This weeks guest post come to us form Evan VanBecelaere, the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach at Santa Clara University.
“Communication does not always occur naturally, even among a tight-knit group of individuals. Communication must be taught and practiced in order to bring everyone together as one.” -Mike Krzyzewski
A coach’s worth is directly correlated to the wins and losses of his or her team. Every coach has a job to do, and when their professional success is based on those hard facts, the pressure winning causes is evident. In order to alleviate some of this stress a coach needs to have every advantage possible to help their team win. One of the greatest advantages a program can have throughout the season is making sure that all of your athletes are healthy.
In order to make sure athletes are healthy, finding an evidence-based test that creates an objective way for coaches to make adjustments in athlete preparation is not only a need, but should be a priority. At SCU we use a force plate and SpartaTRAC Software to help us asses our athletes’ movement quality, also known as the Sparta Signature. One of the strengths of the Signature is that it’s a great tool at helping to identify injury risks, partly because it’s a view of the athletes’ neuromuscular system, rather than looking at a single variable. Throughout the season, the Sparta Signature is a great way to communicate how each athlete is adapting to the increase in practice volume and competitions. For example, a common scan to see during the season is a “fatigue scan,” generally represented by a drop in LOAD and an increase in DRIVE (see scan to the right). A common injury location of that is correlated to this scan is at the patellofemoral joint. This can be represented by an inability to develop tension throughout a movement, which is generally associated by a weakness in the anterior muscles, such as the quads. That lack of tension can cause joints to become hyper mobile, which is something we try to avoid at the knee joint.
When a scan such as the one listed above is seen, the problem is that the performance coach is not the one who makes the calls on the field or court, and as discussed above, the desire to “win at all cost” is strong. This in turn can make it complicated for adjustments to be made to the athlete’s complete training regimen. Often it is difficult for a sport coach to understand that these are preventative measures; that if action is not taken, the risk of injury has the potential to increase. In most cases if the coach does not see that the athlete has an injury then in his or her mind the athlete is fine to play. It’s important to keep an open line of communication with sport coaches and work together for the betterment of the athlete. The Sparta Signature is a great tool to show sport coaches objective data, as opposed to “hunches” or “feelings,” which encourages a cooperative working relationship between performance and sport coaches.
By athletes inputting their daily training results, we continue to find that the main prescription for increasing the LOAD variable is squat and single leg squat. However, during the season when the volume of the athletes’ sport increases, it becomes much more difficult to have an effect on the Sparta Signature. In many cases, the best prescription is rest and more importantly dedicating more time to the athletes’ Regen through soft-tissue routines, sleep and nutrition.
This accountability from the athlete completes our athlete snapshot from beyond performance training, allowing an opportunity to discuss what the athlete is doing outside of practice/training. Specifically the data has allowed me to find an individual doing extra work that is counterproductive (i.e. extra fitness) or the results have require revisiting Regen tactics on the benefits of sleep towards explosive performance.
If these types of scans are seen globally amongst the team. I have also met with our coaching staff to reduce practice volume, the largest source of physical stimulus from a time standpoint. Ultimately, it’s important to have objective tools at your disposal not only to help your athletes, but to be a more efficient communicator within an athletic department.
Evan VanBecelaere played baseball at Crowder College until his career ended from an elbow injury. After this, VanBecelaere wanted to find a way to help athletes improve their athletic ability while minimizing the risk of the injury. While an undergraduate at Kansas he assisted Exercise Physiologists with various studies to help improve research findings for the field of strength and conditioning as part of the Kansas Exercise Science Laboratory. VanBecelaere later became interested in how the research could be applied in a weight room setting. He began working with both the men’s and women’s basketball teams under Coach Andrea Hudy. VanBecelaere was responsible for the implementation of Force Plate hardware and software to help improve sports performance for the University of Kansas Strength and Conditioning program. He also worked with softball, baseball, track and women’s soccer. VanBecelaere graduated from Kansas with a degree in Exercise Science in 2013. Prior to Santa Clara, VanBecelaere had additional experience at Sparta Performance Science in Menlo Park, Calif., under Dr. Phil Wagner.