Coaching without Periodisation

Coaching without Periodisation



Coaching 101.




Buy a copy of Bompa’s classic text on Periodisation, get out there and plan, plan, plan.

You just can’t coach without first developing a written down, detailed, systematic periodised annual training plan.

There is another way.

First…you must unlearn what you have learnt (Yoda).

Stop for a moment.

Imagine you didn’t know what periodisation was, that you hadn’t gone through some sort of coach education and training program and that you were starting coaching without any background knowledge about coaching athletes.

What is the one thing above all that you would base your coaching and training philosophy on?

To ensure that every training session was designed so that each individual athlete received the perfect stimulus at that moment in time.

And as neither we – nor the athlete knows exactly how they will feel physically and mentally until they arrive at training, why would you spend a lot of time and effort writing detailed periodised plans months in advance????????????

Makes you wonder why we do it………..


What if……

What if you didn’t write a detailed annual periodised plan?

What if you based your training on the athlete’s readiness for training after they arrived at the track or pool or gym or field or court?

What if you didn’t write down anything before the workout? What if you only recorded what the athletes actually did?.

What if you started to coach without periodisation?


How can you coach without periodisation?

Again, unlearn what you have learnt.

The critical tool you will need if you are going to coach without periodisation is something which can tell you if the athlete is ready, willing and able to train to their full potential at the session.

This has been the “Holy-Grail” of sports science for the past 30 years: developing a simple, easy to use, reliable, valid, easy to understand test which can be used immediately pre-training and will give the athlete and coach a clear understanding of just how ready the athlete is to train.

A lot of people have come up with a lot of tools, tricks and traps to try and achieve this.

For example, taking morning heart rate (i.e. heart rate when the athlete first wakes up in the morning) has been used since the 1950s in an attempt to determine if an athlete is trained or over-trained.

But it has little relevance to their ability, desire, capacity or intent to actually train to their full potential when they arrive at training at 4 pm that day.

What is needed is something athletes can actually do during warm up which provides clear information to the athlete and coach about what, when, why and how much work to do right now.

And such a thing exists. And it’s free. And it’s simple.



  1. Coaching without periodisation.…it can be done…and it just might be the biggest leap forward in coaching for 30 years;
  2. If everyone in the world in your sport is basically following the same planning and periodisation process you do, where’s your edge? Where’s your point of difference? Where’s your advantage?
  3. The key principle is this: every time we work with an athlete, it is our responsibility to ensure that the training we provide is the optimal stimulus for them – at that moment, at that time and specific to their unique physical and mental status as they exist right now;
  4. If this is our goal, to provide each individual athlete with the optimal training session at the specific time they are completing it, then planning training sessions days, weeks and months ahead is not only crazy but is bordering on irresponsible;
  5. There is another way.


Wayne Goldsmith



  • james marshall Posted May 28, 2011 12:19 am

    Try telling that to University students who dabble in coaching.
    Eisenhower said “Plans are useless, but planning is essential”. With experience, comes the ability to adapt a plan to circumstances around you.

  • Wayne Goldsmith Posted May 28, 2011 7:46 am

    Thanks James.

    Periodisation is LAZY coaching.

    You sit down, spend hours writing a detailed plan and then make the athletes do it – regardless of how they feel, how they look, their recovery level, their attitude etc etc.

    There is a much better way but it means coaches have to coach and devote themselves to working with athletes as individuals at every training session.



  • Mike Posted May 28, 2011 8:25 am

    Wayne, Wayne, W A Y N E! – How dare you rock the Periodisation Boat – rock it – more like you are trying to torpedo it. You need to get back to the reality of the “my way or the highway” style of coaching – how can it be unreasonable for us to expect an athlete to be ready to swim a practice that we planned 3 months in advance? You may not have heard the one about “failing to plan is planning to fail…….” Well, now you have so just give your head a shake.

    Could you explain again why we should put the immediate training needs of our athletes ahead of the reality of our need for control?

    There’ absolutely no place for intuitive, needs based coaching in our sport. You should just go back and take a basic coaching course from any of the major Commonwealth Countries – you will be back on track in no time! Even if it’s a track to “Nowhere” you will be allowed on deck and you will be “on-track”

    (I can’t wait for your next post on this subject)


    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted May 28, 2011 8:43 am

      Thanks Mike.
      Hi Mike.

      A great comment thanks.

      You see it all the time don’t you.

      A coach spends hours writing “the” plan – which is wonderfully periodised, includes all the recovery stuff, the sports science, the gym work etc etc – but then the coach fails to respond to or work with their athletes at every session.

      Then when things go wrong, they go back and think “Hmmm, the plan must be wrong. I will write a new one”.

      Clearly the best coaches know that working with the athletes is the key – and regardless of the what “the” plan says, the most important aspect of coaching is people.

      Thanks again,


  • Darren Smith Posted May 28, 2011 4:11 pm

    Wayne, another cracker.
    There is no question to me that there is too much fixation with periodising. It takes time to plan and do the detailed spreadsheet, but that is not where the coaching finishes. That bit was a scratch on the surface.

    People look at me like I am an alien when I say I don’t periodise…especially when they find out I have a phd in sports science. It illustrates the level of influence people like Istvan Bayli and Bompa’s books had on those that write the coaching courses.

    For us, we assess the status of athletes before, and after the warmup, then I decide. Its like mental gymnastics for the coach, but for me this aspect keeps me interested and it works. Do planning, have options there, but decide once you are at the coal face.

    Keep up the great work WG.

    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted May 28, 2011 8:49 pm

      Thanks Darren.

      It’s funny that beginner coaches don’t know about periodisation so they rely on passion, enthusiasm, energy and the desire to help every athlete.

      Then the best elite coaches don’t rely on periodisation because they understand the sport, their athletes and the way to achieve the best result at each session.

      It’s the group in the middle that worries me. The ones who have done a few sessions of coach education and get bogged down in cycles, phases and really complex periodisation exercises and forget to actually coach people.

      Time to get back to basics: work with individuals and their needs on a session by session basis and there are no limits to what can be achieved.

      Thanks again,


  • valentin Uzunov Posted May 28, 2011 11:20 pm

    Hi All

    I hate to be a spanner in the works, but i can’t fully agree here, but i also may be miss understanding the entirety of the coaching without periodization (given that part 2 is coming).

    There are degrees of periodization. Micro, Macro, Yearly etc(as we all know). I for one totally agree that its absolutely pointless planning a month ahead or anything like that in detail. However there should be some skeleton of a structure/pathway (which of course needs to be very flexible), the coach most definitely needs to have an idea of what will be happening that training based upon the previous, the recovery time the athlete has had, and their knowledge of the athlete (which in a club situation with a large group is almost pointless), but needs to be ready to alter that based upon observation and taking into account the athletes current status.
    On this is planning, and its another knowing.

    There are many examples of coaches who didn’t believe is writing much down in the form of periodization, or training plans (Charlie Francis is one that comes to mind). It worked for him, and he clearly understood the benefits of periodization however the application of the old soviet periodization models is clearly NOT! effective in Western worlds.

    Just 2c on that. However i agree in general that coaches need to be able to adjust their training plans each training session based on the athletes current readiness for training.

    Valentin Uzunov

    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted May 30, 2011 7:34 am

      Thanks Valentin.

      I am not saying you shouldn’t plan.
      I am not saying you shouldn’t be prepared and ready for anything.
      In fact, to coach without periodisation means being better organised and better planned that ever before.

      Your comments about having a framework – “some skeleton of a structure/pathway (which of course needs to be very flexible)” – are perfect.

      Have a goal, have a vision, have a direction of course – but don’t become fixated on every minute detail of the plan as if it is set in concrete.

      What I am saying is that I see a lot of potentially great coaches never realise their potential because they become slaves to periodisation and they will not even blink unless it was written down months in advance in the master plan.

      Just as bad as the coach educators who place so much importance on learners being able to produce a detailed, annual periodised plan in coach education courses that only confuse young coaches and are, for the most part, superfluous to the actual training needs of the athlete.

      The best coaches are the ones who understand their sport, themselves and their athletes and can respond to the athlete’s needs immediately, effectively and productively.

      Thanks again for your usual insightful comment.


  • Mark V Posted May 29, 2011 4:41 am

    Great points. I like to think of coaching in the “now” (its also how I tell athletes to think). Now is based on the training that has transpired. You cant worry about the “then” (planned training) till you have dealt with the now. I carry a loose idea in my head of where we are going but it’s not nearly as important as important as where we’re at

    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted May 30, 2011 7:25 am

      Thanks Mark.

      I think that’s the point.

      It’s not about the training I planned to do.
      It’s not about the training I should do.
      It’s not about the training I might do.

      It’s about what’s the best possible training for me right now, at this moment in time, which can help realise my full potential.

      Thanks again,


  • Marcel Posted May 30, 2011 7:46 am

    Dear Wayne,
    In my opinion periodisation is nothing more than to set goals. When you don’t know where you are going, it does not matter which train you take. Every day, every training I try to adjust my training to reach the athletes full potential. One day I take the TGV train, the other day the train which stops at every small town. So periodisation as a travelplan is OK, but using periodisation as the holy grail does not reach the athlete’s full potential.

  • Wayne Goldsmith Posted May 30, 2011 9:22 am

    Thanks Marcel.

    Well put.

    We are all in coaching for one reason: potential.

    How can we help every athlete we work with realise their full potential?

    Work with people not paper!


  • David Hill Posted May 30, 2011 11:05 am

    Hi Wayne

    Thank you so much for all your thought provoking and insightful articles.

    I look excitedly forward to the second part of your article on periodisation. When I read your article I thought OH MY GOD YES – somebody else out there questions the ridiculous amount of planning that we as high performance coaches feel obliged to do. I have understood and worked with periodisation for 20 years – did my final year human movement thesis on periodisation when I read and summarised at that time Bompa’s book. Saw the theory and realised its value but tried to make my athletes fit the plan instead of the planning fitting the athletes. Have had athletes been successful at state and national level and all the while have questioned the periodisation model due to the constant modifications I would have to make anyway depending on any number of factors that affected the athlete at any particular training session/time of year.


    David Hill

    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted May 30, 2011 11:15 am

      Thanks David.

      Another thing I note with coaches is that many spend hours and hours developing an incredibly detailed periodised plan, make changes on deck, on court, on field etc due to having to respond to the athlete’s actual needs but then they fail to record the changes, i.e. they only record the work which was scheduled to be done rather than the work which was actually done.

      As a result they have no real idea if their periodised plans succeeded or failed and even if they do, they can’t repeat them!

      Thanks again.


  • Liam Posted June 6, 2011 6:27 am

    Hi Wayne,

    I was sent over here by Joel Filliol, former head coach of the British triathlon program and was happy to read your article. Finally someone is in the 21st century of coaching with credibility. The days of East European coaching are over.

    We as coaches need to realize that plans are developed based around the concept of adaptation. We provide constant, new stimuli to promote growth. However, a little thing called the brain can get in the way.

    More and more so today coaches are failing to do what they pressure their athletes to achieve; adapt. Every time a coach enters a practice its a time to take stock of athletes readiness and adapt there planned session to work best for whatever they are given by the athletes. The engine may be there but if no one can drive it, it mise well be metal. Adapt your plan and know your athlete.

    Thanks for the brain food Wayne.


    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted June 6, 2011 6:59 am

      Thanks Liam.

      We are moving to the era of more individualised, personalised coaching where the key issue is matching training to the athlete’s readiness for it.

      Thanks again,


  • Michael Posted June 8, 2011 3:46 am

    Wayne – I have sincerely enjoyed getting to know your blog and thoughts. Truly some of the very same thinking that I have had through my own training and coaching experience, albeit small.

    In looking to become more accredited as a coach. (getting my masters at some point) Are there schools that you know of that help to teach this methodology? I agree that this is the forefront of coaching but would like to learn more and further this body of knowledge myself.

    Thanks again for all that you do!!

    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted June 8, 2011 6:29 am

      Thanks Michael.

      There are no schools or Universities that I can recommend who understand coaching – there are many who teach it – but very few who understand it.

      In my view, good coaches who have coached for 20 years already have a PhD – in People, Hard Work and Determination!

      Learn from as many people as you can. Aim to learn one new thing every day. Learn from coaches in all sports. Learn from people who work with people – e.g. teachers, managers, leaders etc. Spend time each day just thinking about coaching. Read books about leadership, creativity, innovation and psychology. And most importantly be yourself – lead and coach your way. The single most important quality of greatness is uniqueness – daring to be different.

      Train your brain everyday.



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