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Devan McConnell

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Sep 4, 2010 3:31:00 PM

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Devan McConnell

How and why did you get into the field of strength and conditioning?

Growing up I was a hockey player. I was always decently talented, but I was fortunate to be instilled with a great work ethic from my parents, who always preached the importance of dedication and hard work. Because of this, and my passion for the game of hockey, I was always trying to better myself.  In high school I was again very fortunate to have access to a strength and conditioning coach and PE teacher by the name of Chris Mattingly, who taught me how to train and was really ahead of his time back then.
I really enjoyed training and quickly saw how it improved my performance on the ice, and ever since I was hooked. I trained throughout my career and really had an interest in not only getting myself better, but helping my teammates improve as well. It was not until I was in college that I realized this hobby and passion that I had was a viable career choice. Up until then I never put two and two together and I was looking to get an education in Physical Therapy, although I knew I wanted to be on the performance side of things, not necessarily the rehab side.
It was at that point that I again found myself in an incredibly lucky situation, as I was invited to be an intern by Michael Boyle. I spent my junior summer learning and coaching and getting more and more passionate about strength and conditioning, and ever since then I have been completely immersed in the field.

Who in the field has influenced or helped you the most?

I have had many people influence me over the years, but by far the biggest influence on my development and career path has been Michael Boyle. I actually met him for the first time when I was 15 at the USA Hockey National Festival, however it was during my time in college when he really took on the role of mentor to me. He invited me to work as an intern at his private facility, MBSC, and ever since he has helped shape my philosophy as a coach. Things like training movements not muscles,  training athletes not sports, the importance of single leg work, and how to “speak coach” are all valuable lessons I’ve learned from Coach Boyle.

What is your philosophy on basketball conditioning?

Basketball is a power, interval sprint based game. The movement patterns and work to rest ratios are very clear when you break down game film. There is absolutely no slow, endurance type action that takes place during a basketball game. Coaches who still believe steady state aerobic work is necessary to the conditioning of a basketball player are simply uninformed, naïve, or just plain stubborn and set in their outdated ways.
When performing conditioning work for the game of basketball, it is crucial to understand the energy system demands of the sport, and build your program around that. Because of this, all the conditioning work I implement with my athletes is interval based. We use different tools and different intensities based on the time of year, injury history, and other various circumstances, but we are always performing our conditioning work in an interval format.
Interval training is not only more specific to the demands of the game of basketball, but it also produces better results than steady state aerobic exercise in less time, with less joint stress, and on a wider spectrum of physiological adaptations than any other method. We can not only develop the anaerobic energy system of a basketball player with interval training, but also the aerobic system. This is not possible in the reverse order. An athlete cannot become more anaerobically trained via endurance work. Most sport coaches do not know this and have a hard time understanding the reasons behind it. 
Not only do I utilize interval training for these reasons, but also to avoid the negative impact that endurance work can have on a power-based athlete. Changes in the physiology of an athlete such as a shift towards slow twitch muscle fiber can occur, which will lead to a decrease in speed and power.  Overuse injuries are also more likely to develop due to the repetitive stress that will occur with long runs.

Should a female basketball player train differently than a male basketball player?

No, a female basketball player should not train any differently than a male player, however in   my opinion it is most male’s who should train like females. The things that are important for a female basketball player to focus on in order to be successful from a training standpoint, both when it comes to injury reduction and performance enhancement are the same variables which will help a male. Explosive power, single leg emphasis, core and lumbar stabilization, interval training. These are all areas of development which will help any athlete, whether they are male or female, or for that matter a basketball or football or hockey or lacrosse player.
Unfortunately, many males still spend the bulk of their training time worrying about one-upping their teammates on the bench press, getting as much arm work in as possible, and wasting their time and potentially setting themselves up for future back problems with spinal flexion based core work. On the other hand, most females, if they train at all, spend their time doing aerobic exercise, performing high rep-low weight “strength” work, and also focusing on spinal flexion based core work. Both groups would benefit from training in a functional manner, that is taking a look at how the body actually operates, and performing exercises which compliment and improve their ability to play the game of basketball.
Generally speaking, males need to leave the ego at the door, and females need to learn how the benefits of proper training will help them be successful, and for both groups that means training the same way- intelligently.

Topics: Devan McConnell, Q&A