Agile Periodization Manifesto [Part 2]
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Agile Periodization Manifesto [Part 2]

In the previous installment I explained the concept of Agile periodization as opposed to “traditional” one (i.e waterfall) and covered one of the two main cycles – Training block.

In this one I will cover the second major cycle called “Sprint”, it’s sub-components and two major principles:

  • Embedded testing
  • Minimal viable product

Sprint

“Micro dictates Macro”
Stuart McMillan

Sprints are shorter cycles and usually last 1-4 weeks. The term sprints come from SCRUM methodology.

It is important to acknowledge that ONLY ONE sprint is planned in advance (in details). This is in sharp contrast to traditional planning: in Agile Periodization planning is ongoing through sprint iterations, while in “traditional” approach planning is just one stage that happens once in the beginning.

Using sprints we iterate through PDCA cycle and adjust (we adjust the apriori standardized work) based on observations (new evidence and information) through embedded testing, demonstrable MVP, better understanding of the context and problems at hand and engaging with the players themselves and massively using their feedback in improving the processes.

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Each sprint has couple of elements:

  1. Sprint planning – well, deciding on the duration, objectives, standardized work defined by constraint of the training block and so forth
  2. Realization and monitoring – using embedded testing to adjust processes instead of outcomes (see Management by Means vs. Management by Results). This also involves daily standup meetings – very short meetings to realign the team to the defined objectives
  3. Sprint review – Reviewing results/outcomes of each sprint
  4. Sprint retrospective – Reviewing sprint processes and trying to improve them (kaizen)

There are two very important concepts in sprints – embedded testing and MVP.

Embedded testing

Embedded testing involves utilizing ongoing testing and monitoring of the athletes. This is in sharp contrast to traditional approach where testing is done in batches and infrequently. In Agile Periodization we seek to make tests embedded in the training process, do them as frequently as possible without negatively affecting the training program and process.

With traditional approach testing is done 1-2 times in pre-season and 1-2 times in-season. The problems with this approach it that we are not able to use the information gained by the test to affect our planning and modifications – it is already too late when we do the tests.

It is also important to make tests more prescriptive instead of sport-specific. The tests should give us actionable data and help us with identifying bottle necks (limiting factors) and hence help with the planning. Performing sport-specific tests is also usable (especially when we track them for RTP protocols and we seek to hit certain thresholds), but since their scores depends on multiple factors, we cannot be sure what needs to be enhanced for the performance to improve. More general tests can give us this information. Take for example Yoyo test – changes can happen due changes in CV (critical velocity or aerobic capacity), W’ (anaerobic reserve), intra-rep pause recovery, COD efficiency, mental toughness and so forth.

As coaches we need to decide how deep down the rabbit hole we need to go with testing and decide what is enough to make better decisions without too much burden and paralysis by analysis.

With the new technology embedded testing is more easily doable, but it is still a pipe dream. For some performance indices we can use proxies from day-to-day training and we should use MVP concept to test more frequently (as a source of information, as well as accountability) at the end of each sprint for things we cannot approximate using embedded testing idea.

Here are some examples of embedded testing for certain training components.

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I am a physical preparation coach from Belgrade, Serbia, grow up in Pula, Croatia (which I consider my home town). I was involved in physical preparation of professional, amateur and recreational athletes of various ages in sports such as basketball, soccer, volleyball, martial arts and tennis. Read More »
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