Feature Article - March 2006
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Command Performance

Sports performance training offers fitness facilities some room for improvement

By Margaret Ahrweiler

Coaching the coaches

Ironically, the hardest sell for performance training for young athletes has not been parents or adults but coaches. Coaches, often a control-oriented lot, can become set in their ways and unwilling to let someone else call the shots with conditioning—stuck in the "old school ways," according to Durkin. Fortunately, a new generation of coaches is coming to realize that traditional training programs are out the window, he says, and want to help their athletes train for movement and train the whole body.

Still, old attitudes die hard, Soika adds. A former strength and conditioning coach for NCAA Division I programs, he opines that many people still think the strength coach is "the guy who watches the weight room and does CPR when someone keels over."

People are realizing, ‘Wow, this has
no purpose,’ after they've gone
nowhere on their treadmill for so long
or counted to 15 reps forever.

Britton Kelley,
regional fitness director for Gold's Gym and
president of Trainer's Performance in Smithtown, N.Y.

With team training a financial boon for performance gyms, as well as an easy way to advance the cause, converting coaches' attitudes is key, but word of mouth—and success—sells the program, Soika says.

"When we were just getting started we did find one high-school coach who believed in our methods," he says. "He told us, `I know what I'm good at and I know what you're good at.' After training with us, his team went from a 2-7 record to winning their conference. That little bit of success was contagious."

Many performance trainers, including Kelley and Durkin, are helping teach the teachers by holding seminars for coaches on the importance of performance training—the techniques for proper movement, injury prevention and safe, effective ways to improve their athletes' skills.

West Suburban's Schiewe, for one, has taken that idea to heart. One of the coaches for her older girls' teams has been training at Velocity alongside the athletes to learn as much as possible about the techniques and programs and plans to pass it along to other coaches as well.

"If I can put my girls in better hands, I've got to give them that opportunity," she says.

And those better hands can help more than elite athletes bent on scholarship opportunities. From pro-level athletes prepping for the NFL to kids who would never have had a chance to make the team to adults who just want to tackle a new sport, performance training offers something for everyone. The benefits—greater movement, better coordination, improved balance, a sense of accomplishment—transcend sport. After all, in the game of life, performance is everything.