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1/4/2013 9:28:49 AM -
Who's yelling the loudest?

I like to think of myself as a second-tier science guy. Maybe third tier. What this means is that I love the scientific nature of training, and I love listening to the best guys in the business talk about the science of all of this, but I’m not one of these guys who goes to medical conventions and studies biology textbooks looking for training information. Instead, I let it all trickle down, choosing to pay attention to the results the coaches who do this sort of thing get from their athletes. In other words, I wait until someone does the real work for me.

The thing about training athletes with a scientific approach, however, is that the obvious isn’t always so obvious. The guy with the most sophisticated training and nutrition doesn’t always win. There’s more to it that that. On several occasions over the past decade, I’ve heard coaches criticize each other coaches for a perceived lack of knowledge of the training process. Sometimes this shit gets personal. Sadly, I’ve engaged in a lot of this stuff myself, thinking that if a strength coach does things a certain way, he’s probably an asshole in the rest of his life, and none of his athletes will ever be successful at everything.

Conversely, the day we bought three glute-ham raises, I automatically assumed that my team had just bought a state championship. To my surprise (seriously), it didn’t exactly work out that way.

On the high school level, the differences between physical preparation programs are particularly glaring. I’ll never claim to be the be-all and end-all of high school strength coaches, but after being exposed to so many great people over the years and doing so much research, I think I give any program I’m working with a significant edge in that department. I’ve also spoken to other coaches in our league about what they do with their kids, and some of it, based on what we’ve all learned, is downright f-ing embarrassing.

And then what happens? These embarrassing coaches take their teams out on the field and whip our asses, leaving us to wonder what the hell just happened.

I’ve even seen a major sporting event over the past year where one coach mocked another (in private) for having the training sophistication of a caveman (his quote), but in the actual event, the “caveman’s” athletes massively outperformed the athletes coached by the guy who was making fun of him. And when I say “outperformed,” I mean it wasn’t even close.

The strange thing about that was that if you’d listened to the one guy brutalizing the other and explaining why he thought his rival was a complete tool, you’d look at the performances of their athletes and assume, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the talker’s guys were the ones who were killing the other guys. Trust me, that was hardly the case.

Just for descriptive purposes, the talker is a fan of science, and someone whose methods I respect. The caveman, although I know he’s a good guy personally, is someone whose methods I don’t really agree with, either. He’s one of those guys who seems to be really great at making his players tired, and that’s about it. I’ve even criticized him at times, at least in my own head.

But on game day? Shit, his guys perform. They ALWAYS perform.

So what’s the truth? The most concise way I tend to think about it is that the science behind this shit is extremely important, and that athletes should be trained according to actual research that’s been done—and, of course, interpreted correctly. As an aside, it’s been said here a million times that the way research is interpreted is extremely important, and that’s the truth, because you can skew research a thousand different ways to prove any side of any argument. That’s why coaches tend to stick with the Eastern European model, because let’s face it, the Soviets took a small gene pool of basically inferior athletes and found ways to make them world class.

I’m digressing, however.

The point is that there are too many variables in sport for the strength coach to control, which is why, after teaching your kid to squat, WITH CHAINS, for years on end, he looks like he’s on roller skates against an opponent who’s half his size and looking to play tennis in college. There’s more to this stuff than we’re capable of controlling, which is why your best bet is to avoid talking shit about other coaches.

Angry Coach

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