Reflection - Strength Coach Podcast Interview 

Jun 22, 2022

The is a reflection to my interview on the Strength Coach Podcast #226

I love talking about teaching and coaching.  Some of the most significant lessons I have learned have occurred during meetings after track invites with some heavyweights in the field (current coaches and former coaches who are now officials).  Talking about teaching and coaching via a podcast interview is a different experience.  I hope listeners find the “interview” I did with Anthony Renna to be more like a post-meet conversation.  All I knew heading in was that we were going to talk about some of my writing.  During the conversation, it was clear that Anthony did his homework and read every article I’ve put out.  This caught me off-guard, but it made it apparent he values being prepared.  I have the utmost respect for that, along with everything he does to move the coaching profession forward.

One thing I always promote is reflection.  In order to move forward optimally, it is best to assess the past.  After listening to my conversation with Anthony, there were things that I wish I had said:

  1. I should have included the influence Coach Boyle has had on me.  Yes, it is present with what we do in the weightroom.  The rear-foot elevated split squat (RFESS) is a weekly staple for our athletes during their four years. We also include additional unilateral upper and lower body movements in our programming.  I’ve listened to Coach Boyle talk about his evolution to the RFESS numerous times, and the primary message that is delivered to me is not that is the best option out there, but that he is ALWAYS assessing what is going on with his athletes, and looking for a better way.  It is further exemplified with his recent adoption of some of Tony Holler’s “Feed the Cats” principles.  When someone who has been extremely successful is willing to adapt their programming based off information that is new to them (or challenges their beliefs) it is worth taking notice.  I will always listen to what Mike Boyle says because I know he is a lifelong learner looking for the optimal way.  

  1. In regards to the closed and open skill portion of the interview, I think I could have provided a better answer.  When it comes to “drills” for field/court (FC) sports, I would lean heavily towards open tasks where a decision has to be made before completing the movement.  I do think there is value to closed tasks where the athlete follows a predefined path or movement, I just think there is more value when the perception-action coupling is challenged.  

  1. I think open/closed skill development is slightly different for track and field athletes because technical execution carries more weight.  While it is important for FC sport athletes, the environment is chaotic and much of what is done is reactive (usually based off an opponent or teammate).  The positions found in “static” technical work may not occur in gameplay.  

In T&F, there are certain positions which we would like our athletes to achieve during every sprint/run/hurdle or field event attempt.  Because of the more consistent nature, it makes sense to address “static” technical work more often.  However, there is still a subtle chaos which exists in T&F, and altering the task, environment, and organism should be implemented in training.  I plan to write about this more in the future, but here is an example which meshes with what Anthony said about developing closed skills as a prerequisite for open skills.  

Our jumpers spend significant time working on their approach.  We try develop a sense of rhythm and overall consistency.  Our season begins indoors in our fieldhouse.  It is 72 degrees, there is no wind, and the surface is dry each time we rehearse.  This consistency sways the task towards more of a closed skill (one could argue that even under these conditions, no two approaches are ever identical, so the steering skill being used makes it open).  That debate aside, I think the consistency in conditions allow the athlete focus on developing a rhythm to their approach.  As our season progresses, we move outdoors and the conditions are far from consistent (temperature, wind, rain, etc.).  This makes being accurate in the approach more of an open skill.  Ideally, the rhythm development in more of a closed setting will set the foundation of continuing to be accurate in a more variable environment.

This is all I have for now, I may add more in the future!