I’m involved in sport for the grind. That’s why I set VolleyScience up. To support the grind! It’s motivating to support people putting everything on the line, battling to achieve something they never have before. Operating in that area of uncertainty, not knowing whether they will succeed or fail, and testing their boundaries every single time they train.

That self-determination and drive is a precious commodity.

As coaches we are entrusted to ensure the athletes we work with get the most back from their investment of time and effort. In doing this, our inner scientist needs to rationalise and clearly understand the underpinning processes that govern progress. Our inner coach needs to structure and manage these processes with flair in order to paint a performance masterpiece. Reflecting on the physiology of adaptation, this article presents a fundamental idea underpinning development and growth.

In the beginning, it’s important to remember that change is stressful… Any change, positive or negative. We are, all of us, creatures of habit after all.

Even at the most basic physiological level the body works hard to minimise change, a response called homeostasis. Based on this, any change from our athletes ‘normal’ experience is met by quick physiological response to counteract the change in order to maintain a ‘normal’ status. The body doesn’t like being outside of its normal. If similar stressful experiences happen repeatedly and consistently the body adapts towards the stressor. At its simplest level, this is the driving process behind developing performance through training.

The stimulus for change could be anything from a fitness test, to the number of jumps in a session, to how regularly patterns of play seen by the athlete in a particular drill. It could be a particular social interaction the athlete has during the session, after the session, on a different day completely separate to training. The interaction between all of these factors which governs the performance response you see on court, for better or worse.

The virtuoso coach, in the same way an artist delicately wields a simple brush to paint a masterpiece, intimately understands the responses and adaptations they require the athlete to display to achieve success, and manipulates the many threads making up their practices and interactions towards stimulating these adaptations.

Our capability to balance and co-ordinate the inertia of physical, social, tactical, mental development in athletes pushing for performance is our grand masterpiece as coaches.

Tell us at VolleyScience about how you’re painting yours…

Gary, VolleyScience