I just got back from the National Strength and Conditioning Association National Conference in Las Vegas.  It’s the first one I’ve attended since 2014, and as usual I came away with a variety of reactions.  As expected the heat in Las Vegas was blistering and on the night of the 14th it was still 100 degrees at bedtime.  Eric Burkhardt and I were staying at the Tuscany Suites which is a couple of long blocks from the host site, the Paris Hotel.  We did our share of walking in the heat to get to and from the conference.  Dehydration and thermoregulation became relevant topics during the stay. 

This was the best attended event in the history of the NSCA with over 2200 partaking. 

Perspective—Something that can benefit us all

The most poignant reaction relates to both my generation and the younger strength and conditioning coaches entering the profession.  I attended presentations by two of the graying eminences of strength and conditioning, Jimmy Radcliff and Bob Alejo, and although their topics differed, I came away with the same general feeling of satisfaction that two of the veterans were providing something that only they could do and that was to provide some perspective.

Jimmy has been the head Strength and Conditioning coach at the University of Oregon for something like 30 years.  He’s seen a great deal, coached a great many athletes and watched so much pass through his program.  What he’s got is perspective which is really important.  Just about any of the young up and coming coaches or sport scientists can provide information, but it is only the veterans who can provide perspective.  Jimmy’s presentation focused on Long Term Athletic Development and how our generation’s play activities led us on a journey of self discovery that served us well in the athletic world.  Jimmy not only expounded on what is lacking in the histories of many of today’s athletes, but some activities and exercises that can be incorporated into the schedules of today’s youngsters who will become tomorrow’s better prepared athletes.  Jimmy even provided a hands-on session of simple exercises to develop increased body awareness. 

Bob Alejo, who has coached at UCLA, North Carolina State, UCSB, the Oakland Athletics and produced two Olympic gold medalists, went through a list of things he would continue to be implementing and also a list of things he wouldn’t.  His presentation served as a model for the young coaches who could benefit from Bob’s role modeling the conscientious, self-evaluating coach.  Bob hasn’t done what he’s done without consulting other experts, regularly tracking his own athletes’ progress and re-evaluating his approach to coaching.  This was a great presentation for the younger generation. 

More LTAD but from another voice

I especially enjoyed attending Tony Moreno’s presentation on LTAD but for another reason.  I remember Tony as an up and coming sports science student at CSUF back in the 1980’s.  He also lifted in some of our local events.  It was fantastic to see him now as a tenured professor from Eastern Michigan University, confidently presenting on a topic that he feels is of great importance, even though it is slightly out of the scope of his academic credentialing. 

Tony is coaching high school Lacrosse and encounters the deficiencies in athlete development that don’t always make it to the college classroom.  His first hand coaching has provided him with a unique perspective that allows him to make some developmental prescriptions for child and adolescent athletes.  The rest of us can make these same points, but it resonates especially well with the strength and conditioning crowd when it is presented at the national conference by a respected academician. 

The View of Our Path to get here

Somebody at the national office rounded up a few hundred photos from past conferences and posted them on display boards in the hall way of the conference center.  This provided the veterans with a chance to look back at the pathway that got us to our present station, and the newcomers with a glimpse into the development of the organization.

As a society we are not especially fond of historical perspectives, and so it’s not surprising that many of the younger members of the NSCA don’t understand the struggle it’s taken to get our agenda moving forward all these decades. 

Strength and conditioning in this country got started because of a lack of formal education for sport coaching of any kind.  In fact no one today can provide you with a degree in coaching a sport.  In the 1970’s, a small group of individuals knew that strength training could significantly improve athletic performance but they could only provide a small voice in the wilderness.  Things have greatly changed, but history can provide us with some direction.

For much of the history the NSCA has done a great deal to substantiate the scientific basis for sound strength and conditioning training.  I believe that the organization has established its credibility in this area and must refocus its energies on the marketing of the concept. 

There is still too much bad strength and conditioning or a failure to support good strength and conditioning.  The NSCA needs to be marketing the concept to sport coaches, athletic directors, parents of athletes and athletes so that the demand for good coaching becomes a priority.  In this way more resources will be directed toward strength and conditioning and provide more opportunities for young S & C coaches and developing athletes.  While all the involved parties can now agree on the importance of S & C, it is only through creating a demand for quality in this area that the levels can be uplifted. 

As usual

As usual it was great hanging out with my colleagues, catching up on the latest trends, and getting a greater perspective on the direction of the movement.