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.