elitefts™ Sunday Edition

A few months back I attended the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association (CSCCa) annual convention. There were over a thousand college strength coaches and students in attendance, and it was amazing to see how much the organization has grown over the past five years. Executive Director Dr. Chuck Stiggins told me that the goals of this convention were “to keep coaches current on the latest research and how to apply it, to make the coaches feel valued, and to make sure that everyone has a great experience,” and they certainly hit it on all cylinders.

I just want to touch on some of my highlights from the week. The first was a Legends Roundtable discussion that was cool as hell. It was a group of 12 pioneers that pretty much invented the strength and conditioning profession—people such as Boyd Epley, Johnnie Parker, Gayle Hatch, Al Vermil, Bob Ward, and various others. Some of these men were the first to be a strength coach in their respective situations, and to hear them share their experiences was invaluable. These people made it up themselves as they went along and went on to have success at every level—national championships, super bowls, NBA championships...you name it, they have been there and done that. The most amazing thing to her while listening to these coaches was how they all competed in either Olympic lifting or powerlifting, and they took what they learned “under the bar” and basically started a profession from scratch. Not only did these men give some sage advice, but they also were so gracious that they were giving out their phone numbers and told us “young” strength coaches to call them if we had any questions or concerns regarding this profession. It was truly a group of professionals giving back.

The other  memorable aspect of the convention was the free range of ideas that were given out between the coaches. I don’t know what made this year’s convention so different, but I learned more in casual conversations than I did actually attending convention sessions during the past two years combined! The guys who are coaching at the highest level were always giving out advice no matter who was asking. To be honest, it amazes me how so many of these successful guys were so gracious with their time while others, who have yet to reach the pinnacle of our profession, would not give some of these kids the time of day.

This egotistical arrogance is a major hurdle of this profession. If we want to be perceived as professionals, we should act like it! Why can’t we shake hands before a game and courteously say, "may the best man win?" We need to put our egos aside and elevate this profession as much as we can. Yes, this means Youinterns, graduate assistants, full and part time...it doesn’t matter. This profession will humble you in a minute, and you don’t know when you may need that guy or this organization down the road. The CSCCa is doing everything it can to promote our certification process and exposure throughout the country to athletic directors, various media outlets, and sport coaches. Let’s all give a little back. Okay, I’m off the soap box now...

The third thing I want to say about the convention is hats off to many of the young guns coming up in this business. There were 120 coaches going through the certification process, and there were some very impressive showings during the practical portion of the exam. Hopefully there will be some job openings because from what I saw, the future looks bright for this profession. I must note that the certification process is quite extensive, with applicants having to complete an eight-month internship working under a CSCCa-certified strength coach, pass a 140-question written test, and complete a practical exam proctored by master strength coaches. (A master strength coach is a coach who has worked 12 or more years as a collegiate strength coach). It is definitely a hard won victory for those who decide to take on the challenge.

The final stop on my tour was, as usual, the mix of vendors selling their wares and newfangled devices. However, the thing that stood out to me was the Tsunami Bar. Of all the items out there, this one really captured my attention. I did some more research on it when I got back home and was even more impressed. You could really be creative and get after it with this thing since the possibilities are virtually endless. It is a flexible composite barbell, and you can do all the same lifts that you can do with a steel barbell, but it conforms to the body better than a standard steel bar. I watched a number of various lifts performed and tried a few myself, and the results were quite interesting.

For all of you who are smarter than me, I learned that the athlete is getting ampillatory and oscillatory motion at different angles throughout the lift. In English that means that it has that “live weight” feel that really develops your stabilizer muscles.The “live weight” feel is important not only for your stabilizers, but also for your core work as well. Live weight moves and reacts when the resistance changes unexpectedly. This is like when you are lifting someone in the air during a tackle, and your body’s core and stabilizers have to react, allowing you to use all of your force when the weight shifts to punish the ball carrier. In turn, since the bar is flexible, it allows acceleration through the end of the lift.

Also, even though it does use submaximal weights, it generates maximal forces at critical points in the lift. The maximal forces that are generated only occur for a short time, at which point you have to exert an impulse force to oppose this force. This impulse force in turn recruits maximal motor units, similar to a 1-RM, without the joint stress. It really is a piece of equipment that every weight room should have, and I’m sure it would work wonders on the rehab end of things as well.

All in all, the convention was a very positive, motivating experience for me—much better than many before. And it is really special to see where it came from and where it is going. Good luck to all of the strength coaches and athletes beginning their summer phase. Let’s get it!