Whenever I encounter a group of athletes I’m about to work with, my initial welcome speech goes something like this:
“When done correctly, exercise can do a lot of things to help you in (insert sport here). It can make you bigger, faster, stronger and more athletic”
I’ll then ask the all important question – “What was the most important thing I just said?”
Because my athletes are usually 13-17, the answers are always invariably one of:
“better at (sport)”,
Not to be unexpected – they are teenagers – but you can see where this is going…
The most important thing was actually “When done correctly”!
That’s right. The #2 job of the strength coach is actually to get you bigger, faster, stronger or more athletic. The #1 role, which will forever be the #1 role, is to keep you safe and on the field of play. To be on the field, you need to be healthy. And the weight room is the last place I’m going to have any athlete (or any individual) compromise their health.
There are a few ways I can do my best to reduce your injury risk. I will never reduce all injuries, but if I can reduce many non-contact injuries, that is a huge plus. I do that by through my program design.
Whenever I have an athlete, I want to give them the best possible program. To do that, I need to know their strengths, deficiencies, and their movement habits. Otherwise, the program will always be sub-optimal. Standard programs can be performed safely and effectively with proper coaching, and any good coach will not let an athlete do a potentially harmful activity. In the instances where for some reason I can’t assess all the athletes and have a base program for them, I am very hypersensitive to their initial technique in a lift, oftentimes which I’m having them do with either no resistance at all or very little in their first sessions. This allows me to ensure the highest degree of safety. However, this is my least favourite situation. I do my best to limit or disregard these scenarios, which will be the topic of a future post.
Bar none, the best way to ensure safety and effective program design is to screen and assess athletes for their habits. My next article is going to continue this, and will help you understand why I am insistent on performing a movement screen before beginning my work with an athlete.