One of our parents is convinced that his daughter needs to run agility ladders in order to make her faster and improve her foot speed. (as I’ve said before, agility ladders make you better at agility ladders. How many sports do you know of, that require the “agility” that a ladder supposedly provides, move in a predictably straight line? I think it’s around 0.) Little does he realize that his daughter can’t squat without her knees collapsing in nor can she do a decent split squat. She doesn’t need agility ladders to get faster, she needs to get stronger.
He’s not the only one. Time and time again we have parents who are intensely focused on vertical jump height, agility, explosive first step… you name it, we’ve heard it. Honestly, I don’t blame these parents, they’re only repeating what coaches have told them or what they read in sports magazines, and most of them just want the best for their kids.
If you haven’t already, read my husband’s brilliant blog post explaining how we assess and coach our athletes (it’s specific to volleyball players but really, it applies to everyone who walks through our doors) and why we don’t look like the “typical” sports training facility.
You won’t find agility ladders, parachutes, bosu balls or other “flashy” equipment here.Why? Because we care about our athletes enough to refuse to use equipment that could potentially hurt them due to faulty mechanics. We also believe that those distract from the main point of strength and conditioning: getting stronger.
It’s all about strength. Plain and simple. Want to be faster? Get stronger. Want to be more explosive? Get stronger. Want to jump higher? Get stronger. Want to lose body fat? Eat right and get stronger. Want to be more agile? Practice your sport and get stronger.
And that is precisely what we train our athletes (and adults) to do. Get stronger. More strength means more force produced against the ground which results in: higher jumps, faster push off during a change of direction and more force produced during the “first step.”
Not only do that, but we coach to prevent injuries. We teach proper body mechanics (like preventing the knees collapsing in during a landing/jump or squat). As Steve said, most of our athletes who walk in the door have the body mechanics of a ham sandwich, and it’s no wonder their knee or ankle hurts or they’re slow. They’re moving improperly!
We teach them how to move their arms, how to use their hips (not their knees), how to keep a neutral spine etc. By practicing biomechanically safe movements, we train their neuromuscular system (muscle memory) to move safely in game situations. This helps decrease the risk of injuries (non-contact ones anyway).
Our “cook ‘em slow” approach also allows time for the tendons and ligaments to catch up in strength as the muscles grow stronger. So often we hear stories of athletes who are squatting/deadlifting/benching ridiculous amounts of weight at school and I shudder to think of those kids’ joints and how the tendons must be straining to keep the joint stable under a load too large for it. This is one way tendonitis develops, irritation of tendons, due to loads that exceed their capacity to support.
This was a bit of a rambling post but I wanted to convey why SAPT coaches do what we do. We’re not the most exciting looking gym and we don’t have all the neat gizmos and toys (except chains…) but to be honest, 99.99% of our clientele don’t need them. They just need to get stronger. And I’ve said it before, strength takes time, hard work and lots of picking up of heavy things.