Bad traditions don’t die soon enough
Posted by Dean Holden at July 26th, 2014
by Jack Blatherwick, 9 July 2014
For more than a century, it has been fashionable for team coaches and strength/fitness instructors to think they are drill sergeants. They aren’t satisfied with an exercise until everyone is gassed – until tongues are dragging on the ground.
Football coaches have led the way, carrying a bad tradition from military boot camps to youth and high school athletic fields. ‘Two-a-day’ practices in the August sun lasted six hours or more, and – by the way – killed hundreds of young athletes who put their trust in the wrong adults. The military, to their credit, had the wisdom to rein in this bad tradition, but some football coaches have resisted change, and we are likely to see more deaths from heat stroke this fall.
Training for Athleticism must be designed intelligently, featuring Quality rather than Quantity training. If this coaching fundamental is ignored, the most important goals – Speed, Quickness, Agility – will not be achieved.
In a recent discussion with a young hockey player it was clear that a major 12-month training goal was lost, because his fitness instructor felt the need to make every exercise extremely hard rather than productive. Based on test results and observations of his coaches, this player needs to develop quickness in the first few strides – a project that is addressed mainly off-ice. Short sprints are a major part of his training, emphasizing efficiency of force production, not just a lot of force.
He had done sprints consistently over the last year, but tests showed no improvement in a 20-yard dash. How is this possible? His ‘sprints’ were shuttle runs that have captured the hearts and minds of coaches for decades: sprint out 10 yards and back; then without rest, out 20 yards and back; no rest, then 30 and back, etc. They’ve been called ‘Killers,’ or ‘Running-the-lines,’ or ‘Herbies (on ice).’ Players have come up with names we won’t print.
The point is, this particular player needed quality quickness training, and it was perverted into endurance training, or mental toughness training or … just plain ignorance. This is not how you train for quickness. That requires sprints that are each as fast as the sprint he does when testing. Short 100 percent sprint intervals and long rest intervals are essential.
Coaches must become experts with intervals. Agility exercises and skill drills are often confused with endurance training if the work intervals are too long and recovery intervals too short. Perhaps later in a speed workout the intervals can be modified slightly to fulfill the need to maintain speed for longer intervals over an entire game. I inserted the word ‘slightly,’ because if these are done slowly as players fatigue, the training amounts to assurance they will perform slowly when they are slightly tired in games.
The bottom line is that if a player has 12 months to improve quickness, there must be hundreds of short sprints with adequate recovery. My advice: Be a coach, not a drill sergeant.