Observations of Effective Group Training Environments


The military understands the synergy and optimal ratios of instructors and learners. One common theme of why we can or can not do something is we are training in a large group so we can’t do this or that. My concern is that effective options such as conventional training is being phased out for for less technical and less proven methods. Similar to the Spine Stress post earlier, the real question is what can be done with groups with various sizes. What I have been interested in is what Brendon Ziegler does with Basketball, since those athletes are doing lifts such as back squats, cleans from the floor, and other lifts with heavy loads, great technique, with very tall bodies. He has every excuse to make for doing something alternate but his great work ethic and focus allows him to produce great results with constraints that most of us don’t deal with. If guys are nearly 7 feet and are able to get into what would be perceived as difficult positions, many of us can’t complain about 6’3 athletes.Here are a few tidbits I have picked up from a few great programs.

No Excuses- Somewhere someone is doing a better job making things work in group environments. Just because you have not been able to do it in one’s career, doesn’t mean someone is not doing a great job somewhere else. Every time I think it’s impossible to do X,Y, or Z I visit or see real video (not youtube) of some random hard working guy doing a great job that raises the bar. Doesn’t mater what level, someone is doing a great job and we can learn from him or her.

Slow Cooking- Everyone talks about slow cooking the athlete and LTD (long term development). Yet how many times do we see a rush to change exercises or programming, let things slide, or take short cuts? Many good coaches say the fastest way to get better is the slowest on paper. For example if a particular exercise, drill, or workout is too hard, introduce the needs of the demand gradually and replace it with something effective. Many times in the GPP squats and olympic lifts are hard to teach to beginners, but after a few months of single leg work they should have similar movement patterns to scaffold into the more complex and demanding lifts. Maybe the bigger lifts take time, perhaps years, but most high school and college programs run in 4 year cycles.

Rules and Focus- I like the programs that make sure technique is number 1, but I like safety, following directions, and being self reliant. Some of the best programs have the athletes coaching the basics and reminding each other the key aspects while the coach guides the group. Captains and Seniors should be good support staff to the program. Good coaches have a habit of producing great new coaches. Also good technique in groups begets better technique over time. With many coaches jumping to new jobs after a few years, it’s hard to create great seniors if you are at one place for 2 years. Still, groups leverage talent by having a demonstrators or technical role models that do things with great skill. Making sure the discipline is there is not popular at first, but if the athletes buy in the results will come better and without baggage of poor habits being ingrained.

My suggestions are to network with college coaches or great HS programs that do a great job producing athletes. Don’t look at just the results but look at how they developed those athletes. You will be surprised what is done by programs you have not heard of.
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Carl Valle

Carl Valle

Track & Field Coach
Carl is an expert coach who has produced champions in swimming, track and numerous other sports. He is one of the foremost experts in the fields of nutrition and restoration.
Carl Valle

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