Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sport Performance Coaches: Athletic Development vs Strength and Conditioning

I haven't been able to write in a while because I was in Yosemite and Northern California with a group of 10th grade students from my school. I was forced to go on a the trip to one of the most beautiful places on the face of the planet with 10 outstanding young adults, fellow faculty Emma, and our fearless leader Josh. We got rained on, hailed on, and attacked by a baby cub. No worries though, I'm a bear whisperer and was so intimidating that it ran away (picture to the right proves that).

Time to get to the post......

Three Examples of Athletes:

Athlete #1: 22 year old senior in college. He's going into his final season of hockey and most likely will not turn pro after the season.

Athlete #2: A 10 year old girl who enjoys soccer, lacrosse, and swimming. Long legs and very skinny.

Athlete #3: A 19 year old Red Shirt freshman on a division I football team. Needs to put on strength, power and size to be able to compete with the bigger athletes.

Obviously you would not train these three athletes the same. If you coach these three athlete's, what your trying to prepare them for differs drastically due to their needs and the needs of the sport. I like to break it down into what percentage needs of short term training, 3-12 months, and long term training, 1+years. Short term training is looking at preparing for upcoming seasons, matches, fights, etc. Long term is looking at Long Term Athletic Development (LTAD) that will maximize the potential of the athletes when they reach a competitive phase.

No matter what athlete you are don't start this program...

Athlete #1- Probably 90-95% short term training. Since this is their last go round, all focus is on getting them as strong as possible for the season as well in the best condition possible.

Athlete #2- 100% long term training. You could care less about getting them prepared for their weekend soccer tournament. All your focus is how can I help this young girl become the best athlete possible when she's ready for tough competition.

Athlete #3: I would give this about 65% Long term and 35% short term. You trying to prepare them for their sophomore through senior year, and possibly a professional career. Your goal is not having them in top condition for the season but you do want them to be prepared for the practices with them team. Conditioning is a important aspect but you're still considering this athlete as a long term project.

What does this all mean? In the future we may need to break the sport performance world into two different coaches. Athletic Development Coaches and Strength and Conditioning coaches. Programs like TPI and IYCA have already started certifying and education those interested in working with 5-18 year olds. Strength and Conditioning Coaches are well established and work with ages 15-???. There is an obvious overlap depending on the sport, athlete, and schedules.

I propose this division of coaches because working with young kids has become very important due to P.E. classes being dropped, obesity/overweight problems (25%+ with youth), and technology causing increased lazyassness (trademarked). If you've been introduced by IYCA or TPI Junior Program to a LTAD model, you know that you can have a HUGE impact on developing athleticism from a young age. I've also seen very good strength and conditioning coaches who coach a group of young kids and do almost the same things they would with a college athlete. This can potentially be a big mistake. Children are not young adults!

The strength and conditioning world continues to develop with great coaches like Mike Boyle, Eric Cressey, Todd Wright, Dave Tenney, Joel Jamieson, and MANY others constantly pushing the envelope. Topics like energy system development, unilateral training, load vectors, and others continue to push the field into new ideas and better programs.

Can one person wear both hats? Absolutely, but I think specializing in one will benefit the athletes much more than trying to learn everything. Additionally, working with a 5-8 year old is a much different animal than a college football player. Learning to communicate effectively with each type of athlete will take years to master.

Below is a table I've developed that is a very broad diagram of how an average athlete may progress from long term development into preparing for particular seasons. This can change drastically due to the sport (think gymnastics vs golf), to an athletes goals, role on the team, and other variables. The blue area consists of Athletic Development Coaches and the red area is directed towards strength and conditioning coaches.

Long Term vs. Short Term Athletic Preparation


  1. Sport Performance are specialists in preparing individuals for sport or recreational goals. The principles underlying effective athletic development are also the mainstays of physical health and well-being. Thanks a lot.

  2. Yes I actually had a discussion about this with Brain McCormick. My views have slightly changed to just athletic development coaches. Training should be based on movement, it just depends where on the continuum they are and what the individual athlete will need. It's similar to a math problem figuring out what they need, want and are missing.

  3. Thank you for the info. It sounds pretty user friendly. I guess I’ll pick one up for fun. thank u

    Agile Coach Training