The Chargers fired their strength and conditioning staff today. After an influx of muscle injuries the last few years, this firing seemed inevitable, although it was reported that Mike McCoy simply “had his guy” that he wanted to bring in, and the firing of the old staff was the result of McCoy pulling rank (as he should … I mean, he’s the head coach).
Soooo … that prompted a lot of Twitter fire (with many rejoicing that the change had finally been made) … and I said this:
Let me elaborate.
I hear a lot that NFL players should just KNOW how to keep their bodies in the best shape possible because they are “elite players, at a professional level” … Yes. They are. But keep this in mind: These are the guys who were the top dogs in college. They were the business. Most of them just had this raw talent, and they were the best of their class growing up — the most athletic, the most versatile, the most productive. They didn’t “train” … they didn’t need to train. They were the kings.
Enter the NFL … where everyone is a king.
Now you have these players, who were always top-notch at their respective school because of their God-given talent (again — MOST. Not ALL.) … And they don’t know what to do, now that they’re surrounded by all kinds of players who are just as good — (if not better) than them.
They are getting older. They are training harder. Now, this is a job. If they aren’t good enough, they lose the job. If they get hurt, they may lose the career. They’re trying to one-up the guy next to them. Each player is looking for the best way to beat the other player … Some go the method of hard work, some go the method of quick fix, some look to veterans, and some are paralyzed with indecision, or, sometimes, lack of motivation. It just depends.
My point is, now they have to figure out how to train. How to eat. How to have longevity in this league. How to sustain injuries and come back fiercer. They didn’t have to do this before.
So when someone says “they should just know how” … Why? Why should they just know how? This is new territory.
Plus, each player is different. What works for one player isn’t necessarily going to work for another. Some players choose to get a personal trainer … others just work out at the facility … others team up and create a plan … and some just go at it solo.
Most players that have found the *right* trainer make leaps and bounds from one year to the next.
Okay — that was my tangent. Now consider the strength and conditioning staff of the team:
The team has just made an investment of millions of dollars into their roster. They BETTER get the best strength and conditioning staff around to maximize that investment. Whoever is tasked with being a strength and conditioning coach at the highest level in football better be damn good.
Being a strength and conditioning coach in the NFL is tough. Not only do you have 10 position groups to worry about, you have a variety of bodies, plenty of baggage as far as injuries go, different pain thresholds and different needs. Also, under the new CBA, coaches can only work with players for a certain number of hours each season.
Here’s my last point:
The game has changed. Football has become less about brute strength and more about technique, athleticism and finesse. Players need to condition themselves to handle the wear-and-tear of the game, while continuing to improve and one-up their skill level. Every year, a new crop of athletes is drafted that are faster, stronger, more agile. If a player (or a coach) isn’t continually trying new techniques to GET THE MOST OUT OF HIS PERFORMANCE, a player is already regressing.
Doing the same thing, over and over, will only get you so far.
That’s not to say that someone should be trying yoga one week, boxing the next, walking on fire the third. That’s simply to say the best program (that players tell me, anyways) is one that is based in a good foundation (strength training that keeps them fast, agile, fluid and flexible) as well as a combination of exercises to challenge their body and supplement their performance. It’s not about how heavy you can lift. Every single thing a player does when he trains should show itself on the field. There should be a method to the madness.
More and more teams are bringing in coaches (either temporarily or long-term) that specialize in something — like yoga or martial arts — to help certain guys get an advantage.
I’ve had several players tell me they aren’t sure what to do when it comes to training, or that they simply train themselves, or that former strength and conditioning coaches aren’t hip to the changing game, so they focus on old techniques that may end up causing muscle strains.
Make no mistake — players are paid professionals. If they don’t know something, it’s on them to figure it out or to get their bodies to peak performance. But sometimes, the tools a team provides are sub-par. We’ll see how how the new staff shapes up.