Don’t Copy & Paste: Part 1 by Matt Hunter


[Matt Hunter is a recent graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and is currently enrolled in the Athletic Lab Coach Apprenticseship Program]

One of my professors in college told me that there is no one right way to train. If we need to develop power there are different ways to do it, and if we need to train an athlete there are different ways to do it. One of the questions all coaches are faced with is “how are we going to do it?” Many of us look to the best coaches out there to see what they are doing. This is where I see one of the most common mistakes in program design; copy exactly what they see. Well what’s the problem with that? If it works for that coach, why won’t it work for me? Well it could, but the problem here is that this approach does not take some important factors into consideration.

snow-trackLocation and facilities are a huge factor when planning training. Training a sprinter in the northeast where the weather is unpredictable, and for much of the year does not allow any outdoor training, is very different then training a sprinter in the south. One of the reason’s that Charlie Francis, the legendary sprint coach of Ben Johnson, trained his sprinters with a short to long style program is that they were in Canada, where they spent much of the year on indoor tracks with short straightaways and tight turns. That type of facility does not lend itself well to a more traditional long to short style.

Another factor is the athletes, or clients, being trained. Factors such as the number of athletes can drastically change a program. For example, imagine a high school with a small weight room and limited equipment. A coach with a smaller team like tennis may have no issued with the weight room. On the other hand a football coach with a large team is going to have to think twice before he tries to copy what he has seen at big time college and pro football programs. For example, while the tennis coach may have enough space to do Olympic lifts, the football coach may find there is simply not enough space or equipment for a large team. Some alternatives to the Olympic lifts for developing power could be kettlebell swings, medicine ball throws, plyometric exercises, etc. Specifically in this scenario plyometric exercises would be an excellent alternative because while it can be useful, they do not require equipment, and can be done anywhere. So if the coach chooses to do a series of plymoteric exercises to develop power while the team is still on the field for practice, the limitations of a small weight room with limited equipment are avoided.