How and Why did you get into the field of strength and conditioning
This is kind of a long story, but I'll try to keep it short so I don't bore any of your readers. I was always a "bigger" kid growing up, and had trouble participating in many sports because of my disadvantageous size. I went out for football my freshman year in high school and vowed to lose enough weight so that I would have the opportunity to play more. At my peak, I weighed 225 lbs (standing in at a whopping 5'4) with probably a body-fat of 30% (and that's being generous).
I did a complete overhaul on my diet, began to exercise every day, and read anything I could get my hands on regarding training, and nutrition. I ended up going a little over board and lost 90 lbs in six months. I was then introduced to the weight-room and fell in love with it. As a high school senior, I knew I wanted to be involved in athletics in some way and what better way than athletic preparation? I loved the prospect of training athletes for their sport and knew I wanted to be a strength and conditioning coach.
I went to the University of Connecticut and volunteered in the varsity weight room in my second week of school. I began by simply observing and asking questions and each year I gained more and more responsibility. By my senior year, I was given two teams to train and coach on my own, which was an unbelievable opportunity in itself. This worked itself into a graduate assistant position at UCONN for another year a half. Along the way I was fortunate enough to complete internships with Mike Boyle at his professional facility, and with Jeff Oliver at the College of the Holy Cross.
Who in the field has influenced or helped you the most? Influence your training philosophy? What have you learned from them that you can share?
There have been a number of people that have inspired and influenced me in a number of ways. I really admire all of the people that I have gotten to work with over the years, namely: Jerry Martin, Andrea Hudy, Shawn Windle, Teena Murray, Chris West, Moe Butler, Pat Dixon, Mike Boyle, Ed Lippie, Walter Norton Jr., Jeff Oliver, Liz Proctor, Charles Maka, and anybody else that I forgot.
I would also like to mention that people that have really shaped the industry and been willing to share their own knowledge: Everybody at T-Nation (Cressey, Robertson, TC, Waterbury, Shugart, Thibaudeau, Berardi, John, Cosgrove, Tate, Poliquin, King, and many others), Louie Simmons, Robb Rogers, Vern Gambetta, Mike Boyle, Paul Chek, Juan Carlos Santana, Mike Clark, Mark Verstegen, Charlie Francis (RIP), and all the other great minds and coaches in the field today.
Jerry Martin and the entire staff at UCONN taught me about organization and understanding that the athlete is more than just the body. They taught me to train the mind and challenge my athletes mentally as well as physically. They taught me how to create a championship type environment within training sessions. I don't think enough coaches realize that training the mind is not only as important but sometimes more important than training the body.
Mike Boyle and his staff taught me how to look at the body more functionally. They taught me how write programs, coach and always look for better ways to do things. They taught me to question things and understand that there might always be a better way to do things. They taught me how to look for dysfunctions within the body and how important it is in the development of the athlete.
Jeff Oliver taught me how to maintain balance within my life and how to truly care for your athletes. He taught me that everybody we work with is a human being, not just an athlete. If we attempt to make better people, we will make better athletes. He taught me that work isn't everything and that you have to take time for yourself to ultimately do your job better.
These three different work environments have had a tremendous impact upon myself as a human being and coach. My parents taught me the foundation of work ethic, respect and self-discipline. Their teachings along with my work environments have influenced and shaped my philosophy to where it is currently, which is to:
1. Train my athletes with an emphasis on reducing the chance of injury
2. Train my athletes to become better athletes rather than a better basketball player
3. Educate my athletes about themselves, training, nutrition, mental toughness, discipline, work ethic, etc.
The methods and exercises may change year to year, but the underlying goals never change. I thank everybody for giving me an opportunity to be better and I try to get my athletes to understand that they get to get better each and every day.
What is the last book I read and Why?
The last book I read was the Talent Code by Daniel Coyle and it was recommended by our Hockey Coach. It was a very good book discussing how and why people become experts or very good at something. It's very similar to Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell in that regards but goes more into myelin and repetition and how that lays the neural pathways to become really, really good at something.
I'm currently reading the Lone Survivor by Marcus Lutrell, which is a story about a Navy Seal and his story of survival in battle. So far, it's been an outstanding read, especially when he describes the training that the Seal's undergo. It puts to shame what we our athletes think is hard. It really gives you a better idea of what the human body is capable of doing.
What are the three biggest mistakes a basketball player makes when it comes to strength and conditioning?
1. No focus on mobility/flexibility training. Basketball athletes tend to have horrible mobility and flexibility because of the repetitive movements that they perform by playing all the time. Full range of motion is rarely performed while playing basketball and needs to be implemented to improve joint health and longevity. Constant repetitive movements through a small range of motion will tear up joints and lead to overuse injuries.
2. Poor selection of lower body strength movements. Uneducated athletes will tend to use machines when performing lower body training such as the leg press, leg curls and leg extensions which doesn't adequately train the muscles to perform the way they need during sport.
3. Running long distance for conditioning. Again this is another poor selection by uneducated athletes and coaches. I'm a big believer in the adage of train slow to be slow, train fast to be fast. Running slow for a prolong distance in one direction is not what basketball athletes do and it doesn't make sense to why that should form the bulk of their conditioning. If you're going to do a long distance run every 2 weeks or so, then it's OK, but it should not be done as the primary means of conditioning. Basketball athletes should focus on sprints, intervals and performing a variety of different movements that occur during a game at a high intensity with rest intervals mixed in.
What assessments or evaluations do you use with your players during pre-season? Summer months?
I use the Functional Movement screen with our basketball athletes and we perform it twice a year. The first time is after the season to assess how effective our in-season warm-ups and training were to maintain optimal mobility; it also helps me identify areas of emphasis for our post-season training and extra training that our athletes have to do.
The second time of the year is in the pre-season once my athletes return from the summer. This is used to identify how effective our mobility work was during the season and if any movement dysfunctions were cleared.
The other test that we implement along with the FMS is a wall dorsiflexion test to measure the amount of dorsiflexion our athletes possess. We put a tape measure on the ground from the wall. The athlete stands next to the tape and goes through closed chain dorsiflexion by pushing their knee towards the wall. If the athlete can touch their knee to the wall by keeping their foot flat on the ground, we move them back .5 inch at a time until they can no longer maintain those standards. I want my athletes to at least have 3 inches of dorsiflexion.
Other tests that we perform during the post-season and pre-season are the following:
a. Vertical Jump standing (countermovement)
b. Vertical Jump with Approach
c. Lane Agility
d. Free throw & ¾ Court Sprint
e. Bench Press (repetition max)
f. Max Pull-ups
g. 3, 300 yd Shuttles - all 3 have to be w/in 90% of their best time and their first shuttle must beat their previous best time. They get 2:00 rest b/w shuttles. This test is only performed in the pre-season. One time is taken in the post-season; this is the time that must be beaten.
There has been a lot of debate about the squat and single leg training. In your opinion, should basketball players squat? Year Round? Only Summer? Never?
I'm a big believer that basketball athletes should not perform bilateral squatting movements with a large degree of loading. The things that make good basketball players (long limbs, long torsos) don't make for great squatters. They also don't have the greatest amount of dorsiflexion which will impair the squat pattern.
I think basketball athletes can perform isometric squats, bodyweight squats and squats with DB's, but am not a believer that they have to squat with a bar to get strong. I've had my basketball athletes perform single leg training as their primary means of strength development since 2004 and have had great success while improving strength, power and minimizing lower body injuries.
What's the point in only squatting for a certain part of the year? That's like saying you should only shoot and dribble in-season. Squatting is a movement pattern and skill that needs to be practiced continuously; I think if you choose to load the pattern, you need to continue to perform the movement so you don't lose it. I choose to bodyweight squat or perform isometrics and this is how we help to maintain this movement.
I'm sure people will disagree, but this is what works for me and that's why we can all learn from each other.