Training Transfer: Bridging the Gap for Athletes

Uniting physical and mental preparation is key to achieving success in team sports.

Published : Jul 20, 2023 11:19 IST - 5 MINS READ

Chasing the right results: Andy Murray with strength and conditioning coach Matt Little during practice at Wimbledon.
Chasing the right results: Andy Murray with strength and conditioning coach Matt Little during practice at Wimbledon. | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Chasing the right results: Andy Murray with strength and conditioning coach Matt Little during practice at Wimbledon. | Photo Credit: REUTERS

The term Training Transfer refers to the degree of crossover from a training perspective to desired match targets.

This subject has been debated threadbare over the years regarding the preparation of athletes, both physically and mentally.

We shall dwell on the physical aspect of it for now and leave the mental aspect to the professionals who deal with it.

In an Indian context, there seems to have been a bit of a void in the last few years with respect to the shift from training mode to peak performance, which has been the subject of criticism and controversy. Not only in cricket but also in other sports, be they team or individual.

What is the missing link? We need to understand, accept, and implement it to get the desired results for the athletes or the team.

In most cases, the training transfer is discussed in S&C (strength & conditioning) terms as the effects of resistance training or SAQ training, running-based training, etc. However, when it comes to team sports preparation, the aim is to improve on-field performance at every level. Within that context, speed, agility, strength, and change of direction are generic, not specific, qualities. They may impact on-field performance, but achieving them is not the target.

Part of the reluctance to measure the ‘accurate’ transfer of training in team sports may be the complex and multifactorial nature of competitive outcomes. However, a certain set of key performance indicators (KPI) will relate to the likelihood of successful outcomes in team sports.

While any team may prioritise specific components of transfer depending on the nature of the game and other variables, the KPI of the same team in different situations may vary in demands and transfers.

Accurate transfer requires multi-dimensional and disciplined integration into the team’s ecosystem. The system starts with planning, preparation, implementation, and finally transfer on the field to achieve the desired targets and goals.

Operating from the S&C perspective and improving vertical jump scores or 100-kg+ deadlifts is not a decoration of honour for training transfer. Physical preparation is a significant factor in the process, but it interacts with technical, tactical, and psychological preparation in determining whether positive game outcomes occur or not for transfer onto the field.

A team’s specific playing personality may place a higher value on some performance indicators than others. For example, in cricket, a team that highly values total dominance will target high percentage outcomes in bowling, batting, and fielding. These KPIs are what the all-inclusive support staff and playing group are attempting to impact with training. There should be a specialised-level focal point that unites all personnel involved for the desired outcome.

In many ways, most teams use a wide range of strategies and approach conjointly and in a way that affects performance in competition. Each player’s profile, stage of physical prowess, and the role they play have a significant impact on the outcome of the results. It is imprudent to suggest that one form of preparation is better than another, as it is completely dependent on the needs of an athlete.

Transfer is the zenith of any programming model, targeting the resulting outcome with a specific context and need during the game or play. The truer the dynamics of transfer with specific relevant preparation, the more obvious the effect will be.

Specific knowledge of what to do, when to do it, where to do it, how much, at what intensity, and how specific this exercise is to the context of the game and skill are all important factors when considering the transference of the exercise, or else it’s a waste of time brooding over it.

The transfer threshold for work or transfer between two general qualities, like the effect of maximal strength development has on speed performance. we overvalue the level of transfer from these general qualities to specific game activities.

When adding complexity to the tactical, technical, psychological and physical milieu that the actual game exists in, there needs to be a continuum in highly contextual training to affect performance.

Correlation studies do not imply cause and effect. Improving dead lift loads, for example, does not guarantee enhanced single-leg power thrust on the field, despite the proven relationship.

Apart from the apparent reason that the two exercises are not biomechanically similar, one must consider the law of diminishing returns when predicting the transfer from general capacity improvement to a specialised game-related capability.


•Throughout the entire process of achieving training transfer, the challenge for the S&C coach varies ominously.

•S&C need to own up to the development of specific capacities in the weight room and get players to the point of diminishing returns. This is the pure and traditional technical requirement of the job. It is where the S&C team is left to their procedures.

•Collaborating with the coach and other support staff when implementing a program in being specific to players and skills to bring in the transfer.

•New solutions and methods would be dissected to bring the desired results through interaction and implementation with the support staff through an integrated approach.

•At times, think smart and out of the traditional barriers, with some negotiation, persuasion and time with the coach and the support staff. One may not achieve true training transfer without this step!

•When it comes to the most specialised form of preparation, a good S&C coach must be able to influence intensity, workload, choice and order of exercises and work: rest ratios, and other informed opinions on the overall direction of the programme.

•The S&C role in an open line of communication and execution of the desired goals to the team brings in transfer to success with KPI and outcome as the target.

•S&C coaches should refrain from coaching the players and stepping into the coaches’ domain. Applying scientific principles and rational thinking to the problem can enhance the performance domain.

•The onus on the S&C coaches in selecting the choice of exercise patterns and movement patterns specific to on-field activity for the team, rather than focusing on a few individual players. This can be an appetite for destruction for the whole team.

•Finally keeping things specific with a goal in mind on all scientific parameters will bring success to the whole ecosystem.

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