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How 'Sport Specific' does your training need to be?

Us: 'We don’t care what your sport is….'


Prospective Athlete: 'Wait, shouldn’t you care about the sport I play?'


Us: 'Yes, of course we care what sport you play…kind of.



Before I dive deeper into this, let me explain why I am writing this out:


We constantly get these types of questions from potential clients:


  • “Do you guys train basketball players too? I know you train our son for hockey but our daughter plays basketball - could you help her with that?

  • Are you a soccer specific facility?

  • Do you do sport specific training?


There are definitely pros to being Sport Specific, here are a few:

  • It's easier marketing for businesses! Google searches favour 'Hockey Strength' or 'Hockey Dryland'


  • You can lump large groups of athletes into the same programming because they all operate on a similar schedule. BUT this can lead to mindless programming and time wasted by some athletes as it is not targeted at THEIR individual needs.


  • You can really dive into the sport and learn the lingo and culture of that sport to create an environment that is driven towards that one sport. This can help athletes feel more comfortable and safe in their training environment and environment is important. Feeling safe and comfortable is important.


The biggest con to this:


  • Environment is important. This is important in sport where athletes and coaches are always comparing themselves to their peers. Let me explain ...


I used to coach in a local sport-specific hockey program for years before moving to a facility that had athletes from multiple different sports. This helped me to gain a much more diverse understanding of athletic potential.


If I never had the chance to witness a bobsled athlete jump 10.51 meters in a 3 continuous broad jump, I may still believe the best outcome for that test is 8.93 meters (which is the most I’ve ever seen a hockey player jump).


Seeing the diligence and attention to detail in the training of a track and field athlete -- where every cm or 1/100th of a second matters can pay dividends was new to me. In team sports like hockey, basketball and soccer, this fine attention to detail is not in their culture, though they would benefit greatly from it.


These are just a few examples, but I have multiple from other sports as well. We consistently see that when athletes train alongside athletes from other disciplines their eyes are opened to different capabilities and egos are checked.


Working with athletes from multiple different sports also keeps us sharp as a coach, while this adds time to “admin” duties it also keeps the brain fresh when programming around different sport needs and schedules.


Working with multiple sports also provides the opportunity to work with and understand the different sport cultures - this is so valuable as it forces the coach to be adaptable and find commonalities and comparisons to multiple sports and movements. A book by David Epstein - “Range” can support this argument if you're interested.


In summary ...


The idea that a facility should be sport specific in my mind’s eye is too simplistic.


The role of any strength and conditioning coach should be maximizing the athletic potential of every athlete that they work with so that they can go out and perform with confidence in their sport of choice. Maximizing for each individual means we have to take an individualistic approach to programming, coaching and mentoring.


Before we can effectively program, of course we need to understand the physical demands of the sport they play as well as multiple other factors including seasonal flow and scheduling (which is why we care what sport they play). But more importantly we need to understand what is possible, and the more diversity we have working with athletes (regardless of sex) from different sports the better coaches we become.


This is why Zeal Performance is not sport specific…but don’t worry, we can help you or your son/daughter/friend no matter what sport they play because we will pay attention to them as an individual that has room to improve, always…


And if I need to answer the questions from above, we will continue to do so in the following manner.



Q: “Do you guys train basketball players too? I know you train our son for hockey but our daughter plays basketball - could you help her with that?


A: Of course we can, and we’re excited for the challenge.



Q: Are you a soccer specific facility?


A: No, we work with soccer players and help them to improve, but we are not soccer specific.



Q: Do you do sport specific training?


A: No, we prepare each individual to be able to perform their sport of choice at a higher level.


As always, reach out to me directly with any questions you might have by scheduling a call with me.


Coach Doug

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