mtm-logoIt seems that every month or so there is an article, commentary, or an event that gains traction on the “bigger” news outlets and sends shockwaves through world of strength and conditioning. There was “The Killing Season” a few weeks back, and last fall the comments made about Chris Doyle at Iowa not being “worth the money”. In today’s day and age we all react quickly. We want to hit the like or share button before we process what we actually hear or read. Now, if we watch the whole video or read the whole article or not is another discussion in and of itself, but the reactions stay the same. We want to jump on a band wagon and beat the drum to say “look at this it’s so right/wrong”!

The latest article that has caught traction is the New York Times article on UCONN Women’s Basketball team and their “training characteristics”. This thing has blown up. I have a problem with what is going on in this for three reasons:

1) People are looking at the article and only taking away that they run/work till their tired and keep pushing to make them focus (see mental toughness and a whole different topic of conversation), and they lift hard all year. Ok, here is where the actual fear comes in for me. The sporting sub culture that is women’s basketball has long been one of over use injuries, and training designed around “making them tougher.” Now, the best team in the history of the game is saying, not only do we do that but also we do it at an even more extreme level than any of you. All I can see coming from this is strength coaches being called into their head coaches office and hearing something along the lines of “you need to push them harder, the workouts need to be faster and more intense, they need to be tougher.” If this is something that has been progressed, and started from the summer when the kids all start their off season, then I would tend to believe that we would all agree that this type of training could lead to success, but not because of the training itself, but because the training has been progressed to the point where the kids can handle the stress and not break down. That’s what my take away from the article was, that they constantly increase the stress applied to the athletes, so they are able to work at a greater level for a longer duration of time. That’s the key. Progress them and they get better. Just go bat shit crazy because “it’s what UCONN does” and we have a repeat of what happened in the Pacific Northwest this winter.

2) They do use monitoring. It says it right in the article. As a matter of fact, it seems that they monitor quite a bit. Just because it’s not HRV, or heart rate, or athlete tracking doesn’t mean it’s not monitoring. This has become such a polarizing thing it’s somewhat disgusting. Is there an art and a science to coaching, yup sure is, but that doesn’t mean you either are an artist or a scientist. So seriously, just get over it. You can help the kids by asking them a few questions and tracking it to see if there are trends. It’s easy, it’s cheap, and it’s monitoring. I’ve run teams where we have used HR monitors, and Omegawave, and questionnaires. I’ve also run teams where “this is the plan and we are sticking to it unless you all are open and honest about where we are.” Was one way more successful than the other? Yes, the group where the kids actually talked and were open and honest in discussing things. If you are going to monitor and you don’t know what you are looking to impact/track/change, then it isn’t going to work, but don’t tell me that if you are tracking questionaries’ that that’s not monitoring because it’s cheap and anyone can do it. Saying that’s not monitoring is just you making an agenda driven statement that ignorant at best. Chapter 2 of The Manual, Vol. 1 was about how to do just that. I couldn’t recommend reading what Kevin had to say there more.

3) Please do not over look some simple things that have the greatest impact on their success in Storrs. The first being they have, arguably, the best coach in the history of women’s basketball. We can talk all day about Gino vs. Pat, but at worst they’re 1A and 1B. He has assembled an absolutely fantastic staff that does an amazing job with their student athletes. Look at the last 4 or 5 paragraphs of that article and tell me that Coach Kimball isn’t doing every single thing possible to ensure the student athlete’s she is responsible for are successful. I mean seriously LOOK AT THAT LIST OF THINGS SHE DOES! From nutrition, to monitoring (YES IT SAYS IT FOLKS), to any form of training and recovery work you can think of. She covers all the bases. I wouldn’t expect the rest of the staff to be any less devoted either. (Disclaimer, all I know is what I read in this article, and I am super impressed, but have never seen any of this, so the statements in the article are all I have to go off of). So you have one of, if not the greatest coach of all time who has assembled a staff of dedicated hard working people who are doing a fantastic job, and you now are going to add in the fact that they recruit the best players in the world at the game we are talking about, and now maybe you have the perfect recipe for a winning streak greater than 100 games.

All in all, the moral of this story is be careful what you share, because the back story is more important than the single point that you may want to take from it. At the end of the day, your staff has to be fantastic at what they do and you have to progressively increase the stress placed upon the athlete in order to safely improve performance. I just hope that these articles don’t drive to many coaches to go to extremes when it comes to pushing kids too soon too fast. The necessity to have to change the culture of a team doesn’t mean kids have to get hurt. It means we all need to take a step back and look at what we can each do better to improve each factor affecting performance, because when push comes to shove, winning cures a lot of those “issues.”

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