Underdogs come and go, but Gonzaga University’s basketball team keeps coming back. The small school team is the perennial overachiever and strength coach Travis Knight has been there the whole time. He joins this week’s podcast to discuss the unique team culture and process that helps them keep up with their bigger budget competitors, as well as his approach to training agility for one of the most demanding sports out there.
Notes and quotes
Travis Knight has been a strength and conditioning coach at Gonzaga University for 15 years. A former baseball player for the Bulldogs, he previously supported multiple sports before focusing just on basketball for the past few seasons where he works closely with head coach Mark Few. In more than 20 seasons, coach Few has a winning percentage of over 80% and is the winningest active coach in the NCAA. The team has qualified for the NCAA tournament every season, made the finals in 2017, and reached a #1 national ranking in four separate seasons.
Culture and character development
- 3:30 – Defining the Gonzaga basketball culture. “The 3 Gonzaga core values are winning basketball, water the bamboo, and family. Bamboo is the fastest growing plant, but takes years to emerge as it develops a root system. If you don’t develop the root system and have a vision that goes far in to the future, you will never have the growth we experience. “
- 9:00 – Developing athlete ownership: “The more we tried to micromanage, the less they were exhibiting the behaviors we wanted. It was behavior management rather than character development. “
- 12:30 – Maintaining a small school culture despite success: “We have freedom to be different as a small school because we have to be different if we are going to be successful. “
- 17:45 – How can the S&C coach contribute to the team culture: “Instead of applying a uniform one-way approach to coaching, we began to create windows of choice and involve athletes as co-creators. Take contentedness and relationships into the athletic environment and everything has a bigger benefit. “
- 22:00 – Why you need top down and bottom up: “The strength and conditioning has a lot more to offer than just being the physical preparation guy. We can drive character development. “
- 24:00 – Defining agility: “I used to think agility was pretty simple: it is change of direction in different planes of motion. Now I look at is more complex: we have to appreciate a closed drill is not necessarily going to transfer to performance on the field since there is such an element of perception and decision making. The best athletes I have are the best processors I have. “
- 28:00 – How strength coaches can improve agility and the impact of Frans Bosch.
- 31:00 – Vision training and skills training: “The amount you can see through your focal view is so small. When you put your attention on that space it is like tunneling. Basketball is chaos happening in the periphery. Your ability to perceive in the peripheral view and make sense of it can make you more natural with your movements. “
- 36:00 – More about perception and when to teach the basics: “The typical agility drills we do, do involve coordination to a point. But once you’ve learned that drill it does not exist on the court and it doesn’t challenge coordination. You need coordination systems that are variable to succeed on the court. “
- 39:00 – Thinking beyond circus tricks: “We are really good at getting strength numbers that are quantifiable in the weight room. But how good are we at getting them to carry over and transfer to the court? I’ve gotten to the point where the quantitative stuff doesn’t matter, only what happens on the court is the measure of what we are doing is successful. “
- 43:45 – Rethinking the NBA combine.
- 45:30 – Finding intrinsic feedback and feeling: “Eventually the athlete does not need your feedback to know if they did something right. That shifts everything. It’s the image of cutting the cord. “
- 50:45 – Influences of John Kiely and the psycho-emotional side of training: “You cannot divorce the psycho-emotional and the physiological/mechanical side of training. They are so intertwined and connected. The more they experience autonomy and contentedness, the physiological learning it’s like fertilizer and takes off. “
To hear more on these topics, listen to the full episode above. Also be sure to subscribe to our podcast and review it on iTunes.
- This month’s site theme is change of direction and agility. Stay tuned to the site this month as we explore the topic more in depth. Join HMMR Plus so that you don’t miss out on our archives and new resources.
- Frans Bosch’s new book Anatomy of Agility was discussed in this episode and available for pre-order in the HMMR Store. It continues to develop the approach he presented in his last book Strength Training and Coordination: An Integrative Approach. We have compiled many resources around Bosch’s concepts, which you can find summarized here.
- Jimmy Radcliffe’s approach to teaching agility fundamentals was also referenced. Members can stream GAIN Video 12 in the HMMR Classroom to learn more from coach Radcliffe.
- This video series from What Drives Winning also dives deeper into the Gonzaga approach to driving team culture and how coach Knight fits into that.
- The interplay between the psycho-emotional and physical side of training was also discussed. John Kiely has been at the forefront of this topic, which we wrote about, interviewed him about, and had him as a guest on Episode 48, GAINcast 61, and GAINcast 132.