By Carl Valle
Although the authors’ expertise is in ice hockey, this book review dives into a coach’s perspective on performance enhancement for all sports, not just hockey. As one of the first to review the book, I want to tell you why you should include it in your library. Between my last book review and this one, I read six manuals on training that were good enough to scan through, but not to recommend. Suggesting or recommending a book is a big responsibility, as you are essentially promising somebody that the time they spend reading will provide more value than alternative educational opportunities.
If you want a book that gives you actionable information and is simply a steal price-wise, “Intent: A Practical Approach to Applied Sport Science for Athletic Development” is for you. Devan McConnell and Justin Roethlingshoefer do a great job sharing solid information that can help everyone at every level.
The Target Audience of This Book
For the most part, I believe high school, college, and professional strength coaches are the best audience for this book. I do think it would be wise to send a copy to any team coach who is open and interested in learning more about performance training, and also to share a copy with the sport science department to showcase applied approaches versus an ivory tower perspective. A modern strength and conditioning coach’s role is wider and deeper than it was a decade ago, but for the field to get better we still need to manage the bread-and-butter role, not just be diluted sport scientists or partial sports medicine therapists.The book is easily digestible thanks to both the way it’s written and the knowledge of its authors. Click To Tweet
In addition to strength and conditioning, it would make sense to send this out to administration or management, so they have an idea that a strength and conditioning coach is a pivotal role, not just a person in the weight room yelling and screaming. Books like this are a great way to send a message that the field is a professional one, not just a job that anybody can fill.
The Book at First Glance
Just to assure people reading this review, the book is 150 pages and includes charts, tables, and images to explain key concepts and ideas. Its most important feature is the tone of the writing—while some books with great information have an awkward writing style, “Intent” has a down-to-earth conversational style that is very readable. Simply put, the book is easily digestible thanks to both the way it’s written and the knowledge of the authors.
Each chapter feels like a casual phone call between friends, and you’ll read it quickly and easily. I finished the book in one sitting; you can likely wrap it up on a slow weekend on the team bus or on a plane. The book has eight chapters, each addressing the essential parts of being a modern strength and conditioning coach. The chapters are:
- Chapter 1: Sport Science
- Chapter 2: Internal Load Metrics
- Chapter 3: External Load Metrics
- Chapter 4: Subjective Metrics
- Chapter 5: Power Enhancement
- Chapter 6: Anthropometrics
- Chapter 7: Nutrition
- Chapter 8: Analytics
Each chapter is approximately 12-20 pages and the font and spacing are easy on the eyes. I am pleased the book includes a Gold-Silver-Bronze standard after each chapter so that coaches can match their budget and requirements without feeling left out or pushed to use something that doesn’t meet their needs. As a consultant, I agree with the authors’ ranking of the equipment overall, as it’s done mainly by cost instead of by data accuracy. The book ends with a very brief conclusion, something I prefer since a long drawn-out ending is great for “Lord of the Rings” but not for strength and conditioning.
Review Summaries from Each Chapter
I have done two book reviews for SimpliFaster: one of them an epic saga on the work of Frans Bosch, and the other a Top 10 list that scratched the surface of many titles (“10 Books Performance Coaches Should Read This Year”). This book review is different, as I don’t want to give away the farm, but I also don’t want to be vague and leave the reader frustrated. I will not share the cream of the book—just a few highlights so you feel comfortable knowing what you are getting, as this is not a book you will see at your local bookstore.
Chapter 1: Sport Science
I thought that the book’s first chapter would have a lot on biology and the way it set up the rest of the chapters surprised me. At first I was a little disappointed, as I expected to see a vast array of citations and cool concepts to feed my scientific curiosity, but it was more of a reminder that science and technology are a continuum and a process. Devan and Justin outline their philosophy really well and the first chapter springboards into the rest of the book much better than just giving anatomy and physiology terminology.
Chapter 2: Internal Load Metrics
Chapter 2 was very satisfying to me because it is an essential reminder that internal monitoring and the management of heart rate and the autonomic system of the body still matter. It’s very easy to keep moving onto different trends, but it is a breath of fresh air to see the reinforcement of TRIMP and basic physiology. While I agree with everything shared, I do worry that one chapter in one book will not be enough to get the modern coach to value the conditioning side of training. It’s so easy to get caught up in injury prevention that coaches can forget that the games need to be physically prepared for and practices must be managed politically.
Chapter 3: External Load Metrics
External loading is mainly a velocity-based training section, but it isn’t just about barbells—it really focuses on athlete speed and power. The chapter does mention GPS, but focuses more on non-practice training, an area where most strength and conditioning coaches have a real influence. This chapter hits the key areas of athlete speed and weight room demands, and focuses on newer methods of resisted speed and overspeed. It is great to see that the authors value connecting barbell training to direct strength development and explain how it relates beyond the weight room.
Chapter 4: Subjective Metrics
My favorite part of the book is this chapter on subjective metrics, or why a wellness questionnaire matters even today with all of the technology and new science. On a recent podcast, Dr. Sam Robertson shamed RPE as sort of a passé measurement, but I think he was more focused on evolving monitoring than trying to cut RPE and subjective measures out of the equation. Engaging in direct dialogue with athletes is the most important part of what coaches do. While this chapter explains the tactical side of administering a wellness questionnaire, for me it’s more a reminder that all training starts with working with people, and this section outlines the topic very well.
Chapter 5: Power Enhancement
The heart and soul of this book might be the power development section, as increasing and sustaining power is the name of the game with strength and conditioning. Devan and Justin hit the nail on the head here and go over conventional and progressive ways to push and drive athletic power. If I had it my way, I would extend this section to include more conditioning discussions as it’s such a wide topic, but the book covers the bases well with internal metrics from the second chapter, so it’s complete. I will read more on anaerobic and aerobic testing this year, as I feel I need to get back to some of my roots with fitness evaluation in sport.
Chapter 6: Anthropometrics
The most neglected yet vital part of sports performance, besides what’s between the ears of the athlete, is carefully management of the athlete for body composition. I am well aware that athletes need to be coordinated and explosive, but year after year many athletes come into the season underprepared and overweight. Body fat is necessary, and with the individual’s emotional connection to how they look, addressing leanness is tough and should be a special resource for coaches like CPR and first aid. This chapter does briefly talk about mobility and body screening, but it is a casual mention and not a comprehensive review. I think if the book has a second edition in five to 10 years, we will see motion capture included more. But, again, this book is for the majority of coaches, not just the handful who would have access to motion capture.
Chapter 7: Nutrition
The last coaching section is a practical primer on nutrition, and I am thrilled it got into topics outside of macronutrients and “recovery” topics. It is cool to see blood analysis and genetics mentioned, but if I had to request a change, it would be to the way the two authors manage lifestyle and team meals on the road. The hardest section to write is always going to be nutrition because if you ignore it, it devalues fueling, but if you don’t hit a home run, coaches will skip through it.
While I think it’s important that coaches address nutrition, it’s also important that a nutritionist is more involved with a program. Nutritional information seems to get updated and changed often so I think it deserves a guest chapter or similar. The same goes for sports medicine, which the authors only lightly mention. However, the book is still complete, overall.
Chapter 8: Analytics
The last chapter strings the previous sections together into a cohesive way of looking at sport from a bird’s eye view. I think many coaches can benefit from learning to speak both “coach” and “athlete” to advance the field further. If those in performance want to get better roles and have greater influence on the game, more communication between athletes and those that run the team will help tremendously. I like this chapter because it reminds the strength and conditioning coach that performance enhancement is part of the answer to everything.
My goal in summarizing the sections is to let you know what to expect if you buy the book, since you can’t page through it at the local Barnes and Noble. Will it change the world or revolutionize strength and conditioning forever? No. Will it satisfy the coach that wants to see how others think and how strength and conditioning professionals view topics that matter? Yes.
Why I Recommend This Book
When a coach or therapist makes a choice about education, it can be an overwhelming decision because we are bombarded by knowledge every day. The publishing world is now accessible to coaches, making anyone a potential author, and this is a double-edged sword. Blogs, social media, books, and even print-on-demand texts are all available for us to serve ourselves, and it’s up to the coaching crowd to be honest and upfront about the quality of reading materials instead of spending all of our time cross-promoting each other’s work. I don’t like authors sending me their work, as I’m uncomfortable being put into a position where I’m expected to give something a great review or endorsement. Devan asked me to review “Intent” a few weeks ago and I spent one Sunday reading it cover to cover.
The book is $29.99 and you can find it on The Hockey Summit. It is a great value for those wanting something timeless in thinking but immediate in application. Again, if you are a high school strength coach and new to the profession, this book gives you a nice road map. If you are a veteran in the college or pro ranks, it’s a book that makes sure you audit what you feel is important and opens your eyes to what else is out there. Reading this book is a great exercise for any coach, and I recommend it.