ETSU Coaches & Sports Science College – Part 1

Before Christmas I returned from the 7th Annual Coaches & Sport Science College held at East Tennessee State University. The college was the biggest to date and attracted with speakers such as Dr Mike Stone, Dr Bill Sands, Dr John Ivy, and Mike Favre to name a few, attracting coaches from all over the USA for the weekend.

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I first came to notice ETSU through Howard Gray’s blog. Howard has recently taken up a position as an Assistant Strength & Speed Coach at Florida State University, having previously been a PhD student at ETSU. The Centre of Excellence for Sports Science & Coach Education recently established a unique PhD programme in Sports Physiology & Performance, with the  aim to impact education and research for two professions: sport scientists and coaches.

My first day in Johnson City started with an early morning visit to the Soccer field for a media event involving Catapult Sports Monitoring System. ETSU had recently formed a partnership with the company in that students will be able to for example, measure speed, distance, acceleration, and deceleration during training & competition of ETSU  sports teams. It was here that I was introduced to several Graduate students and was able to ask questions about being an ETSU student and their journey to get there.

This was followed by lunch with Meg Stone & Dr Mike Ramsey along with other ETSU staff and students. It was quite a surreal experience as to how accommodating Meg was, how she had time to discuss a variety of topics and share some valuable concepts on sports science. Her enthusiasm and passion shone throughout, and it’s no surprise she is so successful and respected all over the world.

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On the morning of the first day I was able to get a lifting session in to wake me up for the day. The weight room at ETSU is very old fashioned as you can see from the pictures. It was here that I met David Sutton, who was also attending from the UK. David is a very successful S&C coach in the UK, and currently the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach for Northants CCC. From spending time with David over ther weekend it was clear to see his passion and experience he owns and gave me some great advice. He has previously wrote a good post on Howard Gray’s blog with notes from the UKSEM Conference and can be contacted at or on his Twitter account.

Here I am going to share some thoughts and highlights from some of the presenters during the weekend.

Howard Gray presented on the topic of Quantifying On-Field Training in Soccer. The majority of the talk focused on quantifying different forms of field based work, and how these lead to informed decisions to effectively plan, integrate, and evaluate. What I really took away from the presentation was the importance the soccer place on integration. That coaches have their own ‘playbook’ including sessions & drill design, training responses, and effectively outcomes to break down barriers that sports science staff may face, especially during the competitive season. One quote that stood out was “quantify it, draw out conclusions, then make them understand” when prescribing feedback to coaches & athletes.

Ryan Alexander talked about Training Collegiate Female Soccer Players. This was of particular interest as I also have lots of experience training female athletes. Research has shown that females cover similar distances, similar percentages of total distance at high intensities, and similar % of maximum heart rate as males during play. Ryan also agreed that there are no documented training studies showing that females cannot manage similar RELATIVE training loads than male counterparts. He did however, believe that females are more sensitive to training volume, something to consider when programming and delivering sessions. Something that Vern Gambetta has previously mentioned on his blog.

Dr Brad DeWeese from the USOC presented on Speed Enhancement Through the Application of an Evidence-Based Training Theory. The presentation started outlining the importance of an athlete’s ability to accelerate, magnitude of maximum velocity, and ability to maintain velocity against fatigue. An evidence-based approach was identified as not only knowing “input” and “output”, but also the internal process. The internal process represents the individual physiological adaptations occurring as a result of training choices. Testing is valid and reliable, as well as “ongoing”, and reflects the demands of the sport. Strength component is based on the Conjugate Sequence Periodisation Model, utilising concentrated blocks to optimise a training component. Previously built abilities are maintained through overreaching strategies and this allows for power and impluse to be enhanced through “potentiating” effects in an orderly manner. Brad also presented lots of testing data from the elite world and Olympic athletes that he currently coaches, which could be a topic to post about in the future.

Jon Goodwin was the guest speaker from the UKSCA and presented on Maximum Velocity Sprinting: Mechanics and Limits to Performance. I had previously read an article of Jon’s in the UKSCA Professional Strength & Conditioning journal and everyone in the lecture hall was excited to hear his talk. Jon started off with fundamental mechanics and described running speed as a product of forces through contact time and contact length. Trends from faster runners show that on the ground; relative vertical impulse was equivalent, higher peak vertical forces, generate required vertical impulse faster, and have shorter contact times. Therefore tolerance for shorter contact time can lead to greater stride length. There are many other aspects of the talk but are too detailed for this short summary. When coaching, it is important to understand where the athlete’s limits are, where their movement outcomes are rooted, and remove limiters to ‘allow’ athlete’s to achieve their potential.

Part 2 to follow.


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