A Call for Change: Addressing 9 Common Myths in Strength and Conditioning for Sports Coaches & Parents

   

To start things off on the right foot, some common ground coaches and parents can all share is that we want the same thing: for each athlete to become the best they can be. Period.

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No one purposely plans on doing something to make themselves or athletes worse, yet it still happens. Part of the problem is an abundance of myths and old tales exist out there about what it takes to get bigger, stronger, and faster.

In the realm of strength and conditioning, there are far too many misconceptions and a ton of information to try to sift through.

One of the biggest culprits stoking the fire regarding the myths and misconceptions is parents and sports coaches with great intentions but bad execution trying to help their athletes improve. They think that speed ladders are the key to running a sub 4.40s, 40 yd-dash and that in every workout you need to be dripping sweat or else you didn’t work hard enough.

Well, it’s about time to change the paradigm and shift it to what science proves.

The goal of this article is to sort the facts from the fallacies. To give strength coaches a guide to share with parents and coaches when they are not as knowledgeable on the subject. That way we can all change preconceived notions and unrealistic standards. As a result, everyone can be happy and successful.

Let’s dive into a few misconceptions. 

1. Speed Ladders

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Yes, they have been beaten to death and everyone has one. Ladders can be a great tool, but not for building the speed that everyone would like for athletic performance.

How we really build speed is by improving general strength, training the running patterns, sprinting, and jumping. Rinse and repeat. That process for years, and you will get faster.

2. Youth Athletes Weightlifting

I get many inquiries and concerns over youth athletes lifting weights. Questions such as:

  • Will it hurt my young athlete’s growth?
  • Is it safe...because I don’t want them lifting heavy?
  • Will it slow them down?

The reality is under proper load and movement progressions, athletes can become better at any age. For example, back in the day do you think the parents of the 8-year-old carrying a 5 gallon bucket of water (= 40lbs) to water the animals on the farm for his daily chores thought it would stunt their child's growth? And did it? No!

3. Crushing Athletes Every Workout

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Quotes I have heard from sports coaches:

This is not the case!

What needs to happen is proper programming and progression. Here's a resource for programming for young athletes.

We all want to be in a hurry to get where we are going, but we should be patient and work through the steps. The steps can be frustrating and not always groundbreaking, but consistency wins the race. Now, do not get me wrong, there is a time and place for hard workouts and performances where we go until our tanks are empty, but too much too soon and too often will lead to overtraining and underperforming.

We need to allow for adaptation to occur. Adaptation does not occur without proper dosage and then recovery.

4. Nutrition

Carb loading. There is a finite amount of carbohydrates that you can store in the body. That is in the muscles and the liver. That is it. Once it reaches capacity, there is no more storage, and the the excess is going to be converted to fat.

Attempting to carb load will lead to feeling overly full, bloated, and groggy. Which will not help but hurt the athlete's performance.

Leave that 4th cup of pasta where it was.

5. Sports Drinks

This is one of the worst.

I see so many kids come in and drink some type of sports drink at all times. They do not - and I repeat - do not need to have one of these at every practice or throughout the day. The sports drink is suppose to help you when you are really pushing your limits and excreting a lot of fluids and electrolytes. More often than not, most practices should not be this hard or require the use of a sport drink.

Excessive intake of the drink will be bad long term. These types of drinks add a lot of extra calories and sugar. Plus, the athletes do not like the taste of water anymore because they love the sweetness of the drink.

Kick the sports drink habit and don't look back.

6. Fat Makes You Fat

Unfortunately, I still hear this one. While I am not a registered dietician, I am very well versed in nutrition, and I can tell you this is absolutely false.

If you do not have fat in your diet, it will be difficult to support your hormones, especially testosterone which we all need for sports performance.

General recommendations that are easy to follow for any athlete are protein and some source of fat at every meal. Match your carbohydrates to your activity level. That’s it; keep it simple and effective.

7. Footwear

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The footwear matters! Consider function vs. fashion. The shoes may look cool but can they serve the right purpose? If the shoe is just fancy material, it will not hold up and allow you to do the things you need to do both on and off the field to get better.

We need a solid foundation to stand on. Sled pushes are notorious for helping sort out the good shoes from the bad.

General rule of thumb is the shoe should be snug, have less foam and bulk on the bottom, and be able to move side to side without the sidewall collapsing.

Our shoes are the foundation of most of the contact we make when we are working out or doing any activity. Just think how bad it is to play in tennis shoes on wet grass. The same thinking should apply to the shoes we use in the gym and other sports performance venues.

8. Realistic Standards and Measurables

There was a great recent post about the true averages of the NFL combine, and I think that is a great thing. One thing coaches and parents need to realize is even with those averages, which are lower than you would expect, they are the best of the best in college. So you should stop comparing your high school athlete to those numbers and keep working on the process to improve everyday from where they previously were.

By that, I also do not mean they should be dropping a tenth of a second off their 40 every practice either.

Which leads me to my next point...

9. Stop Testing Every Day

Testing confirms whether or not what we have been doing has given us the results we are after. Testing does not help us improve from a physical standpoint.

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Training is not a linear process, which is exactly what we are always trying to elude to: it is a process, it will take time.

We cycle what we do when we train athletes into sections, sometimes called blocks, periods, etc., which last weeks, months, and sometimes years. We should really only test a few times throughout those blocks to make sure we are on the right path. More training, less testing.

Busted S&C Myths

To sum it all up, these are points that I address on a daily basis to help educate and inform the athletes, sports coaches, and parents.

We all are trying to help get to the same destination, so instead of fighting over everything, let's continue to educate and empower each other and share some common ground. Let’s work toward what science and experience prove and get rid of the notion that working harder and doing more is better. We have proven that does not work.

Train smart and put in the time. The progress will come.

Resources for further information:

About The Author

Ryan is the Director of strength and conditioning at Pro Performance RX In Morgantown, West Virginia. Ryan has been working in the private sector with hundreds of youth athletes for the last 5 years. He is always excited to talk training and dig deep into the Why. Never stop learning, growing and adapting. In the great words of Bruce Lee be like water.

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