PRESTON - Strength and Conditioning is an integral part of being a student-athlete at Myerscough Basketball Academy, and strength coach Alex Hodgson shared his insight on what goes into his job and what it takes for players to make the most of their training to nurture success.
Share with us your journey to becoming a strength and conditioning coach and how you came to Myerscough.
"My journey towards becoming an strength and conditioning coach really began with basketball. It is the sport I grew up playing and it has always been a huge part of my life. There were times during my playing years where I had long term back injuries which I became increasingly frustrated with. This is where my interest really began in trying to understand the body to get back on the court finding ways to improve my own performance. From there I studied exercise science and Strength and conditioning at University.
"I grew up in Australia but I was born in UK and a lot of my family are from up the road in the Lake District. After ending my playing career, I was in the lakes visiting family and ended up meeting Neal around the time he was planning to start the academy here at Myerscough. The opportunity to combine my passions for basketball and S&C was a great opportunity for me and one I continue to enjoy."
Working with boys and girls 16 to 19, whose bodies are naturally going through changes, what sort of challenges do you face?
"There are constant challenges when working with students at this stage of growth and development as well as the fact that the training environment we create is quite demanding. Finding a balance between getting the most out of the players at the same time as minimising injuries is balancing act that anyone in sport has to deal with. I feel we are lucky in number of ways at Myerscough which allows us to ask a lot of our student athletes. The fact that they sleep and eat a stones throw from the training facilities and classrooms means they can get the extra rest, recovery and nutrition that may not be available elsewhere."
Some incoming players might have had little access or gym training prior to coming to Myerscough. What works best to get inexperienced weightlifters to buy into what you’re trying to implement from a strength and conditioning standpoint?
"As a group they have always bought into the S&C side of their development which makes this easy for me. I have players who see the results from the hard work they put in, they set the tone for incoming players and it seems to rub off on them.
"One challenge in this regard is the varying levels of training and development that similarly aged individuals can come to us with. We have to be careful to individualise training based on training age and capability rather than just say they are all under-19 age group so they can train the same way."
What type of mindset do incoming players need to have with regards to strength and conditioning to be successful?
"I was a player first and I will always hold the importance of the game above all however the transition between junior to senior basketball that our players are typically going through usually requires an increase in strength, power and speed amongst other qualities to be able to be successful on the court. The additional S&C sessions provided definitely helps facilitate this transition. In my mind, it is a big part of keeping them fit and healthy, on the court and not on the side-line but this doesn’t always act as the best motivator to the athlete. Sometimes they just want to get a good pump but I can use this motivation to make us both happy."
Myerscough student-athletes have a rigorous schedule - games, lessons, practice, strength and conditioning, etc. ... How can they lead a balanced lifestyle yet maximise their training?
"Sleep! Sleep is by far the most important supplement to training in my experience. For recovery and to be ready for the upcoming sessions. Finding a way to prioritise getting enough sleep is crucial to make the most of training at Myerscough."
You’ve spoke about handling the loaded schedule the Academy presents. How do your off-season work outs vary from in-season when athletes should be at peak condition already?
"My main goal is long term athlete development rather than peaking for competition, so our off season is a time we can actually ramp up some of the training protocols. As the players are spending less time on court it gives me greater opportunity for some higher intensity training."
How has technology played a role in the weight room and do you see new advancements coming into the Myerscough S&C suite?
"There is some amazing high-tech training equipment that has become available but 99% of our training is accomplished with standard equipment and a lot of effort!
From a scientific standpoint I am always very interested in upcoming technology and its application however it is not what makes us who we are. With the growth of the S&C degree course there is more scope to experiment with some more emerging technologies but in our basketball sessions we stick with what is proven to work."
Being a basketball player yourself, how has that lent towards building workout programmes? i.e.: Knowing what a successful basketball player needs in order to achieve their potential?
"It definitely helps, not only when designing programmes but also when communicating with the other coaches. I feel it enables a deeper understanding of what aspect the coach or player is trying to develop and being able to manipulate their training to facilitate it."
What dialogue do you have with Neal (Hopkins) and the rest of the coaching staff regarding strength and condition for the Academy’s players?
"We will often speak about areas for development whether team or individual. The coaches will often spot tendencies whether physical qualities or movements (eg. Defensive mechanics) and we can discuss how we can create an environment for the player to develop.
"Most importantly I think it’s important for all of the coaches and Academy staff to keep up to date on the general wellbeing of all of our students so we can be aware of any issues whether basketball related or otherwise and act accordingly."
How important is it to have a positive relationship with the coaches and buy in from them when it comes to player development and rehabilitation?
"It is crucial for optimal performance. We have to be on the same page especially in terms of loading, rest and awareness of injuries/stages of rehab to be able to offer individuals the best chance of success."
How rewarding is it for you to see the progression of the Academy’s student athletes over 2-3 years?
"It is my favourite part of the job! Sometimes it’s hard to see the athletes development when you see them every day but then when looking back at game tape or training numbers I’m often amazed at the development they make.
"I love watching our players when they realise they can physically dominate the opposition which they may not have been able to do in the past. It seems to give an additional level of confidence and is a great reward for the effort of consistently working hard in the gym."
Has there been a success story that you’re most proud of a former Academy student-athlete, whether it be on court or them becoming interested and invested in strength and conditioning?
"There are too many to single out, this one side of the role I hadn’t anticipated but there has been a number of students now who have really taken to the physical preparation side of sport and this has lead to the development of the new degree course at the college."
For more information about the FdSc Strength and Conditioning degree at Myerscough, click here.