Going into the weekend I didn’t really know what to expect as this was the first real conference that I had attended with some top-notch strength coaches and rehabilitation specialist from all across the country. I didn’t know how approachable some of these big coaches would be, nor did I know how much they would be willing to share with other coaches. At the end of the day I was very pleased and impressed with the entire conference. Art Horne, Dan Boothby and the entire Northeastern University Strength staff put on an exceptional conference. Here are a few of my thoughts on some of the presenters over the weekend.
Bill Knowles – iSport
Going into this presentation I wasn’t sure how much of it I was going to like or be able to apply. Bill is a rehab specialist that has worked with athletes such as Tiger Woods. At this point in my career I would have to say my knowledge when it comes to rehab is a little behind where it needs to be. Therefore, I was a little worried that the lecture would be “over my head” and a little too advanced for me. Boy was I wrong.
When Bill first started out he mentioned that when we have an athlete going through the rehab process, we have to remember that as a whole the athlete is healthy with one specific area of the body that is injured. For example, if you have an athlete recovering from a torn ACL there are still plenty of things that the athlete can do – the knee is an issue but the rest of the body is still fine.
Another aspect that Bill spoke on was what he called the Return to Competition Stages. The stages went from rehab –> reconditioning –> return to training –> return to play –> and finally return to competition. He suggested that we spend more time reconditioning the athletes and less worry about getting them back to competition as soon as possible as we need to realize that we are trying to rebuild an athlete that will have sustainability and success over the long haul in their sport.
Bill also commented that we as strength coaches need to get the athletes out of the athletic trainers and physical therapists hands and into the weight room as soon as possible. We should first control the swelling and inflammation and work it out of their bodies as quick as possible to start the reconditioning process.
All in all I was very impressed with Bill Knowles. I still have a TON to learn about the rehab process but Bill has started me in the right direction.
Irving “Boo” Schexnayder – Louisiana State University
I have to admit two things when it comes to Boo; one, I didn’t know who he was coming into the seminar, and two, I wasn’t all that excited to see him speak. Come to find out, Boo is a track & field coach at LSU and one of the most well-known speed experts in the country – and had one badass southern accent!
That being said, one thing I feel like I need to work on is understanding how to develop speed in athletes – I mean, there aren’t many aspects of sports that are more important than actual speed, yet my education level and understanding of speed isn’t where it needs to be. Boo spoke for close to two hours on his entire philosophy as well as his training program in order to develop world-class speed.
A couple of things that Boo said really stuck with me. One, you should base your approach on commonalities. Don’t copy a program from another coach, rather find the commonalities that great coaches have in their programs. Second, lower leg conditioning is key. Do a ton of hops and jumps (plyo’s) and do a ton of foot and ankle mobility work – all of Boo’s ankle and foot work he has stolen from ballet.
I can’t believe I didn’t know about Boo before this, but his presentation may have been the best of the entire weekend – I learned more in this two-hour presentation then I have in quite some time.
Andrea Hudy – University of Kansas
When I saw that Coach Hudy was going to be presenting at the conference I knew that I was going to make sure to attend her lecture. I have heard from numerous people that Coach Hudy is a phenomenal coach – which should come as no surprise since she is the only Director of Strength & Conditioning at the Division I level in the entire country – and this is no bottom feeder D-1 school, this is Kansas and she runs the strength & conditioning program for both men’s and women’s basketball while oversee all other sports, including football. Hudy basically calls all the shots. Hudy has been the strength coach for 9 men’s and women’s National Title basketball teams (she was at Jim Calhoun’s strength coach at UConn prior to Kansas) and has produced over 25 NBA players.
That being said, Hudy’s presentation was on both the men’s and women’s basketball strength and conditioning program at Kansas. Hudy didn’t disappoint as she pulled back the curtains and didn’t hide anything – even with some coaches of the arch rival University of Texas basketball strength staff in the room listening to her presentation.
With numerous videos Hudy showed the team’s performing hang clean testing, squat testing as well as other strength test. She explained that though strength is important, her number one goal is to build more powerful athletes and thus focuses more on the speed of movements instead of the actual weight on the bar as well as the various plyometric exercises she typically performs in order to focus on training deceleration. Hudy also explained her year-long training schedule, including both the intensity and volume of the program throughout the year.
All in all, Hudy didn’t disappoint. Maybe more impressive than her presentation was the fact that she took the time to sit and talk to myself and another young strength coach for close to 15 minutes before her presentation – she didn’t ‘big time’ us and wasn’t too busy to sit with two young strength coaches and answer each and every one of their questions.
For anyone interested in how Hudy got to where she is, especially women looking to find themselves in her position some day, here is a great interview and as well as a follow-up article that ESPN did with Hudy within this past year. Andrea Hudy: KU’s Secret Weapon or an article written in the Wall Street Journal The Jayhawk’s Secret Weapon.
Cal Dietz – University of Minnesota
Talk about someone who is excited about his career! Dietz is either one of the most passionate people I have ever come across or he had twelve coffees before he presented. Cal is the Director of Olympic Sports at Minnesota and works specifically with the men’s and women’s hockey teams. Cal’s presentation focused on his overall training philosophy which is quite unique to say the least. Cal’s training doesn’t follow a typical 3 sets of 8 reps – Cal focuses on performing sets for a specific length of time. For example, Cal will have his hockey team bench a certain percentage of their 1RM as fast as they can for as many reps as they can for a 10 second period. Any interesting way to approach training and from the results his hockey players are getting, its working.
Logan Schwartz – University of Texas
Another one of the presenters that I was really looking forward to since he is one of the strength coaches for the University of Texas basketball team and has worked with the likes of Kevin Durant, DJ Augustine and LeMarcus Aldridge amongst many others. One of the most reputable strength coaches in the country is Todd Wright, the Director of Strength & Conditioning for both the Men’s and Women’s Basketball programs at Texas, so hearing what his top assistant had to say was a treat.
I have to say that Coach Schwartz might have been the most animated speakers of the weekend – a real funny guy which made his talk go by real fast. Coach Schwartz didn’t really get into the nitty-gritty and what the program looks like at Texas, but did focus a great deal on the principles in which the program is built around.
Like Coach Hudy, Coach Schwartz explained that at Texas the place more emphasis on the speed of the movement then they do the actual weight/load on the bar as well as a big emphasis on training deceleration. Coach Schwartz explained that the program focuses on three things; #1 is a complete range of motion with all exercises, #2 is the speed of the movement/bar, and #3 is the load on the bar.
A great example that Coach Schwartz used was Kevin Durant. During the NBA Combine Durant was highly criticized by the media and NBA scouts for his lack of strength, not being able to even bench 185lbs. The one thing that the NBA scouts and media didn’t realize was how powerful Durant was, something that was clear to the Texas strength staff. The staff was confident that he would hold up just fine in the NBA because they knew the power Durant had developed – something that they focused on while Durant was on campus and still do to this day.
Overall Take Home Thoughts
- Don’t worry as much about the amount of weight on the bar and focus more on the speed of the bar – build powerful athletes, not just strong athletes. The strongest athlete doesn’t usually win, the more powerful athlete usually wins. See Kevin Durant.
- The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. Just when I think I am starting to figure things out and becoming a good strength coach, I realize how much I still need to learn.
- Network and be willing to work your ass off. All these coaches are in positions that I would kill to be in some day and none of them got there by luck or chance. They are all lifelong learners that network with other coaches so that they can continually learn as much as they can. They all started at the bottom, many taking risks by interning just so they could learn from great coaches. Also, many of these coaches have bounced around from school to school, learning from more and more coaches while slowing working their way up the ladder. You can reach the top of this industry, it just takes time and some hard ass work.
- Deceleration is huge. Athletes don’t get hurt accelerating, they get hurt cutting, changing direction, landing from jumping, and decelerating. Because of this, we as coaches need to focus on training deceleration through plyometric work and single leg work.
- Strength Coaches in the Boston area are very lucky to have Mike Boyle to learn from. I don’t think we realize how much influence Coach Boyle has had on the entire industry until you hear coaches from all across the country speak. Mike wasn’t in attendance for the conference but his name was mentioned time and time again by other coaches when explaining their training philosophies and when speaking about other coaches that they look up to and look for advice from.
- Great experience. The people I met were all great with tons of information that they were willing to give up. Art Horne and the entire Northeastern University Strength Staff put on a great seminar and I will be in attendance next year and for many years to follow.