My training philosophy continues to evolve, but it always stays true to my roots from the beginning. As a coach, I’m trying to develop an athlete; I’m not building a bodybuilder, a powerlifter, or an Olympic weightlifter, though I will use components from all three types of training in my program. I will use mobility exercises to improve basic movement and rehab modalities to improve foundational stability.

Programming will differ based on the individual needs of the athlete and the training environment. If I’m training an individual athlete or a small group, I’m able to sequence the exercises in my order of priority. If I’m training in a team setting, depending on the equipment available, I must logistically set up a program or possibly multiple programs to be executed simultaneously in order to get the exercise sequencing I desire.

At the high school level, most of the sports are “team sports”: football, basketball, baseball/softball, track and field, volleyball, soccer, etc. Although each has different components and energy system requirements, they all have a power component to them. They all require the athlete to run, jump, quickly change direction and use explosive power. A good number of high school athletes are also multi-sport athletes, transitioning from one sport to the next year-round. Consequently, although there may be some exercise changes from one sport to the next, such as limited overhead movements during the season for sports such as baseball, softball and volleyball, the base template will remain much the same.

The most important aspect of training an athlete begins with movement, especially when coaching the young athlete. Many things have changed in the world since I was a kid back in the 1960s and 1970s. When I was young, we had no video games, computers or smart phones. At school, from elementary to high school, we had multiple recess periods as well as daily P.E. classes. After school, we were riding bikes, playing tackle football, pick-up basketball or sandlot baseball depending on the season. We were not allowed in the house! From dawn ’til dusk, we were outside moving and playing.

Today, that is not the case. Recess periods and P.E. classes are limited during the school day; kids don’t play outside but sit in front of a TV or computer 24/7/365. Even in the case of kids that are athletes, they are nowhere near as active as in the past. The result is many kids do not develop basic coordination or movement patterns as we did in the past. Jumping rope, hopping, galloping, skipping and simply running are not learned or practiced with adequate frequency.

As a baby we first crawl, then stand, then take a few steps, progressing to walking and eventually running. Training an athlete is much the same. We can not run and jump until we can walk. Getting strong and “big” takes time and only comes after we build a solid foundation of movement, coordination and basic strength. The lack of unstructured play coupled with kids beginning to specialize in a single sport at young ages is making kids very one dimensional in terms of their overall athleticism and foundational locomotion and coordination.

One of the best concepts found in the training information that came from the old Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc countries after the fall of the Iron Curtain was that of Long-Term Athletic Development (LTAD). According to Dr. V.M. Zatsiorsky in his book Science and Practice of Strength Training, the development of elite athletes requires a period of 8-12 years of training. From this statement, it becomes obvious that the building or development of an athlete isn’t going to happen overnight. It also requires a step-by-step plan that begins with a strong foundation before attempting to throw up a “skyscraper.”

I liken the training plan to a puzzle. A puzzle has many pieces that must fit together; they can not be forced into place. If a piece of the puzzle is missing, the finished product has a hole in it and the picture is incomplete. The same becomes true of an athlete whose training program did not build a solid foundation or progressed too quickly, skipping crucial steps of development along the way.

Unfortunately, many coaches are only concerned about their piece of the puzzle, their sport. They don’t see or care that the athlete is not only a piece of their puzzle, but that their sport is also a piece of the athlete’s puzzle. They only care about what they are coaching. They have the athlete practicing the skill, conditioning, developing physical attributes, etc. that benefit them and their sport. The next coach does the same and so on, never coordinating with one another to eliminate overlap or fill in deficiencies within that athlete’s puzzle.

To fix the problem and fill probable deficiencies, which usually lie in the area of strength training, the athletes either try to train themselves or go to an outside source such as a personal trainer or club coach, either of which can be effective under certain circumstances. Training yourself is effective if you have adequate knowledge, which most young athletes or parents don’t. Going to a trainer/coach that specializes in strength development can be and should be the best option. The key question: “Is the coach about doing what’s best for his client or stroking his own ego?”

To be truly beneficial to the athlete’s development, the “third party” trainer/coach must work in conjunction with the other coaches/sports in which the athlete is currently involved. If the athlete is already involved in a strength training program at school or with another sport, the supplemental program from the “third party” coach should not compete or conflict with the primary program. To do so can lead to over training and possible injury as well as be counterproductive and an inefficient use of the athlete’s already limited time.

Our next session will look at the process as we begin discussing logistical issues of programming for training groups of varying sizes and overcoming obstacles within the facility.