Peaking is when the athlete is performing at their absolute best during competition. When planning a training year the coach or trainer attempts to have the athlete peak for the most important competitions. Peaking can be difficult though, especially in a sport that has a long in-season such as rugby, AFL, netball, cricket, or football.
Peaking requires the athlete to have great general body conditioning, good sports specific conditioning as well as great skill execution combined with strategy and tactics that enable them to perform at their best. Peaking also needs the athlete to be mentally focused and have optimum arousal levels in order to perform at their best.
In order to get an athlete to peak for a competition, match or series there are a few things that occur. First the athlete will undergo intense training to ensure their body and the relevant components of fitness are at their highest. They will undergo a large volume of high intensity training that also seeks to develop their skill execution and the characteristics of skilled performer. However, just before the competition, match or series, training will taper down in order to allow nutrient levels to be at the optimum levels and in order for the athlete to fully recover from training before the competition.
Peaking is often short lived but has a number of identifiable characteristics:
- aesthetically pleasing movements
- speedy recovery
- optimum fitness performance
- great tactical awareness and predictability
- mental focus and toughness
When all of these are present, the athlete has peaked and is ready to perform their best.