As a coach Stanford Womens’ Volleyball Coach John Dunning needs no introduction. The 4X Pac-12 Coach of the Year and AVCA Hall-of-Famer has won 4 National Championships, and coached in 9 titles games (more than any other coach). We sat down with coach Dunning to find out how strength training has changed over his 29-year collegiate coaching career.
1. How have your expectations of a strength training program and the coach/trainer changed throughout your career?
When I started coaching at a university I was the strength coach, a very scary thought. So everything has changed!! There is actual data now, studies have been done on female volleyball players in the US and around the world. We now train very specifically for our sport and for each athlete. Our strength coach is very well trained and our department works to be at the edge of the growing knowledge base. I trust their methods. I believe all training should be based on long term health of the athlete and our trainer has to be able to explain what we are doing within that context.
2. What factor (certain movement, personality trait, environment, etc.) of a coach/trainer do you value the most?
I value their ability to connect with the athletes and their ability to motivate the athletes to push beyond what they had previously thought were their limits.
3. What has been the most positive experience in this area of athlete preparation?
Cooperation among our volleyball staff, sports medicine staff, and training staff has been immensely positive. In order to build the trust our athletes have in the physical part of their life, our whole staff has to work in concert. We all have to be in the know each day about the health of each athlete and know when to push and when not to.
4. What factor of a coach/trainer frustrates you the most?
Continuity of care due to staff turnover can be frustrating sometimes. Turnover in our staff can cause lots of problems, so we are very careful in hiring and work hard to pay attention to the needs of our staff so they can be happy in their role.
5. How have you seen the field of performance and injury prevention change over the last 10 years?
In my eyes, huge changes have occurred. There is much greater awareness of what contributes to health problems: training methods, surfaces, equipment, tools, recovery, …. This is an amazing product era, as well as an information era, so many inventions that can help us train or broaden our knowledge in health areas.
6. Where do you see the field of performance and injury prevention opportunities for growth? Greater communication and increased commitment to guidelines for health. So many people are looking for ways to help athletes, so much research, yet so little commitment to it. It would seem that if we found ways to help our athletes stay healthier, programs would then change how they operate, yet change of this kind happens slowly.