The Athlete Profile – Part 1

Posted by Scott Christensen

Track coaches use the disciplines of physiology and psychology to develop successful athletes.  This can be difficult in part because coaches usually work with large groups of athletes in their training group.  The application of unique training and psychological stimuli within the training group is called individualization of training.  To do this effectively is critical for success.

Middle distance athletes all have strengths and weaknesses.  Sometimes they are distance runners dropping down an event, or sometimes they are sprinters moving up an event.  Sometimes they are so talented and successful that a deep examination of their past is needed to move forward.

The athlete profile is a tool that coaches can use to shape a macrocycle of training and development in a middle distance runner.  Basically it is a well researched history of past occurrences in an athlete that is then used shape the direction of future training.  All aspects of the athlete must be documented and considered.

The athlete profile should contain the following eight sections:

  1. The Perspective
  2. Athlete performance history and background
  3. Statement of the problem
  4. Identification of contributing factors
  5. Description of assembled team
  6. Addressing the course of action concerning the problem
  7. Report if results
  8. Conclusion

Below is the first portion of a real athlete profile.  This is an exceptional high school athlete that has both strengths and weaknesses to address if further progress is to occur.


The Perspective

Eli Krahn is like many adolescent distance runners who attend and compete for the many high schools in America.  The similarities end when he races.  His performances indicate that he is an outlier.  In 2013, Eli set the United States Freshman All-Time record in the 1600 meter run with a time of 4:09.38.  It is curious that somebody so young could run so fast within his age group; ultimately, to be the fastest ever at that age.  It will also be curious to follow the remainder of his career, including how 2014 performances follow his record-setting year.

Athlete Performance History and Background

In 2014, Eli Krahn is 16 years old with a date of birth of August 1997.  He is presently a public high school sophomore student and distance runner.  He played soccer for many of his elementary years, eventually through grade 7.  He was known to have been one of the quickest athletes on the field.  For a variety of reasons he joined the 7th grade junior high track team at Stillwater (MN), and after a training season of four days per week of general preparation activities, he posted a seasonal best time of 4:51.6 for the 1600 meters.

A year later, then at age 14, he advanced to the senior high team at Stillwater to get a more extended season of training.  He sat out many of the harder anaerobic workouts and he would do aerobic work on those days instead.  He seldom raced in meets above the 9th grade level.  Eli posted a best of 4:26.3 at his last competition of the year.  This capstone performance contrasted markedly with many of his developmental races which were run at around 4:40 for 1600 meters.

Eli is an excellent student, having never achieved anything lower than an A grade in his secondary schooling.  He enjoys the challenge of the more rigorous classes like Advance Placement Physics, even as a 10th grader, where he is always competing against older students.

Eli is socially quiet.  He makes close friends whom he trusts to a very high degree.  He is a good listener, but as a talker, he contributes less than his share in a conversation.  His parents are successful professionals that take a deep interest in his academic and athletic pursuits.

When Eli was a freshman in 2013, he became the fastest 1600 meter runner in United States history.  He however did not set the StillwaterHigh School 1600 meter record in the process, nor was he considered the best distance runner on the 2013 Stillwater track and field team.  That honor belonged to the Minnesota state champion for 5000 meter cross country running, who was a senior in 2013.  Another senior on that team was nearly as fast.  As a result of these training group dynamics, Eli won only two races in 2013.  He set the American record during the second 1600 meter win of his career.

Eli was tested at the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Minnesota in late 2013 by Dr. Stacy Ingrahm.  She tested for and assembled a battery of evidence that was essential in building Eli’s profile and training objectives for 2014 (Table 1.).  Additional performance data was added to the same table by the coaching staff.  Blood testing was done by Dr. Kevin Bjork at the Stillwater Medical Clinic and that data was added to the table as well.  A somewhat low serum ferritin value was detected during the initial test.  Diet was adjusted and improvement was seen in the January 2014 test.  Table 1 began as the working document in assembling the training for Eli Krahn during 2014.

middle distance athlete, scott christensen

Statement of the Problem

Eli Krahn, as of 2014, is one of the fastest 16 years old and younger athletes competing in middle-distance track and field events in the United States.  His laboratory tested aerobic power values are extremely high for someone in that age group.  In order to show further progress and improvement in the middle-distance events, Eli will have to greatly improve his running economy while continuing to gradually improve his already very high aerobic power and lactate tolerance components.

Eli ranked in the top 10 of all high school runners in the United States during 2013 in both the 1600 and 3200 meter events.  In the 5000 meters that year he did not rank in the top 100 high school runners (Track and Field News).  His ability to run well at vVO2 max pace and in the mile at 110% of vVO2 max pace was demonstrated on numerous occasions in top level races.  His ability to run at 97% of vVO2 max pace, which is the characteristic pace velocity of the 5000 meters (Table 2.) was shown to be absent (Wilmore and Costill 2004).

middle distance runner, scott christensen

As Figure 1 indicates, Eli’s performance began to separate from the predictive model and degrade to a greater and greater degree as the racing distances became longer.  This trend in data sets indicates an inability by Eli to run as aerobically efficient in the races greater than 3200 meters as he does in the races at 3200 meters to 800 meters.  His weakness and prime area of concern are both underdeveloped running economy and aerobic capacity skills.  Eli is still a very young man, and these sorts of aerobic skills can mature later in life in some boys, and certainly later than most girls (Astrand and Rodahl 2003).

Training Resource: The Training Model for High School Middle Distance

His genome will eventually create his non-trained ceiling in these areas.  The coaching goal in 2014 is to improve upon his aerobic capacity and aerobic efficiency with workouts that are more effective than just increasing his 2013 total aerobic volume by 25%.

scott christensen, performance velocity

Figure 1. Using a VO2 max reference performance value of 8:58.3 a predictive model can be plotted for various distances in accordance with the Wilmore and Costill derived percentage of VO2 max data. The 2013 actual performance data of Eli Krahn is compared.



Astrand, P. and K. Rodahl.  2003.  Textbook of Work Physiology.        
         Human  Kinetics Publishing Inc., Champaign,  Illinois, USA. 
         Pp. 156-162
Bompa, T.  1983.  Theory and Methodology of Training: The Key to   
         Athletic Performance.  Kendall/Hunt Publishing Inc, 
         Dubuque, Iowa, USA.  Pp. 131-179.
Martin S, Pierce B and Woods J.  Exercise and respiratory tract
         viral infections. Exer Spor Sci Rev.   2009;37(4):157-164.
Maughan, R.  2009.  The Olympic Textbook of Science in Sport. 
         Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Inc., West Sussex, UK.  Pp 70-92.
Vigil, J.  1995.  Road to the Top.  Creative Design Publishing Inc,
          Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA.  Pp. 45-75.
Wilmore, J and D. Costill.  2004.  Physiology of Sport and Exercise. 
         Human Kinetics Publishing Inc, Champaign, Illinois, USA. 
         Pp. 142-168.


Scott Christensen is the head track coach at Stillwater Area High School in Oak Park Heights, MN.

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