In this week’s Q&A we interviewed Justin Leach, who is the Assistant Athletic Director for Athletic Performance at the University of San Francisco.
How has your programming evolved since first using force plate technology?
Justin Leach, MS, RSCC*D, CSCS, USAW: Human behavior has a propensity to follow the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset – and historically in strength and conditioning we can find ourselves leaning on the tried and true traditions of developing strength. But what if I told you that every athlete was developmentally different, and responds to movements differently? What if there was a better, more effective way to do things based on objective data that is both valid and reliable? We use force plate technology to help identify how each athlete creates force, and what the prioritized need is for that athlete is – Load, Explode or Drive. This objective information essentially confirms what our eyes already see, but also allows us to create a more effective program in order to create more buy-in with the athlete because they understand more about the rationale in why we select the movements for their program.
How has it changed coaching style, if at all?
JL: Great coaches are teachers, first and foremost. While there are still days when I have to bring the juice, more often than not I find myself teaching and educating our athletes on “why we are doing what we are doing,” where we have been, and where we are going from a progression standpoint. That level of communication with our athletes leads to a more informed, purpose-driven athlete.
Technology has become a must at the highest levels of competitive sport. How do you think it helps to paint a complete picture for the staff?
JL: Technology should be embraced as a tool, and another mode of gathering information. Now, what we (S&C, Sports Med, Sport Coaches) do with that information is what is most important. Testing an athlete’s vertical jump or squat max is not valuable if we are not using that info to build a plan to improve explosiveness and lower body strength.
Where is the value in in-season force analysis monitoring?
JL: In-season force plate monitoring helps us to see an athlete’s movement signature changes in season. That scan can provide information that indicates potential for fatigue based on altered movement patterns (due to fatigue and/or muscle soreness), and variations in the Load, Explode or Drive variables.
How much have you seen off the court habits impact force production at the collegiate level? What are some interventions you may take?
JL: Recovery is obviously key in our athletes’ ability to optimally produce force, and perform at a high level. One of the most impactful strategies for optimal performance is SLEEP. Now with basketball players, the need for sleep is not something I need to spend much time reinforcing. We focus on recovery strategies through nutrition - such as protein and vegetable-rich meals, myofascial work (Normatech), and massage therapy. After heavy load weekends we also utilize pool workouts to promote recovery with some of our teams. Educating our athletes on the importance of intentional recovery and regeneration strategies, as well as maximizing the resources we provide within our collaborative approach to athletic performance are key. Strength & conditioning, sports medicine, mental performance and performance nutrition continue to be our focus.