According to Aristotle, the concept of holism means “the total effectiveness of a group of things, each interacting with one another, is different or greater than their effectiveness when acting in isolation from one another.” Intentionally and progressively incorporating a holistic approach to sports performance in athletics has, over time, proved beneficial in many ways.
There are many moving parts in athletics that can make communicating and collaborating one of the biggest challenges in team sports. In this chaotic and wide-ranging environment, programs must eliminate departmental silos and create a supported multidisciplinary approach, sharing as much pertinent information as possible. I have seen the most detailed results when input from all professionals who support the athlete is considered. The multidisciplinary approach consists of information from the athlete, coaching staff, performance coach, athletic trainers, dietician, research staff, and more. A performance coach or leader’s skill set should be founded on exceptional interpersonal skills that are essential to creating a cohesive unit toward the goal of WINNING.
As a Ph.D. student at UConn, I have sought additional sources of input and opportunity by collaborating with the Institute of Sports Medicine (ISM) and Exercise Science department researchers. This past year, a couple of our athletes worked with the ISM to complete 2-D motion capture technology that is used to estimate whole-body movement (kinematics/kinetics) and provide insight into how an athlete is moving before and after injury. Two-dimensional motion capture has value, as it can capture movement patterns in the sagittal and frontal planes that are risk factors for lower-extremity injury.
These measurements are important because the repeated stresses of running and braking in basketball build an accumulation of loading that can create damage and risk for bone stress injuries. Movement patterns should be explored and addressed for the following reasons:
- To reduce the risk of injury by identifying biomechanics weaknesses or deficiencies, preventing time loss from participating in sport.
- To gather baseline information that could assist in return to play protocols.
- To collect baseline performance data.
Generally, I find basketball players tend to lack mobility around the ankle, hip, and thoracic spine region. It is a goal of mine to decrease system/overall stiffness because research has shown that a disproportionate increase in stiffness can increase the chance of injury. We address these mobility issues by using exercises that can attenuate impact forces or suppress forces to optimize health when appropriate (mostly in-season, from October to April). These exercises use an external load at slower velocities and in deep ranges of motion.The biggest refinements I have made over the years are the addition of technology and the elimination of traditional block periodization, says @A_Hudy. Click To Tweet
Coaches often ask me if we do yoga with our athletes: My answer is no, but conceptually we perform systemic bilateral and unilateral exercises through full ranges of motion. This allows the athlete to learn how to create, hold, and control (slow) tension.
We must examine what multidisciplinary resources have evolved over time to constantly refine the information we can bring to the table for the care of each athlete. The biggest refinements I have made over the years are the addition of technology and the elimination of traditional block periodization.
Sport Performance Technology
Camera-based velocity trackers, force plates, and load management devices have allowed us to analyze and track specific variables that are important for decision-making in our multifaceted approach.
The velocity-based training approach to movement in the weight room is a method that’s not about lifting extremely heavy weights (although that is beneficial in some instances). Instead, it focuses on the ability to move moderate weights FAST and with GREAT technique. This is important because the biggest training opportunity for basketball is during the six to seven months of in-season training—but during these months, we must keep in mind that winning basketball games is still the most important outcome.
We use moderate loads and work mindfully to increase velocity in our movements. I find this important because the best athletes tend to be the most consistent force producers over time.
When in-season, I do not want the athletes to experience muscle soreness or fatigue or introduce something that would drastically change their force production. We allow the high-volume work to be reserved for the court.
We measure systemic exercises (whole-body): hang power clean and its many variations, jump squats, squats, multi-joint exercises, etc. These movements require synchronous neuromuscular recruitment to develop the power output and total body tissue density needed to survive the demands of the sport.The implementation of GPS load management tracking has influenced every facet of the decision-making process of daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal planning, says @A_Hudy. Click To Tweet
With camera-based velocity tracking technology in the weight room, the team can see the improvements in how fast they lift a prescribed weight or if power output increases over time. This technology also gives us the ability to provide specific force-velocity profiles and determine individual needs depending on the long-term trends the athlete is showing. The primary goal is to build robustness (tissue density) so that the individual has the foundation to excel in their season.
The force plate is a piece of technology that measures how an athlete coordinates (sequences) a countermovement jump, how much force they apply into the ground, and how high they can jump. This information helps us address force production asymmetries, as they can lead to an increased risk of injury. Examining the different phases and forces of a countermovement jump provides insight into defining an individual athlete’s needs: for example, an elite basketball athlete who is quad-dominant and stiff because of their sport demands versus an ace baseball pitcher who is posterior chain-dominant and has great thoracic mobility. In training, we aim to undo what the sport does to the athlete’s body, attenuate repeated forces, and focus on mobility.
The implementation of GPS load management tracking has influenced every facet of the decision-making process of daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal planning. Load management allows for a more consistent and sustainable approach to sport programming. The ability to track movement volume and intensity of practice can give insight into responsiveness and future practice plans. This data allows the coaching staff to avoid unreasonable increases in volume that can increase the risk of injury for the athletes.
The part of my team sport training programs that I have “let go” of is any form of traditional or block periodization, unless we have a very consistent competitive schedule or an athlete is undergoing a return to play protocol where we can control all aspects of training.I’ve ‘let go’ of traditional periodization, which leans on pre-planned, non-flexible training. For us, the data drives the decisions and considers all these factors, says @A_Hudy. Click To Tweet
Programming for a team sport that has multiple and congested competitions within a season must be fluid. The art of coaching must come into play. We are responsible for responding to each athlete’s competition schedule, training schedule, and playing time rather than being rigid. Traditional periodization leans on pre-planned, non-flexible training, while for us, the data drives the decisions and considers all these factors.
Using Data to Test the Boundaries
A holistic approach to training relies on a foundation of established and scientifically validated research. However, as technology continues to advance and move our industry forward, there still need to be people outside of the lab who test the boundaries of what’s presented in textbooks and scholarly articles.
- Does this exercise do what coaches claim it does?
- Can it be used for a different purpose with a different INTENT?
- How does it work for each athlete?
These questions are catalysts for change in a profession that is scrutinized in so many areas, from evaluating training variables to weighing the risk-reward ratios of exercises.
The athletes are not the only ones who benefit from the added use of technology: the sport coaches, trainers, and dieticians can also see the workload, explosive efforts, and tolls that athletes experience during training and competition. In conjunction with experience, technology allows us to back our intuition with data to drive decisions about volumes, intensities, and exercise selections over a season/year to best benefit the athletes.
Moreover, velocity-based training, force plate assessments, and managing practice and competition loads allow the incorporation of a more holistic approach. There are many effective ways to train, but what has served me best as a coach is to examine what is happening to the body as a “system” rather than as individual parts. Instead of using a strict periodization approach, using the holistic approach with this level of technology has given me a better understanding of why athletes are successful.
Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire.
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