Ihave recently been asked to explain my philosophy as a coach and i thought this would make an interesting insight in to any potential clients who wish to know more about Your Conditioning. Here i’ll cover my beliefs in athletic development, my approach to exercise, my approach to skill learning and i’ll finish with my views on coach-athlete relationships.
In an industry focused on improving physical performance, time is often the most important resource. Due to this limited facet, getting the most ‘bang for your buck’ is arguably the best approach. This leads to the importance of introducing methodologies that are proven by peer-reviewed scientific research, helping sports science professionals use effective training stimuli with minimal risks (such as using training methods which are unsure to be effective) and maximising results. The role of sports science professionals is to first lessen the likelihood of injury and then further improve performance attributes that are required by the athlete’s role within the sport. I strongly feel that due to the importance of injury prevention, all S&C coaches should have a sound understanding of physiotherapy and related fields. It’s is here that i wish to further my study in injury rehabilitation to become what I feel as a complete physical performance coach. I do not agree that S&C coaches should be restricted to the gymnasium, or simply just improving the performance of fit and healthy athletes. In an industry in which there is limited money/funding, selling oneself as both an S&C coach and rehabilitation expert is an attractive marketing strategy for the budding physical performance coach. This general belief has led to the creation of my mission statement: “Using evidence-based physical performance methodologies to rehabilitate, develop and improve highly competitive athletes and recreational fitness enthusiasts in a professional, optimistic and approachable environment”.
Approach to Exercise
As movement asymmetry and severe dysfunction promote higher likelihoods of injury (Cook, 2010) – all athletes are initially screened, with an emphasis on creating a programme designed to improve movement asymmetries rather than simply increase their FMS score and performance attributes (Cook, 2010). Exercise selection is dependent on dynamic correspondence so the appropriate exercises are introduced, alongside suitable sets and reps that are scientifically proven to illicit advantageous adaptations in that movement pattern. Session designs begin with core/main compound exercises that will improve the strength and functionality of large muscle agonists (e.g., a back squat to improve overall lower-body anterior and posterior strength). Main lifts will then be followed by assistance exercises that are recognised as further improving weak movements, bridged with movement correctives in the rest periods. For example, improving unilateral triple extension in a sprinter by using a split squat exercise followed by pull-ups or knee-to-walls in the rest period of the first exercise. I find this is a much better utilisation of time as long as the paired exercise does not interrupt the muscle recovery of the primary exercise (Boyle, 2012). This may also involve multiple exercises, in a small circuit fashion. I also find this helps prevent boredom and keeps our sessions ‘busy’ therefor achieving the most ‘bang for your buck’ and targeting the body as a whole. Monitoring is achieved by using RPE’s, weekly questionnaires (Rest-Q-Sport-76) and quantifying training loads (Sets x Reps x Weight). Re-testing is performed at regular intervals (2-3 months).
In regards to youth development, all youth athletes are encouraged to participate in as many sports as possible to develop a wide range of movement capabilities. S&C sessions aimed at youth and adolescents should focus on improving primal movement competencies – such as the squat, lunge, hinge, push, pull, brace and rotate (Tompsett, Burkett, & McKean, 2014). Improving exercise habits and practice (Faigenbaum et al., 2009) and developing strength and power once a solid foundation of movement literacy has been achieved (Lloyd & Oliver, 2013) are also ideal pathways in developing athletes long-term.
Approach to Skill Improvement
Development of sport specific skills, such as agility, should first be improved in a closed environment with heavy amounts of instruction, then opened up to more chaotic and randomised environments with ‘guided discovery’ applications. Literature suggests that decision-making is a key component in sport (Lorains, Ball, & MacMahon, 2013; Marasso, Laborde, Bardaglio, & Raab, 2014) and many coaches often promote detrimental learning environments with their athletes by constantly giving advice and correction, even after an athlete has surpassed the cognitive stage of learning. This blunts the reproduction of learned skills (Schmidt, 1991), especially in competitive environments where coaches cannot give feedback immediately. In 1991, Schmidt found that intrinsic learning is more useful in retaining learned information when compared to continuous direct, closed-skilled environments. The compounding evidence in this area alone is enough to convince me that this is best practice and the theories make sense. However, due to the risk of injury and the complexity involved in gym-based exercises, frequent gaps between sets allow constant and direct feedback to be used successfully – especially when coaching is given via external cues (Landin, 1994).
Approach to Coach-Athlete Relationships
I highly regard professionalism, optimism and approachability as my core values when dealing with coach-athlete relationships. I wish to share both the highs and lows of professional sport and I feel that higher levels of buy-in are given by athletes when both trust and respect is given. I aim to develop friendly and personable interactions with all of my athletes, whilst always maintaining my professional milieu. Intricate details such as wearing suitable attire, whilst intelligently monitoring and documenting training sessions, set a ‘high standard’ atmosphere which often encourages the athlete to replicate this behaviour. Both parties should arrive on time at a minimum, with a clear understanding on what is needed to be achieved, whilst making the training environment as enjoyable as possible. I continuously believe that training should always be enjoyed as one could argue that athletes spend a vast amount of time developing rather than competing. Therefore, small things such as never saying the word ‘Don’t’ (e.g. “don’t do this, don’t do that”) can have positive effects in the long run. I do not want the negatives of our sessions to be remembered and athletes should flourish mentally – promoting health, vigour and vitality. Optimism is important and I believe all coaches should implement the power of ‘not yet’ – every athlete can achieve success, ‘I can’t do it’ should only ever be spoken when it is followed with the word ‘… yet’.
In summary, my role as a strength and conditioning professional is to ensure that my athletes work within the best evidence-based programmes, surrounded by an environment of professionalism, approachability and optimism. My dream, is to help them achieve theirs. But this cannot happen if the athlete does not raise the bar with me. Champions are made behind closed doors, and nothing will work… unless they do!
Boyle, M. (2012). Advances in functional training: training techniques for coaches, personal trainers and athletes. On Target Publications.
Cook, G. (2010). Movement: Functional movement systems: Screening, assessment, corrective strategies. On Target Publications.
Faigenbaum, A. D., Kraemer, W. J., Blimkie, C. J., Jeffreys, I., Micheli, L. J., Nitka, M., & Rowland, T. W. (2009). Youth resistance training: updated position statement paper from the national strength and conditioning association. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 23, 60-79.
Landin, D. (1994). The role of verbal cues in skill learning. Quest, 46, 299-313.
Lorains, M., Ball, K., & MacMahon, C. (2013). An above real time training intervention for sport decision making. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 14, 670-674.
Lloyd, R. S., & Oliver, J. L. (2013). Strength and conditioning for young athletes: science and application. Routledge.
Marasso, D., Laborde, S., Bardaglio, G., & Raab, M. (2014). A developmental perspective on decision making in sports. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 7, 251-273.
Schmidt, R. A. (1991). Frequent augmented feedback can degrade learning: Evidence and interpretations. Tutorials in motor neuroscience, 1, 59-75.
Tompsett, C., Burkett, B., & McKean, M. R. (2014). Development of physical literacy and movement competency: A literature review. Journal of Fitness Research, 3, 53-74.
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