If you want more for your program and/or kids this season than being cannon fodder for those destined for the podium, there are few greater wastes of time than having to try and win a dual meet against a scrap metal team in the middle of an important training week.
That’s right. I said it. It had to be said.
At the high school level, dual meets generally take place during the general prep and early special prep phases, depending on how you break it up. Having to win dual meets is a maddening distraction from training continuity during the critically important foundational portion of the season. Even if we ‘train through’ the meet, the day before, of, and after the competition remain compromised. And in the short high school season (mine is 12 weeks from Day 1 to State Championship) you can’t sacrifice 2 training days per week. I mean, you can. You just won’t beat the good teams or kids.
The most successful coaches and programs don’t care about winning dual meets because their concern is getting ready for the Meets That Count. If you go 10-0 in dual meets, but lose your League Championship Meet, you’re not the real League Champion. You’re sort of a choker. If UConn’s basketball team goes undefeated against the Big East during the season, but loses to Providence in the first round of the Big East Tournament, they are not Big East Champs. Their ‘dual meet’ record means nothing.
On the flip side, if Providence stinks it up during the regular season, but goes on a run and wins the Big East Tournament, they’re Big East Champs. Thanks for playing.
In my opinion, those coaches who tweak about winning dual meets at all costs generally do it because they’re trying to look good on paper. Sure you went 8-2 and beat up on charter schools, but you don’t win Team Championships and your kids aren’t winning individual/relay championships outside of the scope of what the Law of Probability dictates will happen.
At this point of the discussion, angry dual meet lovers will try to say I have a ‘college coach’s mindset’ just because I don’t focus on winning dual meets. Or that it’s not ‘appropriate’ for the HS level. No, I have a success driven mindset and my numbers increase each season. Kids aren’t quitting because I ‘take it too seriously’. They join in droves.
If you think kids care about winning dual meets, put down the crack pipe and find yourself a sponsor. They care about winning Meets That Count, individually and as a team. And if you survey your team, 103% of them will vote for ‘train through dual meets’ versus ‘train to win dual meets’. You can quote me on that statistic.
Nonetheless, we still have dual meets. Many of us have them in the middle of the week. So here are a few tips:
Dual Meet Tip #1. Treat dual meets like a practice.
Meets count as training volume. They don’t occur in a vacuum. So, if you have a meet on Wednesday, make that your Special Endurance day. Run your 400m runner in a 600 or 800 on top of their 4. Or run 400, lead leg of 4×4 and put them in a jumping event.
Don’t baby your short sprinters. My 55m runners get to experience the 300 in every dual meet. It helps them finish the 200 stronger. Or throw them in a JV 4×4. At the HS level, I expect my short sprinters to give me a respectable 400 if I need them. When they give you a sad story about how they’re ‘not in shape to run a 400’, do what I do:
Stare at them blankly until they give up and then put them in the 4×4 anyway.
Dual Meet Tip #2. Train through the meets.
If we’re using the meet as a glorified time trial, it means we can run a practice the day before and the day after the meet instead of the ‘warm up, a few starts/approaches, game plan, go home’ approach most of us feel pressured to take.
Now, I’m not going to do hill work the day before the meet. I use common sense. There are certain things that have to get done, like starts and approaches. So the day before and after will have to be technique/tempo/recovery days.
Here’s what a sample week might look like in terms of loose structure:
Monday: Acceleration, Plyos, Lift
Tuesday: Tempo/GS circuits, technique (specific pre-meet)
Wednesday: Meet using a primary event 100m runner as example: 200, LJ, lead leg of 4×1
Meet using a primary event 400h as an example: 400h, 400 or 4×4, LJ (I generally make my hurdlers into horizontal jumpers because of the number of commonalities between the events, especially sprint hurdles.)
Thursday: extensive tempo, GS circuits
Friday: extended warm up, intensive tempo, Olympic Lift + bodybuild circuit
Saturday: Speed/Speed Endurance, event technique, plyos, Lift
If you look quickly, it looks like a standard training week. Sure we made modifications, but with the minimal deviation from our idealized microcycle. And that’s the point. We can’t ignore dual meets, but we can minimize the damage they do to long term planning by reframing the way we look at them.
Dual Meet Tip #3. Tell your kids what you’re doing.
I tell my athletes everything we’re doing and why. No exceptions. That’s why they buy in. Because I explain everything, it becomes obvious I know what I’m doing. So when we’re doing what they would call a ‘workout’ the day before a meet, they understand and buy into the big picture plan I’ve already laid out for them. And answered all their questions about.
There are too many ass clown coaches out there who just talk at kids and Jedi Mind Trick themselves into believing athletes enjoy being a part of their program. They don’t. (Because I get their emails. And their parents’.)
Involve your kids in your planning. Because perception is reality. If they perceive training through the meet as being in their best interest, they’ll perform better. If they think you’re a moron because you don’t respect their opinion or input, they’ll run out of spite and half ass. Because kids will only do slightly less than you expect of them.
Those are my thoughts on dual meets and training through them. Post your thoughts below.