Coaching Interview #3 – Ben Brugman (Part 2)

This is the third of a series of interviews with industry leaders in fields such as Strength & Conditioning, Coaching, Physical Therapy, Sports Psychology, Nutrition & Physical Education.

This is Part 2 of the interview. Check out Part 1 here

poses during the official 2013/14 NBL Headshots Session at The Entertainment Quarter on September 19, 2013 in Sydney, Australia.

Adelaide 36ers Team, Season 2013/2014. Ben is backrow, 3rd from Left.

Specific to Basketball, can you detail some of the performance outcomes you are trying address with the 36ers through S&C?

Overall I’m simply looking to develop more durable, better conditioned and more powerful athletes. The higher the training age in each guy the more specific you can get with that and there is a pretty solid variety in our squad. We have young development players with limited physical training under their belt who need to be taught the basics and progressed gradually, freak athletes with extensive training backgrounds who are the stuff of dreams for s&c coaches and blokes getting toward the end of their careers who just need to keep their bodies together and get through on a week to week basis. These guys all then need to be integrated under an overarching plan for each week, month, season and year.

Can you briefly describe how you ‘set-up’ the in-season week for the 36ers?

Looking at a Saturday-to-Saturday kind of week, we will usually have a short, sharp recovery session of some kind (beach, pool, a hit of cricket or walking touch footy just to get moving) on the morning after the game and the players will then have the rest of the day off. Monday is team video and a short skills session. Tuesday is a solid training and our main weights session for the week. Wednesday will usually be off completely. Thursday similar to Tuesday with a more supplementary weights session and Friday a lighter ½ court training session focused around more tactical aspects. We have a short shoot-around and walk through on the morning of the game and then its go-time.

Specific to AFL this time, can you detail some of the performance outcomes you are trying address with the Eagles FC through S&C?

Given the more general nature of the program with the large squad at Eagles I obviously need to touch on a variety of things in the physical preparation of the squad. The first step is injury prevention and trying to minimise the risk of ankles, hamstrings, groins, knees and shoulders. Much of this is achieved through good, robust strength training. The mechanisms of non-contact knee, ankle and shoulder injuries is relatively similar from one sport to the next and inherently the methods by which we look to prevent them are relatively similar across sports. There are however specific aspects in physical preparation for footy that need addressing, especially with regard to hamstrings and groins due to the higher running demand as well as the kicking skill that is required in footy.

Can you briefly describe how you ‘set-up’ the in-season week for the Eagles?

Again if we look at a Saturday-to-Saturday week. Sunday is similar to Basketball with a short sharp recovery and the remainder of the day off. Monday is a flexible session where the players will come through and complete further recovery work, a short player-driven individual skills session and then see one of the coaches for individual review. Tuesday is the main (compulsory) weights session for the week. Wednesday will be team video review and the main on-field session for the week. Thursday is a day off which some players use to get supplementary strength or conditioning work in and Friday is a very short session in which specific match-ups and tactical emphasis is discussed and both teams get through some full-ground unopposed movement work. Saturday morning is a top-up session for rehab players not involved in the game.

What have you found to be the most bang for buck type of ‘Strength’ or ‘Conditioning’ work for both basketball athletes and football athletes?

The simple stuff! I mentioned earlier, squat, lunge, push, pull, brace, rotate and hinge – the primary movements and the ability to do them with quality, under load, explosively and repeatedly at high intensities will give your program the best bang for buck. Conditioning work should be as specific to the sport as possible. Running sports should utilise running for conditioning where possible. From there consider the demands of the sport itself and what you are preparing the athlete for. Incorporating changes of direction and movement in multiple directions (forward, backward, sliding laterally) is a given for Basketball as this is what the athletes need to be prepared for. At the same time each of these aspects needs to be managed for each individual. “Bigs” with dodgy knees are not going to be able to complete the same kind of conditioning work as guards are and neither should they, the demands of their positions are entirely different.

What methods do you use to monitor daily/weekly training loads and athlete ‘readiness’?

I’ve utilised session RPE and wellness monitoring measures. Session RPE is well documented in the research and when utilised properly is a highly reliable means of monitoring groups and individuals for over-reaching and fatigue. Wellness monitoring involves players responding to questions regarding fatigue, sleep, muscle soreness, stress and mood. I generally send these to players 48 hrs pre and post game. This helps to highlight any outliers within the group who have responded particularly poorly or particularly well following a game or training week. These are two very simple methods for one very simple man. I happily admit that I often work a lot based on “feel” and from talking to the athletes themselves. I am much stronger in the art of coaching than I am in the science. The science side of things helps back up arguments or highlight things that otherwise may have been missed, especially in a large group.

How does player ‘readiness’ influence the daily training structure or upcoming game schedule?

Game schedules are obviously set so it’s up to us to work around them. Week to week in-season it’s a constant battle between being prepared vs being fatigued. The discussion between myself and the coaches, especially in a footy context will usually involve questions surrounding the training plan for the day. These questions include competitive vs non competitive, contact vs non-contact, full ground vs half ground vs limited space, speed of movement in the drills and which specific players are required for which specific drills. These conversations will decide who is and is not available for different parts of training.

At the semi-professional level, often various hats are worn by coaches; do you do any specific sport science with either sporting code?

I don’t exactly throw a lab coat on but in a lot of instances your training is your testing. Part of being an s&c coach is often also being a biomechanist, performance analyst and sport scientist whilst being careful not to overstep your scope of practice. I’ve dabbled in time-motion analysis of Basketball training and games, sprinting technique analysis and a number of other areas of overlap between sport science and s&c. Again, I’m well aware my strengths lay in the art of coaching more heavily than the science so I only test what is important and needs testing, overloading myself and coaches with numbers and graphs is the last thing I want to do.

Do you currently have access to any performance technology? On a wish list, explain which technology you feel would enhance training and performance outcomes?

At the NBL and SANFL level having a fully functional strength training facility is a win so I consider myself lucky just to have that. We don’t use any other technology on a regular basis at this stage but my wish list is definitely steadily growing. We have been lucky enough to have help from some other organisations around Adelaide to allow us to use timing gates for speed and change of direction testing with 36ers but I’m starting to question the value of this initial benchmarking when we aren’t really able to reproduce the testing due to a lack of resources. A force plate or contact mat for neuromuscular fatigue monitoring is up there. The use of Gymaware, Tendo and Push products for velocity based strength training are also starting to grow in credibility.

Again, the last thing I want to do is overload myself, coaches or athletes with data so before worrying about any performance technology I think it’s important to tick a few questions off. 1. What are you looking to measure? 2. How will you do it? 3. How will these measures actually influence training? 4. Will this detract from other aspects of training? If all these answers are in the positive then go right ahead, if not then it is probably best to rethink.

Being a young coach in the industry, where would you ultimately like to end up?

Anywhere I can continue to develop as a coach while helping athletes and teams win and also maintain a good work/life balance for myself. The profession as a whole changes too quickly to really think too far ahead but right now I just want to keep improving as a professional. I’m also looking to get amongst a Masters by Research at some stage in the next year or two. From there, who knows?


Follow Ben on Twitter: @benbrug


Thanks to Ben for being the one of the initial coaching contributors to the College Strength & Conditioning Blog.


Stay tuned in the next few weeks for our first female Strength & Conditioning coaching contributor!!

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