is often difficult for athletes to accept at first, but not giving them evaluation that is honest is frankly a poor approach to development. Selection processes in sport are often subjective or qualitative, and while it may not be perfect, athletes will eventually have to be evaluated. It is better to give objective feedback with honest discussion of results, if they are not favorable with smaller attributes and build confidence with improvement rather than allow the athlete to bury his or her head in the sand. Confidence is about self belief and it’s built best by training and feedback of improvement and comparison, not by just pep talks and positive reinforcement. In fact, coaches that are labeled motivators sometimes will loose the psychological edge they depend on when athletes are aware that the actual physical training and preparation are not at par with the competition. An athlete knowing they are not prepared or have no indication they are ready is a major confidence issue, and honest objective feedback with positive reinforcement is a sensible combination. Not all athletes can be top performers, but all athletes can get better and make a contribution to a team in some way.
In closing, most of the above myths the average coach will deal with and Freelap not only solves those challenges but provides the best option in making the problem a benefit to the program. Coaches should never fear timing or worry that it will interfere with goals, since timing is such a fundamental part of evaluating a training program for athletes.
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