Lay the groundwork for a high school program with one of the most respected high school strength coaches in the country. In this week’s Friday Five, Scott Meier, a strength coach with experience in both physical education and sports performance, reviews what it takes to run a thriving high school strength and conditioning program from the inside out.
Over the course of my 40-year career in the related professional fields of orthopedic and sports physical therapy and the performance enhancement training of athletes, I have been fortunate to work and associate with many outstanding, successful, and unique medical practitioners, strength and conditioning (S&C) coaches, and business professionals. Many have become lifelong friends and mentors, some have cultivated me over brief periods of time, and all have imprinted some form of valuable experience upon me.
These many lessons have been instrumental to me, whether during the training of an athlete, the physical rehabilitation of an athlete, researching and publishing scientific subject material, or assuming the role of a department head or chief executive officer (CEO) of a large health care business. I frequently find myself contacting these professionals, as well as relying upon my past experiences, to assist in many of the crucial decisions that have occurred over the course of my career.
This is a tribute to all of those individuals (there are too many to mention all of them) who were kind enough and willing to “take me under their wing” and spend the time to educate and refine me. As an expression of my gratitude toward all of them, I’d like to share some select experiences in this blog post. It’s a way to “pay it forward,” especially to the young S&C coaches and rehabilitation specialists, as there was a time when I was also in their situation. I hope that other professionals reading this dialogue may benefit from these lessons as well. As the SimpliFaster website is related to athletics, I will attempt to be consistent in describing these experiences in that context.
USA Hall of Fame Strength and Conditioning Coach Johnny Parker
Coach Johnny Parker has won three NFL Super Bowl World Championships, many other championships, and numerous professional awards. I first met Coach Parker at Giants Stadium in 1985. At the time, I was a physical therapist in the Sports Medicine, Performance, and Research Center at the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in New York.
I was establishing a platform to introduce the squat exercise as a component of the postoperative anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction rehabilitation process. Dr. Russell Warren, the head of the HSS Sports Medicine service and NFL New York Giants head team physician, suggested I meet with the NY Giants Head S&C Coach Johnny Parker because he was a big advocate of the squat exercise. I met with Coach Parker at Giants Stadium and spent the day with him. After that, he invited me to work with him and his New York Giant players for the next seven years (his remaining tenure with the team), during their off-season physical conditioning and training. We remain very close friends to this day.
“Remember that we coach the kids, not the weights.”–USA S&C Hall of Fame Coach Johnny Parker
Coach Parker instilled in me that we are in the coaching profession for our athletes, and not the other way around. We must do all we can for them, regardless of the required work hours, our personal concerns, or any other “outside” distractions. Our concern is for our players, to make our best effort every day, to be the very best professional we can possibly be. We are to be leaders and hold our players accountable, as their dreams are in our hands.
“Opponents admire talent because you’re born with it, they respect strength because you have to work for it, but they fear toughness.”–USA S&C Hall of Fame Coach Johnny Parker
Coach Parker taught me that “toughness” is the ability of the athlete to establish and maintain their composure throughout high pressure situations. Toughness is ignoring poor weather conditions on game day, not jumping offside when your opponent has the ball and it’s third down and two yards to go, not hitting a player when he is out of bounds, not roughing the passer. Toughness is performing your assignments optimally to achieve a much-needed win.
Toughness is representing your institution or team appropriately, waking up on your own accord and attending class, achieving proper grades, and maintaining proper conduct both on and off the field. It’s assisting your team in a positive, not negative, manner both on and off the field. It’s the disciplined ability to repeatedly control all of the variables that are controllable and to ignore all of those variables that are not.Toughness is NOT working your athletes so hard that they reach the point of vomiting into a bucket, collapse on the practice field, or become too exhausted to fully recover. Click To Tweet
Toughness is NOT working your athletes so hard that they reach the point of vomiting into a bucket, collapse on the practice field, or become too exhausted to fully recover for the next training or practice session. Anyone can exhaust their players and bring them to the point of illness—there is no coaching talent requirement for those achievements.
NFL Hall of Fame Coach Bill Parcells
While working the off-seasons with Coach Parker at Giants Stadium, I was eventually introduced to New York Giants Head Coach Bill Parcells. Our relationship continued through the time he became the head coach of the NFL New York Jets, as he referred some of his Jet players to me to rehabilitate. As our relationship evolved, I found that not only was Coach Parcells one of the most intelligent leaders I have ever known, but he was certainly one of the wisest men I’ve ever come across in my career. That holds true to this day.
At the time, our physical therapy company was going through a restructuring of senior management. I was placed in the role of CEO, along with my partner George Papadopoulos, until a new CEO who would be appropriate for our business model could be located and employed. I spoke with Coach Parcells during this 12-month period, as he was a key resource for me. I’ve always believed in the strong connection between the roles of a successful head sport coach and the CEO of a large business. Both are ultimately responsible for their “team” and face many similar decisions.
“There is a big difference between routine and commitment.” –NFL Hall of Fame Football Coach Bill Parcells
No truer lesson has ever been stated. Similar to the head coach and leader in charge, all assistant coaches and players must consistently display their best efforts both on and off the field. Athletes are motivated, we all know that, so why would a coach select someone who is not motivated? They must be provided with the environment, knowledge, and tools to hone their craft—yes, craft, not job (there is a big difference). A football team needs football players, not athletes who happen to play football. There is a significant difference between the two.A football team needs football players, not athletes who happen to play football. There is a significant difference between the two. Click To Tweet
In many careers, there are individuals who at one time arrived at their work setting with motivation and enthusiasm, but eventually fell into the trap of arriving to work, performing their duties, and then leaving for home, only to return the next day to display the same lackluster effort for the “daily routine.” Unfortunately, this is all too common. Just like the head coach, staff and players must be continually challenged to evolve and improve themselves. The head coach must ensure that the staff and players are also provided with the environment and tools necessary to positively grow and succeed.
The staff and players must also be held accountable for both their professional responsibilities and personal conduct and rewarded whenever appropriate. They often must be pushed outside their “comfort zone” to adapt and grow, and to attain the confidence to strive when placed in unfamiliar and, at times, high-pressure situations. Until such a “culture” is established, the risk remains for an environment of “routine” to rear its ugly head.
Coach Parcells would also state that football players who play the game for money and fame will likely achieve neither, but players who play for championships will likely achieve both. Only the avoidance of routine and the culture of commitment will lead to championships and the achievement of fulfilling the athlete’s dreams.
“Potential means you haven’t done anything yet. You lose with potential; you win with performance.” –NFL Hall of Fame Football Coach Bill Parcells
This statement certainly doesn’t mean that athletes with great potential are discounted; on the contrary, they are recruited, taught, and mentored. However, over time the athlete must eventually convert their “potential” to “performance.” An athlete is rewarded on performance. A team wins based upon their performance. A coach is judged on their performance. If this is not true, why then do we keep score during athletic competition?
USA Strength and Conditioning Hall of Fame Coach Al Vermeil
Coach Al Vermeil is the only S&C coach to win world championships in two different professional sports leagues (the National Football League and National Basketball Association), as well as add seven world championships to his resume. Coach Vermeil has been retired for more than a decade; however, in my opinion as well as the opinion of many of my peers, when it comes to the combination of knowledge and coaching abilities, he is still the best S&C coach in the country.
My initial contact with Coach Vermeil was through our mutual friends, S&C coaches Al Miller and Don Chu. Ironically, Coach Vermeil and I remained in consistent contact for years through many phone conversations before finally meeting face-to-face. He has taught me so much about coaching, working with athletes, programming, etc. It’s too long a list for this article, but his following brief statement left a strong impression upon me that will last my lifetime:
“There are no absolutes.” –USA S&C Hall of Fame Coach Al Vermeil
Coaches and athletes today have various educational, coaching, and equipment merchandise available to them to enhance their professional knowledge and coaching proficiencies, as well as the physical and psychological development of their athletes. There is a staggering number of conferences, print publications, certifications, internships and mentorships, data collection, and training equipment available. However, the most utilized resource at every coach’s and athlete’s fingertips is the internet.
This high-speed network of information provides the user with an infinite amount of data, including coaching and training information, along with instant gratification. The internet is also a venue where robust claims of coaching prowess and athletic physical enhancement are guaranteed, often at a price. Frequently, these “guarantees” come without substantiated scientific evidence and, thus, are based solely on opinion. This is not to imply that there are not some dependable and valid products and information available, but products should not be considered “one size fits all,” as athletes are individuals.
Some sound advice for all coaches and athletes would be “caveat emptor” (let the buyer beware) and examine all information for both validity and substance. I should also note that the only “secrets” are the ones that can be bought. The reality is there are no secrets, as desired information is always available to those who invest the time to search for it.The reality is there are no secrets, as desired information is always available to those who invest the time to search for it. Click To Tweet
Athletes are individuals both psychologically and physically. What is appropriate for one may not be what is ideal for another, as their specific needs are likely different from many of their peers. There is no one “cookie cutter” method for success; there are no “absolutes.” If there were, we’d all coach with the exact same philosophical training methods, utilizing the same programs and exercises during our athletes’ training.
USA Strength and Conditioning Hall of Fame Coach Al Miller
I first met S&C Coach Al Miller when Coach Parker and I flew to Denver, Colorado, to meet with him and his staff. Al and Johnny are good friends, and at the time, Coach Miller was the head S&C coach for the NFL Denver Broncos. He had arranged a weekend seminar on strength and power development to be taught by Coach Dragomir Cioroslan, a former Romanian weightlifter who was at the time the head coach for the USA National Weightlifting team. The weekend was quite an educational experience, and it initiated what came to be a long friendship with Coach Miller, a great man.
“Don’t ever condemn ignorance, educate it.” –USA S&C Hall of Fame Coach Al Miller
Coach Miller, like many S&C coaches, was employed on the football staff of many prestigious head football coaches, but none was greater than the legendary head football coach at the University of Alabama, Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. I used to ask Coach Miller and all my coaching friends about the various experiences of their careers, but I had a special interest in hearing the stories and lessons of Coach Bryant.When coaching athletes, instead of becoming frustrated with them, take a step back, look in the mirror, and discover the missing piece(s) of the puzzle. Often, the player is not the culprit. Click To Tweet
One lesson that Coach Bryant passed on to Coach Miller was not to become frustrated if a player did not comprehend a lesson or was unable to perform a training technique, as the confusion might not be the athlete’s fault. Poor coaching, poor communication, or the lack of the necessary tools (equipment, facilities) and environment to accomplish the assignment may actually be the culprit(s). When coaching athletes, instead of becoming frustrated, take a step back, look in the mirror, and discover the missing piece(s) of the puzzle. Find the solution and, if necessary, adjust the teaching methods and concepts to a simpler level via improved communication so the athlete can comprehend and perform the task at hand.
USA Strength and Conditioning Hall of Fame Coach and National Athletic Trainer’s Association Hall of Fame Athletic Trainer Dr. Donald Chu
I first met Coach Don Chu at a National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) National Conference in 1984. I approached him after his presentation to ask him a few questions about it. I also asked if he had time to discuss his career, as I was interested in the same professional pathway. Coach Chu asked if we could get together later that same day.
Coach Chu was kind enough to meet with me for two full hours, providing me with any bit of information that could possibly be beneficial to me. At the end of our meeting, he looked directly at me and asked if I would be interested in working with him in his physical therapy practice in California. I thought about the offer for a couple of days before ultimately declining it, but I requested to remain in contact with him. We’ve remained good friends to this day.
For those of you who don’t know of Don Chu, you should. Don Chu has his Ph.D. in physical therapy and is a NATA certified athletic trainer, a noted strength and conditioning coach, and a track and field jumps coach who has coached both Olympians and All-Americans. He was also a professor of kinesiology and biomechanics at the school where he coached, California State University at Hayward.
He is the only S&C coach and athletic trainer in history to be inducted into both the USA Strength and Conditioning Coaches Hall of Fame and the NATA Hall of Fame. Although he coached at Cal-State Hayward, a Division II level college, there was a time in his career when Coach Chu coached more 7+ foot high jumpers than anyone else in the country! Although retired, he is still the foremost authority in the country with regard to plyometric training.
“Always have a plan and be sure to emphasize quality not quantity of the work that is to be executed. Too many coaches prescribe too many exercises just for the sake of including exercises. They want to include everything they can in their program due to the concern their competitor may be doing something with their athletes that they are not.” –USA S&C Hall of Fame Coach and NATA HOF Athletic Trainer Dr. Donald ChuExcessive training for the sake of training is a direct route to negative consequences. Click To Tweet
Coach Chu stressed the significance of focusing on the quality of an athlete’s training and the ability to segregate what is important from what is not. This not only results in enhanced performance, but helps the athlete concentrate on fewer versus too many training factors. The focus on quality also avoids overtraining by maintaining the workout volume and time at appropriate levels. Excessive training for the sake of training is a direct route to negative consequences.
Bulgarian Weightlifter and Bulgarian National Team Weightlifting Coach Ivan Abadjiev
In 1988, I traveled with a number of American strength and conditioning coaches to Bulgaria to study and observe the Bulgarian National Weightlifting team. We arrived in Bulgaria in the late spring, prior to the summer Olympic Games. We attended team workouts and had periodic question-and-answer sessions with various weightlifting team coaches, including head weightlifting coach Ivan Abadjiev. At the end of the day, we would return to our hotel for dinner and then, eventually, to our hotel rooms. One evening after dinner my roommate, USA Hall of Fame S&C Coach E.J. “Doc” Kreis, slapped me on the shoulder and said, “C’mon, let’s go.” When I asked where we were going, he stated, “Back to see the Bulgarian weightlifting team train.”
We took a taxi to the weightlifting center, and upon our uninvited arrival, we just stuck our heads through the doorway. Coach Abadjiev saw us and graciously waved us into the facility. Our one-on-one time that evening with Coach Abadjiev is an evening I’ll always remember.
“During our athletes’ training, we ensure the quality of our work while taking advantage of our athletes’ high testosterone levels.” –Bulgarian Weightlifter and Bulgarian National Team Weightlifting Coach Ivan Abadjiev
Like Coach Chu, Coach Abadjiev stressed the quality of his athletes’ training. In preparing for the upcoming summer Olympic Games, his athletes lifted weights three times per day for no longer than one hour per training session. He stressed how testosterone levels would rise for approximately 20 minutes and then remain at maximal levels for only an additional 40–50 minutes prior to the initiation of their decline. Thus, the reason for just one-hour workouts followed by appropriate rest sessions repeated three times daily.
The Bulgarian weightlifters performed only four exercises:
- Back squat
- Front squat
- Clean and jerk
No assistance weight exercises, period. Their executed exercise sets consisted of single and double repetitions, and their executed exercise weights were at least 20 kilos from their personal recorded best. They stressed quality of work and no additional exercises just for the sake of adding exercises. This information certainly reminded me of Coach Chu’s advice as well.
Soviet Coach and Professor Yuri Verkhoshansky
Prior to my trip to Bulgaria, in 1987 I traveled with a different group of American S&C coaches to the former Soviet Union and former East Germany to study the training methods of various national sports coaches and scientists, as well as observe various national teams during training. During our time in Moscow at the Central Institute of Physical Culture and Sport, we attended various lectures, some given by Professor Verkhoshansky. His main topic was “shock training,” or what American coaches termed “plyometrics.” Professor Verkhoshansky is often referred to as the “Father of Plyometric Training,” as he is credited with creating the shock method of training (plyometrics), along with inventing the depth jump. As a former sport coach, he was also very proficient in the methodology of special strength training and special physical preparation of athletes.
“I have had my share of great successes but have had my share of failures as well.” –Soviet Coach and Professor Yuri Verkhoshansky
I had the honor to spend a period of time one-on-one with this brilliant man. During our conversation he admitted that he had his share of failures, and this certainly impressed upon me as a young coach that even the best have their share of mistakes. Professor Verkhoshansky stressed the need to have a well-thought-out program design that is substantiated with scientific evidence. His words echo in my head on the occasions when I sit down and design training and/or rehabilitation programs, as well as research projects.
My own personal experiences have taught me that throughout the course of a professional career, everyone makes mistakes. The key is to learn from them, don’t repeat them, and over time to minimize them.
Hall of Fame Basketball Coach Lou Carnesecca
I had both the honor and the privilege to serve as the head strength and conditioning coach at St. John’s University of New York for 10 years (1986–1995). The athletic department at St. John’s and I both had one significant thing in common: I was the university’s first head S&C coach and St. John’s was my first head S&C coaching position. I always felt we grew together, and a focal point for this growth was our famed ambassador of basketball, Head Coach Lou Carnesecca.
I felt very excited and privileged to be his basketball team’s S&C coach, and I was Coach Carnesecca’s only strength coach, since he retired in 1992 during my tenure at the university. Coach Carnesecca’s career collegiate record at St. John’s was 526–200, winning three out of every four basketball games he coached. During his entire collegiate coaching career, his St. John’s teams were never omitted from a post-season tournament.
Coach Carnesecca was very unique, as he was kind yet demanding, and he embodied intelligence, wisdom, and a wealth of coaching experience. His players, his university, and the city of New York all loved him. If Coach Carnesecca had run as a candidate for the mayor of New York City, he would have been elected in a landslide.
“60% players, 30% coaching, and 10% luck…but you make your own luck.” –HOF Basketball Coach Lou Carnesecca
One day at practice, I asked Coach Carnesecca who was more important to winning a basketball game, the players or the coaches? I presumed I knew the answer and expected him to provide me with a similar answer, but his response was something I did not expect and remains with me to this day.
After thinking for a short moment, Coach Carnesecca responded: “60% players, 30% coaching, and 10% luck,” and after a pause he added, “but you make your own luck.” He asked whether when our players succeeded in attaining key rebounds or loose balls on the court, were they lucky or was it a result of weight room, track, and on-the-court training? When hitting foul shots with no time left on the clock to win a basketball game, was that due to luck or the result of all the foul shots taken by our players at the end of each and every practice?You make your own luck by working hard, paying attention to small details, leaving no stone unturned, and having the staff and players work together to achieve unity, culture, and success. Click To Tweet
Coach’s message was clear. You make your own luck by working hard, paying attention to the little details, leaving no stone unturned, and having both the basketball staff and players work together to achieve unity, culture, and success.
Russell F. Warren, M.D.
When I arrived at the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in 1984, I was hired as a physical therapist to work in the Sports Medicine, Performance, and Research Center. At the time, there were only two sports medicine orthopedic physicians/surgeons in the Sports Medicine Service: Dr. Russell Warren and Dr. Thomas Wickiewicz. Both are brilliant and skilled physicians presently still in practice.
Dr. Warren was the Chief of the Sports Medicine Service and the head team physician for the NFL New York Giants, and he would eventually become the surgeon-in-chief at HSS. He is considered one of the “Forefathers of Sports Medicine,” and under his tenure the sports medicine service at HSS grew to its present 39 physicians. To put things into further perspective, there are more head team physicians in U.S. professional sports (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL) who completed their orthopedic and sports medicine training (i.e., residency, fellowship) at HSS than at any other institution in the United States.
“We have an obligation to our patients to do the best job possible, no matter how long it takes, or what the cost. If you’re not going to do the job right, get out of the way and have someone else do it.” –Dr. Russell F. Warren
This message was provided to me during a conversation with Dr. Warren when discussing a research project on which I was one of the investigators. As UCLA Hall of Fame Basketball Coach John Wooden stated, “If you don’t do the job right the first time, where will you find the time to do it again?”
Dr. Warren was noted for enforcing the academic and surgical skill requirements of his residents and fellows. It didn’t matter if it was the President of the United States or a person from a homeless shelter, no one left the operating room until the job was completed correctly. He played no favorites and brought out the best in all under his tutelage. My years at HSS taught me with the importance of academics, research, and patient care, as the patient always came first. To do the job correctly, if your personal skill set was not at the level of others when addressing specific pathologies, you should pass the patient to the professional best qualified to provide care.
My time at HSS also coincided with my time at St. John’s University. I had some pretty long days (early mornings and early afternoons at HSS, mid-afternoons and evenings at St. John’s) for more than 10 years, but I loved every minute of it. The combination of these two professions allowed me to bring the principles and exercises of S&C into the rehabilitation setting.
Drs. Warren and Wickiewicz were open to my ideas as long as I could justify my cause. They allowed me to initiate my ideas into sports medicine rehabilitation (e.g., incorporating the squat exercise as part of the HSS postoperative ACL rehabilitation protocol at a time where squatting was still taboo for many), and they were always available for discussions. I am very grateful for all of the lessons learned from Dr. Warren and all of the other fine physicians at HSS. I continue to spend time at HSS with these physicians to further my education.
Dr. Claude T. Moorman III, M.D.
Dr. Claude “T” Moorman III, or “T” Moorman, is the president of Atrium Health’s Musculoskeletal Institute as well as the Edward N. Hanley Jr. Endowed Chair of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery. Dr. T. Moorman is the former head team physician for Duke University, the NFL Baltimore Ravens, and the University of Maryland. “T” was a Sports Medicine Fellow at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. During his time in fellowship, he and I developed a close relationship, and he immediately became one of my favorite, if not my overall favorite, HSS Sports Medicine Fellow during my years at HSS.
“You need to continually practice and hone your surgical skills, and you also need to get a callus on your butt by studying in the library.” –Dr. Claude T. Moorman III
One morning after CORE conference (i.e., Grand Rounds), I asked T what he thought becoming an outstanding sports medicine orthopedic surgeon would require. In addition to developing excellent surgical skills and decision-making processes, he included getting a callus on one’s butt by studying in the library. T is a brilliant physician and researcher. He (along with other HSS physicians) taught me the value of both research and academics in the medical, and frankly any, profession.
As an example, say a coach witnesses a different team’s athlete performing a specific exercise that they have never seen before. If they have no understanding of the purpose of the exercise and employ this exercise in their program design, how would they know the exercise is appropriate for their athlete(s)? If the exercise coincidently improves the athlete’s physicality, without knowledge of the foundation and purpose of the exercise, how would the coach know how to appropriately progress the exercise?The field of S&C and coaching has a component that is “art.” But we also cannot ignore the scientific legitimacy component that is essential to the profession. Click To Tweet
I certainly acknowledge the field of S&C and coaching, as with any other professional field, has a component that is “art.” But we also cannot ignore the scientific legitimacy component that is essential to the profession as well. S&C coaches need to not only acquire a callus on their hands from the barbell, they also need to acquire a callus on their butt from studying in the library.
NFL Super Bowl Champion Coach Dick Vermeil
Head football coach Dick Vermeil and I were introduced via a phone call initiated by his brother, and my good friend, Al Vermeil. Coach Dick Vermeil would call me occasionally with regard to his players’ injuries. Dick Vermeil has won the “Coach of the Year” honor at every level: high school, junior college, NCAA Division I, and the NFL. He is in multiple Halls of Fame and was the winning coach of Super Bowl XXXIV with his NFL St. Louis Rams team.
I finally met Coach Dick Vermeil in person when he hired his brother, Charlie Francis, and me as consultants in 1999, his third season, to work with the St. Louis Rams. Coach Dick Vermeil and I have continued our relationship through the years, as he is the ultimate professional and a very sincere and caring person. You’ll never meet a finer gentleman. Coach Vermeil has actually traveled with some of his dear friends to New York to have me assist in their physical rehabilitation. If you’re Coach Vermeil’s friend, you’re a friend for life, which speaks so much to his character.
“The players don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” –Super Bowl Champion NFL Coach Dick Vermeil
Coach Vermeil reinforced the fact that we, as coaches, are in our role for the benefit of our players, period. We have the responsibility to make our athletes our priority, not the other way around. As mentioned previously in this article, we owe our players our best efforts, and we have to make our own commitment to be the best we personally can be. Throughout my career, I have often met the “me” type of individuals—the ones with the big egos (some who are also bullies) who believe that all success is due to them and their efforts. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Those who yearn for the spotlight have no idea that by doing their job well, working for the benefit of the athletes, and publicly giving credit to those who deserve it, they will place a bigger spotlight on themselves than they ever could have imagined. Have you ever witnessed a head coach who has just won a world championship publicly state that the championship win was all due to them and their efforts alone? Our athletes need to believe in us in our roles as coaches, and a significant part of that belief is for them to know and feel that we truly care about them.
Renowned Track and Field Sprint Coach Charlie Francis
As with coaches Al and Dick Vermeil, I first “met” Coach Charlie Francis via telephone conversations. Charlie was a good friend of Al’s, and Al placed us in contact with one another. I finally met Coach Francis in person during the aforementioned time we spent together with the NFL St. Louis Rams. My time with him and Al Vermeil exposed me to a level of coaching brilliance and foresight that I had rarely been exposed to before (or since). Charlie was very unique in his thought process, his ideas, and the way he viewed coaching situations.
Although Charlie and I continued to stay in touch, and we met each other on various occasions, my biggest regret in my professional career is not spending more one-on-one time with him. I will never make that mistake again, as I presently have a strong relationship and friendship with Charlie’s protégé, Coach Derek Hansen. Coach Hansen has been a great resource for me. He has taught me invaluable amounts of Charlie’s thought processes and coaching practices, as well as many of his own. I would highly recommend that coaches attend Coach Hansen’s running mechanics professional courses.
“It depends….”–Renowned Track and Field Sprint Coach Charlie Francis
On the occasions when I asked Coach Francis a question, he often responded with the statement: “It depends.” Coach Francis repeated this answer often enough that it could possibly lead to frustration for the person asking the question. I soon realized that he needed more specifics to provide the most appropriate answer to the question presented before him.
He reinforced the fact that no matter what area of professional occupation, every person is different, and every situation is different, and the necessity for a coach, or any professional, is to collect all of the information and conditions related to the question. Only then can a coach provide the answer that would best benefit the athlete. “It depends…”: those two words convey so much.
“95% effort is still submaximal.” –Renowned Track and Field Sprint Coach Charlie Francis
During our time together with the Rams, Coach Francis stressed the importance of sprinting during both the off-season and in-season not only for performance enhancement, but for injury prevention as well. Coach Derek Hansen has also been a proponent of this concept and has reinforced this to me throughout our time together.Coach Francis stressed the importance of sprinting during both the off-season and in-season not only for performance enhancement, but for injury prevention as well. Click To Tweet
Charlie espoused a point of view to which I not had been previously exposed. Loading at such high intensities was not only required for adaptation for improvement, but such high intensities were also safe to impose upon the athlete because they were still submaximal. The concern is not the high application of intensity, but how often (exercise volume) the high intensity is applied. How often should a coach apply such high intensities? It depends….
I have utilized “high intensity” in the rehabilitation setting since squatting our postoperative ACL reconstructions at HSS. However, that conversation with Charlie embedded further clarity and reasoning to the “why,” in my mind, to apply this concept during the rehabilitation process. The fact is that athletes need to return to play not just based upon limb symmetry index measures, which are both useable and significant, but by also meeting the physical standard requirement (i.e., strength, power, speed) of their sport of participation. The additional achievement of these physical requirement standards assists to ensure both a safe and optimal level of return to play. The athlete requires the application of high intensities not only during training but, when appropriate, during the rehabilitation process as well.
CEO and Business Executive Richard ‘Dick’ Parsons
Dick Parsons is one of the most brilliant, yet down-to-earth, business executives with whom I have ever been associated. More importantly, he is just a great person, period.
Dick Parsons is an astute attorney and businessman who also has a strong background in banking. He worked closely with New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, and at the time Mr. Rockefeller was appointed Vice President of the United States, Mr. Parsons also worked closely with President Gerald Ford. Dick Parsons is the former Chairman and CEO of Dime Savings Bank, CEO of Time Warner, Chairman of Citigroup, and interim CEO of the NBA Los Angeles Clippers at a time when the organization was going through a difficult situation. He was also the interim Chairman of the Board for CBS Corporation when that organization was presented with some difficult times.
It’s not really relevant how I initially met Dick Parsons, but after spending some time with him, he asked me to train him. I agreed, as his offices were in the Time Warner building, where we also have one of our physical therapy facilities. Dick is the only “personal training” client of my career, and I trained him for three days each week during his years as CEO at Time Warner. His breadth of business knowledge and, more importantly, his advice on how to work and communicate with people are still invaluable to me.
“Don’t ever forget who you are as a person. Don’t allow money or power to ever influence who you are as a person because it’s who you are that put you into the position to attain success.” –CEO and Business Executive Richard “Dick” Parsons
Dick reemphasized this lesson; a vital lesson that my parents had also taught me when I was growing up in a lower income area of Brooklyn, New York. We started our physical therapy business 20 years ago in a small 1,600-square-foot facility in a small shopping mall in Queens, New York. Today we stand at 185 physical therapy facilities in five states, a 20,000-square-foot athletic performance training center, and more than 2,000 employees. A good support group of family and friends will keep you on the right path (i.e., prevent you from changing), and that right path will help ensure success.A good support group of family and friends will keep you on the right path, and that right path will help ensure success. Click To Tweet
I’ve always believed if you make the necessary decisions for the right reasons and remember to treat your staff as though they work with you and support you (because they do)—not work for you—everything else should fall into place.
CEO and Professional Physical Therapist Dan Dourney
Dan Dourney is a physical therapist by “profession,” but he has acquired many executive business talents throughout the course of his career. He has assumed the role of president, chief operations officer, and chief executive officer of many health care companies, including, but not limited to, those involving physical therapy, surgery centers, and electronic medical records. To this day, he continues to sit on many institutional and company Boards of Directors, chairing some of them as well. He is very skilled at developing and instituting process and establishing roles of responsibility, as well as holding individuals accountable for their role. He plays no favorites, yet is very approachable, open to dialogue, and fair in the management and evaluation of his staff.
“It is important not to confuse the enactment of process with the achievement of results.” –CEO and Professional Physical Therapist Dan Dourney
Strength and conditioning coaches, sports scientists, athletic trainers, physical therapists, sport coaches, and other professionals may implement the best processes and program designs, collect data, etc., but the bottom line is that they must achieve success. The athlete’s physical qualities and overall performance must improve, injuries must resolve in a timely manner, and data must contribute to improved process and design additional benefits for the athlete, as well as reinforce present ones.
Ultimately, the staff, individual athlete, and team must be successful, and to state this candidly, they must win. It doesn’t matter how good a training program design, coaching skill, or sports science process may appear to be, if there are no proven achievements of success, they are unsubstantiated. As Coach Parcells would say, “You are what your record says you are.”
“Hope is not a strategy.” –CEO and Professional Physical Therapist Dan Dourney
It would be quite unrealistic for a head coach to walk onto the field of game day competition, thinking to themselves, “I hope our game strategy plan works today,” and expect to be victorious. There is no “hope” in the preparation of an offensive and defensive strategy against an opponent when so much time and effort was spent examining the competition and devising such a plan. There is no hope, only the substantiated belief in a concise and programmed plan based on facts both accumulated and reviewed in devising such a plan.It doesn’t matter how good a training program design, coaching skill, or sports science process may appear to be, if there are no proven achievements of success, they are unsubstantiated. Click To Tweet
The same may be said of the training and rehabilitation of athletes. There is no hope, just a well-devised plan, based on the substantiated scientific and other related evidence and conditions (i.e., the number of athletes, the training age of the athlete, the training facility environment, the seasonal weather conditions, etc.), that is specific and appropriate for each individual athlete with regard to their current physical state. Then there is the addition of the art (skill and ability) during the coaching or rehabilitation of the athlete. When the science and art are brought together, a professional establishes their career “record.”
Learn From Everyone and Make Your Own Luck
I have had both the honor and privilege to work and be associated with literally hundreds, if not thousands, of medical, S&C, and business professionals and peers during the course of my career. All have influenced me in their own way, providing me with both experiences and lessons in what to accept and, just as important, what not to accept as a professional. I look forward to continuing to learn from them, as well as others, in the years to come.
With the exceptions of Mr. Dan Dourney, Coach Abadjiev, and Professor Verkhoshansky, I have had good 30+ year friendships and relationships with all of the above professionals, which I truly appreciate and treasure. During my career, my peers have often remarked on how lucky I’ve been. I always thank them for their compliment and agree that I have been fortunate throughout my career; however, I am also well aware, as a lesson bestowed upon me, that I worked diligently to make my own luck.