Rob Campbell is entering his second season as the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Detroit Red Wings. Prior to that, he served as a Major League performance coach for the New York Mets for one season (2019) and as the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for the St. Louis Blues for four seasons. Rob holds a master’s degree in human performance from Lindenwood University, where he was also a graduate assistant performance coach.
Freelap USA: Resisted sprinting has benefits with all sports, but skill is so important with locomotion, regardless of the sport. Skating is very technical and athlete speed is obviously important to it. Knowing what you have learned from hockey, what do you see as the role of teaching running mechanics in youth basketball, a sport that is easy to play year-round?
Rob Campbell: I believe that everything has its place in long-term athletic development. With that said, there are a multitude of varying factors that could make an athlete, especially a youth athlete, a skilled runner or not. I would use resistance running as more of a teaching tool in those fundamental development years and focus on a holistic approach to develop athletic abilities and skills that would benefit any youth athlete, as opposed to thinking of a specific “skill.” Learning how to run, hop, skip, and jump and other foundational movement competencies will have a much more profound impact on a youth athlete than trying to focus on just one aspect.
There are both similarities and stark differences between running and ice hockey. With longer ground contact times and the inherently unnatural biomechanical pattern of a skating stride, the two patterns cannot be seen as the same. This goes hand in hand with a difference in stride rate and frequency as well as glide rate and frequency. Anecdotal evidence suggests that being efficient at core movement competencies can carry over into skating abilities, and specialized exercises are not needed—my hypothesis is this would also hold true for basketball. Our job as athletic performance coaches in youth sports is to develop well-rounded athletes.
Freelap USA: Coaches who do internships are likely to create internships for their young coaches assisting down the road. When is it wise not to have an internship? If someone decides to have an unpaid or small stipend role, how do you make it rewarding, so it’s worth having for the assistant?
Rob Campbell: Internships can be a bit of a hot button topic, and I believe that it is important for developing coaches to have a mentor who will both challenge and educate appropriately while in the internship setting. I do believe you should not have an internship program if you are just looking for someone to mop your floors or be a robot and only learn to repeat your beliefs.By the end of the internship process, if you do not feel that you would hire that intern, you should reevaluate your curriculum and/or process, says @R_campbell_90. Click To Tweet
Whether it is paid or unpaid, you should prepare the intern for whatever the next step will be in their career, whether that is another internship, a graduate assistantship, or a full-time job. I believe that by the end of the internship process, if you do not feel that you would hire that intern, you should reevaluate your curriculum and/or processes.
Freelap USA: Body composition is important and can be addressed through nutrition and training. What are some simple techniques that can help athletes manage being lean without feeling like a monk? The off-season is a delicate balance between taking a break and getting out of shape.
Rob Campbell: I think body composition at face value is an overrated metric if only looked at using skin calipers, etc. It is important to go beyond that when addressing body fat, and I believe in utilizing best-in-practice measures such as a DEXA scan. If an athlete has a single-digit body fat percentage but presents suboptimal bone mineral density and a history of fractures, have you set up that athlete for failure by only looking at body fat percentage?
A simple strategy that I use for athletes is if you can’t pick it, grow it, or kill it, you probably shouldn’t be consuming it if you are fueling for high performance. Once they have mastered that, we can get into more complex strategies with a nutritionist, etc., but they must master the basics.
Freelap USA: Repeated sprint tests can detect conditioning rather well. When looking at speed decay, it’s important to get baseline speed. How should coaches motivate athletes so their data is accurate? Conditioning tests are sometimes messy with politics, and sports like soccer usually have athletes who have done the same tests for years.
Rob Campbell: Repeat sprint ability is an important ability for all athletes. When looking at a percent decrement from their fastest times, it can be advantageous to use the same distance and setup that you would use for your sprint profiling and use that first sprint time as part of your sprint profile. Showing the athlete their best time and asking them to beat it can be motivating in itself. You may also find in your testing that slow, out-of-shape, and unskilled (inefficient) athletes have similar testing results, so it is important to pinpoint why they may test poorly and create an appropriate intervention for it.
Freelap USA: Many coaches use force plates for jump testing, but they can also be used for isometric testing such as the mid-thigh pull. What are your thoughts on the pros and cons of this test, and what should coaches think about before using any force analysis technology? It seems a lot of coaches are jump testing, but prescription after the assessment is the challenge they face.
Rob Campbell: This is a loaded question, and I feel like I could write a whole other article just on the topic. I think that it is important to know what you are looking for and measure what matters. On that note, the first step is to make sure you have force plates that are accurately calibrated, especially for something like a mid-thigh pull, as the discrete time intervals you may be looking at could be way off if the plates are not measuring accurately.
With regard to a mid-thigh pull or iso-squat, it is important to realize the torque joint angle and the relationship to produce force, as an isometric test will reveal strength at a given joint angle, so choose and analyze wisely. You must also know what you are looking for in the test—different time frames will reveal different possible adaptations, so it may be wise to look at what phase of training you are in and utilize metrics that are relevant to that period of training.It’s important to look at your testing and ask yourself why you are doing it, and if you find something, how you plan on addressing it, says @R_campbell_90. Click To Tweet
When looking at jump testing, it is also important to differentiate between different metrics. Are you looking for readiness, jump strategy, asymmetry, or performance/outcome metrics? You must choose wisely and know what you are looking for. Two athletes may have similar jump heights but totally different jump strategies for the CMJ, so it is important to be able to pinpoint and decipher from athlete to athlete. You may want to look at different types of jumps as well, such as a squat jump or drop jump to determine the different characteristics and abilities athletes possess.
It’s important to look at your testing and ask yourself why you are doing it, and if you find something, how you plan on addressing it. Remember that everything you do in the weight room or on the track will have an effect on different aspects of force-producing capabilities, so it is important to choose interventions wisely.
Since you’re here…
…we have a small favor to ask. More people are reading SimpliFaster than ever, and each week we bring you compelling content from coaches, sport scientists, and physiotherapists who are devoted to building better athletes. Please take a moment to share the articles on social media, engage the authors with questions and comments below, and link to articles when appropriate if you have a blog or participate on forums of related topics. — SF