My Training Philosophy
Updated: Feb 5, 2022
A coaching philosophy and a training philosophy can be considered the same thing by many, but for me they are different things. My coaching philosophy refers to my delivery as a coach. My training philosophy refers to what I want to achieve from training. This is just my interpretation.
My training philosophy has evolved over time, and right now, I am able to summarise it in one line. With training, I want:
to create athletic, adaptable and anti-fragile people.
This can be adapted to any level of athlete or client. I want to achieve the same thing, but the start point is different for everyone, as is the end point. For example, athleticism for a U14 gaelic football player is different to the athleticism a senior tennsis player needs. In each scenario, it is important to assess where an individual is, what their end goal is, and then come up with steps to bridge that gap. I will break my philosophy down further into each component part.
I really like this framework from Jeremy Moody to define athleticism. These athletic motor skills underpin almost every sport specific skill from any sport.
This video of Perry Baker highlights the need for a variety of athletic motor skills:
To develop an athletic player, a well-rounded athletic development program must be put in place. Getting strong in the gym is important, but so is developing catching and passing skills, and runninng mechanics. As athletic development coach, I believe I should be developing it all, and if I only get an athlete strong (especially only in one plane of motion), then I have really failed my athlete.
See image below for some strength and power progressions, a small part of developing athleticism.
Adaptability can be defined as "a quality which describes a performer who is able to coordinate and control their movement to maintain a more functional performer-environment relationship" (Davids & Araujo, 2011).
Newell's model of constraints has been a big help for me in defining and articulating my phiosophy. Merging physical development with skill acquisition has helped me to re-evaluate everything I do as an athletic development coach. While the title "athletic development coach" may indicate my job is to develop athleticism in players, I believe my job is to make players better at their sport. This might include enhancing athleticism, but it doesn't end there.
Davids et al. (2003). Newell’s model of interacting constraints adapted to illustrate
the resulting effects on variability of physical performance
Only developing athleticism improves only the organism (player/individual) part of the above equation. If that is all I do then I have failed in my job. I believe it is vital that I improve the athletes ability to extract key information out of their environment, to make better decisions. My aim here is to create more skillful movers who exhibit dexterity - a characteristic which explains how one is able to organize a movement solution for any emerging, external situation, in any situation and in any condition (Bernstein, 1996).
Taken from Nassim Taleb's book "Anti-Fragile":
Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure , risk, and uncertainty. Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.
In a social media driven world of today, there will always be someone who claims to have it better. It can easy for people to be overwhelmed. Young people especially can be shamed into thinking they need to change or be more like someone else. Young people have a lot going on - exams in school, changing friends, changing relationships with family. For young sports people, the issues could be around getting offered a contract, not getting offered a contract, living away from home for the first time, being placed under more scrutiny for their performances, staying grounded with early success.
Creating anti-fragile people starts with creating a safe environment for people to express themselves. Allowing people the space to be themselves, to be authentic. This links back to my coaching philosophy, excellence can only be achieved by being authentic, being someone else is not excellence. With social media, people can be shamed into thinking they need to change, or be more like someone else, like they are not enough.
As Brene Brown says, the antidote to shame is vulnerability. I want to create an environment where people can be vulnerable without fear of ridicule or fear of judgement. The All Blacks have a phrase "no dickheads" which captures their environment. "No bullies" is a phrase that would describe my ideal environment. People expressing themselves authentically is the key to anti-fragility in my opinion, and my job is to provide people the space and freedom to do that.
I want to address all three components through training.