Russians have made a huge effort exploring and controling this phenomenon. Note that they didn’t invent it, they explored it (same as Mount Everest – it is not invented, it is discovered, but it was there all the time where it is still now). As stated before, this doesn’t mean that a lot of coaches aren’t familiar with it, just they are not familiar with the research done by the Russians, which in turn can help them to:

Identify the state of sport form
Predict the behaviour and results of their athletes on major competitions
Control sport forms, and as a result control performance of their athletes
Improve their planning and programming of athlete preparation process and thus increase their performance when it counts the most
For this very reasons, I find that it is very important that western coaches (and the gross of our own European coaches) familiarize with the sport form phenomenon and its impact on performance, planning and programming of athlete preparation process which in turn can help them to create better players and better results at the most important competitions.

I would like to notice, that I am not an expert on this subject, and I dont find myself as an authority to talk about it, because I still lack of great practical experience which is my biggest shortcoming. For this very reason, I am very glad that I have a permission from my teacher and mentor prof.Vladimir Koprivica to translate a whole chapter from his outstanding textbook for our Training Theory course.

Well, here it is...


Sport form is a term that is very often used in scientific and expert literature, news, radio and TV reports, in the discussion between experts, coaches and athletes. Most of them, without regard on their expertise, can evaluate if some athlete or team is in sport form or not, but only very versed experts know principles of its development, its phases, durations, components, and which is most crucial, can manage/control sport form and predict its course.

What is sport form? One considereration is that it is just one moment in the athlete’s career, when he reach his maximum/best result(s). Another consideration is that it is a state of preparedness that allows successful performance on competions. A third idea is that it is the state of an athlete in one period when he attains high and stable results etc. Most of experts accept that sport form is a state of optimal preparedness for sport achievements which athlete acquire/attain with adequate preparation on each new level of sport perfection. So, sport form is a state of optimal (best) preparedness, but in the same time it is a process, because it changes during an athlete’s career. Simply stated, we must differ sport form in pioneer, kadet, junior and senior stages of athletes career, because every following stage represents a bigger level. With the consideration of sport form definition, it is clear that it is not correct to state that athlete or team is in bad or poor form. So, athlete or team ARE or ARE NOT in the state of sport form.

To be in the state of sport form, and in the right time, is the most crucial task which should be solved during training process by coach and athlete(s)! Only if they successfuly solve this task/problem, athletes can achieve adequate, desirable and planned result. Majority of athletes during the season (year) acomplish to achieve the state of sport form, but only the minority of them achieve it in the right time – during the very most important competition. Unfortunally, some athletes does not achive neither one posibility, so according to competition look/respect, it is a lost year. Exception to this is when elite athletes who purposely set their year training plan and competition calendar, to allow rest and recovry after multy-year hard treining and competitions (for example it the year following Olympic games) .

Primary criterium by which sport form is evaluated is the result on competition. Competition is the best test, because it integrates all the components of sport form. In the sport branches, in which the result is exaclty/objectivly measured (for examle in meters or seconds) this is relatively easy to do. Prominent soviet athlete, coach and scientist, Bondarchuk, mostly everyday have recorded results of hammer throwers which he coached, and by this method he managed to track down and direct/control their sport form. It is well know what results were achieved by his athletes on major/biggest competitions. However, in many sports (for example martial arts, sport gymnastic etc) evaluation of sport form is substantially complex, because along with numerous external factors, result depends also on the quality of sport opponents. In this case, the most reliable evaluation of sport form of the athlete or team can be done by a coach (or several of them). However, this can be also done by experienced athletes.

One renowned soccer player is asked how he knows he in the state of sport form or not.

If I am not in the state of sport form during a game I got only one soulution. When I am in the state of sport form – I got three.“ – he responded

But what if the opponent reads all three of them?– he was asked again

Well, in that case he recieves a goal, because then I do very unexpected move and pass the ball to my teamplayer, so he has a easy chance to score!“

From this short, but comprehensive, interview, a couple of conclusions can be carryed out. It should be emphasized that the athlete who is in the state of sport from is able to be creative, to create and display what is later remembered and described. Besides that, an athlete functions at the level which is not otherwise accessible to him, he can train with such an ease, he can easily withstand great physical efforts and solve technical/tactical tasks, he recovers quickly, it is very motivated, wishes to compete and believes in his own possibilities and he believes in success.

Basic components of sport form are physical, technical, tactical and psychological (mental) preparedness. Beside them, pedagogical (educational) preparedness is usually mentioned. If those mentioned components are on the necessary level, it can be said that the athlete or team is in the state of high preparaedness (srp. Treniranosti)

It is not a question that a high level of preparedness is a basic requirement of sport form. However, sport form and high level of preparedness should not be classified as the same. Some athletes or teams can be very well physicaly, technicaly, tacticaly and psychologicaly prepared, but without being in the state of sport form. Preparedness is a fundamental part of sport form, but the state of sport form requires harmonicall/harmony unity/oneness/cohesion/integration of all its components. This unity/harmony is achieved through competitions, and because of that there is the axiom: There is no sport form without competitions! A lot of elite coaches have such a system of preparations for most important competitions (for example Olympic games) in which they prepare their athletes with participation on numerous competitions.

Under all normal training and life conditions of an athlete, the level of preparedness, during a short period of time, cannot be substantially changed. However, athletes often, within very short period of time (for exampe 7 days) perform very dissimilar/differently: once they perform outstanding and once very poorly. What is the matter, athletes and coaches often question. It is evident that there happened violation/breaking-out of harmonical relation between components of sport form or the operative components have changed, which are in contrast to level of preparedness very accesible/liable for faster changes. This happens to be in the frame/realm of psychological (mental) preparation.

For example, it is very hard to maintain an athletes motivation and concentration for every subsequent/following competition. It is well know that the biggest fear of coaches in team sports (games) are those matches that are won in advance. Chess players say that it is hardest to win the game that has already been won. Beside that, perturbed athlete-athlete, athlete-coach, menagement-coach, menagement-athlete etc. relations can also violate the sport form or even to disable athletes to reach it during the season. In that situation, change of coach (which is mostly done), or some other change, may sometimes positively effect the fast re-establishment of the sport form. If the last coach has done a good job on athlete preparation. New coach, who is often referred to as a miracle maker, in short period of time cannot substantially improve the level of athlete preparedness (sport form is built over long peroid of time) but he can bring the opreative components on the neccessery level and re-establish their harmonical relation. If the athletes are very poorly prepared, the miracles don’t happen, apropos, it is imposible to quickly achive desirable results.

There is a need for great patience, great knowledge even an intuition to bring everything in order. For a new coach, beginning of work in the middle of the season is much harder than at the begining of preparation period, so experienced coaches very carefully chose this option, because the risk is great. In those cases, the basic orientation must be the selection of the most important factors of sport results in concrete sport branch and very directed, carefully dosaged, specialized work. The solving of the larger number of training tasks, typical for preparation period, requires a lot of time, and as a rule, there isnt much of it.

Every sport branch have differently ranked factors that determine succes in it. In cyclical sport branches, like cycling, long distance running, rowing etc., dominant factors of success are the appropriate type of endurance, while the tactics contribute much more less. In team sport games or in martial arts, tactics are very important and have equal significance with other important factors (physical, technical and psychological preparedness). In some sport branches, the most important factor is sport technique (skill) etc. Sport form depends on the level of dominant factors, so their development should have great attention in training process.

It has been noticed that sport form have phasical (cyclical) character. There are three phases that differ:

Phase of entrance into the sport form,
Phase of maintenance (relative stability) of sport form and
Phase of temporary lost of sport form.
In phase one, emphasis is on the development of sport form fundament, from which quality depends sport form level. In the beginning, with more volume, there is a separate development of physical and technical/tactical qualities of the athlete, but with progression they are more and more incorporated into competition exercises (for example, soccer players play on two goals, judokas and karatekas sparing/fight etc.) Phase of entrance into the sport form lasts differently and it is often determined/dependent on the competition calendar. If it lasts shorter, the shoreter will be also the second phase – phase of sport form maintenance. Because of this, strenuous specific work, with larger relative volume of competition exercises in overall volume of training procces, can quickly introduce athletes into the state of sport form, but then we cannot count on its longer maintenance. This method is justifable/reasonable in the case where the competition season beggins with the series of very important competitions/matches, like qualification matches for the European championships in team sport games. In opposite situations, if the major competitions start later in the season, it could easily happen that in the beginning of competition season, an athlete (or team) performs very succesfully on less important matches/games/competitions, but performs poorly on the main/major ones. It is common that among ones that have trained like never before, sport form is depleted during the preparatory period and during couple of opening official competitions/matches/games, and after that there is only head long fall, which is very hard to stop.

From the above written, it can be clearly seen that the phase of entrance into the sport form coincide with preparatory period. However, there are execeptions to this rule. If the coach really controls the sport form, depending on the competition calendar, a coach can extend the entrance phase on the first part of competition period. In this case, first games/matches have purpose of preparation and control and lead athletes to higher level of sport form. But, because in some sport branches the points are given on these competitions, this approach has certain risks. Reasonable coaches and athletes know that it is un-avoidable/necessity to sometime lose on less important competitions to achive a master goal later. There are well know reversed/contrary situations from sport practice, where coach and athletes attacks the less important records, that are measured only by statistics, and then unfortunately lose important trophies from objectively inferior opponents.

Determination of the main goal in the season, requires realistic assesment/evaluation of athlete or team capabilities. Athletes of lower level, should pursue their chances on less important competitions, when they should plan the sport form. It is realistic to assume that those competitions will have a preparative purpose for elite athletes, and this means it is possible to win them. However, in team sport games, where the points are given on each competition/match, this orientation can be fatal.

The second phase of sport form is also usually called the phase of relative stability, because the athlete results are principally oscilate. It is considered that athletes in cyclical sport branches (except long distance runners) are in the state of sport form if they achieve results not less than 98%, and that acyclical speed-strength athletes 95-97% of their best result. In the best case, the athlete achive his best result, best game, best match on the most important competition. It happens that a large number of athletes achieve their best performances after main competitions, or that team, after a series of matches/games, thanks to them, enter the state of sport form, but then it is already too late. Coaches, who are not familiar with priciples/rules of sport form development, often state for the newspapers that it is pity that the champinship is finished, because his team is just now in the state of sport form. Those coaches does not control the processes of sport form develpment, but it appears beside their will, and as a rule of the thumb, in most un-important time.

Second phase of sport form usually coincide with competition period. The first problem appears if the competition period lasts long, because sport form can only last for 2-2.5 months. For this very reason periodization of sport training is justifable with two or more shorter competition periods, with in-between rest vital for athlete regeneration and their preparation for second part of competitions. The second problem arises when there are two important parallel competitions, which is the case with cup competitions and regular championship in team sport games. Preparations for cup competitions disturb regular preparations for matches, and put the coach in the dilemma what should be appropriate goal. Simmilar problem are preparations for play-off.

It was already emphasised that there is no sport form without competitions, but in the same time competitions deplete sport form. Too many competitions can negatively influence sport form.

Third phase – This is the phase in which temporary sport form is lost. Sport form is imposible to keep for a prolonged period of time. First, it will allow athletes to achieve greater level in the following cycle, it is essential to break-up old sport form and build a new one. As a second reason, it is not possible for the organism/body to constantly adapt, during a prolonged period of time, to constant great requests, because this road may lead to overtraining. Besides that, constant appearance of the same, or similar training or competition content lead to psychological (mental) fatigue. Athletes become anxious, they lose their desire to train and compete, they are not motivated, they fatigue much quicker, they fail to solve technical/tactical tasks, they compain about fatigue and insomnia etc. These are all signs of overtraining and unless they are significantly pronounced, the athlete’s state is reversible and will not to lead to health or sport (results) consequences.

Someone may ask how come there are elite athletes that win most of time. Are they all the time in the state of sport form? Answer should be primary looked/searched in their great talent and hard work, but also in relatively poorer opponents, and because of that, without being in the state of sport form they are capable to win many of their competitions.

The best world athletes, which have competitions during the whole year (particulary tennis players), prepares from competition to competition mainly using specific exercises and carefully picking/choosing competitions in which they will take a part – appropos, they themself (with coach) create their own personal competition calendar and plan sport form during the season.

We should differ between individual and team sport form. It is much easier to control individual sport form, because in training process it is posible to individualy dosage load, to regulate relationship between volume and intensity, and the ratio between general preparation, specific preparation and competition exercise. There is also control of the effects of applied training and competition loads etc. However, errors in the training process can be hardly corrected. In team sport games, sport form of a team is not a simple summation of individual sport forms. Team is not the collection of best individuals, but rather a union of individuals that best function as a whole. And from this comes, in most cases, an understanding of coaches decisions to keep the best player in reserve. Coaches, in team sport games, have an option to substitute the player which is not in the state of sport form with one that is. With this method, it is posible to extend team sport form. With the relation with already mentioned, it is posble to draw one more conclusion: it is possible that a team, during a season, because of disharmonized interrelations among athletes, don’t enter the state of sport form or if they do it is only for a short peroid of time.

It is very interesting question that should be the guide to a coach of a team sport in planning team sport form. All of the team members (athletes), are not equally important in this case. Coaches should know those individuals who are the main carriers of major competition weight/load and should control the sport training to allow them to reach state of sport form in the right time, because this is the best guarantee of sport success.

Athlete who are in the state of sport form, can be easily recognized according to following signs:

Quickly and easily starts training session, he can easily withstand training loads, especially often changes in intensity
He is able to perform a specific muscle work at a high level of strength, speed, endurance and dexterity/coordination/agility (srp. Okretnost) which is not available to him when he is not in the state of sport form
He is very economical in training, or in other words, he spends much less energy for the same work
He can function at a high level of technical/tactical preparedness without any problems and uses all the arsenal of skills he poses; He can easily switch from one exercise to another and improvise in training and in competition. He makes few errors.
Faster new skill acquisition
After the training and competition, his bodily functions recover much faster
Athlete is in a positive emotional state. He has a pronounced desire for exercising, he is in fighting mood, he believes in his own abilities and wishes to compete and attain better results.