When I tell the majority of people that I am a Strength and Conditioning (S&C) Coach I am often met with a blank, questioning stare…This is perhaps partly due to the ambiguous title.
The EIS (English Institute of Sport) defines S&C as “the physical and physiological development of athletes for elite sport performance”. In other words, it’s the practical application of sport science to advance an athlete’s physical performance – clearly not just ‘Strength’ and ‘Conditioning’. In America they have been seen to rename their S&C Coaches to ‘Athletic Development Coaches’ to give a better insight as to what the job role truly entails, but for now, in England, the profession is still called S&C.
My main role as Elite squash’s S&C coach is to develop the physical attributes of every squash player, whatever their ability and aspirations, in a one-to-one and group environment. With squash being such a physically demanding sport, I often enhance a players performance by improving their speed, agility, power, mobility, lumbar-pelvic stability and endurance, with strength making up just one element of their training. Knowing how to train these characteristics is just the start; it’s the application of these methods (the amount, order, exercise selection, enjoyment factor) where I strive to maximise an individual’s adaptation for their sporting performance whilst minimising their injury risk i.e. the minimum dose effect.
My passion has always been to understand the intricacies of human movement. Over the past 7 years I have been able to use my knowledge to firstly minimise people’s injury/pain and secondly, give them back control/extend their physical potential- its been incredibly rewarding! After working as a Personal Trainer I decided I wanted to progress my career; to submerge myself in a profession that was best able to advance people’s physical abilities whilst keeping respect and admiration for the body at the forefront. With the growth of the S&C industry in professional sports clubs, being a direct result of the improvements that sports specific training has demonstrated in the athletic population, I spent 3 years studying an S&C degree. I loved its heavy focus on scientifically validated, empirical evidence as it took the often associated ‘Bro-science’ out of the fitness industry; letting me design programmes centred on the best training methods currently known to develop a desired performance goal. After all, this is a profession in which the smallest of measurable parameters makes all the difference.
With science paving the way in providing an in-depth understanding of functional anatomy and sport biomechanics, it’s now easier then ever to access information to guide screening processes and help prevent many squash-related injuries. I regularly assess squash player’s movement characteristics to give guidance on reconditioning as well as implementing training programs to enhance their energy efficiency when moving around the court. Although scientific findings are a cornerstone for my exercise prescription, I’m still aware that every individual should be treated as such and that time should be spent understanding what works for that individual regardless of what can be seen to work for ‘group norms’. For example, loading an athlete’s lunge in training theoretically improves their physical capabilities to quickly push out of a lunge (and hence be able to move quicker on court) however this does not guarantee their efficient lunging mechanics are then seen on court. Often movement is not as simple as just physical capacity, it is heavily linked with sensory feedback, meaning athletes who can be seen to train with perfect technique in the gym may actually be only using the mirror to monitor their form. I therefore dedicate time not only to physically adapting players but educating them on sensing training movements rather then just going ‘through the motions’. I also continuously re-assess player’s movements to ensure the desired mechanics are evident on court, rather then just assuming performance has improved due to physiological adaptation.
Furthermore, a squash player’s physical performance is also affected by their technical abilities. For example, a player who holds a lot of tension during their backhand may overtime get discomfort/pain in their upper back/shoulder/elbow. I often spend time liaising with the other Elite squash coaches to help tweak any of these non-functional tendencies, and use group meetings and visual feedback to solidify players understanding of their movement mechanics. The importance of this athlete-centred interdisciplinary approach is highly valued at Elite squash. It helps to maximise the development of squash players by making the acquisition of a broader, deeper knowledge support base possible
During my S&C degree I expanded my knowledge base to gain an understanding of how an athlete’s physical performance can be affected, beneficially and detrimentally, by aspects outside of their training (for example diet, sleep, mood). Another aspect of my holistic approach is therefore to give guidance on nutrition, sleep hygiene, and combine validated psychological and physical monitoring tools to work out each player’s training load-performance relationship. This minimises the onset of training related injuries, too often seen in sport as a result of over and under training.
Although S&C was developed to optimize professional athlete’s physical performance, there is a growing trend for amateur and junior sport players to turn to the services of S&C coaches for their training. I am fortunate enough to coach all different abilities at Elite squash and the importance of training for injury prevention and movement efficiency remains the same. All of my clients share the same objective; to maximize their successful performance on a squash court.
Pease find more details on Beth’s profile here