1 Dimensional Strength and Conditioning Coaches
Posted: 21st March 2015
I was presenting at seminar recently and I was accosted by one of the strength and conditioning coaches in attendance.
He enquired, Joey who is your strongest athlete”?
“How much do they Bench Press”?
“What do they Squat”?
Before I had a chance to answer..
The strength and conditioning coach piped up,
“Joey, did you see my video on youtube…One of my athletes…he’s only 16 years of age..he squatted 200kgs”.
I responded, “That’s great, what sport does he compete in..Powerlifting..?
The strength and conditioning coach said, “No he’s a junior AFL Footballer”…
I said “Interesting…so tell me, how much time do you spend developing the other physical qualities…like speed, agility, quickness, flexibility and endurance?
The strength and conditioning coach was a little dumbfounded and taken aback by my reply, “Umm…not much, we just try to get them stronger”
I enquired, “What’s his sporting performance like on the football field?
The strength and conditioning coach replied, “He’s going alright…why do you ask”?
I said, “In this day and age there appears to be a concerted effort and focus on maximal strength and aesthetics/body composition from strength and conditioning coaches….They plaster pictures of themselves or their clients all over Facebook, Instagram social media because they make for great pictures…but they may not actually help the athletes on field performance?
It seems to be that trainers and coaches justify their role and coaching performance based on this feedback/data etc…Which is great if your athlete has a deficiency of strength or is overweight..But other than that maximal strength and body composition are largely irrelevant and overrated”!
The strength and conditioning coach asked,..”What do you mean Joey”??
I replied, Look I commend you on your effort to develop your athletes strength, you appear to be doing a great job! In fact I was just like you when I was less experienced. The question I pose to you is whether that strength is transferring onto the footy field? In other words has your footballers football improved since they began training with you?
Or have you simply fallen into the trap of justifying your coaching services based on how strong your athletes are (which is your goal, not necessarily in the best interests of your athletes), instead of basing your results on the footballers on-field performance.
The truth is, no one cares how strong, fast or fit the athletes’ you coach are, the only thing that matters, is on-field performance.
Obviously if the athlete is getting knocked off the ball or has a poor strength to bodyweight ratio, then increasing strength and reducing skinfolds may help with that aspect of performance!
But again, strength is only 1 physical quality, NOT the only physical quality, but if you were to glean over the internet you’d think it was the only physical quality that matters, well that and body fat levels!
Experienced coaches understand the difference between maximal strength and optimal strength. Is it necessary for an AFL Footballer to be able to squat 200kgs? Maybe, maybe not? Is there a higher injury risk associated with squatting those weights? Maybe? Maybe not? Is there more load, wear and tear on the body? Yes definitely!
As a coach you have to weigh up the risks vs. the rewards in terms of what you undertake at training and have an understanding off the of law of diminishing returns..
The experienced and skilled coach will assess the athlete for deficiencies rather than blindly attempting to make an athlete stronger!
Maybe instead of directing 95% of your training trying to increase maximal strength by 5% it might be a better alternative to focus on flexibility or sprinting and agility biomechanics that may have a greater positive impact upon your athletes football performance?I recommend coaches use radar plots like those below to ascertain the strength levels of their athletes to ascertain what aspect of strength and or performance to focus their efforts on in order to improve on-field performance.
A world renowned strength and conditioning coach coined the phrase,
“All things being equal, the strongest athlete shall win”!
Which is true, provided the athlete has sufficient flexibility and range of motion to perform the sport and prevent injury, has correct movements biomechanics to perform the technical skills optimally, has sufficient endurance and work capacity to sustain their performance from start to finish.
I’m not downplaying the role of strength for enhancing sports performance and developing explosive power and speed. But I am questioning the strength and conditioning coaches skills sets in the integration and development of all physical qualities.
It appears that many coaches have forgotten about developing other physical qualities, maybe, because the development and improvement of flexibility, and endurance isn’t exactly worthy of a youtube clip or instagram or facebook photo in comparison to hiking up copious amounts of weights or being bodybuilder ripped.
All the best,