“Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.”
Strength and conditioning coaches and fitness trainers get into the business because we love training. We love seeing progress, competing with friends, watching our body transform, and feeling that deep sense of accomplishment that comes from a crisp workout. It seems incomprehensible that we often find athletes who don’t understand the essentiality of training.
Working with high-school athletes, I’ve grown well versed in the many personality archetypes. There is a chunk who’d rather just “ball.” They want to play their sport and nothing else. The weight room, sleds, plyometrics, battle ropes, and even the warm-up are conceived only as drudgery to get through so they can play the sport.
Strength Training and Sports Performance
Driven by a staggering capacity for rationalization and false equivalency, many genuinely do not understand the value of training. Training is a long game and the lack of immediate transfer to their sport is misconstrued by the shortsighted as evidence to its ineffectiveness.
While the steadfast training commitment of Tom Brady and Lebron James has helped shift this mindset, I still often have to work to create understanding in young athletes as to why our training is essential.
There is what Dan John has called a “fuzzy translation” between strength training and sports performance. On any play, we don’t know what gave an athlete the ability to do what they did.
Maybe it was the extra practice that honed their instincts, maybe it was the film study that revealed a tendency they could exploit, maybe it was the meditation they adopted that helped them tap into a greater sense of focus and flow, or maybe it was the hours spent with their strength and conditioning coach that gave them a little faster break and little more pop.
The reality is, it is everything. As Dr. Fergus Connelly argues in his book, Game Changer, we can’t approach sport in this reductionist manner. Sport inherently blurs the lines between the psychophysical and the techno-tactical. By subtracting an element of training, you become a less capable version.
Train the Variables
We train many variables and no combination guarantees success. The greatest training program guarantees nothing but an opportunity to contend. Neglecting to train (and train correctly) only guarantees that you will not be as athletic and resilient to injury as you could be.
The point of training is to raise your ceiling. Think of it as a 1-10 scale with 1 representing a high-school back-up and 10 representing an All-American. A good ball-player that desperately needs the weight room to round out their skills will typically ring in around a 5.
They are stuck there. All they do is “ball” and, thus, they’ve squeezed every ounce out of their ball skill capacity. However, all that changes when they begin to train their body.
Mobility allows them to comfortably get in positions of greater leverage. Their hips and ankles flow better allowing far greater capacity to decelerate, reaccelerate, and move across 360 degrees. Strength gains allow them to put more force into the ground with every stride and jump. They recover quicker from collisions and gain the capacity to drive at an opponent.
All of this is meaningless without sports skill, of course. The two are complementary pieces. With techno-tactical mastery, greater physical development gives you more options to accomplish each objective. You are a more adaptable beast and have better tools to do the job. A sharper, broader shovel simply moves more dirt with each drive.
Whether athlete or layman, this is why we all train—to raise our ceiling. To have more move options in your life. Fitness enhances the number of ways you can move, contribute, and play along with an increased amount of time you can do the activities vital to your quality of life.
Training makes you capable of more—a greater version. Neglecting to train invites decay—you become a lesser version.