Progressing the Developing Athlete

While I coach the throwers at Notre Dame High school, my main role is actually as head strength coach for the school’s athletic teams. From baseball to water polo I get to work with hundreds of athletes each year at a critical time in their athletic development. For the vast majority athletes this is the first time they have seen the inside of the weight room or done any supplemental work. Therefore it is critical start out on the right foot. This is the topic I focused on for my presentation at GAIN 2015 last week.

Learn the Basics

nick_seminarThe objective of our program is to always progress and my goal is to at least improve overall athleticism and the summation of forces. To do this we have a linear approach. We focus on six core competencies, each with a defined progression model. Our focus is on developing athletic qualities in the following areas:

  • Warm Up
  • Multi-Jumps
  • Sprints/Agilities
  • Multi-Throws
  • Resistance Training
  • Cooling Down

How We Progress

Naturally we start out with beginning exercises in each category. In my presentation I went into detail about each progression and circuit, but here it is enough to give a general overview. For multi-throws we start out with the basics such as simple chest passes and variations of heaves. In jumping we begin with a series of small jumps and hops. After athletes master the beginning level they move on. In some competencies we have two levels, in others like resistance training, we use eight levels. And at all levels the warm up is more than what you think of as a warm up; we also use it to touch on coordination, mobility, stability, and other important areas. Each level becomes slowly more advanced. Level two of jumps we move from basic hops to incorporate box jumping. And level three moves on to hurdle hops. In the multi-throws we move from heaves to more complex movements such as jumping or turning and heaving.

We build up around each pillar in a way to make it more fun. Each routine has a specific name, sometimes a city or song or something similar. This is something I learn from Glenn McAtee and I’ve found makes the routines easier to understand and follow, as well as a bit more fun.

The Underlying Philosophy

There are a few points that are important to the overall process:

  1. No matter what the talent level of the athlete, all 9th graders start out with the same program. These are basic fundamental movements that need to be learned in order to build a solid foundation for both health and further development.
  2. Progression is individual. If we are fortunate enough to have a varsity athlete that is an incoming freshman they I make adjustments. Tailored to the level of the kid.
  3. Development is simultaneous. Rather than focusing on one competency at a time, we work on everything simultaneously and improve an athlete’s overall athletic ability together. In this way the program is actually similar to the Bondarchuk approach I use for some of my varsity throwers where the focus is on developing abilities together in order to better integrate them and increase the transfer.

Related Content: Learn from a case study about how Nick implemented a more advanced program for his varsity athletes.

This is the core of my philosophy, but over the past decade I’ve also added a few important items to it as I have learned how we can do things better.

  1. It is important to focus on training all three planes of movement (sagittal, frontal, and traverse) in order to develop well-rounded movement patterns and decrease risk of injury.
  2. Training heavy is not as important as training with speed in a technically correct manner. This is simple, but don’t forget it.
  3. Finally, keep an open mind about how you can make training more efficient. Perhaps one movement can check two boxes and thus reduce the amount of work the athlete needs to do. A recent favorite exercise of mine is the kettlebell windmill. In addition to being a frontal plane movement, which can be harder to find, it also develops shoulder stability. It kills two birds with one stone.

Like the rest of our training, the approach here is not too complex. We stick to the basics and build the athlete from the ground up.

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  1. […] the benefits of a general base and learning movements. Nick’s recent presentation “Progressing the Developing Athlete” at GAIN […]

  2. […] → Related Content: Check out Nick Garcia’s recent presentation from Vern’s GAIN 2015 event… […]

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