Blog by James Davies, Head of Strength and Conditioning – Marlborough College & Exerformance
As Strength and Conditioning becomes more important within our current climate and people start to understand that it is a key component of a successful long term athlete plan for all youth adolescents. We have started to see a rise in the number of schools recruiting Strength and Conditioning practitioners along with building Strength and Conditioning facilities to give added value to not only a sports programme but also to a P.E curriculum for the health and well-being of all students.
There seems to be a number of school coaches finding themselves in the position of creating both a P.E. program for the school along with the strength and conditioning program. The needed P.E. program may be geared towards secondary school only or it may extend to cover prep/primary school. If fortunate to have the opportunity to design both programs, it’s also important that the two merge well. This may be tricky to achieve especially if you’re working with limited staffing and poor facilities. As with the creation of any new program, it will be time consuming and that isn’t a negative thing. Doing anything well requires hours of time dedicated to intentional, thoughtful, and thorough planning.
A bit of background, 3 years I started at Marlborough College (Co-Ed Boarding School) moving away from elite sport to help develop a world class training facility that would be available to all students 12-18. More importantly to develop an Athletic Development programme that offers a pathway of learning and physical development for all students.
As Head of Strength and Conditioning at Marlborough College for the last 3 years I was intrigued to attend the perform better summit to speak to like minded people and share ideas.
Simplicity is Key
Bryce Cavanagh and Ben Rosenblatt gave us a real insight into the preparation of England Football at the Russian World Cup. Whilst you would think that these high performing world class athletes would take on board a complex rigorous S&C programme, the evaluation of each player drew very similar conclusions. Breaking and Sprinting Strength were the two areas the team would work on to give them the marginal gains needed during the tournament, whilst placing a big emphasis on recovery. Whilst this approach is very simple, the level of detail both Ben and Bryce went into to draw these conclusions were extremely thorough and that of very competent practitioners. The link between elite sport and schools isn’t too distant with the right practitioner in place and I truly believe this is one of the most important factors to consider for Director of Sports and teachers when recruiting Strength and Conditioning coaches to lead a programme at a school along with good references and solid experience within the industry at all levels.
If you’re not assessing your guessing…
What does it mean and why is assessment important?
Probably an area that is feared by every athlete/student at first, however it’s a way for us as practitioners to measure the success of our programme and driving periodisation and planning for programming too. Ross Mannester the Perform Better Sport Scientist had setup a number of Perform Better’s assessment tools from Vald Performance Nordboard, Wattbike to Witty Timing Gates and GywAware as part of the practical demonstration into the number of sport science tools that are now on the market to help measure success and highlighting injury risk. Some personal favourites are Wattbikes, Witty Timing Gates and Optojump. All three of which we use within our programme at Marlborough College. Whilst every institution is different there seems to be a trend within sport and sporting literature that most places will use some sort of sprint and jump assessment within their programme and Optojump and Witty Timing Gates offer great reliability for these.
Developing a new S&C facility…
A refreshing talk from Ian Pollock Director of Sport at Repton School. Knowing many other practitioners within the industry who share frustrations of an S&C facility that is overloaded with mechanical machines that are extremely useless for developing any types of athleticism, never mind educate the future generation. Ian shared his with us all to how he approached the design of his new facility at the school. Some key takeaways from this talk:
- Recruit the very best Strength and Conditioning Coach that will help inform the direction of the programme and equipment within facility
- Visit other facilities, Schools, Universities, Elite Sports Clubs
- Don’t be swayed by something not suited to the 11-18 year old age range. It’s the school facility first not a commercial venue
- A space that is suited for a performance environment and for teaching/coaching groups in.
- Ask 3 or 4 Contractors for their ideas.
Ian’s honest opinion and willingness to ask the right people for help should be recognised as a gold standard for all DOS to move forward with a new gym facility.
To conclude, the Perform Better Summit gave a real insight into what it takes to establish a great Strength and Conditioning facility at your school. I will continue to use Perform Better for all our specialist equipment, due to the level of customer service and expertise of all the staff.
Written by: James Davies
Head of Strength and Conditioning – Marlborough College & Exerformance