By Mark Lonsdale, Judo Training Development

 It is not just the elite athlete who can benefit from setting goals in training but also the recreational player. Setting and then meeting goals allows the athlete to not only progress in his or her field of endeavor, but also to map out their path to success, whether it is making it to the national championships or simply performing better in club-level training.

In precision sports, such as archery and shooting, it is easy to gauge progress since the score on the target tells the story. If the possible score is 600 then the shooter can see themselves moving up from the 400s to the 500s and then into the elite levels above 590. The same is true in timed events such as running and swimming, where national and international records are well documented and athletes strive to beat their own personal best times.

But in judo, how do recreational players and elite athletes define their goals and progress?

To begin this discussion, it is important to first understand the process of setting goals. Since goals are often achieved over time, they should be divided into short term goals (attainable in 2 – 6 months); mid-range goals (attainable in 6 – 24 months); and long term goals (attainable in 2 – 4 years). In more practical terms, for the competitive athlete those goals may be winning at the regional or State level, winning at the national level, and finally, competing at the World and Olympic level.

For the recreational judoka, the short term goal may be achieving the knowledge and technical proficiency to pass green belt. The mid-range goal may be brown belt, and the long term goal earning the coveted black belt. Concurrently, the judoka may also have training goals tied to improving personal fitness, weight loss, and measurable gains in strength.

In addition to estimating time for improvement, there are three types of goals: process based, performance based, and outcome based.

Process-based goals in judo may include increasing training days from two evenings per week to three evenings plus additional training on the weekends. For the aspiring elite athlete the goal will be to train five times per week supplemented by additional physical conditioning. Where training time is limited, part of the process may be to improve the quality of training during the time available. In other words, that 90-minute training session becomes all business and at the end of the session you have left it all on the mat.

Performance-based goals are directly related to achieving personal bests in any sporting endeavor. For the recreational judoka this may include learning and perfecting more techniques, being able to demonstrate good form and balance when executing a technique, or simply being able to increase stamina for more consecutive randori(s). For the more competitive athlete the goal may be to move up from bronze or silver to gold at local and regional tournaments, or to medal at the nationals. But again, if the goal is to improve medal count, this will require corresponding improvements in technique, tactics, strength and stamina.

Outcome-based goals are to some extent out of the athletes’ control. One example would be to make the national team to the World Championships. The reason that this may be out of the athletes’ control is that they are competing against other athletes for those team slots. So while an individual athlete may be training harder and longer than his or her competitors, and winning at a fair number of events, team selection will be affected by how well the other athletes perform in the team trials. It is during such events and team trials that the athlete and coach discover chinks in the athlete’s training, such as lack of mental preparation or an inability to handle stress.

However, through all this, personal training goals should be documented, measurable, and attainable.  By making a written record of goals as part of a training plan, the athlete and coach are better able to decide if the goals are reasonable and attainable within the time allotted and with the resources available. By making the goals measurable, for example training five times per week, executing 200 uchi-komi and 40 nage-komi each session, and having the stamina for six consecutive 5-minute randori, the athlete is able to first meet and then exceed these goals. In the process the athlete is able to derive satisfaction and confidence from reaching a goal and then setting new goals.

In addition, one of the key elements and challenges to a successful training program becomes time management. As the athlete and coach set the bar higher, the training time required to meet those goals increases. At first when training time increases, immediate and quantifiable improvement may be seen, but as the athlete’s performance approaches the elite levels, progress becomes slower. As with many sports at the local or regional levels, the difference between the gold medalist and the bronze medalist may be several points or several seconds. But at the elite levels of national and international competition, champions are separated by hundredths of a second, fractions of an inch, or one or two points.

One of the many factors that get a champion to this level, and builds the next generation of champions, is being able to quantify training goals and improvements in performance. But more importantly, the true champion has a love of the sport and a love of training that transcends merely winning medals. For the judoka that is the love of executing a perfect throw in training, or catching your opponent in a nicely executed armbar in newaza randori. To be able to suffer through necessary time in training, the athlete must simply love the sport, the training process, and training environment.


About Mark V

Dedicated shooter, seeker, traveler, teacher, trainer, educator
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