Coaching is all about relationships

Coaching is all about relationships. Period. There really is nothing else. Athletes will not listen or buy-in to coaches’ they have not formed a connection with.

The past week has been perhaps the most traumatic week of my life. As a coach, it really made me realise the impact you can have on your athletes. I guess it is something you always hear, you are shaping the lives of the people you work with, however up until this week I really didn’t take much notice of sentiments such as this. I would not say I was ignorant to the fact that this happens; more so that someone had been so impacted by the encouragement, support and confidence which I had attempted to impart on them. It hit me right in the face! Coaching young (or old) people truly is a privileged position.

Reflecting back on my days as an athlete; the times when I didn’t enjoy it was due to a breakdown in the relationship with the coach. I think in the past year or so, I suspect as all coaches go through, I’ve realised it’s much more than just the X’s and O’s. At times, like all coaches, I was immersed in textbooks. I think you need to be. But this is only Step 1 of a very long journey.

It’s not what you know; it’s what you can get your athletes to do.

Without a coach-athlete relationship built on trust, communication and understanding, you have nothing. The relationship you have with each athlete will be different, but you really need to know them better than just their stat line or how much weight they can push. You need to find a way to establish a connection and continue this connection over time. If this begins to fade, not only does the performance suffer, but the relationship begins to deteriorate rapidly. I’ve experienced this both as the athlete and the coach. It sucks.

To all coaches, keep creating strong connections with your athletes, listen to what they have to say, and support them in which ever way you can. You are having a much larger impact on these people than you will ever know.

They don’t care how much you know; until they know how much you care.

 

RIP JP

 

If you, or you know of someone suffering from mental health issues, please contact Beyond Blue for support.

 

Force-Velocity Profile: Are you training correctly?

Every time I open my Twitter account, there seems to be more research and information released specific to Force-Velocity Profiles (FVP). It is becoming of greater interest to understand that although homogenous training is necessary at specific times during the training plan, it is also necessary to understand if any physiological and neuromuscular imbalances exist. This is where profiling your athletes can become advantageous.

At one end of the Force-Velocity Curve, see below, we have High Force-Low Velocity (heavy back squat) and at the opposite end, Low Force-High Velocity (assisted jumping). Using sprinting as an example, overcoming inertia and accelerating from the blocks (0-40m) would be HF-LV, whereas maximal velocity sprinting (40-100m including some decel time) would be LF-HV.

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Power is one of the key elements to sporting success. How much force can you apply at the highest possible velocity? How much work can you do in the shortest period of time? Whether it be in a horizontal (acceleration>sprinting) or vertical (jumping) vector, the rate at which (plus magnitude & direction) force is applied is largely a limiting factor to overall performance.

Leading the way in this field are the following researchers/practitioners: JB Morin, Pierre Samozino, Pedro Jimenez-Reyes, Matt Brughelli, Jake Schuster and Matt Cross. These guys are doing fantastic work, continually challenging the thought process of how to improve our athletes.

Instantaneous Power output is the product of the external force developed by velocity. How quickly can you apply the force to throw an external mass (Discus), perform a CMJ, change direction or accelerate from a stationary position away from your opponent?

Using a common ballistic movement such as jumping (vertical profiling), an athlete’s maximum power, Pmax, can be calculated by performing a series of loaded jump squats (from above paper). For example using a Smith Machine at, 0% BW (CMJ), 25% BW, 50% BW, 75%, 100% BW, you can start to see how the athlete can demonstrate velocity at increasing loads. This protocol, or a variation of this, is shown in various papers by the above researchers. There are some papers which only use one to three external loads to develop the profile however most of the recent research endorse the use of five randomized external loads. With the use of various pieces of technology, GymAware, Optojump, Push, Force Plates, MyJumpApp, depending on the level of values desired, the actual FVP can be generated, then the optimal FVP developed (see below).

fvp

Without rehashing all of the literature, the Optimal FVP for the athlete is calculated by extrapolating the intercepts for both components, providing F0, the theoretical maximal force the lower limbs can produce at null velocity (N/kg), and V0, the theoretical maximal velocity which the lower limbs can extend under zero load (m/s). The graph above identifies a significant Velocity imbalance (check papers for calculations) for Player A and a Force imbalance for Player B. The graph also identifies the issue of two athletes displaying similar maximal power W/Kg, yet vastly different FVP; as they have achieved the result through different mechanical qualities; which raises questions regarding impulse (another blog).

So once we know there is a deficit or an imbalance, what next? Well, the practitioner needs to understand how to address the imbalance through overloading aspects of the curve. Addressing a force deficit should essentially be quite easy; develop a program with bilateral compound movements aimed at increasing the athlete’s 1RM. However, addressing a velocity deficit can require greater thought. Just this morning, JB Morin via Twitter, suggested that performing squat jumps at bodyweight may even be too heavy to address a velocity imbalance; you must get creative with assisted means.

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Like any intervention, how do you measure the transfer to the actual task? E.g. Will it improve them as a basketball or soccer player? That is the million dollar question and highly contextual. However, if you asked each player would they like to become more ‘powerful’? The resounding answer would be YES! Even with a limited understanding, athletes are highly aware that speed and power are what separates the elite from sub-elite.

So… Profile your athletes… Understand the imbalances… Develop your intervention… Re-Test.

Give the athlete what THEY need. Not what everyone needs!

Hopefully you can see a level of improvement towards the optimal profile?

(As a side note – in my opinion, some from testing athletes and the rest from anecdotal observations, most sub-elite sprinters have a significant velocity imbalance, and an over developed force profile).