Data, Training, and Workout Propaganda

This article by Carl Valle on Mladen Jovanovic’s site is too good not to comment. I don’t want to blog about a blog, so I am going to highlight a few points that resonated the most with me based on my experiences.

Everyone is afraid of being the fall guy for injuries, teams are training like senior citizen “Sliver Sneakers” programs to avoid getting hurt. Yet most the injuries at the pro level are from being out of shape and weak from forgetting what got them there.

I interned at the IMG Academy in 2005 about 3-4 directors ago. I watched the college and NBA guys work out in the weight room. This was during the period that I was working on my Master’s degree and getting my first certification (NSCA-CSCS). I was far from an expert, so I watched everything, took notes, and asked questions.

I was inexperienced, but they did not do anything that I would have done. The most explosive movement that they did on a regular basis was a reverse lunge off a small step. I never saw a back squat, deadlift, clean, snatch, box jump, hurdle jump, etc. Their workouts looked like what I would consider a warm-up, and this was their offseason training. The goal was to avoid injuries, not to enhance performance. With veteran guys, I understand the reduced intensity because 30+ year-olds are unlikely to improve their performances dramatically and benefit more from protecting their bodies. But, college players? Rookies?

The problem is that interventions should be good leg training, but somehow mutate to  TRX rows and breathing exercises versus finding more collaborative ways to work with team coaches so something is left to train the lower body.

The sport coaches are an issue for the S&C coach, and I get to see both sides, as I coach and work as an S&C coach. I never know how hard the team is going to practice when I plan my strength workout for the team, so I plan a workout blind. I get to the gym and talk to the players. I watch the warm-up. Oftentimes, I have to cut back because of the extra work the sport coaches did the day before or on that day. This season, one coach was upset with the team’s intensity, so he went to two-a-days with one practice at 6AM. The guys had nothing left when we got to our midweek lift. For performance purposes, which is better: Making players run endlessly or getting in a good lift?

I also have the other side where one team does not run at all during practice. I watch the team, and they are starting to look out of shape. I feel like I did not do my job. However, we haven’t conditioned in two months now because they are in season. I ask the players and coaches if we need to condition again, but it seems extreme to me. I don’t think a player should need to condition after completing a 2-and-a-half hour practice.

An overzealous team coach acting like a tyrant is the elephant in the room, as it forces strength coaches to play therapist, the the therapists play ER doctor. Yet nobody talks about it in a way that sounds like change will happen because job security is number one and this is understandable. Of course does it matter if an athlete’s HRV is on a cartoony stoplight dashboard when the true problem is the athlete was out at the local night club during the playoffs?  Does it matter that the Apollo AMS system warned like a mayan prophet about the doom that could occur playing too many games a week when David Stern fines a team for resting players? Restgate!!!? Of course the short sided decision to sanction the Spurs was an example of doing the right thing doesn’t fit the mindset of those that run the asylum of professional sports. What if the stars got hurt playing the Miami Heat?,  how would that help the next few games with tickets and TV ratings with Duncan and Parker out for 6-8 weeks?

I often feel like more of a sports psychologist than a strength coach. I’m just lucky that I had Nicole Miller and Maria Newton to teach me well! I spent more time talking to players about taking care of their bodies – sleeping, stretching, eating vegetables (I had one girl complaining of her legs cramping at night so she couldn’t sleep; I asked her daily diet. She did not eat a single vegetable and maybe one serving of fruit. She is a smart girl too. It’s often hard to remember how much high school and college kids don’t know) – than anything else.

Reading about strength and conditioning or sports medicine? Too easy! Show me the next book on how the world is flat and everyone is an outlier.  It seems what is en vogue is reading a pop culture book that have very little to do what the core needs of coaching or medical demands of sport.

I never understood how Gladwell or Lehrer or Coyle became the experts on coaching, but they are easily the most cited authors in the field now.

Classic works such as the Mechanics of Athletics from Dyson is 10 American dollars and have passed the test of time, but the new ebook on Quadratic Neuro Block Training is 49.99 (with bonuses for a limited time ) are pushed by every  website because of affiliate code back room deals all timed perfectly like a west coast offense.

I am approached often about being a part of these affiliate schemes. Most of the name guys on the Internet are name guys because they are connected through these affiliate deals, and the web-famous hype each other to boost their income. I have written about these guys previously.

It’s convenient to list verticals because athletes are talented, but emotionally unsettling to know only 1 of 5 guys can squat to parallel with a decent load so we focus on the convenient and cherry picked positives.

So unbelievably true!

By Brian McCormick, PhD
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League
Author, The 21st Century Basketball Practice

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