CONSTRUCTING AN S&C NEEDS ANALYSIS - A SAMPLE MODEL FOR KITEBOARD RACING
By Cedric Unholz
January 14, 2018
The vast majority of sports in the modern era demand the training and targeting of a variety of specific qualities, as well as individual needs. This is dictated by the realities of key factors that any coach and athlete face including competition calendars, training/travel schedules, physical training compatibility, de-training timelines of physical qualities, and an athlete’s life outside of training amongst a host of other considerations. Many of these would be straightforward to address in isolation, however this is rarely (if ever) an option when striving for the comprehensive physical preparation of athletes competing in sports with concurrent and oftentimes conflicting training requirements (Issurin 2010).
The above list, though incomplete, demonstrates the countless thought processes, decisions, and compromises that must be made to create or adapt an effective plan that helps athletes reach their goals. Given the myriad of choices, it is understandable that many coaches find themselves overwhelmed or unsure of conceptualising where to start, what to work towards, and how to coordinate so many moving parts over a given timespan. This is especially the case when faced with designing a plan for a new or unfamiliar sport, which is a common scenario for a Strength & Conditioning coach in today’s professional sports climate.
A vital tool to help with this challenge is the construction of a thorough needs analysis. This acts as a dynamic reference point that guides the practitioner by ensuring all relevant needs are taken into account, crucial areas of importance are identified, and potential obstacles are not overlooked. As an example, when viewed through the lens of physical preparation, the majority of this analysis will naturally be comprised of considerations associated with the physical demands of the sport. However, this may also include the identification of external factors such as travel logistics, facility limitations and/or competition-specific rules that influence the choice and distribution of training prescription for a given phase.
In the author’s opinion this needs analysis should also extend beyond the sport itself. An analysis of the individual is equally important as influencing factors and needs may differ greatly across an athlete group. In addition, it is feasible to suggest that all members of an athlete management group should perform a similar analysis in order to set clear goals relevant to their scope of practice, encourage inter-disciplinary collaboration, and create accountability by identifying areas of responsibility.
The current article will analyse Kiteboarding TwinTip Racing (TT:R) in order to demonstrate many of the above mentioned concepts in a sample outline. TT:R has recently been accepted into the 2018 Youth Olympics Format and was a successful addition to the International Kiteboarding Association’s (IKA) 2017 world professional competition circuit. TT:R is therefore a comparatively unexplored sport in terms of formal analysis, providing an exciting and novel medium to explore from a physical preparation standpoint.
The aim of this outline is not to provide a complete analysis or training manual, which is beyond the scope of this article. Instead, it looks to provide a conceptual model that may help other practitioners construct their own needs analyses to help guide their practice.
Sample Needs Analysis Outline
Competition Format & Layout
Understanding the sport itself, along with the competitive intricacies inherent to it, are the first steps in being able to accurately analyse specific demands and therefore what training must address. In the case of TT:R some vital considerations may include:
- Annual competition schedule
- Race distance(s)
- Course and beach layout
- Competition-specific rules (e.g., in TT:R the minimum wind speed for a race to start and be completed is 10kts)
The current schedule sees primary races and competitions running from March to October each calendar year. This schedule will likely be subject to revision over the near future as the sport continues to develop.
In 2017 the major events included:
- Asian Championships (March)
- European Championships (July)
- Open World Championships (September)
- U19 World Championships (November).
The Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Buenos Aires are being held in October 2018, which heavily influenced this schedule as it required the organisation of four qualifying events in 2018 prior to the games with the following host venues and timelines:
January 2018: Cabarete, Dominican Republic
North & South America + Caribbean
February 2018: Dakhla, Morocco
Africa & Europe
March 2018: Pranburi, Thailand
Asia & Oceania (March)
May 2018: Hainan, China
Youth World Championships
The above influence training planning along an entire spectrum of detail ranging from macro-, meso-, and micro-cycle scheduling, to individual competition preparation approaches. For example, course layouts may include jumps, and course segment distances may vary depending on the amount of riders in a heat or beach configuration. All of these and other factors can greatly influence what training approaches are emphasised in competition preparation.
Being a race discipline, the goal of TT:R is to be the fastest competitor and finish first. This requires superior performance in the physical/technical abilities relevant to the sport, but also largely depends on the execution of race and race heat-management tactics.
From a physical perspective, racing is dependant on an athlete’s skill execution and their ability to generate as much speed as possible by handling /controlling the largest kite size possible in a given wind-range (bigger kite = greater pull = more speed). Large similarities exist here to requirements for sailing, paddle and snow sports like downhill race skiing. As with these events, the athlete must possess the physical capacities to repeatedly hold, control, and move between challenging dynamic postures in settings that require explosive high force production and absorption.
This has clear implications for on- and off-water training. In addition, this also suggests a large importance of both speed- and strength-reserve development (Hansen, 2014) as contributors to successful race performance given that the following are all components of TT:R competition:
- Creating rapid/forceful extension under load
- Resisting rapid/forceful flexion and anterior pull
- Repeatability of and recovery from race outputs, across multiple heats and competition days
Analysing the demands of competition subsequently allows us to identify specific qualities that need to be addressed from a physical preparation standpoint:
Speed and Power
The ability to sprint up the beach to the start line between heats may form a crucial part of competition, especially in light wind conditions, and could be the difference between winning and losing a race. Developing an athlete’s speed abilities will not only serve to improve speed-reserve (Francis, 2012), it will also help develop the relevant musculature and connective tissue to produce and absorb forces during a sprint or the race itself.
A mixed approach utilising small amounts of short acceleration track-based work to target maximal relative output abilities, as well as sand-based running would appropriately address the qualities needed from a speed perspective. Although running in sand does not allow for the same absolute outputs to be achieved as on land/a track, it is important to allocate appropriate training time on the specific surface on which the running will take place. This ensures the athlete is exposed and adapted to the different biomechanical and muscular demands sand creates.
Jumping over water obstacles and landing efficiently/safely at high speeds is a major part of races in high wind settings (12 knots or more are needed for obstacles to be placed in the race course). Carefully planned and progressed plyometric work will not only help support speed development, it also plays an important role in teaching athletes sound jumping/landing mechanics, and preparing the musculo-skeletal system for these high intensity tasks (Drabik, 1996; Schmolinksy, 2004)
A key emphasis must be placed on both upper and lower body strength development, especially in the hips, back and legs. These are the primary areas that work against the pull of the kite, and enable optimal riding positions. They are also the key structures that help absorb the forces created by board to water contact, and during high impact manoeuvres such as jump landings or rapid direction transitions at speed.
Well-rounded trunk development helps to further support these areas. There are large static and dynamic demands placed on the trunk musculature during races. This involves movements in all physical planes of motion, and appropriate conditioning of these structures is a crucial contributor towards successful physical performance. Whilst a significant portion of this need is addressed through appropriate general speed, power and strength training (as well as the sport itself), modalities such as intensive/extensive medicine ball throws and traditional abdominal/extensor work aid this process greatly.
Energy System Development
TT:R requires the development of multiple energy systems. Within a competition athletes can find themselves producing a large number of alactic (phosphagenic) efforts such as jumping, landing at high speed, accelerating into a beach sprint, generating rapid forceful extension and resisting rapid flexion.
Conversely, there is also a significant aerobic (oxidative) and potentially glycolytic component to a race itself due to factors such as the durations of a race, the postures being held, as well as activities like running up a beach for long distances. Well developd aerobic qualities aid recovery from high intensity work and between individual races/competition days (Francis, 2012). Higher general fitness levels also help combat the negative effects of competition-related factors such as travel and/or psychological stress (Schmolinksy 2004; Francis 2012).
This presents a challenge in terms of physical preparation as trying to emphasise the development of all these qualities at the same time will lead to sub-par results, especially if done too close to competition. Instead, it is necessary to appropriately design the concurrent training of complementary qualities, and adjust training emphasis and relative training volume distributions over time based on the individual’s needs (Issurin 2010; Francis, 2012).
Generally speaking, the bigger the kite, the more speed that can be generated. This is only possible however if the athlete is able to appropriately control/resist the kite’s pull, and subsequently transfer this to board speed and efficient handling.
A higher total system mass allows the rider to create more leverage, and therefore may allow the handling of a larger kite which may be an advantage for straight-line speed. Equally, a high lean to fat mass ratio is also important to maximise usable mass.
Conversely, a lower total system mass requires less output when running through sand, and may decrease the energy expenditure necessary when holding race postures. Athletes with lower bodyweights can also utilise relatively smaller (and therefore more manoeuvrable) kites than heavier individuals at a given wind-speed, which could provide a benefit during turning for example.
As with energy system development, practitioners are therefore faced with many trade-offs to consider. Choices need to be made based on race tactics, individual presentation, and an athlete’s relative strengths/weaknesses.
Given the physical and postural demands of TT:R, it is imperative to have the movement attributes necessary for successful performance. Speed is the name of the game, and is an amalgamation of movement-related variables/qualities including:
- Ability to control and move between various postures whilst maintaining correct technique
- Structural robustness and adaptability to produce and handle the forces encountered during competition/training
Deficiencies in one or a number of these areas can therefore significantly hinder high-level output, and ultimately race outcomes. The following structures contribute heavily to all required actions for successful competition-specific movements and durability:
- Lower Limbs (including Feet + Ankles)
- Hips + Thighs
- Upper + Lower Back
The inter-relation between the movement/tolerance qualities of these structures and performance variables are therefore crucial to address through appropriate preparatory, training, and recovery prescriptions. It is important to remember that effectively addressing these needs also requires careful selection and dosing of all training elements, including the specific sports exposure itself.
Load Management Strategies
The varied nature of TT:R requires a multitude of qualities to be developed over the course of a career. Each training component competes for resources (e.g. mental, physical, time, financial), and the concept of load management (LM) is therefore a fundamental aspect of sound training prescription just like for any other sport – especially given the balancing of on-water and dry-land training requirements.
LM is a term encompassing many areas and variables, and can therefore quickly be made over-complicated. The primary purpose of it is to arrange/dose training and recovery resources to ensure that an athlete efficiently achieves the primary goal of a given training phase without injury. An important aspect of this approach is creating the appropriate environments that allow an athlete to produce the outputs necessary for successful adaptations and/or competition outcomes. Each athlete requires solutions tailored specifically to their own circumstances. The following list provides a few of the countless examples of how LM may be used to address an individual athlete's requirements:
- Using a high intensity, low volume, and non-failure lifting emphasis to mitigate unwanted body mass gain depending on body composition goals
- Micro-dosing of high and low intensity training components across the training week
- Finding solutions to combat detraining during extensive periods of travel, competition, or if access to formal training facilities isn’t available
- Pre-competition tapering methods such as eccentric loading management and adjusting the relatives volumes of various training components
Sophisticated application of LM exists across a range of detail, just as training planning does in general. In a sport like TT:R the nature of the season, conflicting training requirements, as well as the logistical challenges surrounding it (e.g. travel, weather conditions) require a clear but flexible plan, allowing multiple components to be addressed when needed without losing sight of the key priority: On-water development and preparing the athlete to produce results when it counts.
Drabik, J. (1996). Children and Sports Training.
Francis, C. (2012). The Charlie Francis Training System.
Hansen, D. (2014) The Relevance and Importance of Speed Reserve in all Sports. StrengthPowerSpeed.com
Issurin, V.B. New Horizons for the Methodology and Physiology of Training Periodisation. Sports Medicine. 40(3), 189-206, 2010
Schmolinsky, G. (2004). Track & Field: The East German Textbook of Athletics.