July 18, 2016

    Don’t Let Your Coaching Philosophy Define You

    It is common in strength & conditioning circles to label staff by their philosophical allegiance. I just got back from Australia, often hearing “yeah, he’s a Frans Bosch guy”. Domestically, you may hear a coach is good because “he’s a Westside guy” or a “functional coach” or “a speed guy”. *** It is always amusing to me because the label is often issued as a warning to me that technology might be difficult to adopt because of “x” philosophy. Imagine if medicine operated in that manner; “He cannot get an MRI at the hospital because they are Dr. Andrews guys.” If medicine or other health care fields operated like performance/strength & conditioning often does, the average life span would surely be lower.

    The Problem: I am not that “guy”

    This problem tends to be an irrational commitment to a philosophy, which is often times based on 1 or 2 factors:

    1. Personal experience from trial/error

    2. Mentorship/exposure to isolated environments

    From my own athletic experience, I was good at lifting innately, so I valued heavy lifts more than other movements for my athletes. As a young coach, lifting similar (or more) weight than my athletes seemed to validate my own athleticism; I did not play professional or BCS football but I can rest easy knowing I probably could have since I squat more than some of them (note my sarcastic tone). Or if I perform these lifts better than my athletes, my coaching prowess is immediately recognized without having to educate or explain my programming rationale.

    I am incredibly blessed to have experiences with exceptional coaches who are both close friends and excellent operators. My first experience in coaching was with Todd Rice, a movement detail fanatic. At Cal football, we snatched with pristine technique, sprinted with cameras (there were no apps then!), and rehearsed daily stretching routines like a well-orchestrated ballet performance. Being a young coach, Olympic lifting and running mechanics were the only critical pieces to my puzzle, maybe I was an “Olympic lifting guy” or a “Todd Rice guy”. Then I coached at Penn with power lifting record holders like Jim Steel and Rob Wagner. I saw the importance of rest and diet in training and often times an intense recovery outweighed the need for training itself, so I guess I was a “Power lifting guy.”

    The problem became that once these coaching techniques are experienced and learned at a high level, when do you employ such tools?

    The Solution

    I want myself, our coaches, our company to be the “guy” to choose whatever is most efficient for the athlete’s success, regardless of any other distractions; my bias of lifting, exceptional mentors, athlete preference, sport coach bias, social media, etc. I would change our programming for MLB pitchers to backstroke if there was reliable/valid data to show the best positive effects for their sport.


    In order to uncover the most efficient path for each athlete, we must validate our training practices:

    1. Utilize a valid assessment to determine if an athlete got better / worse. Assess as frequently as the training plan changes. i.e. we assess after every ‘block’ (3 weeks)

    2. Record the training stimulus with great accuracy. What was prescribed vs what was actually completed is rarely the same

    3. When enough data is gathered, analyze the effects of your training program on the assessment, then modify your training program based on what was effective and what was not

    I love being in a committed community of peers, yet also cringe when I hear that coaches or staffs are “Sparta guys” because they use our software. Our software was designed for best practices based off the available evidence; a massive anonymous, aggregated database of force assessments, logged workouts, injuries, etc. Just preferred to be called a “trust guy.”

    ***Dear female coaches, excuse the “guy” term as it is a generic word informally used to describe a person or a coach.

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