S&C

Digital tools for S&C / Why Coaches should embrace them

Des Earls

[5 min read]

John Wooden is widely considered as one of, if not the, greatest collegiate basketball coaches ever. The ‘Wizard of Westwood’ was a brilliant coach who led the UCLA Bruins to 10 NCAA titles in 12 years. He now best is known for his Pyramid of Success which outlines how to be successful, not only in sports but in all aspects of life. Wooden understood that sport, like all of life’s other pursuits, is a microcosm of life. And in life, change is inevitable, unavoidable, and more often than not an opportunity for improvement.

“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”

– John Wooden

Digital change in S&C

Digital change is happening at a furiously fast pace – as is change within the strength and conditioning world. As strength and conditioning grows as a profession so too does our understanding of what’s required to get our athletes into peak physical condition.

Our understanding of technique, workload, nutrition, sleep, and how daily life impacts training performance has reached new heights in recent years through greater access to research and the practices of elite coaches. By embracing digital change, we can harness new technologies to transform our coaching practice and fundamentally change how we operate and deliver value to our athletes.

“By embracing digital change, we can harness new technologies to transform our coaching practice and fundamentally change how we operate and deliver value to our athletes.”

Meet your athletes where they are

As S&C coaches one of our primary goals is to increase buy-in from our athletes through our programming. We need them to believe that our programs will help them achieve their goals. To do this we must not only develop appropriate training plans. We must also administer and monitor them in ways that the athlete can engage in.

Many of the athletes we work with now must be considered digital natives. Born in the nineties and noughties they have grown up with digital TV, smartphone apps, iPads, and interactive whiteboards. They are more comfortable with smart-tech than they are without it, and it’s easy to comprehend why. People often marvel at how quickly toddlers can pick up and operate tech, but it’s designed to be unbelievably user-friendly.

The user experience we get from the tech we use every day is mind blowing considering the intricacies behind it. Most of our athletes could pick up a smart device of any brand or configuration and understand how to use it immediately. The digital technology we use is wonderfully intuitive.

By embracing the use of digital tools with our athletes S&C coaches are keeping with their native familiarity and embracing the values they hold dear, like aesthetically pleasing design, and hyper-connectivity. We can harness this familiarity and sense of comfort to increase the engagement we have with our athletes. Ultimately, by using digital tools that they can hold in their pocket we are empowering our athletes to become collaborators in their own training rather than dictated to do exactly as someone says.

“... by using digital technologies that they can hold in their pocket we are empowering our athletes to become collaborators in their own training”

S&C Coaches Embracing Digital Tools

Digital change has impacted many areas of sports coaching from tactics and video analysis apps to diet tracking apps. We use communication apps to relay instructions about team events and post online questionnaires about post-match recovery. As S&C coaches we have embraced technology in performance testing with jump mats, Velocity-Based Training, and linear position transducers being used to measure outputs.

However, these are all tools for when we are with athletes. What about when we are not? By embracing other digital tools like online training software. S&C coaches can streamline communication between the coach and athlete, particularly regarding training programs and training output.

Training Load Monitoring

Tracking and managing training load has become an integral part of a strength and conditioning coach’s role when working with athletes. By monitoring load, we can track an athlete’s progress and hopefully pick up any red flags before they turn into injuries or dips in performance. For example, if an athlete is programmed to hit 3 reps at 90% of their 1RM but only manages 1 rep this may be an indication that the athlete had some underlying fatigue going into the session.

If the athlete is consistently not hitting targets, then it might be a sign of over-reaching. Setting loads has always been relatively straightforward for S&C coaches using the total load of a session or setting RPE. But this does not tell us how the athlete felt or performed. Only the athlete can tell us this but how do they communicate this?

Remote S&C Coaching with Digital Tools

They may be training in remote locations or fitting sessions into their busy lives whenever they can. S&C coaches are not always on hand to ask “how’s it all going”. But we can embrace developments in digital communication tools to bridge this gap. Through effective digitally mediated communication we can monitor training more effectively improve overall performance. The ease at which online training software allows us to monitor training should be evident to all strength and conditioning coaches.

Traditionally S&C coaches have worked on what could be described as linear models of change. We read a book or article or attend and conference and decide to change one or two aspects of our coaching practice. This is a valuable approach to take to develop your coaching skills and is certainly not something that we should stop doing. However, when it comes to our organisational practice, we need to develop much quicker and often not in a linear fashion. As S&C coaches, we need to be much more agile in our systems, and embracing digital tools will allow us to do this.

Improving Communication Channels

If we think of how a simple digital tool like email has transformed how we organise our coaching. It has revolutionised the speed, accuracy, and ease at which we communicate with athletes, fellow coaches and other key stakeholders. But it is still not perfect. We often still struggle to convey mood or context over text so most coaches now use WhatsApp where emojis are accepted practice and can better communicate what we are trying to get across. If we stuck with what we started out with most of us would be communicating to athletes through postal mail. But we didn’t, and communication channels are clearer than ever and will continue to improve.

S&C coaches have embraced change since the field first began to develop. We continue to do this with our own coaching practice by continuously striving to get better. In doing so we also need to be cognisant of the people we work with. What they value and what they respond to.

We can take our intrepid spirit as pioneers in a developing field and apply it to digital change to help transform our coaching and organisational practice and fully engage with our clients. Digital change is inevitable and should be embraced by all coaches. But that doesn’t mean the simple truths of success have changed. “When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur” – John Wooden.

When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur

– John Wooden

About RYPT

At RYPT we’re dedicated to making the delivery of individualized fitness programs, and the gathering of performance data frictionless, so that coaches have the insights they need to optimize the performance of each individual. It’s our goal to connect individuals with high-quality coaches and help coaches to optimize performance and the performance of their business.

RYPT provides coaches with a digital channel to connect with their clients and athletes and bespoke tools to build, and deliver individualized training programs and monitor exercise, training load, well-being, and nutrition data. Giving coaches the full picture of their client’s and athlete’s performance, and the insights they need to make data-led decisions to optimize performance, prevent overtraining and injury, and improve results. The RYPT coaching platform is supported by eCommerce functionality with powerful automation to help coaches monetize their expertise by reaching more remote clients.

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