Random Thoughts: Coaching, Training, Education, Personal and Miscellaneous PLUS a New Category…

Posted: July 31, 2015 in Uncategorized

Coaching – Saw a great piece on facebook today and am just going to post it here with a link to the discussion and some of my comments/thoughts on it below.

Thoughts on Working as a Strength & Conditioning Coach in a Multi-disciplinary team in High Performance Sports
Dan Baker – ASCA President
Danbakerstrength Baker

At the elite level of High Performance sports, with athletes over 23 years, it is very difficult to make large changes in gross biomotor abilities like strength, speed, endurance or flexibility/mobility, unless the athlete is coming off a very low base. So S&C coaches that aspire to work in a High Performance sports setting such as a professional football (eg. AFL, NRL, Super Rugby, A-league), Institute of Sport system for Olympic athletes or other professional sports should be aware of this. But right now, many of these aspirant S&C coaches may be working in a more one-on-one situation with athletes in a local S&C/performance gym/”box”. What is the difference in the work situation for these S&C coaches as compared to High Performance Sports settings?

When working at the Performance level (by this I mean the vast majority of S&C coaches), a S&C coach can have a great impact upon the athlete, as they largely determine the training content without much interference or restriction. And younger athletes make greater gains, much more easily. In High Performance Sport, there are so many other people involved in the athlete support team, that implementing the training that you believe should be undertaken to attain even a small change, is not always possible. So let us look at some of these differences.

For starters, other S&C coaches. In pro football sports, for example, there may be 2-4 S&C coaches involved with a team. Do all your philosophies gel? Is one coach more of a bodyweight training type, one a Olympic lifting type, one a endurance type ~ how do different philosophies or beliefs on training work together? Who determines the training direction? Who determines training content? What if you get a job and then find you don’t really believe in the direction and content that has been prescribed by those higher up in the S&C chain of command? What do you do? What if you are given an experienced athlete who has never squatted or cleaned because their previous S&C coaches did not believe in it?

Head coaches. Do they micro-manage? Do they set the S&C direction and content? Do they want players with stronger legs, but no DOMS is allowed to interfere with their running? Are they susceptible to the latest fads and want the S&C staff to implement non-evidence based training because “So and so are doing it, apparently”.

Assistant coaches. Do they try and take up more of the S&C allocated time to get their little bit extra. Most are looking for the top gig someday, so they are looking sometimes to do more in their role, which often comes at the expense of S&C time (never from the Head coaches allocated time). So how is this handled?
Sports scientists. Do they think they know all about S&C training direction or content and attempt to dictate to the S&C coaches about these things? Do they see themselves above the S&C coaches or do they see their role to aid the sport and S&C coaches?

Physiotherapists. What is their influence on training direction and content? Do they respect your S&C abilities and qualifications or are they trying to tell you how to train? Are they big believers in small activation exercises at the expense of large compound exercises? Do they believe in molly-coddling players so that there are no injuries in training or do they believe in building robust, resilient athletes through hard training, so that they this robustness decreases injury rates and increase performance in the long-term? Do they care more about injury rates or athlete performance?

Doctors? Same as for the physios’. What is their influence on training direction and content? Do they believe that squatting is bad for your knees, for example? Or do they believe in building robust, resilient athletes through hard training and accepting that at the cutting edge of human performance, there will be injuries? Are they conservative in their rehab time-lines, believing that elite athletes take the same time to heal as a typical “workers compo” patient or do they believe that elite athletes can accelerate healing through their enhanced physiology, better physiotherapy, better diet and nutritional supplementation, better S&C, better mind-set and dedication?

These are just some of the situations that S&C coaches working in High Performance sport experience. So if you aspire to move from Performance S&C (High school, Community/Club- and State-league based athletes) to High Performance, be aware it not just about S&C prescriptions and coaching. It is about relationships and working in a multi-disciplinary team as well.

Link to discussion:


JF comments/thoughts:

  • The best way to make improvement may be out of your DIRECT control, but that doesn’t mean you can affect improvement in that area.
  • Synergy – working collaboratively with others will probably do more good than your double and triple secret periodization.
  • Look to business and other areas to learn how to manage high performance (anything where achieving goals are utmost priority).
  • If the main part of your job is teaching/coaching people to run, lift weights and increase “fitness” then you are an S&C Coach, not a Sports Scientist.
  • As S&C or Sports Scientist, trying to show that you are smarter than your players and coaches is fruitless. It will get you nowhere and harm relationships in the process.
    • Also, if you are truly working in a (high) performance environment, the people that you work with are there for a reason. I know that you may not want to believe this, but the reason is that they are good at what they do. In my experience, good coaches tend to inherently make good decisions. It is part of your job as S&C (Sports Science, Performance Manager, etc) to foster this positively and work collaboratively to make your team BETTER.

Training – Thinking of trying out some new things with my training by testing out a Push Strength unit and possible Omegawave personal. It is more out of curiosity and to see if there is a possible benefit in my work situation at the moment. That and it may prevent me from being lazy on submax sets of squats!

Education – Hoping that I will have the opportunity to do a Sport Management course as part of my required courses. It is an area that interests me more and more as I try to affect more change in my current (and future) environments. Sometimes it’s not all about sets x reps and you have to develop more holistic (no hippie…) framework alongside it in order to improve.

Personal – Had a great time last weekend at a coaches’ retreat. Was fun to relax with those guys and only talk about football 75% of the time vs the normal 99%. Highlight was being on Seadoo for 5 hours on Saturday and the lowlight was the sore forearms and wrists to go with it!

Miscellaneous – Been hot as hell here this week and it just sucks the life out of me. I can never escape the heat and by the time the evening comes around I am zapped. Looking forward to the fall and some reasonable human temperatures.

You know what really grinds my gears???

I am including a new category by popular (3-5 people max!) demand. The title comes from a Peter Griffin segment on Family Guy but the heart of it is simply some good old fashioned Jordan Foley rants…here goes the first one.

A sexy item in sports performance these days is the aggregation of marginal gains. This became particularly popular by way of Dave Brailsford, General Manager and Performance Director for Team Sky (Great Britain’s professional cycling team). He believed that by adding up a lot of small improvements it would total to be a significant positive performance change. It worked for his team and they got some big victories in the Tour de France and heightened Olympic success.

Now there is no debating that this strategy works and it can work quite well, but here is what grinds my gears…focusing on small marginal changes when there are huge rocks not in place.

We see this all the time in S&C and Sport Performance and I will just list a few examples:

  • Ratio of carbs to protein after a workout when the athlete doesn’t eat enough total calories
  • Volume of speed, plyos and strength when the athlete is not conducting any of them properly in the first place
  • Advancing training means when athletes aren’t compliant

These are just some examples that I have seen in my setting and others than are putting the cart before the horse. If possible, look for the few things that will make the LARGEST changes and put your energy into changing those things. If and when you have all the big rocks in place, then you can look to marginal gains but it is my opinion that for most CIS athletes, the big rocks will be challenging enough and yield plenty in return.

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