What should I expect from a sports performance program?

Before signing up your son or daughter for any sort of athletic development program

It is important to understand what types of training an athlete will be going through. Sport performance training is a broad term that encompasses several important aspects of athletic development. Having a certain level of understanding of these concepts will help you understand the types of improvement in your athlete as a parent, coach, teammate, and/or mentor.  I feel it is important for the growth of middle and high school athletes if they understand why we put them through the programming that we do. This is a brief overview of the training styles we implement.  We will go into greater detail on all these subjects later. Let us dive into it.

“Sport performance is the manner in which sport participation is measured. Sport performance is a complex mixture of biomechanical function, emotional factors, and training techniques” - Encylopedia.com.  

Our goal as trainers is to make the athlete better able to compete in the sport of their choice.  There is a difference between performing better athletically and performing better in a sport.  We focus primarily on the athletic development side of the equation.  

  1. Biomechanical function- “It refers to the description, detailed analysis and assessment of human movement during sport activities” (Physiopedia.com). Basically, this term refers to how the athlete is required to move and perform at his/her given sport.  For example, an offensive lineman in football is expected to be very powerful, explosive, and strong in a relatively small area of the field.  Whereas a wide receiver will have to be more explosive, agile, fast, and coordinated in a very large portion of the field.  Different styles of exercises and drills can enhance those specific qualities of the athlete.
  2. Emotional factors- Emotional factors fall under the broader scope of Sport Psychology.  Sport Psychology is “a multifaceted discipline, drawing on constructs of exercise science and psychological principles, that seeks to understand the influence of behavioral processes and cognitions on movement” (Haff and Triplet 156). Essentially this is the mental aspect of sports and training.  We can help athletes focus better, understand cues, develop work ethic, and control emotional reactions to challenges.
  3. Training techniques- This is the meat and potatoes of what we do at SOAR. I will go into the most depth of this aspect of training.  Training techniques are a combination of exercises and drills to improve strength, agility, explosiveness, speed, reaction times, and mobility in the athlete. There are many ways to work on these aspects and I will give a brief overview on the major training techniques we employ to achieve these goals.

Strength/Resistance training

Strength and resistance training is probably the most well understood aspect of athletic performance training. In its simplest form we give an athlete certain lifts or exercises to complete that enhance the movement they are required to do during competition.  One such major lift is a back squat.  We can use this lift almost universally to improve an athlete’s strength and athletic ability.  

“Oftentimes, lower limb strength in the form of maximal back squat training has been recommended within soccer strength and conditioning programs because of its positive impact on jump height, sprint speed, change of direction performance”, (Wing et al,2006-2014).

“Pearson’s correlations indicated that heading success was significant ally (p<0.05)correlated with squat jump height (r=0.79), counter-movement jump height(r=0.80), and total score athleticism (r=.64)”, (Wing et al, 2006-2014).


This research article went into how a maximal back squat affected different attributes in youth soccer players.  Essentially, the stronger an athlete can squat, the better they perform on jump height, sprint speed, and change of direction performance.  The article also shows that if a soccer player has a better squat jump height, they are more likely to win a header with the opposing player. This is just one move that shows how the strength of an athlete can play a crucial role in athletic development.

Speed Training

“The skills and abilities needed to achievehigh movement velocities” (Haff and Triplet 522).  Just about every sport requires some element of speed. In developing speed, we work on sprint technique, sled pushing and pulling, explosive hamstring and hip drills, acceleration, top speed, and breaking down various phases of a sprint.

“Research reviewing all acute and chronic literature on RST loading parameters has suggested that heavier loads are more effective than lighter loads during the early phase of acceleration, where as moderate to light loads will improve the late acceleration and transition to maximum velocity phases of the sprint, respectively (1,2,26)” (Cahill et al pg 91-99).

We use sled pulls/pushes in our own program to develop similar results as this study. Manipulating loads on the sled will force the body to adapt and become more explosive during different phases of a sprint.  Once again, if we can apply that speed training principle in one sport, we can use it for other athletes outside of just sprinters.


“The skills and abilities needed to change direction, velocity, or mode in response to a stimulus.” (Haff and Triplet 522).  This is trained through various cone drills teaching the athlete to get their bodies in the correct positions to change direction quickly.  In sports, you never fully know what direction or movement will be required, you must react. I add in a reactive component to these several of these agility drills.  In a study done involving a six-week training period on change of direction tests, “Agility group had a significant improvement in test 2-7 (change of direction speed tests, but not the test 1(linear speed test)” (Mladen Jovanovic).   In this study the athletes were subjected to6 weeks of just change of direction drills (agility) and improved all their scores on tests.  Training agility in conjunction with the other styles will show even greater results in all athletic testing.

Plyometric Training

“Refers to those activities that enable a muscle to reach maximal force in the shortest possible time” (Haff and Triplet472).  Generally, we use a variety of jumps to accomplish our plyometric goals. Plyometrics is another way to help reinforce movements and to make them more explosive utilizing the body’s natural rubber band like qualities in tendons.

“The physiological adaptations of neurological muscular function to PT include increased neural drive to agonist muscles and changes in muscle activation strategies related to the SSC.  Female, high school volleyball players recorded increases in peak hamstring torques (44% dominant side/21% non-dominant) and decreases in peak landing forces in conjunction with a corresponding 10% increase in vertical jump (VJ) height” (Booth et al 30-37).

Plyometric work improves the muscles and tendon’s ability to produce force quickly and efficiently.  This article states that the muscles are producing more power, while decreasing how hard they land from a jump with higher vertical jumps.  If an athlete can produce force quickly, they will accomplish whatever movement they are doing faster than an opponent.

Flexibility/Mobility training

“Flexibility is a measure of range of motion and has static and dynamic components” (Haff and Triplet 320).  Static stretching is when an athlete will sit and hold a stretch for a measure of time. Dynamic stretching, usually seen at the beginning of a session, is when the athlete moves through a range of motion like they are performing are petition on an exercise.  There are several exercises that will help increase range of motion such as a RomanianDeadlift for hamstrings, dumbbell chest presses for the pectorals, etc.  Flexibility is an important aspect in injury prevention, although, being hyper flexible can put an athlete at risk for injury.  Usually stretching and foam rolling comes at the beginning/end of a training session.  


In conclusion, there are a ton of different things your athlete gets trained for when they sign up for a sport performance program.  Each aspect of training mentioned has its own interaction with developing young athletes.  Every sport will have just a slightly different focus on the style of drills or lifts being used.  Athletes must master basic movement forms to progress to more complex exercises and drills. It is very important that parents and coaches understand what their athletes are going through so they can see improvements and areas that need more focus.  As trainers we love to seethe hard work they put in the gym transfer into their competitions.  At the end of the day, we want the kids to succeed and go far beyond what they thought they could do. The above training styles are how we do that as sport performance trainers.

Haff, Greg, and N. TravisTriplett. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. HumanKinetics, 2016. pg.- 522, 471,320
“Sport Performance .” World of SportsScience. . Encyclopedia.com. 17Mar. 2021 <https://www.encylopedia.com>.
 “Biomechanics In Sport.” Physiopedia, . 15 Oct2020, 15:43 UTC. 5 Apr 2021, 15:12 <https://www.physio-pedia.com/index.php?title=Biomechanics_In_Sport&oldid=254369>
Booth, Mark A. MA; Orr, Rhonda PhD Effects ofPlyometric Training on Sports Performance, Strength and Conditioning Journal:February 2016- Volume 38 - Issue1 - p 30-37 doi: 10.1519/SSC.0000000000000183
 Cahill, Micheál J. PhD1,2; Cronin, John B.PhD1,2; Oliver, Jon L. PhD2,3; Clark, Kenneth P. PhD4; Lloyd, Rhodri S.PhD2,3,5; Cross, Matt R. MSc2,6 Resisted Sled Training for Young Athletes: Whento Push and Pull, Strength and Conditioning Journal: December 2020 - Volume 42- Issue 6 - p 91-99
doi: 10.1519/SSC.0000000000000555
 Mladen Jovanovic “Testing and Training Agilityin Sports [Part 2]”  1 April 2021 Testing and Training Agility inSports Part 2 (complementarytraining.net)
Importance of strength and power on keyperformance indicators in elite youth soccer wing, christopherE, turnerAnthony, bishop Chris.  Journal ofstrength and conditioning research: July 2020 volume 34 issue 7 pg 2006-2014

April 27, 2021
 in the
Sport Performance
Written by
Keith Carlisle
Founder / Owner / Trainer