Thursday, January 28, 2010

One Workout

"You achieve this by having clearly defined training goals, a sound plan to achieve those goals, a thorough knowledge of the athletes physical capabilities and specific competitive goals. Remember one workout cannot make an athlete, but one workout can break an athlete. "  from Vern Ganbetta's blog.

That last line is crucial and one that many coaches haven't learned.  This is especially true of young coaches.  One of the common characteristics of those that become performance coaches, is that they believe in pushing an athlete forward to become the best they can be.  We believe in training to improve performance

In contrast to that, are those that come initially from a sports medicine world.  ATCs, PTs, DCs,  and then get involved in training athletes.  They come from a perspective of training to not get hurt.  Nothing wrong with this perspective, just a different one. 

As a young coach, the time I spent training as an ATC and working in sports medicine settings helped me immensely.  I still want to strive for being our best, but I have learned to temper that into a broader, longer term view for success.

When the pendulum and perspective swing too far one way or the other, its the athlete that loses out.  I think that having an environment where coaches and sports medicine staff interact, have respect and understand each others perpsective and realm, is when we have the best team for an athlete.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Training the 40 - Should We Change Them?

Every year it starts. Young football players come in with lofty goals of playing in the NFL. Whether true or not, the hype that surrounds the 40 yard dash makes this first and foremost in their minds. They all have a number in their head they think they can run. It's my job to help get them there.

Let's just set aside the real importance of this test for football, and the whole issue of real and accurate times. Instead, let's look at how we approach this. Bottom line question; should we try and change their sprinting technique?

It's an interesting question because of the many unique circumstances of NFL Draft training. We start with two very different schools of thought. On the one hand is a true track approach focused on technique drills and coaching running technique. On the other, a true strength and power approach that focuses on developing those qualities and combines it with sprints, but little to no technique work.

Here's the approach I have developed over years of training experience and personal evolution as a coach. First, I prioritize the starts and intial acceleration for everyone. I don't mess with max velocity technique for fast skill guys and emphasize their needed strength and power qualities. I work max velocity technique for the big uglies.

I definitely feel acceleration is the most important during combine training.  Out of the 40, its the segment with the largest margin for improvement.  The quality of acceleration carries over into the other agility drills and the position drills as well.  Although we get multiple exposures to sprinting each week, the training time spent on acceleration is about twice that of max velocity.

To work on this we try to improve their specific strength qualities.  Starting strength, explosive strength/bodyweight ratios, and max strength if needed.  This is done in the weightroom and with plyometrics.  Nothing generic here.  Each players strength and plyo program is based on their neuromuscular profile.  We don't have time for general.

We also work on their acceleration mechanics.  We use wall drills, harnesses, sleds, bullet belts and just plain repetitions with video analysis.  For our football players, I find one of the most effective strategies is to use contrast training for its potentiation and kinesthetic awareness value.  Sled, bounds, sprint is an effective series.

When it comes to max velocity we will do a few "technical" drills.  Various skips, straight leg bounds, arm action, butt kick, wall drills.  These are done more than anything else for specific mobility and strength.  We don't over coach them. 

With our fast guys we don't change anything drastic.  They've done far to many reps and have developed this technique for us to try and change it in a few weeks.  Instead we try to provide quality reps, some video feedback to polish-up and let them do it.  We get some specifc strengthening through reps on our Woodway Force treadmill.    It provides some horizontal resistance to encourage proper foot contact and drive mechanics. 

For the linemen and some tight ends (big uglies), we do focus on teaching the max velocity mechanics a bit more.  They don't have the years of engraining here and can be more receptive to instruction.  It may help their time a little, and it helps them look much better (at least they wont fall over themselves) in front of scouts and coaches during the 40.

Nothing earth shattering here.  We don't drastically change anyone's mechanics.  We don't try to stereotype their movement mechanics.  Guided discovery through selected drills and feedback, so they can polish what works for them.  Build the specific strength, power and mobiilty qualities they need to succeed.