Pioneer Valley Youth Sports and Fitness Institute
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Program Design: Conducting a Needs Analysis

Previous articles have discussed plyometrics and Olympic lifts in order to address explosive needs of athletes participating in sports or activities that require explosiveness.  However, first and foremost, it is necessary to conduct a needs analysis in order to design a strength and conditioning program that is appropriate for the sport being trained for. A needs analysis is when a professional analyzes the fitness needs of both the activity and the individual athlete involved in the sport.

The first step in the needs analysis is to breakdown the physiological and biomechanical requirements of the sport.  The physiological requirements will attend to the strength, flexibility, power, endurance, and speed necessary for success in the sport. The biomechanical requirements will attend to the specific movements performed in the sport, thus allowing for exercises that address those sport-specific movements. For example, a basketball player who needs to jump and sprint will need to train the glutes and hamstrings, therefore, various plyometric exercises are appropriate.

Assessment of the athlete’s needs in relation to their sport(s) is essential. Sports vary in the levels of intensity and fitness level required. Football players require more strength and muscle size than lacrosse players, for instance, and wrestlers need more anaerobic endurance than baseball or softball players.  In order to discover the athlete’s strengths and weaknesses it is important to test the athlete with appropriate testing protocols that address the demands required for success in the sport.

Most importantly, addressing an athlete’s injury profile in order to attend to specific medical needs is necessary to prevent further and future injury.  Having athletes complete a confidential health history questionnaire and discussing any exposed items with the athlete, parent/guardian and medical personnel is a necessity in order to understand any potential limitations and/or restrictions.  An athlete’s medical history will determine how you develop their training program.

In addition to analyzing the athlete and sport-specific requirements, an analysis of the gradual cycling (allocation of a specific period of time, albeit days, weeks, or months) of specificity, intensity, and volume of training is very important to understand.  This process of periodization, allows athletes to achieve peak levels of fitness for the competition period and more notably the most important competitions, those in post-season. 

Although most sports are either speed and power sports or endurance sports, analyzing the demands and needs of the sport itself is essential in order to developing a specific program that will lead to successful performance.  An understanding of the strength, flexibility, power, endurance, and speed needed for a particular sport, along with what type of movements are performed in the sport will help determine what exercises are of priority.  Knowledge of an athlete’s medical history is of the utmost importance in order for the athlete to train in a safe manner that will prevent future injury.  Lastly, knowing how to allocate training specificity, intensity, and volume in relation to a sport’s competition period is necessary.

Any questions about conducting a needs analysis or the periodization process, please email Len Haggerty at apexspt@yahoo.com

Len Haggerty is a Sports Performance coach operating STRIDES Performance & Wellness, Inc. in Northampton, MA. As an enduring participant in sport and recreational activities he encourages youths, athletes, and adults of all ages and abilities to discover their athletic potential. If you have questions or comments, email them to len@strideshpi.net