Let the Coaches Coach

Today what we have gong in professional sport and to a certain extent collegiate sport is alarming to me. The prevalence of the so called medical model with the team doctor sitting at the top of the pyramid, with the physical therapist next in the pecking order followed by the team trainer and then last in the pecking order the strength and conditioning coach. There are many situations when every exercise, I truly mean every exercise, must be approved by the team medical staff before the Strength and Conditioning coach can implement a program. Frankly this is pretty ridiculous; it is actually a formula for failure. Sure there must be accountability, but accountability works both ways. I vividly recall my last meeting with the White Sox team doctor like it was yesterday (It was 12 years ago) He was questioning some exercises we were doing and had been doing with no problems for nine years. My admonition to him was I do not tell you how to do surgery do not tell me how to exercises. Doctors are not trained in exercise; it is not part of their skill set. There needs to be mutual respect, professionalism and accountability for all concerned. I really think the blame for this must be shared. There are Strength and Conditioning coaches who are in the dark ages, they are one dimensional, they never leave the weight room. Many of them in pro sports are afraid of players so are unwilling to push the players or demand accountability from the players, so the approach is do as little as possible, do not hurt them or make them tired or they might complain to the trainer or worse to management or their agent. I am amazed at the level of naiveté that the teams approach conditioning and injury prevention. Now we have situations where all the players do is roll on foam rollers, and do ridiculous sequences of exercises that have fancy objectives like inhibit, lengthen, activate, and integrate. They do this as “training” and wonder why they have injuries. How about designing a good training program that gets them moving and get them functionally fit, fast and strong for their sport.

Scott Boras, http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3039348 the baseball agent, probably the most powerful agent in sport gets it:

As a former player, Boras believed that owners didn't invest enough in their talent, their product. Teams treated players like replaceable parts. They had pitchers and shortstops do the same training, the same lifting and stretching. It didn't make sense. The teams didn't start teaching players how to stay healthy and fit until they were men, which shaved years off performance. Not for this kid, Boras told himself.

Imagine adding seven years to your career, Boras tells his new kids. Imagine what history you can make with those years. Boras shows them the batting cages and the private gym. This is an institute, not some spa. Each member of Team Boras gets a dedicated program designed by Steve Odgers, the former White Sox conditioning director and decathlete, who has a neck the width of an oak tree, a guy with 13 years of training data etched in journals. Odgers gets prospects when they're just out of high school and puts them through a year-round program designed specifically for each player -- because a relief pitcher is not the same as a second baseman. He even teaches them yoga. Show me a team that can do all that. Throughout the year, Boras dispatches Odgers and four other trainers around the country to check in on A-Rod, Dice-K, Pudge and the rest. It's Odgers who tells teams what program the players should follow. Boras knew he couldn't call trainers himself -- they'd never listen to a moneyman, but one of their own, that's a different story. And if a team's trainer squawks about outside interference, Boras might pick up the phone and call the GM.

He knows what he has to do to prolong the careers of his players, why can’t the teams figure it out. The medical model is not the answer. I will propose an alternative model in another post, actually the model I thought we could implement with the Mets, but they could buy into it because it required too many people to get out of their comfort zone.


At 10/3/07, 8:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that's true outside of sports. When was the last time anyone went in for a general check up and the doctor wrote a prescription for eating and exercise?

If a team doctor questions it, write him a program and work with him on it, get them involed. We all might learn something.

At 10/3/07, 9:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen brother. Where I am employed, we have instituted a new model where the Athletic Trainers, S/C coaches, Physiologists, Psychologists, Biomechanists, and so on are seen as equals and are encouraged to question each other. Some have bought into it, others have not. We are very lucky as a medical staff that the Docs let us decide what is acceptable for rehab. It is very important to remember that rehab is not the same as functional training and no athlete can be ready to return to sport by just doing rehab.

Joe Cygan, ATC
United States Olympic Committee

At 10/3/07, 1:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

With the appropriate training there will be less need for a Dr. Don't get me wrong, there will always be a need for a Dr. injuries will still exist but I believe they could be minimized with the appropriate training regimin.

Joe- Very well said. Are you in Lake Placid? If so, what are the odds of someone coming up and have you show them around? I also work in Upstate NY.

Jonathan Hewitt ATC

At 10/3/07, 4:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Joe, I learned some of that from this blog. I just read in weird ideas that work, "which do you need more your heart or your brain". Both are necessary to more forward.

At 10/3/07, 10:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post-with some knowledge from the inside with another major sport, another point is the agent (Scott Boras) cares about his "investment" beyond 3% cut.

Ultimately, each player needs to be responsible and educated themselves how to be more productive and stay healthy...not everyone is fortunate enough to have an agent babysit them beyond the first signing.

Jeff W

At 10/4/07, 7:27 AM, Blogger Dr Craig S. Duncan said...

Hi Vern you are right on with this post. In Australia we just had our soccer team led by a sports physician into the Asian Champioships' It was a complete debarcle with our performance flat and poorly planned.

At 10/5/07, 9:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


The best investment that Scott Boras ever invested in is Steve Odgers. There are not too many conditioning coaches like him out there.

ps. Not all agents are looking out for their athletes health


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