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When thinking about writing my philosophy towards Strength and Conditioning (S&C) I came to a realisation, I have never actually thought about what specifically was the reason or reasoning behind my approach to training athletes. Instead it had always been a fluid cognitive process of making decisions based on my experience and current scientific knowledge. But through discussions with others about why having a set philosophy that underpins your work as an S&C coach is important, I’ve realised that a thorough dissection of my own methods and a revealing of the foundations behind my decision making is not only paramount, but can have a beneficial effect on my ability, consistency and efficacy as a S&C coach.
My philosophy of S&C is based on the idea of creating a training environment able to foster ‘MEANINGFUL CHANGE’ in an athlete’s performance, for which the systematic consideration of the following points is required; the needs of the sport? the sporting performance profile of the athlete, including – but not limited to – injury epidemiology, functional movement screening scores, supplementary athlete history (sporting linage & nutrition) and the short term and long term athlete performance goals. All of which fall under the umbrella of understanding the athlete’s needs. The order of these points is not a reflection of importance, but instead the order in which I believe best facilitates the assimilation of the most effective training regime protocols. The true essence of the philosophy can be found in this typical S&C question; Does improving a sprinters 1 rep squat max have meaning? if so, how can we discern it?
The needs of the sport are the first point to address, as everything after that is at its mercy. Put another way, the athlete and coach in essence are a by-product of the sport. So why not start at the source? And when studying this source, using one’s experience combined with critical reviews of appropriate literature will eventually lead to a less wasteful, more refined and effective training regime.
The Historical Sporting Profile (HSP) of the athlete is the next point of interest. This makes reference to the athlete’s performance and injury history. Both of these are very important on their own but I believe when looked at together can give the S&C coach a unique insight into issues that may be affecting the athlete’s ability to achieve excellence. The reverse can also be true in that it can show how physically well adapted the athlete is to the demands of his or her sport and its role in the success they have achieved. Whichever the case may be when training an athlete, understanding exactly where they have come from and what routes they took to arrive here is the only way to successfully guide them to their next destination.
The following aspect of the athlete’s needs my philosophy endeavours to understand is a supplementary one. Information relating to their nutritional history, and the performance and injury profile of their parents. The S&C coach can use this data in his or her problem solving and program design. This information is not the primary focus of the athlete’s historical profile, because it is not always available. But when so, should be used. Especially the elusive parental history of athletes – child to former high-level professional sportspeople. Although not enough scientific research has been performed to confirm a workable link on all aspects of parent and child career performance and injury characteristics. I believe in its value…because with its vast multifaceted variables, achieving good program design is an art form. And as such, that knowledge can be used like artistic inspiration in moments of difficulty, creating new avenues for our brush strokes as we paint meaningful training interventions onto the canvas of their bodies.
Finally, the end stage you reach in this philosophical methodology is the incorporation of short and long-term goals. By now it will be clear that an educated and accurate decision on what these should be will require the completion of the previous points. Even at this terminal point, a mistake here can undo all the hard work and conscientious thinking that came before, as well as limiting the success of transferring any physiological gains to improved performance.
After all improving an athlete’s performance more often than not is the primary aim of an S&C coach. But only a body robust enough to deal with the rigor of high-level competitive sport can express any improved performance capability consistently. And the training program born from this outlined philosophy of creating the environment for meaningful change is what I believe makes for a robust body.
From that robust foundation the work on constructing a wining athlete can begin. The emphasis now changing, and turning towards performing at the level of excellence. What is excellence? This is producing the best version of yourself on such a level of daily, weekly and monthly consistency that the only outcome available is the full and complete maturation of ones talent, aka the conversion of potential into winning.
This form of victory doesn’t just bring personal and competitive triumphs, trophies and medals. It negates the competition, exercises the demons of failure and satisfies feelings of regret. This because there is no greater victory then the one over ourselves, for that is a victory over Nature and Nurture, and no greater advisory to winning exists.
Lastly but not less importantly, achieving this level requires having a good support system for winning, meaning a relationship with the athlete that is deeper than just prescribing training interventions. This comes from understanding that they are also a person with a life outside of the sport. And with that comes its own set of fears, stress and problems. Taking those into consideration when communicating with the athlete should lead to a balanced environment to nurture their growth and an emotional and mental support system for winning.
This is a training environment better able to foster ‘MEANINGFUL CHANGE’ in an athlete’s performance, and that my S&C philosophy.
By Alpha Maurice Cidade Cauwenbergh
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