SPORTS PERFORMANCE

Train Like the Pros

January of any year… the silly season has passed, summer is on the run and the winter sporting season is rapidly approaching. The time has come for all Australian football code amateur athletes to make the decision whether to sit in third grade for the colder months or make a play for a spot higher up the “food chain”.

Whether it’s Rugby Union, Rugby League, Soccer or A.F.L. physical performance i.e. speed, strength & endurance, plays a significant role in determining individual and team success. Obviously there are substantial differences between the codes; however each has the common bond of requiring the ability to couple repeated explosive speed efforts with periods of sub-maximal “stride-out” pace transition running and combative strength engagements.  Check out my Blog on Weekend Warriors for more detail.

The ability to combine performance parameters of such varied means is a challenging task. Without question it is a task much more easily attempted with an organized plan. Heading out to the gym or park to train, deciding on your session content after arrival at the venue is a sure-fire way to achieve mediocrity in your physical performance. The guy who does tread this path generally does two things:

  1. Trains only things they are good at and
  2. Repeats the same session “ad infinitum”.

BOTH HABITS LEAD NOWHERE!

The keys to optimizing physical performance are:

  • Intensity: Training at too low an intensity will not stimulate the body to make the adaptations that will produce superior performance. Care must be taken not to go overboard in this department as this can lead to injury and staleness. Ensure regular unloading phases are taken.
  • Specificity: Train fast…be fast.
  • Variety: Varying training volume, intensity and exercise types on a regular basis provides the body continued stimulus to adapt.
  • Consistency: Training consistency reduces to peaks and troughs of performance that occur when people fluctuate between periods of training.

While Martin Luther King preached, “all men are created equal” – the reality of sport is that this is not the case. Some individuals appear to do two fifths of nothing and still blitz the field while other guys “plug” away relentlessly and seem to achieve little over a long period of time.

This article is for the guy who “plugs” away (mainly because the other type of bloke won’t bother reading a fitness article...that said it will work well for him too!). The program detailed below is designed for the guy that has be doing some base fitness work over the summer and is ready to start some more intense work.

Don’t attempt this program if you are walking straight off the “silly season” with no work under your belt.

 

GENERAL TRAINING NOTES:

  • An appropriate Warm Up must precede each session.
    • 10-15min light activity and dynamic mobility.
  • An appropriate Cool Down must follow each session.
    • 10min easy jog + 10min static stretches (hold for 30-45sec).
  • Coaching must be sought for those exercises you are unfamiliar with!
  • The program in organized into two CYCLES (Week 1-3 & Week 4-6)
  • Week 1-3 is aimed at allowing your body to become accustomed to higher volumes of work.
  • Week 4-6 is aimed at applying greater intensity to your body in order to produce more advanced performance.
  • The program is based around completing three days training per week of 1-hour maximum following the format noted below;
  • Monday – Speed
  • Wednesday – Strength
  • Friday – Endurance
  • While this program contains elements of programs used at the highest level, the design is aimed specifically at achieving as much as possible within a limited time frame (3 x 1hr per week). 

MONDAY – Speed

 

 

WORK

INTENSITY

RECOVERY

WEEK 1

Set 1

3 x (10 x 100m on 60sec)

Finish in 14-18sec

3min

 

 

 

 

Between sets

WEEK 2

Set 1

5 x 200m on 2min

Finish in 35-40sec

3min

 

Set 2

2 x (10 x 100m on 60sec)

Finish in 14-18sec

Between sets

WEEK 3

Set 1

10 x 200m on 2min

Finish in 35-40sec

3min

 

Set 2

10 x 100m on 60sec

Finish in 14-18sec

Between sets

WEEK 4

Set 1

6 x 60m – Tempo Runs

80% effort – focus on rhythm!

Walk back between each rep. 3min rest before Set 2

 

Set 2

2 x (6 x 20m) – Speed

90-100%

2min between each rep

WEEK 5

Set 1

6 x 60m – Tempo Runs

80% effort – focus on rhythm!

Walk back between each rep. 3min rest before Set 2

 

Set 2

2 x (3 x 20m) – Speed

90-100%

2min between each rep

 

Set 3

2 x (4 x 10m) - Speed

90-100%

2min between each rep

WEEK 6

Set 1

6 x 50m – Tempo Runs

80% effort – focus on rhythm!

Walk back between each rep. 3min rest before Set 2

 

Set 2

2 x (3 x 20m) – Speed

90-100%

2min between each rep

 

Set 3

2 x (2 x 10m) - Speed

90-100%

2min between each rep

 

SPECIFIC TRAINING NOTES:

  • "on 60sec" means you start a new rep every 60 sec.  The time remaining between completing the rep and the start of the next 60sec period is your recovery.
  • With Tempo and Speed efforts always start out a little bit "under" in your intensity and build as you feel comfortable.
  • See TRAIN TOUGH® for more detailed information

 

WEDNESDAY – Strength

ORDER

EXERCISE

WEEK 1

WEEK 2

WEEK 3

TEMPO

REC

A.

 

Deadlift

6 x 4

5 x 5

4 x 6

2/-/Drop

90sec

B.

Back Extension (BW Only)

3 x 10

3 x 12

3 x 14

2/2/2

90sec

C.

Split Squat or Bulgarian Squat

6 x 4

5 x 5

4 x 6

2/1/2

90sec

D.

Single Leg Calf Raise

2 x 12

2 x 14

2 x 16

2/2/2

90sec

E.

DB Shoulder Press

6 x 4

5 x 5

4 x 6

3/1/1

90sec

F.

UG Chin Up (add wt. as req)

6 x 4

5 x 5

4 x 6

3/1/1

90sec

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SPECIFIC TRAINING NOTES:

  • IN WEEK 1 select a weight that allows you to complete the prescribed reps but is quite challenging (i.e.; you should just complete each set).
  • For WEEK 2 & 3 complete each set at the same weight as Week 1, completing the higher number of reps as per the program.
  • See TRAIN TOUGH® for more detailed information

 

ORDER

EXERCISE

WEEK 4

WEEK 5

WEEK 6

TEMPO

REC

A1.

Jumps for Distance

Walk back and reset each one

4 x 4

4 x 4

3 x 4

Explosive

N/A

A2.

Deadlift

5 x 3

Increase wt. each set

Reps must be completed clean no failure

4 x 3

Increase wt. each set

Reps must be completed clean no failure

3 x 3

Increase wt. each set

Reps must be completed clean no failure

2/-/Drop

2-3min

B1.

Eccentric Glute-Ham Raise or Nordic Lower

2 x 3

2 x 4

2 x 5

4sec lower

N/A

B2.

Single Leg Calf Hops

2 x 20

2 x 20

2 x 20

Explosive

90sec

C1.

Drop Push Up

4 x 4

4 x 4

3 x 4

Explosive

N/A

C2.

Bench Press

5 x 5

Increase wt. each set

Reps must be completed clean no failure

4 x 3

Increase wt. each set

Reps must be completed clean no failure

4 x 2

Increase wt. each set

Reps must be completed clean no failure

2/1/X

N/A

C3.

Bench Pull

5 x 5

Increase wt. each set

Reps must be completed clean no failure

4 x 3

Increase wt. each set

Reps must be completed clean no failure

4 x 2

Increase wt. each set

Reps must be completed clean no failure

2/1/1

2min

 

SPECIFIC TRAINING NOTES:

  • Select a weight that allows you to complete the prescribed reps but is quite challenging.  Ideally, start out conservatively and build across the set as indicated.
  • Technique must be maintained at all times.
  • Exercises grouped under the same letter are completed as a complex (i.e. together) and recovery is taken after the pair of exercises is complete.
  • Professional coaching should be sort for specialist instruction.
  • See TRAIN TOUGH® for more detailed information

 

FRIDAY - Endurance

 

 

WORK

INTENSITY

RECOVERY

WEEK 1

SET 1

6 x 4min efforts

85-90% MHR

1min between sets

 

 

 

 

WEEK 2

SET 1

5 x 5min efforts

85-90% MHR

1min between sets

 

 

 

 

 

WEEK 3

SET 1

4 x 7min efforts

85-90% MHR

1min between sets

 

 

 

WEEK 4

Set 1

3 x (10 x 100m on 60sec)

Finish in 15-18sec

3min between sets

 

 

 

 

 

WEEK 5

Set 1

4 x (10 x 50m on 30sec)

Finish in 7-8sec

3min between sets

 

 

 

 

WEEK 6

Set 1

3 x (10 x 50m on 30sec)

Finish in 7-8sec

3min between sets

 

 

 

 

 

SPECIFIC TRAINING NOTES:

  • "on 60sec" means you start a new rep every 60 sec.  The time remaining between completing the rep and the start of the next 60sec period is your recovery.
  • Timed Efforts require a balanced pace across the entire set.  Use a standardized area for these sets and mark your distance for each one.  Try to equal or beat each rep.
  • MHR = Maximum Heart Rate.
  • Ideally a heart rate monitor should be used to assess heart rate.
  • If MHR is not known use MHR = 220 – age as an estimate
  • See TRAIN TOUGH® for more detailed information on determining MHR

You will note in the above program calf work has been included throughout. In team field sports the calves face close to the greatest muscular workload of the body. It is critical to the longevity of the field sport athlete that calf strength and endurance be optimised. This program presents a basic introduction level calf program. In order to achieve an advanced level of calf strength a more intense dynamic loading program needs to follow.

The program detailed above is generic in nature and may not suit everybody. Ensure you seek the guidance of a qualified coach if you are uncertain about any elements particularly with regard to strength training skill.

The loading parameters used in this program are limited given the scope of this article. Athletes seeking more advanced programming and / or exercise descriptions should read my book TRAIN TOUGH®

Remember, the keys to success are intensity, specificity, variety and consistency. Follow these and you can be confident that you will always be moving forward.

Sign up to OLDBULLFITNESS.COM for FREE (see bottom of page) - receive a complementary e-book on TRAINING DENSITY and keep up to date on more training tools for amateur and developing athletes.

Good luck with your preseason.

JW

PS - The formatting on this program has lost a little in the translation to the website.  I will post a PDF of the original ASAP.

I grew up in the era that produced the STAR WARS movies.  As a kid STAR WARS was everything.  By the time the third movie of the series came around (RETURN OF THE JEDI) we finally got a detailed understanding of the entity known as the FORCE from Jedi Master Yoda.  As an eager young fan I ate up the idea that the FORCE interacted with everything and was all around us, and that it could be used for good or evil.

Fast forward a decade and I was up to my eyeballs studying Sport Science at university and pursuing a fledgling rugby career that had me introduced to some great speed & strength coaches.  At the time I didn't notice it, but there was a distinct dichotomy at play…one stream of education was teaching me a physiological basis for performance, while a second was teaching me a mechanical or FORCE orientated basis for performance.

Jump forward another 20 or so years and here I am having coached professional Rugby and AFL at the highest levels with what I feel is a clear "training model" for how I see athletic development for these and similar sports (Soccer, Rugby league, field hockey etc).  The overview of my training model is simple…every training modality exists on a continuum of FORCE production.  Just as Jedi Master Yoda said all those years ago, "the FORCE interacts with everything and is all around us".

For me, FORCE is integrally related to the three key elements of field sports (previously described here).

COMBAT - requires high absolute FORCE and high Rate of FORCE Development to overcome opponents and "blast" through traffic and compete for possession.

CRITICAL RUNNING - requires high absolute FORCE and high Rate of FORCE Development to be agile; accelerating and decelerating quickly, then at greater ranges requires high anti-rotation and stabilising FORCES to support dynamic Impulse (high speed FORCE development) during maximum velocity running.

TRANSITION RUNNING - requires high Strength Endurance (repeated moderate level FORCE development) to support efficient running between COMBAT and CRITICAL RUNNING elements of play.

The idea of a FORCE continuum (otherwise noted as a Strength-Speed continuum) is not a new concept and certainly not one I am trying to reconfigure as my own.  My observation is that too often the traditional Strength-Speed continuum is taught in a manner that leaves the student thinking that the continuum refers only to exercises conducted in the gym and in specialist running sessions.  This is often the result of education programs based primarily on energy system function (physiological basis for performance). 


My contention is that EVERYTHING exists on the FORCE continuum.  By everything I mean team training sessions, skill sessions, VO2 max running sessions…everything!  For me the FORCE continuum not only includes the energetics and kinetics of performance (force, power, RFD) but also the kinematic (skill) elements of performance.

For example: 

  • MAS running (download background Dupont et. al. article here) is an intermittent running protocol designed to increase exposure to VO2Max as opposed to running continuously for the same period.  While this is true and extremely effective, MAS also provides repeated acceleration and deceleration which conditions athletes to repeated FORCE production, conditioning musculature of the lower body to the rigors of multi-directional field sports and re-enforcing running mechanics at medium speeds (Transition Running).  Most coaches would dismiss this as a FORCE production modality, but to my way of thinking this is simply another derivative on the FORCE continuum.
  • Running drills are a form of FORCE training and therefore demand inclusion in the programming model as they require a FORCE output and thereby contribute to fatigue. Track coaches would consider this the case but few field S&C coaches would.
By working from this centralized point I feel it is easier to think of programming as a whole.  Too often (and I have seen this repeatedly over the years) young coaches throw new research and methodologies around ad-hoc, but fail to connect the dots between all the activities.  When programming for a team sport it is critical that the coach consider the entire demands of the program not simply the "pieces" that he/she directly coaches e.g. strength sessions.

On this basis the team S&C professional needs to take with a grain of salt many of the "funky" training ideas that get proliferated on the internet.  Why?  Put simply, there are many coaches who are undoubtedly very good at their craft, writing from their perspective as strength coaches or short term consultants.  Clearly many of these coaches get good results, but the team S&C coach needs to ensure they consider their program in it's entirety and not simply on a piecemeal basis.

Nothing in Strength and Conditioning is ever 100% right or wrong and I don't expect that my thinking will necessarily resonate with everybody.  However, here's the "rub".  A team field sport S&C coach is responsible for a myriad of training variables well beyond the scope of coaches in consultancies or employed as specialists.  As such, the team S&C coach must be in a position to clearly consider each and every activity and its impact on each and every athlete.  Having a concise training model always in the front of your mind allows for rapid cross checking of training modalities and athletes.

I will continue to expand on the idea of Training Models in the future.  As always I hope this article offers some stimulation for reflection on your role within S&C.

Regards

JW
I get asked on a regular basis by guys my age (40plus); "How should I be training at my age".  

My first response is generally F&^K the  "my age" bit.  That being said there are some considerations gentlemen of our level of "experience" should consider (more on that later).

My second response is you should be training like an athlete!  This response general results in me being given strange looks.  But the facts of the matter are you should, and to be even more accurate you should be training something like a football athlete.  By football I mean something along the lines of AFL, soccer, or either rugby code.  Why do I suggest modelling your Weekend Warrior program on a footballer?  Great question.

When you strip away the skill factor, all "football" athletes are essentially repeat speed & combat athletes.  Obviously there are variations between the codes, but in essence all football games come down the three things;
Combat  - requires strength and power to compete for possession.
Critical Running - requires speed and agility to compete for or with possession.
Transition Running - requires high running efficiency to allow the athlete to move between Combat and Critical Running elements.
Check out my article on article Consistency and the Coach's Eye for more on these descriptions.

So how do these elements apply to the "man on the street".

Combat - simple…requires strength and power.  Completing regular strength training at a minimum has been conclusively shown to alter the biochemical balance of the the body towards greater muscle mass and lower fat levels.  As we age testosterone production (the driver of the aforementioned benefits of strength training) tends to decrease.  So, for "older" guys strength training is a critical tool to help maintain testosterone levels, which is ultimately the hormone that drives muscle mass and fat metabolism.

Critical Running - A.K.A. sprinting.  Not too far removed from the points noted about Combat, football athletes use sprinting in and around the "contested" elements of the game to impose themselves on proceedings.  Sprinting stimulates testosterone production via fast twitch muscle fibre recruitment, while the increased acidic environment generally associated with repeat sprints (stimulates fat metabolism).  Have you ever seen a fat sprinter?  Nope…that's because they train at high speeds generating the adaptations mentioned above.  Football athletes are simply a derivative of sprinters.  Clearly they don't do one off efforts, but I can tell you they most certainly do repeat sprint extremely hard putting their bodies into a highly acid environment (this probably sounds more familiar if I use the term "lactic acid").

Transition Running - all football athletes have to get from Point A to Point B, and running at jog to stride pace is how they do it.  In this day and age there are those in the fitness community that have a philosophy of not employing any aerobic or sustained activity because it is contrary to their mantra of addressing just muscle mass and strength.  My personal philosophy is somewhat different.  I believe we need to be capable of sustained. locomotor movement simply because that is where life is lived.  Not being able to walk and run for sustained periods makes it hard to keep up with kids, chase the family pet…all things that are of critical importance to guys in their 40's (remember I'm a guy in my 40's so thats what I write about but any girls in the same age bracket can easily utilise these concepts).  I'm not suggesting you need to run marathons, although there is nothing wrong with that if that's you thing, I'm suggesting you just need to be able to move in order to engage the world, not just exist in a gym.

So lets get down to it.  Here are 7 things an average guy can learn from professional football codes.

1. Mobility - low level activity that increases range of motion around joints.  We spend a lot of time sitting on our butts, so the muscles around the hip get particularly tight.  These activities are designed maintain the range of motion we can move through.  When we lose this we lose the ability too move freely.

2. Stability - inactivity and previous low level injuries can reduce the effectiveness of the musculature that surrounds the hip, lower back and other joints of the body.  Using a combination of simple drills, these muscles can be stimulated to increase their activity and provide the natural support mechanisms that they were designed for.

3. Warm up - personally this is my Kryptonite!  Don't be in a rush!  Ensure your workouts are preceded by a warmup.  A good warm up will help reduce the risk of injury.  Elements of Mobility and Stability can be woven together to provide an effective warm up and increase efficiency of your session.

4. Train heavy - Put simply this just means resistance training.  Depending on where you are at this may be pushups or this may be deadlifts.  Please don't go rushing off to start lifting weights if you've never done it before.  That being said maintaining muscle mass is critical to performance at all ages and is no more so than in the 40plus age bracket.  The trick is simply to ensure you do it safely.

5. Train fast - In a nutshell sprint.  One of my favorite "executive" sessions is 10x80m soft sand sprints.  I generally run the first two at around 75% effort, then shift up to approx. 90% for six efforts, then gear down for the last two back to 75%.  Same goes as for Train Heavy…if you haven't done anything like this since high school don't rush out and start now.  Stand by for more details on how to get going.

6. Train to go the whole game - no sense being muscle bound but not be able to run out of sight on a dark night.  By the same token running a marathon is not for everybody.  You need to find the right volume of continuous activity that works for you.  For some guys depending on the state of knee, ankle and hip joints this may include cross training equipment and ergometers (versa climbers, bikes, rowing ergs etc).

7. Recovery - Number 1…Sleep!  Number 2…Nutrition!  Address your sleep and nutrition like you are preparing for a Grand Final everyday and you'll do fine.

Keep these concepts in mind and I will work on providing greater detail on each area in future blogs.

Any questions drop me an email.
Check out my book TRAIN TOUGH for graded programs and exercise selections ideas.
Keep moving!
JW
In Australia the largest economies that support S&C operations are team based football codes i.e. A.F.L., Rugby Union, Rugby League and Soccer.  If you look further afield, the same can be said internationally e.g. Premier League Football, N.F.L. etc.  They are by far the hardest jobs to get into and are without doubt the most volatile to survive in.  That being said, given the number of enquiries I get about employment opportunities, these jobs are easily the most coveted.

As I have been privileged / resilient / lucky enough to head up S&C departments in professional teams in Rugby and A.F.L. for the past 15 years, I thought it may be of interest to share how I think about and approach planning for football codes from the perspective of delivering a consistent product.  

NB: if you consistently produce good products (results) then you are an invaluable resource to clubs and coaches!  Don't be misguided into believing anything else…the number one thing that extends mortality in professional sport is consistency!

Historically I follow a basic two pronged approach;
  1. Research
  2. My Model

Research is pretty straight forward, how far do they run, basic combinations of efforts, number of contacts etc.  Without doubt the advent of GPS and accelerometer technology has vastly improved this aspect of this or any approach to team planning.  Further, with the proliferation of advanced degree holders bouncing around the place these days, there is always somebody to offer up and interpret the plethora of descriptive research articles available.

However, as the name of my website suggests (OLDBULL - see definition), I was working in this industry well before the aforementioned technologies and at that time I needed something that had more substance to it than simple time motion analysis.

Therefore, I created another simple methodology that gave me a great "feel" for what was required.  I will add that it is my most ardent belief that coaching is a "scientific art". Yes, the scientific details are required, but the "art" side of the equation for me means that I need a "feel" for what the athlete is required to do.  Even deeper, I look for an empathy and intuitive understanding of the athlete's environment and required contributions.  Not surprisingly this formed the basis of what I think it takes to get a full time S&C job.

Being a good S&C coach is not about just reading the research and "cut and pasting" data into a spreadsheet and handing out copies.  It's about having a "connection" to your athlete and the environment such that you can make creative, informed and sound decisions about any training stimulus you choose to apply.

The second part of my approach is simply assessing the each of the following three common components of all football codes (obviously this is my opinion).
Combat  - requires strength and power to compete for possession.
Critical Running - requires speed and agility to compete for or with possession.
Transition Running - requires high running efficiency to allow the athlete to move between Combat and Critical Running elements.
Once I have considered each variable I can begin to work through the requirements of each position within the sport.

Combat
Where does competition for the ball take place…on the ground, in a standing position, in the air?
Is the contest one vs one or one vs many?
Is the contest structured or unstructured?
How frequently is possession contested?

These questions and others similar ones (feel free to add any of your own) form the basis for interpreting the nature of strength, repeat strength, power, jumping, landing, LMM, ballast (body weight) and work rate required for the game.

Critical Running
What type (pattern and speed) of running impacts scoring or defensive efforts.
Where does the player originate from with respect to the competition?  
Do they accelerate to the contest?  
Do they decelerate into the contest?  
Is the contest preceded by change of direction?
What speed does the athlete reach?
How frequently is it repeated?
How forceful is the interaction of Critical Running and Combat for possession?

These questions serve to describe the nature of speed, acceleration, deceleration, change of direction and associated repeatability.

Again, there are a vast array of questions that you can ask yourself based on what you see when you watch the sport.  Many S&C coaches get caught up in the numbers associated with sport.  I agree there are many, many useful numbers associated with high performance, but I would strongly caution any coach not to lose their "coach's eye".

Transition Running
How does the athlete move between Combat elements?
How long are the efforts?
How frequent are the efforts?
How does Transition Running interact with the previous two components?

These questions will guide the S&C coach on the magnitude of baseline running efficiency and capacity required.

Clearly there is more art to this part of the approach than there is science.  But it is this part of my little methodology that allows me to make sense of the data I receive either from training or research.  

For me reading that an AFL player runs an average of 142m/min with a 13% distance covered above 20km/h and 18% covered below 10km/h does give me the "texture" I need to ensure my program addresses the "needs" of the athlete not just the numbers.  It does not encapsulate the subtle angles run through Transition, physical pressure applied at the contest for the ball or the counter rotary strength required to explosively "spread" into space.

Study, read and research, but never forget to "experience" the nature of what you are trying to create.  Strength and Conditioning directly interacts with the human condition and on that basis can never be truly perfect.  But I can assure you, you will get far closer to perfection on a more consistent basis by learning to coach from an empathetic perspective rather than simply a textbook one.

Your fellow S&C coach

JW

If there was something in this article for you, feel free to Tweet and Like it to your heart's content.

Check out my book TRAIN TOUGH.  Plenty more real world training wisdom!

 

 

 

I had a coupe of interesting tweets regarding SSG and the notion of "what our ultimate goal is" come across my phone in the last 24hrs and it got me thinking about a few things.

The first tweet thread that got me going involved the statement that our "ultimate aim is not to run better than the opposition, it is to win".  While I got the thrust of the initial tweet, the follow up from someone of far less experience pushed the idea harder that winning is what we should be focused on.  I'm all for winning but it is critical not to get derailed from our core functions by focusing on the outcome of winning and not the process of the job.

As team based S&C coaches we can't improve sport skill or team work of athletes.  That's for the skills coaches.

We support our coach's philosophy through training planning and load management etc but we need to be very careful that supporting skill practice does not replace physical development and maintenance.

David Joyce of the Western Force tweeted Nov 8 "expert panel @ ASCA conference indicated Australian soccer 100% reliance on SSG not enough".  Makes sense.  We're not as technically good as other international teams and that is hard to change, but there is no reason we can't be the most physically dominant.

I've seen S&C coaches who have allowed low intensity non specific training in the form of SSG to become the majority of a teams workload and it has burnt them badly.  Quite often this type of training is based on the team coach's "expert" opinion that the drill is specific.  Let me tell you from experience (one that was in an all too public a forum) football coaches no matter how good they are not capable of assessing training load on an entire group.  See my thoughts on data here http://www.oldbullfitness.com/blogs/old-bull-training/9835802-the-trend-is-your-friend

Team sport athletes (as any athletes) must be prepared for worst case scenario and as team S&C coaches we should never lose sight of that.

Yes, the ultimate aim is to win, and I support technical and tactical development of the athlete toward that aim, but the greatest contribution I can make to the team is ensuring that they are as bulletproof as possible in preparation for the "double overtime, come from behind, two men down, length of the field, into the wind victory".

I always approach athletic preparation from this perspective... if my team is equal the skill of the opposition and it comes down to trench warfare late in the game I want my guys to be the ones standing when the dust settles.

Vern Gambetta tweeted on 7 Nov "for practice to be most effective don't try to replicate the game or skill, distort it!"  My take on that is not that you design a ludicrous derivative of your sport, but more that the drill seeks to overload the athlete in order to challenge them beyond their current capacities e.g. outnumbered defenders, faster rate of work etc.  When implemented with an advanced or elite group, yes this may include taking them beyond the game.  Ultimately it is at this "sharp end of the stick" that any given sport evolves e.g. moves faster, has more players involved at contests, increases defensive pressure etc.

So for the team S&C coach the trick is to ensure the drill design of SSG and execution by the coaching staff not only addresses the technical and tactical demands of the game but most importantly (from our perspective) it addresses the players required physical demands (by that I mean specific load…correct intensity, volume, density, duration and movement pattern).  If it doesn't it either needs to be adapted (which is always a challenge on the fly) or the session must be accounted for as a physical load and intern an appropriate stimulus must be applied where possible (always a nightmare after the fact).

My strongest advice would be work very closely with your head coach when SSG (small sided games) are involved...and don't get me wrong I think SSG can be a valuable tool but ensure you are clinical about the required metrics for each player and to the best of your technical capacities account for each player individually.  The bell curve of load application has a nasty habit of flattening during the use of SSG, and you can very quickly end up with a mess if loads are not well managed.  To that end avoid getting into situations where there is nothing in the session but SSG unless you are gunned up with live data that you back implicitly to allow you to "bend" the bell curve back in your favour by moving players in and out at your direction.

Jeremy Shepard (who owns my dream job) tweeted 10/12/12 some cool "punk" stuff but concluded with the aim of training to be "physically superior to you opposition".  I couldn't agree more!

Yes, our desired outcome is to win, but never confuse that with our designated process which is to ensure that our charges are sent to battle in a physically superior state to that of the opposition!  I've been around for a while now, and have been privileged enough to work with a lot of different coaches, and they all want the same thing…the biggest, fastest and fittest!!  Never changes.  So whatever you do, don't lose sight of exactly what it is you do as an S&C coach that contributes to the team winning.

As always, this is just one guys opinion.  Use it to help formulate your own ideas.

Yours in S&C

JW

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While this subject seems pretty obvious, once I started thinking about it, it makes sense that the "Top Ten" are really impacted by the beliefs and structures that the person doing the hiring uses.  For example, does the position require specialist skills e.g. Speed coach, strength coach, rehab coach etc.

So that you can understand my perspective when I hire S&C staff, which subsequently influences my "Top Ten", here is a basic synopsis of how I run my physical performance environments.

I have used specialist coaches in the past during intensive training blocks with great success.  These jobs have been when cohesive training blocks with the athletes are intermittent in nature due to demands of competition (international rugby e.g. Wallabies)  These types of jobs are relatively rare in my experience.  In these roles the specialist coaches I use are assigned to particular athletes within the group, while managing the broader demands of the squad falls to myself.  On that basis I have used staff with specialised skills sets and because they are engaged to do only 1-2 specific tasks I have not been concerned with their broader knowledge or capabilities.  

The majority of jobs on the market however are permanent roles where staff are required to be present throughout all phases of the year and depending on the sport may be required to work with young or inexperienced athletes.  In these type of roles I target staff who are truly STRENGTH & CONDITIONING coaches.  They must be capable of working with and educating players of all levels of experience through all aspects of physical preparation.  Some coaches may have particular specialties or strengths but ultimately they must be capable in all areas.  I want my coaches to have an integrated understanding of the environment...how does that run effect the next strength session, how does a change in strength load impact injury risk during running etc etc etc.

NB: I have never held a role within an sporting institution e.g. AIS, so my views are quite biased toward professional team structures. 


My Top Ten hints for getting an S&C role in Professional Sport

1. Walk the Walk - you don't need to lift as much as the athletes, you don't need to run as fast as them (let's face it if we could we'd be athletes not coaches), but you do need to have an empathetic insight into what you are asking the athletes to do.  What does that set "feel" like?  What happens when these two lifts are compounded?  What does that supplement do?  What does it taste like?  I've seen coaches try to coach from a text book and I'm not a big fan.  I've known some very successful coaches who are about as athletic as my grand mother, but they are definitely in the minority.  From a learning perspective, the vast majority of athletes are kinaesthetic and visual learners.  Put simply they learn by seeing and doing.  Coaches who have trained themselves enough to be competent lifters, runners etc can demonstrate technique more effectively than those that have never experienced it themselves.  In my experience this leads to a more efficient learning phase for the athlete and makes for a better S&C coach.

2. Live the life - I get the equal opportunities thing, but I can't fathom hiring people who are clearly unfit, to work on my staff.   Similar to point 1, you must have an empathy with what the athlete is doing as you are "ground zero" for education.  What you portray is often the first thing the athlete will learn, particularly young athletes.  You can't be smashing soft drink and meat pies when they are trying to be disciplined eating grilled chicken and veggies.  Again as for point 1, you don't need to be "ripped" like an athlete, but you need to portray an appropriate degree of commitment to "practising what you preach".

3. Know Strengthening of Movement - strength training is an accepted training medium for everybody from marathon runners to basketballers.  Obviously depending on your sport the degree of time and knowledge committed to strength training will be determined by the nature of the sport.  Certainly in Australia the vast majority of Professional S&C jobs are within team based field/court sports or Olympic disciplines.  From that perspective, in all of these sports strength training knowledge and experience (see point 1.) is paramount.  Further a thorough appreciation of the relationship between strength and locomotor movement in all planes of motion is of significant importance.  A practical knowledge of historical philosophies, new thinking and academic research must all be combined with an intimate understanding of movement to contribute effectively to a high performance environment.

4. Know Conditioning of Movement - my professional experience has been working exclusively in team based field sports so I apologise again for the bias toward that area.  Understanding the biomechanical basis for the movements required in your sport is fundamental.  What posture is required?  At what speed is the movement exhibited?  What limits or allows an athlete to express that speed of movement?  Understanding how to coach fundamental movement in all planes of motion is a core skill (for those who missed it... you must know how to coach running and COD).  Further a clear grasp of the impact acceleration, deceleration and various velocities of work have on the body is core knowledge for an S&C coach.  Knowledge of things like isolated muscle testing, ROM assessments, functional systemic strength tests and their associated philosophies allows the S&C coach a capacity to identify or work with other professionals who have identified "road blocks" in a players movement specific physical preparation. 

5. Understand Rehabilitation - understand the impact common injuries and medical interventions have on an athlete's ability to move.  This extends to understanding the skill sets and methodologies used by doctors, physiotherapists and massage staff.  In my opinion rehabilitation is one of the most critical roles within a professional team.  As S&C coaches we are charged with ultimately having the athlete ready to return to competition, and it is in your best interests to understand clearly what doctors and physiotherapists are doing to the athlete so that you can make an informed judgement regarding the selection of training stimulus for the injured athlete.  Quite often this knowledge set increases rapidly the longer you have been in an environment, however as the market place continues to get more competitive this is an area of skill development that I see many young S&C coaches seriously lacking.

6. Understand Nutrition - most professional teams (mine included) have Sports Dieticians intricately involved with the club.  On my staff the Sports Dietician directs players food and fluid intake.  Principles for these directives are all cleared through me and it is my responsibility to ensure that my Sports Dietician has the required philosophical approach.  Therefore, for my S&C staff, as nutrition is of such huge importance to physical preparation it is paramount that they are capable of having an informed discussion with the Sports Dietician it terms of describing the training demands and individual goals of the player.  Personally I don't go in for the current trend of S&C coaches claiming to be "nutrition specialists".  There are a few guys about appropriately qualified in both fields, but they are few and far between.

7. Understand Anatomy, Biomechanics and Physiology - as it applies to points 3-6.  I don't need guys in lab-coats running around but equally I don't need guys whose only understanding of physical preparation is "bashing the daylights" out of athletes at every opportunity.  Don't get me wrong…the need to drive athletes is critical, but understanding what and why you are using a particular training modality and how it fits the overall development of the athlete is critical.  Similarly the characteristics of a given training modality and how they relate to a particular athlete are crucial to ongoing success of a program.  On a daily basis discussions will vary across many subjects and with different professionals involving terms such as lever arm lengths, moments of inertia, peak flow etc…you don't want to be standing there with a dumb look on your face when these subjects come up.

8. Communication - clear and concise!  When integrated with the knowledge base identified above and the personal qualities noted below communication should allow for a creative environment where all participants can contribute to and learn from the process being undertaken.

9. Personal Qualities: Honesty, Integrity, Loyalty, Humility.  Honesty - no bullshit…ever!  Integrity - do the right thing because its right…not because someone is looking.  Loyalty - stick by the people who have stuck by you.  Humility - have a clear perspective on who you are and respect your place within the community you find yourself in.

10. Attitude and Commitment - Bryce Courtney said it best…"first with the head, then with the heart!".  Points 1-9 is what you need to use your head for.  Dealing with the grind day in and day out (believe me it is a grind once you're in it…not all bells and whistles like some think) in a manner that inspires others to follow you and a resolve to see both good and bad situations through shows heart…and trust me, you'll need it to survive in this game.

This has become far bigger than I first intended to write.  Please understand that this is "MY" list of what I see as important for an S&C coach.  Clearly other professionals with similar experience to mine may have a different opinions.  

Take these points for what they are..."hints".  Use them as you see fit and discard the ones that you think don't fit you.

Good luck to all the budding S&C coaches out there!

JW

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