sport-specific training

Programs offered at Lions United

coach Andy’s thoughts

Sport-specific training is always a topic that Coach Andy brings up when first meeting an athlete and their parents/staff. Some coaches scoff at the idea of sport-specific training, but coach thinks it is a great topic to discuss.

To Coach Andy, it just seems like common sense.

  • It’s based on you competing in a sport.
  • You want to improve performance in that sport.
  • You have decided to spend time and energy on training other than sports/skills.
  • Therefore, it’s perfectly logical that it should be specific.

Below, Coach Andy lays out what you need to understand about sport-specific training. This includes:

  • Why you want sport-specific training.
  • What sport-specific training is.
  • Transfer of training.
  • How sport-specificity affects long term athletic development.
  • How to figure out what is specific to your sport.
  • Sport-specific speed, strength, stamina and mobility.


Before Coach Andy put’s anyone on a program, the first thing he always asks is, why do you train? It is the bread and butter of how he coaches. He needs to understand his athletes “WHY.” Their deeper motivation. 


Context and Coaching.

  • You see, Coach Andy’s responsibility is to help guide you to the right solutions. If he doesn’t have any context to your question about sport-specific training, he would just be making assumptions. And those assumptions could be wrong.
  • Do you want sport-specific training because you have potential in the sport and want to play at a high level? Some athletes are just trying to make their team or get playing time.
  • Maybe you want to train specifically so that you can reduce your risk of injury. Or perhaps you’ve had an injury and are trying to get back to your pre-injury performance level.
  • Perhaps you’ve tried some training that wasn’t “sport-specific,” and you didn’t see results, or worse it had a negative effect on your game.
  • All of those goals may, in fact, require some type of sport-specific training. However, they are also different.

Why Do You Train?

This question is important for Coach Andy to understand because, after all, when we look deeper, sport-specific training is really your goal-specific training. Most athletes seek sport-specific training to meet their sport-specific goals. If you already have a coach that doesn’t try to understand you and your goals, then they might be missing the mark. And that is bad coaching.

So, lets determine the underlying motivation behind sport-specific training.

  • You want results in your sport.
  • You don’t want to waste time and effort on training that doesn’t contribute to those results.

“The purpose of sport-specific training is to use training to effectively and efficiently reach your goals in the sport.”

what is sport-specific training?

Since we know what the purpose is, what is sport-specific training?

When we discuss “sport-specific” we hear a lot of different concepts. Often, it’s based on doing things that look like the sport. Drills that use the sports equipment; balls, bats, gloves, sticks, etc…

Other times it’s practicing sports skills with rubber bands on, wearing weight vests, or hooked up to bungee cords and devices.

At the elite level those ideas occasionally come up, but the discussion tends to get more straight to the point. Coach Andy’s Special Olympic powerlifting team wanted results at the 2022 USA Games. In their sport. PERIOD.

Elite athletes face heavy physical and mental demands. The margin for error can be incredibly small. In some Special Olympic sports, 1/2 KG can be the difference between a gold medal and not being on the podium at all.

An athlete facing that can’t waste time or energy. They can’t add wear and tear to their body if it doesn’t give them better results in return. Coach Andy cares about the same thing.

Sports specific training transfers to better performance, lower injury risk and increased competitive longevity.

sports training is the truest specific training

In the end, the thing that tends to increase your sports skills the most is playing and training your sport.

Now a lot of performance coaches hate to hear this, but it’s true. Playing your sport and training your technical and tactical sports skills is as specific as it gets.

However, there are often limits on this. Physically from energy systems and repetitive motion, access to coaching time or field/court space, weather, and the ability to use deep focus on the same skills.

These are all things that can limit the ability of the athlete to just practice more for continued gain. When you stop improving at your sport, it makes sense that other training could help you get better.

specific to sport, position or you?

So, if we are talking about sport-specific training that is not just practicing the sport itself more, with the goal of improving performance, you need to start considering how specific to get. Is sport-specific training really enough? For instance, a quarterback and defensive back in football are both in the same sport. Do they have the same specific demands? Not even close!

That’s an extreme example but it carries over into a lot of sports. Different positions may have some unique specific requirements.

Then we can take this further to be more specific. If we look at different players in the same position, they may have different styles. We have soccer forward who is all finesse with amazing moves versus the power player who relies on speed and jumping higher to win in the air. Same sport, same position, different styles.

Go a step further and we can start to look at your individual genetics and predisposition. What about your unique history of injuries and physical qualities? When that window of opportunity gets smaller, these things come into play.

In the end, the level of specificity in training is inverse to the level and training age of the athlete. The younger and more developmental the athletes, the more benefit from general training.

The more elite the athlete with years of training, the more specific training need to be.

sport-specific training

We have already acknowledged that skills and tactics are best improved in sports practice. However, we are focused on determining what type of physical training will be the most specific for your sport. Training that leads to better performance. Less injury. Longer careers. So. Coach Andy’s objective is to determine what qualities are specific to any sport. 

Sport-Specific Speed

Speed and agility are valued in almost every sport. To get specific, you can start understanding different aspects to speed in sports. As you try to understand what makes speed specific to your sport you can start by thinking about how much of the movement is straight ahead versus laterally and diagonally?

Sport-Specific Strength

Too often athletes think that strength is how much weight you can lift on a barbell. For an athlete, strength is so much more than that. That big barbell strength is often useful and represents one type of strength. You need to understand that there are different types of strength and which you need in your sport. Strength is simply the act of applying force. Applying force to the ground, ice or water. Force applied to your bike, bat, racquet or a ball. Applied force to move your bones and joints into different positions. Strength not only moves you, but it also hold you together.

Sport-Specific Stamina

For many people, this may be one of the most obvious. A marathon runner needs different stamina than a 100m sprinter. The Olympic weightlifter has different energy needs than the 1500m freestyle swimmer. It does get harder as we move to team sports and activities that are not steady-state or really short. The body essentially has 3 main energy pathways, and it uses them in different ways for the sport.

sport-specific training for the win

Two athletes who are playing the same sport and play the same position may not be on the same ability level. Coach Andy will almost always gravitate towards sport-specific training because it is specific to each individual athlete. If we have ten athletes all doing the same generic program, and four of them can’t execute properly, they aren’t benefiting from anything. Or worse, they could get hurt. Now if you have ten athletes on their own specific program tailored to their abilities, now you have ten athletes executing their programs properly and becoming better at their sport.