To throw out a violent overgeneralization, the court and weight room have always had completely opposite goals.
On the court, we look to build our software. Elevating our skills. The robustness and complexity of our brain. Expanding our movement options.
In the weight room, we build the hardware. The structure. Boosting our strength, mobility, and, elasticity, for instance.
Then, we arm the hardware with the software.
With better hardware comes the opportunity for higher level software. We can’t run the latest Mac iOS software on the oldest, most rudimentary computer we can find. We can’t put an insane amount of horsepower in a 2001 Civic. In the same way, our brain won’t allow us too arm ourselves with elite-level skill and speed if we lack the hardware, or physical qualities.
But right now, what most players receive is a hardware and software updates that go in completely random directions relative to each other. Especially when strength and conditioning trainers and skills coaches have limited communication, it’s all a guessing game. The S&C coach updates the hardware in a few ways he see fits, and the skills coach updates the software in, for the most part completely different ways. So we only see marginal gains many times—the two must be working in the same direction to see these exponential gains. Because how much room for growth is there if the other is the limiting factor?
My goal is to perfectly unite the two. When I know that we’ll be upgrading an athlete’s hardware in a certain way, such as training their raw ankle stiffness and dynamic soleus strength, we update the software on the court to follow, as we work on the movement skill of a first step. Better hardware, with better software to follow.
And here’s another layer, too: movement is movement. Training is training. Our brain and body don’t differentiate between the court and the weight room.
So, although the traditional weight room focus is structural (hardware), and the traditional on-court focus is neurological (software), we have the potential to affect both in each of the two environments.
Every movement we do in the weight room is also a skill, and thus has a neurological focus. So we can build software in the weight room! For instance, when we learn a controlled lunge in a weight room environment, we get better at that skill and start to favor and use it more effectively when we decelerate. And obviously, we could jump into qualities such as rate of force development (RFD) which are primarily built in the brain.
And every movement we do on the court is also stressing our body structurally, so we also create a physiological adaptation. In other words, we inevitably train our hardware on the court! When you shoot 500 jumpers, that’s a high volume of low-level plyometrics, so chances are we’ll get a good tissue adaptation in the lower leg.
If we don’t take all of this into account and at least communicate between S&C and skills coaches, if not purposefully plan this out, it’s like being on a canoe with everyone rowing different ways.
Let’s start building that synergy between the software and hardware.