Anthony Donskov is the founder of DSC where he serves as the Director of Sport Performance. Donskov holds a Masters Degree in Exercise Science & is the author of Physical Preparation for Ice Hockey.
Take Home Programs: Where’s the Coaching?
Over the years I have had the opportunity to view many different “take-home” strength and conditioning programs written for my college/junior hockey players. I have also had the experience of being a former collegiate athlete expected to adhere to a rigorous summer program without the aid of a coach. Through these experiences, I have come up with the following conclusion: A program is only as good as it’s coached. PERIOD! A poor program done well is better than a good program performed poorly. Hands-on coaching is the key to building athletes. Let me give you another analogy: I can write you up a detailed manual on how to fly a plane. You may understand each and every sentence, but do you think this would make you a confident, well-rounded pilot? The answer to this question is obviously no. Why than are we expecting our athletes to become competent “pilots” with such vague, non-coached instruction? Below are several problems with strength and conditioning “take home” programs.
Language: Our profession has a way of confusing even ourselves. Very few of us speak the same language. What does the word hop, bound, and jump mean to you? I would say that if I surveyed 100 coaches, I might have 50 different answers. Our “flight manuals” are not consistent. If this confuses us, what will this do to our athletes training from afar? We need to speak the same language. This takes education and time.
Coaching: I firmly believe the best coaches are hands-on coaches. I view my athletes’ as molds of clay. It’s my job to position the athlete/client in a safe, sound mechanical position to perform the various exercises. I may grab the ASIS and crank the hips to prepare a young lifter for the hang clean. This ingrains proper motor patterns and can only be accomplished with hands-on coaching.
Technique: Need I say more? Sound movement/technique is the essence of any good strength and conditioning program. Coach Boyle said, “Your clients are your mirror.” If your clients/athletes are training with poor form, this is a reflection of YOU as a coach. How many “take home” programs have you seen with technical proficiency in EVERY lift?
Path of Least Resistance: Our bodies are designed to take the path of least resistance. So is the most powerful muscle in our bodies, our mind. Many times the last several intervals on the bike/sled tax the mind just as much as the peripherals. I can tell you as a former college athlete, that even elite athletes will look to “skip over” the last few intervals in a non-coached program. The mind is a powerful muscle.
RESULTS: I want results for my athletes/clients! I hold myself, and my business to high standards. It’s hard to rectify the results, or lack of results, to a team coach if the athlete didn’t perform my program properly.
I certainly understand that geographical constraints make “take home” programs an entertaining option for our athletes. I also understand that many times this is the only option available to provide athletes during the summer months. I have written several “take home” programs myself for athletes that have trained with me over prolonged periods of time. We as coaches are also making major headway with the use of the Internet, posting programs, video, explanation and demonstration. These are all great steps forward in proving a better “manual” for our training populations. Remember even with these resources, our “manual” will always be a work in progress. The only way to make confident, well-rounded pilots is with the assistance of a well-educated, hands-on co-pilot. Co-Pilots are coaches with experience, and Coaching is key!
Anthony Donskov, MS, CSCS, PES, is a former collegiate and professional hockey player, founder of Donskov Strength and Conditioning Inc., (www.donskovsc.com) and Head Instructor/Director of Off-Ice Strength and Conditioning for Donskov Hockey Development (www.donskovhockey.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.