Based on the title it probably sounds like I'm about to write about the pitfalls of blaming yourself for failures and how it can be detrimental to your development as an athlete. I am not. In fact I plan on outlying how blaming yourself can be both beneficial and empowering.
There is a primary rule within the field of fault analysis that can be summarized as "Never assign blame to a part of a system that you don't have any control of". Assigning blame to something you have no control over will not promote any change that could lead to a different outcome next time. Take for example a soccer player who slips on a muddy section of grass causing them to miss a shot and lose a game. Some people may simply say "it's not your fault" or "it's just bad luck", but if you do that next time you are in a similar situation you are going to get the same bad outcome. A more productive line of thinking would be to say I missed because I was not aware of the environmental factors, which will lead you to account for this next time and hopefully create a better outcome.
Do not take this the wrong way and believe that you need to berate yourself for every mistake of instance of bad luck, but simply figure out what you could have done better in that situation and resolve to do better next time. There is ALWAYS some thing you could have done better. In this way blame can become a positive call to action.
By taking on this way of thinking it empowers the athlete and gives them a feeling of control over their success or failure. "I make things happen" rather than "Things happen to me". The primary rule is that there are NO excuses. Other players are not an excuse, officials are not an excuse, not even trying your best is an excuse. There is always something you could have done better, something you could have though of, some preparation that you failed to do. Taking ownership forces you to take action and improve yourself rather than deny blame and remain the same.
Hopefully knowing this will allow you to take control and ownership of both your athletic career and all other aspects of your life leading to better outcomes.
Many people have heard or even repeat the phrase "speed kills" when it comes to sports. This is true, but often it is being said to demonstrate that speed training is more important to strength training when it comes to sports performance. Speed and strength are certainly linked, but it is absolutely not a zero-sum contest between the two.
Running speed ultimately comes down to two variables, stride length and stride frequency. Increasing one or both will produce an increase in speed. Stride frequency is determined by how fast your muscles can activate and cycle through the running motion while stride frequency is determined by, first limb length, but also how much force can be put into the ground to propel the body forward as far as possible before the next step. These two factors are where muscular speed and strength meet.
Knowing how running works the next question is how do we improve it. First muscle firing speed is largely determined by muscle fiber type distribution, which unfortunately is largely genetic, but can be altered in a limited capacity by consistent high velocity training. Next we can improve the coordination of muscle firing when running. This is where running technique comes into play. Learning proper running mechanics allows the athlete to move at optimal efficiency to move as fast as possible. When muscles fire in a highly coordinated fashion the body is able to maximize the resultant speed. Last comes strength, which is the primary point of this post. Several studies examining how to improve running speed have determined that increases in speed can be improved most by increases in strength. By increasing the force put into the ground when running increases the force with which the athlete can propel their body forward. Strength as a physiological characteristic is also highly trainable so athletes are able to make strength improvements that result in speed improvements as well for most of their athletic career before they start to plateau, while on the other hand maximum muscle firing speed is reached much earlier in an athlete's career.
During the early days of strength training in sports coaches noticed that people with a lot of muscle mass were slow, inflexible, and poorly conditioned. They came to the conclusion that large amounts of muscle mass was the cause. This could not have been further from the truth and this myth has been toxic ever since. The true reason was that most of the people observed to have large amounts of muscle mass at the time were body builders that did not train for speed, flexibility, or conditioning. Fortunately we have seen the competition results and the truth is obvious. Look at the fastest people in the world (100m sprinters), nearly all are built like body builders.
To close out, the belief that improvements in strength create improvements in speed is well supporting in both the research and practical cases of competitive athletes. When done along with proper running mechanics improvements in strength will directly produce improvements in speed. And like the title says strength = speed!
One of the fundamental pillars of spots performance training is sport specificity. Training is most effective when the training most closely mimics the sport you are training for. This is why sport specificity is a core value at PSP when working with our athletes. Having said that, one thing that is forgotten is that specificity exists on a continuum and like all things it must be utilized properly and with moderation.
When putting together a training program several factors determine what level of specificity is needed. On a long-term scale younger athletes need less specificity than older athletes. Youth athletes are constantly in the process of building motor patterns and acquiring physical coordination therefore having them do a variety of movements will produce the most well-rounded athlete as they get older. Additionally, having a high level of coordination and physical competency makes them highly resistant to injuries of all kinds. If an athlete only trains very specific movement patterns any deviation will likely result in injury. This is the reason single sport athletes often burn out at a young age or are frequently injured.
Training periods closest to competition should involve the highest level of sport specificity while further out from competition should involve more generalized physical training. For the same reason as youth v. advanced athletes, further out from training you are looking to make large improvements in physiological factors (e.g. speed, strength, power) and as you get closer you will apply those qualities to your sport specific movements. This concept of “build then apply” is critical and often overlooked when training athletes.