How and why did you get into the field of strength and conditioning?
After watching a strength and conditioning coach give a demonstration on a power clean my freshman year of high school I always knew this was the profession for me!
Who in the field has influenced or helped you the most? Influence your training philosophy? What have you learned from them that you can you share?
Al Vermeil, Erik Helland and Jeff Macy had profound impact while I was an intern with the Bulls. The helped me create a great foundation to base my training philosophy on. They taught me the importance of contiunuing education. Teaching the athletes using a slow progressive approach to exercise progression, loading etc has been an extremely valuable tool they have given me. The very detailed coaching style they passed to me has been invaluable.
Name 3-5 books every basketball strength and conditioning coach should have in their library.
Supertraining, Tipping Point, The Trigger Therapy Workbook
What is the last book you read and why?
The last book I read was What the Dog Saw, by Malcolm Gladwell. I enjoy reading Gladwell's work, I was introduced to his writing by one of our Assistant Basketball Coaches, I was immediately hooked. He has the ability to make sociology and our interpersonal relationships interesting. Most of that stuff bores me to death, but he does make it entertaining. I believe that most strength & conditioning coaches could stand some improvement in this area, including myself.
Generally speaking, what is your philosophy for training a basketball player? How does it differ from other sport athletes?
We train our basketball athletes by first correcting any major movement or postural flaws. From there we build off a great work capacity base built through a foundation of muscular endurance work, med ball throws etc. After technical mastery of the basic lifting, running and jumping progressions we introduce load and complexity. We have a standard of norms we want our players to hit for every phase of training. They know where they are at and where they need to be. The way the approach is different than other sports is the inclusion of basketball agility drills, and conditioning that is geared toward basketball.
What has been the biggest mistake you made as a coach when training a player?
I failed early on in my career to develop a great relationship with my athletes. I don't know who coined the term "Rules without relationships equals rebellion," but I think they were pretty close. I never got to rebellion, but I think I was close a few times.
How has your training philosophy changed in the last 3-5 years?
I have a group of basketball players right now whom I am able to coach more on feel. If they come in and tell me they don't feel good I am not afraid to back off intensity in all areas. I am also more willing to let athletes bump their intensity up depending on how they feel. 3-5 years ago I would be very strict with the intensity and volume of my periodization. I have learn to let go and let the athletes have more say in their training. I have seen nothing but great results, healthier, stronger athletes.
For interns, volunteer coaches, graduate assistances, etc. inspiring to be basketball strength coaches, what advice would you give?
Vern Gambetta said it best when he said "It is easy to fatigue athletes, hard to train them." Know the difference, avoid the former, strive for the latter.
What are the three (3) biggest mistakes a basketball player makes when it comes to strength and conditioning?
1.Not enough strength work
2. Not enough pulling work
3. Too many arm exercises!
What are the top three (3) training tips you would give to a basketball athlete beginning a strength and conditioning program?
1. Find someone who knows how to train basketball athletes and work with them.
2. Be Patient, be technically and mechanically sound before progressing in intensity and complexity.
3. Listen to your body, adjust daily activities accordingly
What is your training philosophy regarding in-season training? Off-season training? Pre-season training?
During the in-season we still train fairly heavy. We will quickly adjust the load depending on how athletes feel. We keep the volume relatively low but we keep the intensity moderate. We concentrate more on pulling, they really need to keep up on pulling movements for keeping posture. Off-season we use three phases: work capacity, strength, and strength/speed. The athletes most master each phase before moving on. This is exactly the way Al Vermeil did it. During the Pre-season we introduce more conditioning, we keep the lifting and jumping fairly constant. We do more shuttles, basketball agility drills, 110m tempo runs etc.
What areas do you address for those players that don't play significant minutes during the in-season?
In college we don't have as many games as they do in the pros. Therefore they practice just as much as the guys who play lots of minutes, maybe even more. So I don't add additional workouts very often for these guys. I'd rather save them for increased intensity during the sessions of lifting we do have and greater practice intensity. I would rather them spend time during the season working on their skill. We will hammer out the physical qualities in the off-season.
What is your philosophy on basketball conditioning? Some sport coaches believe in long distance training to improve basketball specific endurance? What is your opinion?
Really the only steady state work will do is on the bike. We do not run anything over 400m at a time. Long distance running does not suit long levered athletes. The bones in the foot and lower leg are just too long to handle a ton of distance. Additionally it does not suit the metabolic demands of the sport and detracts from improving strength and power. I would first rather make the athletes more mechanically efficient and stronger (per bodyweight), which leads to a lowered metabolic demand, and then introduce conditioning. Mostly we do med ball circuits, slide board, tempo runs, shuttles, agility circuits etc.
What are some of the biggest myths that still surround strength training and the basketball athlete?
You need to jump 200+ times a day. That volume might suit you for a week or two.
Should female basketball players train differently than male players?
No. although I think a lot of the female basketball players I see are very strength deficient. They might need more pure strength work then men. Also be aware that females might need to be backed down based on their bodily needs.
What assessments or evaluations do you use with your players during pre-season? Summer months?
I have gotten away from movement screening the athletes, I used to do it with everyone. But I realized without video taping, or having some quantifiable data it would be too subjective. They do go through a comprehensive medical evaluation every year. When we first start warming up these players for the first time we keep an eye on ankle flexibility (dorsiflexion, pronation, supination), Hip mobility (Hip extension, Internal/external rotation), lumbar integrity, thoracic mobility, should mobility etc. These qualities are judged every minute of every day through great coaching and exercise selection. It would be nice to compare movement screens to gauge improvement. We test counter movement vertical jump, standing triple jump, ground reaction time between 30" hurdles, 20 Yard sprint, 84kg bench press, pull-ups and 180 yard shuttle test that we got form Roy Williams and Jonas Sahration. We never really test strength numbers, but we keep a running tally every week of Snatch, Cleans, Push Press, Front Squat, RDL, Liftoffs, Military Press. We compare these numbers to their bodyweight strength norms.
Are the training requirements for a post player different than a perimeter player? How so?
We adjust our training norms, the training goals for our players to hit, based on position and bodyweight, not height. For example a #1 is required to jump a 32" CMVJ on a just jump mat., a #5 is required to hit 26".
What are some of the challenges you experience when training a red-shirt player?
They are red shirting for a reason, Usually they are injured coming out of high school, academically ineligible, lack skill or lack physical abilities. All of which will play into designing the training program. They all carry different challenges.
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?
Absolutes are never good when designing training programs.. I try to never rule out an exercise. I will generally front squat my players heavy year round. I will also include single leg work and TONS of pulling movements.
Name some strength training gimmicks that basketball players and coaches should avoid?
Stay away from the Verti-max! it is expensive and ineffective. I don't like trap bars, because they remove the anterior pull that a bar creates which results in such great thoracic area spinal erector strength. I am also not a big fan of the speed ladder. I don't really see that it greatly improves agility, and creates many improper leg movement patterns.
What is the best way to develop lateral speed in basketball? Agility? First step quickness?
Very loaded question, but in short. Improve the qualities that are lacking for most it is strength, for others elastic reactive ability, for others it is improvement of motor pattern. For some it could even be flexibility. So it really depends, sorry for the vague answer.
Players love to compete whether it's on the court or in the weight room. How do you create a competitive environment in the weight room?
I want the athletes to better themselves. We shoot for personal records, we don't have team records. Every time an athletes hits a PR or norm goal for the first time they are acknowledged. If they are lacking proficiency, their teammates will let them know about it.
What methods do you use to develop explosive power? What are your thoughts for using the Olympic lifts in your training?
Olympic lifts are the best exercises for developing power, so obviously I am in favor of them. We use the traditional lifts along with many of the auxiliary lifts.
How do you address nutrition with your players?
If they are having trouble with energy demands or body weight we start with a food journal. From there we will make adjustments depending on the athlete's likes and dislikes. We are not overly scientific in this area, we keep things very simple and basic.
What injury prevention strategies do you implement with your athletes?
Injury prevention is just a factor of sound training and progression. This could be a 100 page article, but simply put it is recognizing deficiencies in strength, flexibility, proprioception, postural imbalances and movement patterns. Creating a program that addresses these issues is important. I have found that strengthening players with sound movements accounts for 80% the problems.
What training advice would you give to a high school basketball player seeking to improve their strength and power?
Seek a qualified professional, I have been doing this as my job for a while and some days I am not sure what I am doing.