AFM RSS Feed Follow Us on Twitter       

   User Name    Password 
      Password Help

Article Categories

AFM Magazine

AFM Magazine

Speed Report: Confusing Conditioning for Football Speed Development

by: Dale Baskett
Football Speed Specialist
© More from this issue

Click for Printer Friendly Version          

Conditioning is, in reality, a performance trait useful during the season. It can consume your periodization schedule in the off-season when, in reality, it’s not relative. You may not agree with my thoughts on how you should address conditioning. You should focus your training on speed and power and not conditioning. The word ‘Conditioning Coach’ in the collegiate world has begun to change - now it’s become a ‘Performance Coach.’ 

    A coach in the collegiate world is not a strength and conditioning coach but, rather, a Performance Coach. The word conditioning is a form of its own entity and a small part of the total equation of training to improve an athlete’s performance. When I think of conditioning, I don’t consider it during the off-season. Some coach’s use a conditioning regime year-round with their players, thinking this is building them into some certain hybrid that can out-work their neighbor. The fact is that they’re just wearing them out physically. A body is protoplasm and not steel. It’s in need of rest and work in a balanced capacity. 

    Conditioning should be considered according to what time of the year you are training, relative to competition. To enhance physical performance conditioning from month to month in the off-season is the wrong approach. The reality is that to be ready for competition doesn’t take that long and certainly January and February are a long way off from August camp.

Do You Have an Abundance of Time? - Most Coaches Don’t

    You have a chance to build speed to a maximum level for each athlete on the team if you choose the proper ingredients and blend them with a plan that targets progressive growth over a specific time period. The sad, but true reality is that the majority of the football world doesn’t have a clue as to what a prescription is or should be for maximizing speed.

    That being the case, the last thing you would want is to waste time on conditioning in the off-season. Time is always precious. I’m constantly reiterating that over and over in the many articles I’ve written in the four plus years I’ve been doing the Speed Report. What we can accomplish in the time frame we have is extremely important. Speed development is no exception to that rule. We wouldn’t do heavy sprint work five straight months in advance of the season because you would burn your athletes out. So what value would be gained by allowing your athletes to spend their energy on conditioning when it’s not relative at the time? Energy should be placed elsewhere to be a productive catalyst for stimulating more important items that will make the players better athletes.  

Why Coaches Do Conditioning During the Off-Season

   As coaches, we are built a certain way. We work hard and try to learn good things that will be productive to our team and philosophy. But we definitely form certain concepts as a coach. How we function within the concepts usually determines what choices we make. Coaches are constantly looking for things that lend to their programs within the structure of their design. Do we have a belief system in place as coaches? Almost every coach I’ve worked with or been around has had a particular belief system. It’s usually shaped by past and present experiences. The more creative types strive to be unique in their approach to both formulation and changes. 

    Here are a few ideas to consider. Look at the way you are and the way you think in certain areas as a coach. No good coach goes along without a plan. Sometimes his plan is incorrect or he’s the wrong guy for the specific plan, or the position he’s in is wrong for him. Nevertheless, all experienced coaches have a clue in their mind what they believe they want to do according to what they hear and see. This brings us to the underlying reasoning of how conditioning gets placed in the training design during the off-season with certain programs. A belief system that is predicated on the idea of borrowing or creating or both is what we are all linked to. No twenty-two year old begins coaching and has an experienced philosophy in place. That comes with a system he experienced as a player or with coaching experience over time. Sometime in his career, a coach settles into a certain belief system. The one that makes the most sense often is from a mentor that helped form the path for success. 

    Now that we have discussed the values of coaching career development, let me finish the concept by saying that a coach conditioning in the off-season is disillusioned. Here’s the real reason most do it – it makes the player tougher mentally and more disciplined. No pain no gain is the old reference. Cut it any way you wish. Conditioning in the off-season is a poor trade-off for speed lost. Without fail, you will delineate the growth of speed potential if you choose to condition year-round.  

Conditioning or Speed is Your Choice

   Here’s the main function that speed training demands in the off-season – high energy and precise focus and execution over several months. That doesn’t even consider precise movement control at varying speeds with different percentage levels applied week in and week out. When an athlete does conditioning during the off-season, it’s already being accompanied by other training practices. The energy level remaining for speed execution will always be tainted. The sad part of conditioning during the season is that you prepare for conditioning prior to the season and not five months in advance. 

    Many high school coaches I work with don’t do any conditioning during the off-season or in-season and go on to win back-to-back state championships and league titles. Many who have switched to this type of mindset are amazed how they are a better team at the end of the season with fresh legs and the potential to play even after the playoffs have ended. They are amazed at how the human body stays resilient when not worn out and how the athletes perform at a higher level than they’ve ever experienced.

    I work with one coach who has won at least 10 games per year for the last 12 years and four consecutive state titles and he never conditions his athletes. His practices are always with high energy and intense. Speed work is his number one priority both during the season and in the off-season.
    No athlete goes home feeling good about breathing through a straw when he’s exhausted. This is not like a weight training program. Just because it hurts doesn’t mean that it is developing your future playing ability or strength. The great Bear Bryant coached over 40 years before he realized he over-worked his players and wasted more great talent than he produced. Bryant said it best at the last clinic he attended. “Athletes want intelligent and structured hard work that’s scientifically on point. It lights them up because they know they are on target with great training and not just being beat on to feel that they are getting better because they’re tired.”  


AFM Videos Streaming Memberships Now Available Digital Download - 304 Pages of Football Forms for the Winning Coach


Copyright 2024,
All Rights Reserved