We all make mistakes starting out in any new endeavor. I made plenty as an entry level GA strength and conditioning coach. Here are three of my biggest at the time. I know that there were many more but these quickly come to mind as things I look back on and cringe a little bit.
The Cut and Paste
One mistake I made consistently with my own training was the cut and paste program. The cut and paste is adding up elements of differing methodologies all into a one giant mosh pit of a program. For me it was taking the 4-day max effort, dynamic effort approach popularized by Westside at the time for my lifting portion. Then fitting in the High Low strategy of Charlie Franics’ sprint training system into that split. Then adding the skill specific work that I utilized as a player in college. In short, it was a constant CNS beating. But at the time, I was young and resilient and didn’t know any better. I thought the harder the better. I look back and cringe at my own training.
One of my ah..ha moments happened when talking with Charlie Francis on his message board back in the early 2000’s. I was asking questions pertaining to my sprint program. I posted my overall program to the forum and said I have the lifting handled but could use help with speed development. I was quickly set straight in that my current setup didn’t work within his parameters of the high low system. He informed me of the problem the 4 day Westside setup within his system of preserving the nervous system by alternating daily intensities. That was the first time I realized I couldn’t just throw differing philosophies together to make one ultimate training system. What works for one program goes completely against the principles in another. All facets of development must blend in a give and take for adaptation energy.
Strength At All Costs
As an athlete as well as my first few years in strength and conditioning I was under the impression that strength was the end all be all. Strength at all costs was how I trained. If a 500 lbs. squat was good 550 lbs. would be better.
I knew that strength was the foundation of all other motor abilities but was under the impression that an athlete could never have enough strength. When I wanted to get faster, my program was built around max effort lower days and heavy Olympic lifting. Get the lower half stronger and speed will come with it. Boy was I wrong. I took me until I really began digging into Eastern Bloc research to realize the error in my ways. Now I understand strength is the foundation but eventually that foundation is built as large as it needs to be and must be continued upon further with more specific development.
Don’t forget that strength is only one factor in a myriad of others when it comes to athletic development. Speed, skill, energy system development, mobility, reactivity, etc., all factor into a complete athlete. Don’t focus so much on one aspect of development that you create a gap, or hurt others.
Advanced Over Novice
In my early efforts to build the most amazing athletes ever, I constantly went above and beyond with means and methods that were much too advanced for the level of athletes I trained. Most of those athletes consisted of female teams that had little training experience. I would apply velocity based training principles, yes even back in 2004, to female athletes who had no foundation of strength yet. Working at 55% of a max bench press doesn’t do a lot in terms development when that max is only 85 lbs.
I continually wanted to use the powerful methods I was reading in Soviet texts. Whether it was the dynamic effort method, depth jumps, etc. I overshot the real needs of my athletes by a long way. What I should have been focused on was building a foundation of strength and movement. The basics would have gone much further in my efforts than the fancy methods I was trying to employ. While the basics seem boring, they are an essential step in the development of athletes of a low training age.
Basic jump progressions, sprints, movement coordination, and strength work would have sufficed for every one of my teams. The longer I am in the field the more I have gravitated back to the basics for athletes. I advance athletes only when they have built a solid foundation. Yes there is definitely a point where advancement to more powerful training methods has to happen but that point is well down the road for most high school, and college athletes. Build a foundation of basics first and you won’t be disappointed.
We all make mistakes but the important thing is learning from the early mistakes to build better principles. I have learned from those early errors. There will be many more to come but I’ll take those as learning opportunities as well.