How and why did you get into the field of strength and conditioning?
I moved out of Wisconsin in 2001 to Daytona Beach, Florida. After a short stint working in a deli, I started working at a health club and soon became a personal trainer. I knew very little but I worked hard and made good money. However, I knew that this wasn't going to be long-term thing. I had a passion for sports, especially basketball. If only I could find a way to combine the two. I finished my associate's degree in Daytona Beach and transferred to University of Florida.
Fast forward to the summer of 2005, I was a physiology and kinesiology major, sitting in a coaching class. The kid sitting next to me was a basketball manager, Kyle Gilreath. We spoke on a daily basis about the basketball program and I had no clue the structure or how a college team worked. After Kyle explained they had their own strength and conditioning coach I asked if he'd introduce me. I went to the Florida Basketball facilities where I was introduced to Matt Herring. We spoke for almost 2 hours and Matt offered for me to be a "fly on the wall," for the rest of summer. I took that opportunity to heart and 5 years later, I'm the basketball strength coach at Alabama.
How has your training philosophy changed in the last 3-5 years?
My philosophy hasn't taken a 180 in the last 3 years but I have solidified and enhanced my knowledge of my beliefs. I have also widened by horizons by looking at a lot of other coaches. I truly believe that basketball players need to be trained functionally; using the ground, gravity, momentum through tri-plane movement. That gets misinterpreted as crazy lunges, reaches and jumps. I even thought that at one point. I really think it's following our anatomy and functions of how we're programmed and training it efficiently and effectively. That doesn't have to be crazy; it can be kept very simple and organized. For a while I had a huge toolbox and was willing to try every tool to see what it did. Now I have a huge toolbox with organization and purpose.
I also have seen that no matter what style or philosophy you have it truly isn't the most important thing. How you do what you do is by far the most important thing. If all you do is squat and bench than do that with all your heart and make your players believe that it's getting them to be the best. I now realize that X's and O's are important but how I implement those is more important.
What are the 3 biggest mistakes a basketball player makes when it comes to strength and conditioning?
I'm going to pace myself for conditioning to make it through; last set best set, I'm giving 110%. This is a huge pet peeve of mine. We'll be doing a conditioning test where the players are struggling to make their times at 35 seconds. Our head coach will yell out, "If you make the last run in 32 seconds than you don't have to run the last 2. And magic, guys are making their runs in 28 seconds.
Give your best as much as you can. It is impossible to give 100% all the time, impossible in my eyes to give 110%. You'll be in better condition in the long run if you give that type of effort all the way through.
I don't want to get too big! I'm too skinny I need to get huge! Another huge mistake players confuse themselves with is body weight. Is their size inhibiting them from being better? I think each individual has their own zone of body weight and size that is optimal for themselves. I also believe body composition is just as important as body weight. The guy who gained 15 pounds has now increased his body fat percentage by 3 has probably not helped himself. Let coaches help determine the best needs not a guy on a school blog or NBA draft guru.
I want to get on LeBron's plan! I heard Dwight Howard does this! That's great; do you have LeBron's skill or athleticism or Kobe's desire, work ethic, and discipline? LeBron, Kobe, Dwight, and others all have their workouts for them. Your individual needs are very different. Some of the things they do may be great but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's what you need.
I think squatting is great. I also think it can have negatives. If it's in your philosophy to squat then squat! With basketball players I think it's essential to understand the differences in body size and therefore the impact a squat has on the player. The current group I have has 4 really good squatters and 4 who are not so good. I'm working on improving their form but also realize that I'm not going to load a guy with 225 on his back just to say we squatted. I think that hurts him. The 4 who can squat will squat. The others we'll create a squat or exercise to make them successful.
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?
It it's appropriate in-season and the players are capable we'll squat. I'll also use various forms of the squat ranging from foot stances, dumbbells, heel elevated, keiser squat, bodyweight, or using a vest.
I love single leg training as well. I find lots of asymmetries that I can address by using single leg work. Sometimes the squat is a disguise to some issues. We do so much work on 1-leg it's important to train that way.
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 like to use competitions when appropriate. I'll also use themes for whoever we'll be playing a certain week. I think that negative comments all the time do not work. I'm trying to focus on building a culture of intensity through positive and rewarding words. I'm afraid that if I bring up the bad that's all my guys will remember, what they can't do or how they got beat. I need them believing more in themselves and what they can do, than they even know. I continuously try to create a vision for each workout. Recently I've told the guys Friday's will be tight shirt day. I even put my Nike Pro on with them. Freaky Friday's are some of our best workouts!
This is an underrated category; this is an area that speaks about how you do things. If used correctly I think this can create an immense mental advantage of your players.