Tim Crowley has been at Monteverde Academy in Monteverde, Florida, since August 2012. He currently serves as Head Coach for the Strength and Conditioning program, where he works with all athletes in all sports. Coach Crowley is responsible for designing individual and team conditioning programs, overseeing all rehabilitation programs, conducting nutritional awareness seminars, and teaching fitness education classes for student-athletes at all division levels.
Over the past 25 years, Crowley has developed several high-level performance training facilities and has worked with amateur and pro athletes from virtually every sport. His athletes have won multiple national and world championships. He was a member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic triathlon coaching staff and has been a member of the USA Triathlon National Team coaching staff for the past five years. He was the 2007 USA Triathlon Development Coach of the Year and the 2009 USA Triathlon Elite Coach of the Year.
Freelap USA: You had a soccer background before focusing on triathlon. Then, after years of working with some of the most elite endurance athletes, you really took strength and conditioning for team sport to the next level in the early 2000s. Years later you are focusing more on high school athletes. What has changed over the years since you started in the 1990s?
Tim Crowley: Over the past 30 years a lot of things have changed, and yet some things have stayed the same. Back in the ’90s there wasn’t much in the way of strength and conditioning. Many of us worked in the fitness industry doing personal training and small group training, where we learned a lot of things the hard way. Things were evolving rapidly.
I was fortunate to be in the Boston area when coaches like Carl Valle and Mike Boyle started training groups in developing the sports performance side. In the ’90s, things were still bodybuilding-focused. It was an exciting time to be training and coaching. Concepts like “functional training,” “sports specific,” and sport performance were in their infancy.
I have always loved being in the trenches every day, working with athletes every day. To quote Mike Boyle, “Been there, done that, and still doing it.” Although times change, connecting with athletes and pursuing excellence does not change.Although times change, connecting with athletes and pursuing excellence does not change, says @tc2coaching. Click To Tweet
There have been enormous changes with equipment and technology, but this still doesn’t replace good coaching. I am fortunate to come from a triathlon background, where we were using heart rate monitors and GPS devices in the late ’90s. This gave me a good insight on how to monitor HR and training loads with individual athletes and teams.
I think one of the biggest changes is that most colleges and now many high schools are putting in strength and conditioning facilities and hiring professionals to run them. This has allowed young athletes to get high-level coaching several times a week over many years, which was not available 10-15 years ago.
One of the biggest challenges we face now are overuse injuries. Many athletes can now train year-round in one sport, and finding the time for strength training, speed development, and conditioning can be difficult with school and sports practices. Managing training loads is critical. If we can get athletes doing the right things for 30-45 minutes two times per week, then we can have a positive impact.
Freelap USA: Basketball is a sport that sometimes ignores strength training due to schedule conflicts and culture. How have you gotten the teams you have worked with to buy in, from head coaches to athletes to parents?
Tim Crowley: Basketball is one sport I really did not play. I have found this to be an advantage. There is not a lot of information out there on training high school basketball players. They are unique from a training standpoint: kids’ physiologies in adult bodies, and tremendous forces generated and absorbed every day. If I can get a player for 2-3 years, and we can train consistently, we can make a big impact.
This begins when the athletes and parents visit Montverde and take a tour of the school and facilities. We are able to talk with them and explain our program and training philosophies. Parents trust us with their kids, and we take that seriously.
One of the first things we do at the start of each year is get to know players, their backgrounds, and their injury histories. Many come in with overuse injuries from playing in the summer AAU leagues. For high-level players there are two seasons: winter and summer. This is how we approach the annual training plan.
Once an athlete knows that our goal is solely their long-term development and keeping them healthy, it makes buy-in easier. When I first arrived, it was a tougher sell, but thankfully Coach Kevin Boyle had trust in me, and we have had a pretty good run at Montverde the past eight years.Once an athlete knows that our goal is solely their long-term development and keeping them healthy, it makes buy-in easier, says @tc2coaching. Click To Tweet
I recently saw this quote by Carl Valle that I feel sums up our basketball program:
“Winning only comes when preparation, talent, and health are operating on all cylinders.”
At Montverde, we are fortunate to get talented student-athletes. Through consistent training and preparation among the basketball coaches, strength coaches, and athletic trainers, we have created a successful winning culture. This only happens when all the parts in the athletic program, as well as the entire school community, are working as one toward the same goals.
Freelap USA: You had your own heart evaluated medically when you were training for endurance sport. How has this information made you more aware about the long-term health benefits of aerobic fitness?
Tim Crowley: When I turned 40, I was still competing at a pretty high level in triathlon and thought it would be good to get baseline data so that as I got older, it would not pose a problem. This led to several months of every type of heart test you can think of, which in hindsight became very informative. All the years of consistent training made for some strange EKG results. In the end I was fine, and I got a first-hand education on cardiology, which has served me well ever since.
Health and fitness are not one and the same, and they should not be confused. There are many athletes who may have serious underlying medical issues even if they are a fit athlete. As a coach, one of my core values is to never sacrifice an athlete’s health for short-term performance. Developing healthy, lifelong, high-performing athletes, whether professional or amateur, is my mission.
I have also learned the value of regeneration and recovery. There need to be periods of recovery and regeneration yearly, monthly, and weekly. It is only through proper recovery that we can balance health and fitness. At 54, I still train several hours per day, and I still have the desire to compete after 35 years in triathlon. I find it gives me balance and is where I can do my creative work and problem-solving.
Freelap USA: You’ve spent time living in the Northeast and a lot of time in Florida. How are the two areas different with regard to how the sport is valued and supported?
Tim Crowley: I will answer this from the perspective of the two worlds I live in: endurance sports and high school athletics.
In Central Florida, sports and training are at a different level. Clermont is 20 miles outside Orlando, where 21 Olympians make their home. The town’s motto is “Choice of Champions.” The training facilities are first-class. There are more triathlons hosted in Clermont than any place in the world. Endurance sports are mainstream here; athletes come from all over the globe to train and compete.
Youth sports and club sports are big as well. We have great outdoor facilities, and the weather is good all year, making training and development possible for anyone. At Montverde, we have top-notch facilities that rival many college campuses and get tremendous support from the school’s administration. The combination of training consistency, weather support, and good coaching are some of the reasons so may top collegiate and professional athletes come from central Florida.
Freelap USA: Different sports have different needs, so how much individualization do you give teams and athletes when managing large groups or entire schools? While it’s great to give an athlete a unique program tailored to their specific needs, many athletes have general needs that are obviously similar.
Tim Crowley: When they arrive at Montverde, many athletes have never been on a formal training plan, so our focus is on fundamental movement skills and lifts. Within each sport we identify the top three things that we need to address in order to minimize injuries, and these become the focal points of the program. For example, basketball players often come in with poor ankle mobility, some degree of patella tendonitis, weak glutes, and a weak anterior core. Our first goal is to address these areas so that they can play pain-free. If we can keep players on the court practicing daily, they will improve.Within each sport we identify the top three things that we need to address in order to minimize injuries, and these become the focal points of the program, says @tc2coaching. Click To Tweet
I am seeing a trend of young athletes who are very good at their sport skills, but who may lack in athleticism. I think it’s important at the high school level to build athleticism and focus on the fundamentals, especially if they specialize in a single sport. To quote Frank Dick, “We want to be brilliant at the basics.” This is not flashy, but we pride ourselves on sending kids to college healthy and with good lifting skills.
About 80% of our programs are fairly similar across different teams. The focus is on fundamental movements regardless of the sport. In addition to lifting skills, we focus on jumping, landing, sprinting, and acceleration and deceleration skills. How we load them and how we progress them is more specific to their age and development level.
Within this framework we can individualize workouts by progressing and regressing movements and/or loading to meet the needs of the athlete. This allows us to keep injured athletes working out with their teams, which we feel is important. We work closely with the athletic trainers so that we can progress the athletes appropriately, with them still working with their team under our watchful eye. This helps the athlete stay connected to their teammates and takes some workload off of the athletic trainers.
There are areas we can improve, and it’s exciting to know there is room to grow. Every day I ask myself three things:
- How can we do things better?
- How can we do things more efficiently?
- What if the way we always did things was wrong?
Thank you for the opportunity to share some of my experiences and training methods.
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