Why should an athlete employ an S&C coach?

This week I am giving you a FREE presentation which answers the fundamental question- why should an athlete use an S&C coach?

Who need's an S&C coach?

Who need’s an S&C coach?

I’ve had the opportunity in recent weeks and months to speak to a number of coaches who work with athletes, whether they be Head coaches for a sports team, a Director of a Sports Academy or a Head of department of PE in a school.  I have been speaking to them to see if they might be interested in working with APA to run some S&C sessions with their athletes.

I have first sought to understand what some of the barriers are to being able to do this.  There are two common barriers.

Barrier #1:  Cost

On pretty much every occasion there has been some degree of reluctance to want to invest in strength & conditioning coaching with their athletes due to its cost.  Often it comes down to resources available and I accept that not everyone can afford to pay for professional strength & conditioning coaching, particularly if they are already paying for sports coaching.

But the cost of NOT investing in strength & conditioning could mean that your greatest ‘assets’ will get injured at some point in the future if you don’t take action.  Even if you can’t afford to put a full-time coach into your programme I’d encourage you to at least get your  athletes screened to see who might be more at risk of injury.  This way you can do something about things before they happen.

Barrier #2: Time

Closely followed by #1 is the argument that the athletes don’t have the time to invest in further coaching on top of an already full weekly schedule of school academics (if we’re talking about adolescents), extra curricular activities, all in addition to their sports teams commitments.  This is a real issue if the athletes in question have commitments to their school teams, as well as local clubs and even county or regional teams they play for.  It is even more so if the athlete is playing in several sports teams.

Again, we can look at solutions to these challenges, even something as simple as training up the sports coach or teacher on how to run a high quality warm-up will go a long way to maximising the returns on a limited time and money budget.

Sound like your situation? 

So it’s important that as the Director of an S&C company I can make a strong case for why they need to value S&C at a high enough level that they are willing to pay for it in some form.  As I am so passionate about helping athletes realise their athletic potential I work very hard with whoever wants to work with us to come up with a solution that can achieve this.

Below is a presentation which I would urge any athlete or programme Director to watch if you are wondering why an athlete should employ an S&C coach.

The full presentation is 39 minutes- but I think that to do the topic justice and really answer the question properly it needs that long.  In the presentation I discuss:

  • Long-term athlete development and the 10,000 hours rule
  • The age that professional sportsmen and women hit their peak
  • The consequences of early specialisation
  • The benefits of strength training
  • Why athletes get injured
  • How to properly screen athletes



I hoped you found this blog interesting and will challenge your thinking the next time you are thinking about employing the services of a strength & conditioning coach!



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ABCs for Kids- a session plan for FREE

Yesterday I had the pleasure of doing some coach education for a group of students in Year 10 and 11 from the Dacorum School Sports Network who undertake work experience, training and development within the schools in the Dacorum network around the borough of Dacorum.


The concept for the two hour workshop was to introduce the topic of Physical Literacy to the coaches and get them to think about how they can work on the athleticism of the children they are coaching even within a sports coaching session.  The children in question would be typically 10-14 years although they might also be Primary school aged children 5-11 years.

I actually wish more new coaches would get exposure to this kind of topic as it amazes me even now how many highly experiences sports coaches fail to make the link between athleticism and ability in sports. Often it’s not until one of their star athletes gets injured due to a lack of physical preparedness that they are ready to listen.

Don’t believe me- watch this clip.  Spoiler alert: be prepared to look away if you’re squeamish.

Below is a summary of what we covered:

Oaklands College, 16th July 2015 1:30PM- 3:30PM

About the workshop:

This workshop brought together the presenter’s extensive experience and background in the field of youth coaching to give the participant a thorough overview of the current theory and practical application of basic drills that can assist in the development of balance, coordination and strength for Sport.

The content included but was not limited to the following areas:

  • The four components of a warm-up
  • The two types of balance and how to train them
  • The four types of coordination and how to train them
  • The two types of strength and how to train them


About the presenter:

Daz Drake is currently Head of Strength and Conditioning at Gosling Tennis Academy and is Director of Athletic Performance Academy who consult with numerous sports organisations in the south of England. Daz currently looks after the S&C programmes of some of the top ranked male and female professional Tennis players in the country.



Ask any sports coach how they integrate strength & conditioning into their sessions and if they integrate it at all it is usually always in the warm-up.  That’s why it is essential to maximise this time- which depending on the programme can be anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes typically.


Pulse raiser: skipping / Swedish handball / Simon says / Follow the leader

Activation: single leg balance / crawling

Mobilise: big steps / mini man / caterpillar walk

Potentiate: Coordination the big 7- single knee dead-leg lift / side steps / high skips / cross-over side shuffle side shuffle / butt kicks / cross-overs / high side skips

 You can actually view an example of the Junior Academy complete warm-up below.

Please note the Junior Academy warm-up is for our 12 years and above age-group.  For the 11 and unders we would use a couple of different balance and crawling challenges but it’s essentially the same concept.

Main Session:

We went on to build on the warm-up and actually look at what we might do with a group of young athletes.  If I have 60 minutes with a group my session structure might look something like this.  I have spoken on numerous occasions about the benefits of a ‘complex’ session structure for developing athletes.  By this I mean a session which hits a lot of different components in the same session.  I find this gives you the most ‘bang for your buck’ when you’re aiming to develop multiple athletic skills with children who will improve in pretty much everything you give them in the early years.

SKILL (balance)>>(coordination)
SPEED   (Jumps)>(reactions)>(1st step: Fast feet/start)>(Sprints)
AGILITY (multi-directional speed)
STRENGTH (Animals/Gymnastics/Partner work)


Some ideas for drills for Balance, Coordination & Strength:

We finished up by looking at some different drills we could use for a few of the components.  Watch out over the next few weeks for videos that I will add to this blog post of some of the drills below.




Static balance: shoulder stands / hand stands / single leg balance / compass reach

Dynamic balance:

  1. Walks- marching / lunging (add bead bag)
  2. Reaching- squat & reach / lunge & reach
  3. Jumping- 2-to-2 / 1-to-2 / 1-to-2 / 1-to-1




Rhythm: skipping rope / partner mirroring / ladders / hurdles

Synchronisation: crawl / sidestep / hop, skip, jump / rolling / get ups / throw

Orientation: ball around body / ball above head / catching / striking / rolling- advanced

Differentiation: throw to targets / bouncing / football keep ups / racket keep ups



Core Stability:

Core foundation: plank lifts / bird dog / dead bug

Core endurance: back raise hold / glute bridge hold / plank hold / 45 degree leg lower hold / dish hold / crunch hold / side plank hold / side crunch hold


Foundation strength:

Squat: Partner squats / Wall squats / Wall squat and reach / Get ups

Lunge: Split squat / rotational squat / lateral squat >> progress to lunge

Push: Push up hold / elevated push ups / push up

Pull: Partner rows / Inverted rows / Jump pull ups / Pull ups

What is Integrated Sports Performance? Insights from Team Bath

On Wednesday 1st July I had the opportunity to go to the University of Bath to listen to Joe Eisenmann talk about Spartan Performance, a programme which in collaboration with MSU SportsMEDICINE and Rehabilitation Medicine, provides an integrated, holistic approach to the care and training of mid-Michigan athletes, especially High School aged athletes.

Joe was invited by Team Bath to talk about his programme to their coaches at the world class facilities of the Sports Training Village in Bath.   More on his talk later.  First let’s look at how the University of Bath do it:


Team Bath have a Talent Development Centre which looks for athletes between the ages of 11-18 years old who take part in a range of sports or who have a chosen sport and are competing to a high level within their age group.  Their programme consists of after school sessions for children,

£5.00 a session based on attending one session a week

£4.50 a session based on attending two or more sessions a week.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
5.00-6.00pmSpeed & Agility 5.30-6.30pm Learn to Lift/Strength Sessions 5.00-6.00pm Learn to Lift/Strength Sessions No sessions currently running 5.00-6.00pm Learn to Lift/Strength Sessions
6.00-7.00pm  Learn to Lift/Strength Sessions 7.00-8.00pm Learn to Lift 6.00-7.00pmSpeed & Power No sessions currently running 6.00-7.00pmSpeed/Agility/Power Sessions

What I really like is that they make sure that every potential participant is assessed first following a written application, so they can learn something about the athlete first and then be put in the most appropriate group.

So how do they do it on the other side of the pond? Let’s take a look at Spartan Performance

Check out the website HERE

Spartan performance

I came away from Joe’s talk with lots of ideas for future growth.  Below are some of the key things I took away:

  • Difference between Multi-disciplinary and Inter-disciplinary

Although we think of the US being years ahead in terms of advances in sport, Joe said it’s still pretty uncommon for practitioners to integrate.  Most high school athletes will still be coached in the gym by a member of the teaching staff, usually and ex college football player.  Even those that have access to sports medicine and sports coaching will usually go to different places to get these services and none of the practitioners speak to each other.

Because Spartan Performance is set up in collaboration with MSU SportsMEDICINE and Rehabilitation Medicine, it’s a programme on one campus where the different faculty experts from within the University are not only on one site, but they also integrate.

”It’s not experts working separately; it’s the expertise that come TOGETHER- that is true integration.”


  • Importance of Athlete Profiling

A typical athlete profile will include:

-3 day nutrition log analysis

-Psychological profile

-High speed treadmill video- running mechanics analysis

-Foot quickness: 4 square test

-Explosive leg power: 18″ drop jump

-Strength: two leg and single leg Leg press and Push up

-Agility: Pro agility 5-10-5

Joe made the point of knowing the athlete’s cumulative workload- before they even train them.  In addition to testing, both Team Bath and Sports Performance will ask athletes to fill out detailed questionnaires about their training history and current sports participation.

This also means reaching out to their other coaches, as usually as well as going to Spartan for S&C they usually have school practice, team practice and often in more than one sports.

Be prepared to turn athletes away from the facility IF they are already doing multiple practices, doing S&C elsewhere and are generally really busy.  They do ask athletes to complete  pre-session wellness questionnaires but they can have pros and cons.

+ they can detect signs of fatigue if filled out properly

athletes will cheat the system by falsifying the scores- it comes from the right place.  They want to train!

Therefore as stated before it’s better if you can be pro-active and speak to the other coaches of the teams and start to build up a picture of what they do elsewhere and be prepared to coordinate their weekly schedules.


  • Session Structure- 90 minute session

Typically there will be six athletes to a group and the groups will move through different zones on a 20-minute rotation. In each zone is a different station.  As one group leaves the first zone another one enters.

Zone 1- High Speed Treadmill running: 12-30 x 4-60-sec, can go up to 30mph and 30%

Zone 2- Multi-directional speed: 8-25 sets including Fitlights technology

Zone 3- Power: 25-40 sets plyometrics and tethered four square

Zone 4- Functional strength

Zone 5- Recovery and nutrition

Hot off the Press!

APA launch group S&C squads for athletes 11 and above.

Athletic Performance Academy

Athletic Performance Academy

Inspired by my visits to Team Bath and hearing about Spartan Performance APA have finally been given the go ahead to open up the very successful strength & conditioning squads at Gosling Tennis Academy to the general public.  Once only available to our elite Tennis Academy players we can now welcome new athletes from all sports.

We are now  inviting young athletes 11-16 years old into our APA 4-5pm S&C squads. We are also inviting athletes over 16 years into our 10:30-11:30am pro team squads.  I think this is a great concept so please come along to Gosling Sports Park to take part.  It is pay as you go, £5 for GSP members and £7.50 for non members.

You can now book at reception.

Insights into Leicester Tigers Academy and Somerset CCC

I’m been on the road for several weeks.  Started at Excel Centre, London, then University of Hertfordshire, then Oakham School, Rutland, then University of Bath and I’ll be finishing my conference trip at the UKSCA Conference next month.

Travel and networking isn’t for everyone, but I personally love the adventure of being at the ‘tip of the spear.’  I love listening to people speak at events, make new friends and catch up with old ones and most importantly bring back some tips we can put into the programme at APA and share with you reading the blog!

In this blog I’ll go over the first three conferences I went to.  I’ll follow up with my visit to Bath next time!

What I learnt:

Elite Sports Performance Expo 10-11 June 2015

This was the inaugural 2-day exposition, see the website Elite Sports Performance Expo.  For me the exhibitors stands were the most enjoyable part.  I find it hard to focus on the seminars and live demos when there are 1,500 people walking through the area- but that’s just me.  I’ll be looking to work with some sports drink companies over the coming months so hopefully APA will be able to offer you some great deals with our partners.

It was good fun getting a sweat test with Precision Hydration- I learnt I have a high sweat rate and need a higher concentration of electrolytes in my drink than most standard electrolytes.

Enjoyed getting an intrinsic biomechanics assessment with Biomechanics Education.  I learnt I have a functional leg length difference causing the foot of my shorter leg to flatten.

Herts Sports Partnership- discussing coaching delivery in Hertfordshire

HSP invited a number of active coaches in the region to a discussion of new developments to enhance coaching delivery in the region.

This half-day conference wasn’t directly related to APA’s core business- working with athletes who want us to help them with their physical preparation for sport. It focused more on projects to increase participation in sports clubs, as well as ideas on how to help multi-sports companies get into schools.

But I did learn that only 3% of sports coaches are Full-time according to the 2011 SportscoachUK survey.  In that study they found that the majority of coaching takes place at a sport club or as part of extra curricular school activity (outside PE)……..but interestingly, the recent Active People survey by Sport England shows that the majority of sports participation is not taking place within clubs.  So there is a lot of sport taking place without coaching!

Oakham School:  S&C in Schools Conference

Glad to have been able to get to the very first one organised by Joel Tratt, Head of S&C at Oakham School.

There was a really nice blend of presentations from both Joel and his Director of Sport, Iain Simpson, as well as two practitioners in the sports of Cricket and Rugby, by Daz Veness and Kev Mannion, respectively.

Below is a selection of some of the key slides that grabbed my attention and a little about what was said about them.

#Increase an athlete’s ability to apply force

Only the other day did I retweet a quote my former colleague Julie Gooderick wrote, ”All sports require force expression, therefore all sports and ages will benefit from appropriate strength training.”  It’s incredible the number of coaches, parents and even athletes who fail to understand the basic Newton’s Law of equal and opposite reactions.

A lot of coaches relate getting strong to getting bulky and slow.  What they want is to get their athletes fast and explosive right? Well, assuming we put together a well designed strength programme that won’t get you bigger or more bulky, then if your mass stays the same and you get stronger, you get better at accelerating!!!!

#Athlete Development Journey

The Progressions that the athletes go through at Oakham exactly parallels the 6 Stages of Development we take our athletes through at APA.  We represent the journey with a 3 level pyramid but it’s the same progression.

Athletic Development Journey

Daz Vennes showed a similar slide to highlight the exact motor competency journey at Somerset CCC

Daz Vennes

The 5 levels refer to his progression of bodyweight movement skills which increase in difficulty starting with your basic squat/lunge/hinge/press up/inverted rows/plank movements.  These movement skills then progress through five levels until at level 5 we are looking at unilateral strength qualities, olympic lifting progressions etc.  These movement skills are are a constant part of the programme right from Under 11’s all the way to the pros- it’s just the complexity that is added to keep the movements challenging as they progress through the ranks.

In terms of the muscular strength journey referred to above Daz goes on to explain exactly how he would progress beyond bodyweight skills for his 16 years and above Academy athletes whom he starts to introduce load to.

Level 1:

  • Achieving BW loads in max effort drills determines progression to Level 2.  Sets of 10, then 6-8 once BW load is achieved

Level 2:

  • Achieving 1.5BW determines progression to Level 3. Sets of 6-8 then Sets of 3-5 once 1.5BW is achieved.

Level 3:

  • Similar strength load goals but Olympic lifting becomes a fully fledged session

Level 4:

  • Achieving 2.0BW determines progression to Level 5


#Oakham School S&C Philosophy

Oakham 5 S

Again exactly mirrors the APA Philosophy except we simply refer to the 5 S (Suppleness, Skill, Strength, Speed, Stamina)

#Simple philosophy- strength foundation not sport specific training

This kind of work lays a foundation for potential specialised programmes down the line.  It’s another big myth in the sports performance community- that an exercise ALWAYS has to look like the sport action to transfer.

The final goal of competition exercises in Olympic sports ”Citius, Altius, Fortius‟ – ”Faster, Higher, Stronger‟) may almost always be related to the capacity to express power produced by the speed of movements and by the force of overcoming external resistance.
Consequently, the training process, focused on improving the sports result, could be defined as the process of increasing the power output of competition exercise.

I have read a lot of the western interpretations of the Soviet training programmes.  Sometimes the work of coaches like Anatoliy Bondarchuk and Yuri Verkhoshansky get misapplied to developmental level athletes.  These coaches were delivering specific strength training programmes known as ‘special strength training’ to elite level Olympic track & field runners and throwers.

For me the essence of all sports skills lies in the movement of the human body….and the efficient movement of the human body at that.  All sport skills are just a combination of different basic motor tasks known as motor patterns put together to complete a sports skill.

Joel Tratt Physical Literacy

A generally dysfunctional body/motor pattern will translate into a sport specific dysfunctional pattern. 

I totally get that from both a biomechanics and biokinetics stand point we want to ensure that the forces we train in the gym are applied to a movement pattern that will translate to improved sports performance.  Exercises can be chosen on the base of the Dynamic correspondence Principle and should get more specific when looking to develop power in later phases of training.  But if the athlete has not yet acquired the ability to perform the patterns of movement that are the basis of all sports movements then we are missing the point.  Get the basics right first.  Understand where your athlete is on their journey and don’t be in a rush to work on the specifics if the foundations aren’t in place.

#Leicester Tigers RFU Academy

Leicester Academy


The green phases are competition phases.  Leicester Tigers Academy run a split playing phase over 30 weeks.  In competition phases rugby is a priority.  As you can see they don’t play every week, there may be up to 9 weeks when there is no match.  It just means there will be more exposures to rugby practice and less to S&C.  Maybe 4-5 Rugby and 3-4 S&C.


At the end of the playing season (around Apr/May) the players will do a Hypertrophy block 1 (in Orange) doing 5 days a week weights to get some functional mass gains. Then they get some rest for a few weeks before returning for another Hypertrophy block 2 (but with a slightly reduced frequency of lifts-down to 4 with 2 on the feet conditioning sessions to get used to running around with more mass.)

Once competition gets going they will replace higher volume hypertrophy blocks with lower volume high intensity maximal strength blocks.  They will then revisit hypertrophy for a few weeks before another maximal strength block as the next competition blocks gets going.

Leicester Academy schedule

Compare this to a typical Independent schools competition and training calendar which starts in September off the back of a summer break.  Is 17-19 school and Academy fixtures in each term with minimal preparation and a 10 week holiday ideal??  Er…….No.  It puts massive emphasis on the student to follow a hypertrophy/strength programme while they are away from school- and this is less than ideal.

Leicester Academy schedule2

However, could make an argument that school athlete’s over-play and under-train, and maybe vice versa in an Academy?

14-16 years old squads:

”Our focus was to introduce systems and processes with our 14-16 age groups that would allow us to have better co-ordinated, more athletic entrants to the full time Academy system.” Kevin Mannion.

Integrated S&C into the Rugby session

Leicester Academy rugby session

This allowed the coaches to get 50% of the session focused on S&C meaning that even if the younger athletes were only getting to train with Leicester for one training session per week they ensured that they still got some quality exposure to S&C by implementing movement skill stations between the sport skills stations.

I hoped you found this blog interesting and will challenge your thinking the next time you are about to observe performance in one of your athletes!



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