Before The Dark Age


I was reading the history of college strength and conditioning thanks to the blog that Coach Boyle updated recently. Being a huge fan of the history of sports performance all the way to the original olympic games, it was a great read. My concern is what has changed for the better or what has failed to continue now with classic education. Have things become better or just fancy? For my college graduation I had to put a summer in the strength and conditioning department in football and it was a wake up call. One assistant that was in charge of of basketball was making workout sheets on excel and had calculations, rumored from a few athletes to be the secret formulas from Nebraska, as the Husker formula for verticals was all the rage in the 90s. Now it’s 2012 and we have algorithms to get down to the molecular level, but a simple BMI is more likely to help some athletes now as fat contracts are now truly fat. Strength Disk was written over 20 years ago, the true quantum leap to quantifying improvement with context. In the article, the author writes:

In addition to the overall records, the Performance Index was used to rank records with respect to the size of each athlete by using an elaborate scoring system. They even posted the best overall performance index score, a composite of an ath- lete’s scores on all of the tests factored against their body size. What started as a simple board used to track a handful of best lifts quickly evolved into an elaborate ranking system, which now necessitates statistical software. As the historian John Hoberman noted, our love of records and “quantified sports performances” are part of “a mania for measurement that continues unabated to this day.

Unfortunately cornerstone scores such as body composition, general leg power in jump testing, and simple speed tests had not progressed much. They were doing electronic timing 30 years ago to see if speed was improving at the rate they felt possible. Now we are struggling to chart the most basic of objective tests.

Again, owing to his willingness to tailor the program to the demands of the sport, testing of the forty was largely replaced by testing on a ten-yard sprint. Again, Epley reasoned that the new test was a better fit for the sport. Rarely will a player ever get the opportunity to get up to full speed, as is evaluated in the forty.

Nobody wants to time anymore. Guys are afraid to pull even in the 10-15m range and nobody wants to see a lack of improvement, especially when you have no time to actually train, or a circumstance that will allow you to get better. Are our basic lifts looking better, the same, or worse than the 80s? I am not blaming anyone for adding more exercises as I posted a few unique ones I felt were helpful, but are we doing to basics and original lifts as well or better than 10 years ago? Are we better coaches of the basics? Are we coaches or pseudo therapists and airplane mechanics, maintaining things instead of building better race cars?

So what to do? Instead of being critical the solutions are clear. I think the strength coaches role needs to continue to be performance enhancement based, and the medical side still understood, but remember roles that someone has to do the basics. Also a brush up on history does’t hurt, and reading the article Coach Boyle suggested is a good start. You can find the article here.
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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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