Coach Brian McCormick
How and why did you get into the field of strength and conditioning?
I was a basketball coach and did a number of skill clinics on the side. More and more, I saw these wannabe trainers doing things that I knew were incorrect and potentially harmful, and calling them "plyometrics" and "quickness training." The final straw was watching a "trainer" after a two-hour workout put a dozen kids next to portable bleachers and have them jump on and off the bleachers, at the same time, for 2:00; he told the parents that he was training their explosiveness. I felt he was lucky that a lawsuit did not ensue from a player missing the bleacher and crashing face first into the second row, as the portable bleachers slid along the ground every time the players landed.
At that point, I decided that it was time to broaden my knowledge base and learn more about strength and conditioning to complement my coaching and skill training so that there was a voice of reason in the marketplace. I never lifted as a high school player; there were all kinds of old wife's tales about lifting weights stunting your growth or negatively impacting your jump shot and plyometrics were viewed as dangerous. Then, my playing career essentially ended because I lacked the strength and explosiveness to utilize my skills and basketball I.Q. at higher levels of competition. If I grew up today with the prevalence of resistance training, jump training, speed training, etc., I would have been a totally different athlete and extended my career as a player because I had the technical and tactical skills - I simply never developed enough athleticism. Even when I went to a gym in high school, the trainer put me on nautilus machines and had me doing leg extensions and chest presses the whole time. I went to the same gym during the time when I was pursuing my Master's degree and credentials, and the same trainer was putting junior high school and high school athletes on the same machines, with the same "squats are dangerous" mentality. I guess I am in the S&C field because of all the negatives that I saw in the athlete development field as a player and a beginning coach, and a desire to help young athletes get past the mis-information and bad trainers to maximize their athletic development so their careers did not hit the same plateau as mine.
What are the top three (3) training tips you would give to a basketball athlete beginning a strength and conditioning program?
1) Learn to move correctly. I am amazed at the poor movement quality of basketball players and their inability to squat, lunge, bend, etc. with good technique and a full range of motion. Then, of course, they add weight to improper movement patterns or a limited range of motion and the injury cycle ensues.
2) Lift explosively.
3) Use more body weight exercises. Nobody, it seems, wants to do body weight exercises anymore. Maybe it is because athletes cannot do more than 2-3 pull-ups. I watch female D1 college basketball players who cannot do 10 push-ups. Why are you bench pressing if you cannot do a push-up correctly?
What has been the biggest mistake you made as a coach when training a player?
Not being more adamant about a player resting. I did skills training with a player who developed a hip problem. I should have been more authoritative when telling the player to rest rather than work out. The minor hip issue has plagued the player for parts of three seasons now, and was exacerbated by his college strength coach who had him squatting 250lbs before doing a functional assessment to realize that he lacked the hip mobility to squat with the right technique - so, now the hip problem is also a lower back problem. While my one hour per week of shooting likely did not worsen the hip issue, the physical toll of competing with two teams and his own practices made the small issue a big one. While it is hard for a private strength or skills coach who sees an athlete 1-2 times per week to oversee and advise a player on his entire developmental program, someone needs to guide young athletes and, in some cases, get them out of their own way. While I deferred to his father and his physical therapist, I should have been more demanding because of the trust that I had with the player, which went beyond the trust between he and his new physical therapist or his school or club coach.