University Strength and Conditioning Departments in Focus
The S&C departments within universities provide excellent examples of evidence-based practice, applying scientific principles of S&C to their unique and challenging performance environments.
Through these articles, we will be taking a detailed look at what our partners at different institutions do, sharing good practice and providing a platform for collaboration and improvement.
If you run a university based S&C department, anywhere in the world, please get in touch to share your story.
In this article we'll be looking in to the Sports Performance Department at Hanover College in Hanover, Indiana. The Hanover Panthers are the athletics teams that officially represent Hanover College in College Sports. Part of the NCAA's Division III, the Panthers field 23 teams that represent 14 sports, most of which compete in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC). Hanover is one of three schools in this conference with a specific dedication to performance.
Hanover College Sport Performance Department
The Hanover Sports Performance program is run by a one man staff. In some cases this can be a detriment purely based on the volume of athletes and the time available to be designated to each team. In many ways however, this proves to be a large positive due to the daily interaction and relationships that can be created with every athlete, every single day. Athletes will hold themselves to a greater accountability, work harder and build a desire to achieve greater results knowing that you care about each of their personal acheivements specifically.
At Hanover, All 475 athletes are provided 12 months of structured programming that aim to develop all necessary individual qualities required to perform at the best level for their respective sports. Each program and phase within the 12 month structure, is focused on moving, moving well and eliminating weaknesses. The basis of the program is the conjugate method, and ensuring that the athlete is strong in every plane, throughout every movement, and resilient to injury.
The Hanover College "Iron Panthers" as well as the Director of Sports Performance have high expectations regardless of being the Division 3 level. The goal of the weight-room is designed to integrate a high level of discipline, respect and accountabilty toward athletic excellence. Each athlete will come to the weight room for a different purpose.
Hanover Sports Performance Department Mission Statement:
At the Division 3 level, the weight room can mean something very different to each athlete. It is the mission of Hanover Sports Performance to provide the best individual resources possible to build and support each student athlete in a way that guides them to their own personal success both during their athletic and post collegiate professional careers.
Hanover Sports Performance Department Vision Statement:
The goal of Hanover Sports Performance is to be recognized as a top level performance program nationwide. HSP aims to provide not only a unique program, but a philosphy and structure that guides every athlete to a higher level of self expectation, preparing them for success and acheivement for the rest of their lives.
Every student-athlete on every team is expected to maintain the same top level standard, and every team has the same goal in mind, success. These standards will consist of everything between the weight room, and how you treat others on different teams. When you enter the weight room as an "Iron Panther" you enter as one team striving for a united goal. Athletes are expected to give high energy and high effort every session. It is the expectation that this effort and energy begins with the Director of Sports Performance and is then emulated by the athlete population. You must realise attitude is infectious, and what others see is what they will follow.
Intent - Within every session that the athlete has, there is an intent. Each athlete is asked what their "intent" is for that day and they must approach the tasks required with that full intent. Intention behind moving a weight or performing an exercises transfers very close to the field, court, track or pool. Why are you taking the shot? to score, or to simply say you took one? Why are you going to practice? because you have to, or because your goal is to get that 1% better?
Culture – Although sometimes the word culture can become cliche, it is a word that creates a like mentality. What do you want the atmosphere to be in the weight room? Do you want silence, low motivation and average performances? Or do you want optimal hype, focused attitudes and elite performances? The culture that we create at Hanover is building, athletes now WANT to be in the weight room, WANT to get better and see others get better. Athletes WANT success and are motivated to see their improvements on and off the field.
Tradition – As a One man Coaching staff, the culture begins there. Once you instill that desire and motivation in yuor athletes, they will run with it and turn it into their own. What they turn that into is what they instill in the classes below, and what they leave behind when they graduate. Leave Hanover college and the team you played for, better than when you arrived. Be proud to see the mark you left on a program and the respect earned by the person you grew into.
"Find your intent, Build a culture and instil a tradition"
Hanover Sports Performance Principles
Master the Basics
Optimal performance is created through movement effciency. To progress to complex drills in a given sport, an athlete must first go through the simple, sometimes tedious drills. The same principles apply in the weight room. If we as an athlete cannot properly hinge, squat, push, pull or jump, then the understanding of more in depth concepts will be much more difficult. A poorly executed movement is much less effective than a basic movmement performed exceptionally well.
When competing in a match or event, there is never going to be a time where an athlete is asked to perform at an all out effort for the entire time. There are moments that require maximal effort, and moments when an athlete must moderate effort levels to ensure the focus remains for proper decison making. In the weight room there will be sessions/exercises that require optimal performance levels (combination of maximal effort and structured "down time") This ensures that the athlete can perform when needed, and execute when decisions need to be made.
The training process can be much less complex than many see it. By performing the right amount of work, and the right exercises, the athlete becomes well trained in a number of areas. By using the conjugate system, we aim to train all areas that could potentially cause a weakness in our performance. By doing this, the athlete becomes more resilient to injury, and has a great capacity to recover at a quicker rate than someone who has not taken the approach to train appropriately.
Long Term Athletic Development
It is important to understand when to program specific phases and what steps need to be taken to progress the athlete for the long term. It is important to teach the athletes that Day 1 of the off season as a freshman is not for breaking records or being at peak performance. Each program, each phase, each cycle, each year should progress to ensure the athlete continues to perform at their best level. As the athlete moves through the collegiate career, they should be continuing to improve times, fitness, strength etc. so that the final match of every season is the best they have had.
There are two aspects to this term. Firstly, it is important to understand that the work the athlete puts in during the off season, prepares them for the demands of in season. By working above the necessary means during the off season, the athletes ability to handle excess stressors as the prime portion of the season arrives. Secondly, how much work you perform can directly indicate success on the field, court, track or in the pool. Working harder is not a determining factor of success, but having an ability to detemine how much work you need to perform, and having the capacity to do so, puts the athlete in the drivers seat when it comes to competition. If an athletes capacity is far greater than the competiitors, the percentage of effort becomes much less, therefor increasing the ceiling to which you can perform.
More than an Athlete, More than a Weight Room
As a program, it is a consistent reinforcement that every single "athlete" that comes into the weight room, is also a person. It is important to show support, compassion and care for every individual who comes into the weight room. They must understand that yes they are a soccer player, football player etc. but also that they are in there to improve, and get better as an individual. Once there career as an athlete is over, ensure that they know you were there unconditionally and that not simply because they were an all american, or part of a successfully ranked team. Provide every individual with a relationship and an understanding that you truly care about their wellbeing throughout there collegiate career and as they transition into the real world post athletics.
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