1st Annual Basketball Strength and Conditioning Symposium Review

Brijesh Patel, MA, CSCS


Share |

Strength and Conditioning was often overlooked for the sport of basketball.  Many coaches thought that weight training would make you bulky, slow and affect a player’s jump shot.  That couldn’t be farther from the truth.  The role of the strength and conditioning coach in basketball has greatly expanded over the years as coach’s have finally realized that strength and conditioning coach’s can do more for their players than just lift weights.  My good friend, Ray Eady, wrote a great piece of how basketball players can benefit from a balanced strength and conditioning program.

More and more college basketball programs are hiring basketball only strength and conditioning coaches, similar to the sport of Football.  These individuals typically are involved with all areas of the program, from off-season training, to individual instruction, coach’s meeting, traveling and meal planning.  The NSCA has hosted the sport specific conference in early January for a long time specifically for the sports of Baseball, Football and now recently, Soccer.  This event gives Football strength coaches an opportunity to network, learn and discuss different training methodologies and situations. 
Basketball has not had this luxury and many coaches over the years have wanted an event that is designed for basketball strength coaches. 

Charles Stephenson, Strength and Conditioning Coach for Basketball at NC State, took charge and organized a fantastic event on May 16th and 17th on the campus of NC State.
The goal of the seminar was to bring together some of the best basketball strength and conditioning professionals to discuss basketball specific training techniques.  Charles put together a great line-up of speakers who have a wealth of experience and knowledge in the area of Basketball Strength and Conditioning.  The speakers were: Matthew Herring, University of Florida; Mike Vorkapich, Michigan State University; Michelle Rockwell, RK Team Nutrition; Rich Wenner, Arizona State University; Shaun Brown, University of Virginia; Todd Wright, University of Texas; Robert Taylor, Loyola College in Maryland. 
He originally anticipated around 50 attendees, but 150 actually showed up for this great event.  There were basketball strength coaches from the NBA, high major college, the mid-major level and even the high school level.

Here is a brief review of each speaker’s presentation.

Incorporating Function into Pre-practice Warm-ups
Matthew Herring –
University of Florida

Matt Herring is already one of the most successful basketball strength coaches in the country and he hasn’t been doing it for a very long time.  He’s been apart of 2 national championships and 3 Final Fours in 6 seasons.  Needless to say, he knows how to prepare his athletes to succeed.

Matt spoke about how to make your movement preparation much more effective and efficient.  Matt is well versed in Gary Gray’s Functional System and has adapted it to his pre-practice warm-ups.  The in-season time is often when many movement impairments can occur and he found that incorporating his system helped to reduce the number of injuries and games missed.  Matt’s objective with his movement prep is to:

1. Increase muscle temperature and increase joint viscosity-”WARM-UP”

2. Clear known and unknown kinetic chain dysfunctions and improve mobility

3. Activate the CNS

4. Establish and maintain functional movement patterns

He also showed a number of examples in the practical demonstration of how he targets, mobility of the ankle, hip and thoracic spine and prepares his athletes to perform. 

Developing Mental Toughness through Strength and Conditioning
Mike Vorkapich –
Michigan State University

Mike spoke about what most college basketball fans think of when they talk about Michigan
State, Mental Toughness.  Every Michigan State team has that certain confidence, focus, motivation, courage, resiliency and composure that enable them to perform in pressure situations.  That is a direct result of the attitude and culture that is created at Michigan State.

Mike went on to speak about current psychology research on athletes and their motivation and their self perception of how hard they work.  Most athletes think that they work hard but have no idea what it really takes to be successful.  Mike also went onto talk about military training and the requirements of the military:

1. A strict code of acting and behaving under stress

2. No visible sign allowed of weakness or negative emotion of any kind in response to stress response.  Negative emotion not permitted, no matter how you feel.

3. Regular exposure to high levels of mental, emotional and physical training stress to accelerate the toughening stress to accelerate the toughening process. Demanding drill instructors provide all three kinds of stress.

4. Precise control and regulation of cycles of sleep, eating, drinking, and rest.

5.  A rigorous physical fitness program.

Mike then went on to discuss the Michigan State Strength and Conditioning philosophies and how they use different psychological and training techniques to get athletes out of their “comfort zone” and teach them how to handle adversity so they are prepared to perform in any situation that they encounter.  You can tell that Mike is extremely passionate about his players and works to get the most out of each and every one.

Performance Nutrition for Basketball
Michelle Rockwell –RK Nutrition

Michelle gave a great presentation (even though she had to rush because of the schedule) regarding optimal nutritional principles that we as strength coaches can use with our basketball athletes.  Michelle gave some great tips and tricks of how to educate our athletes from quizzes and handouts to actually talking to them during meals.
She talked about everything you needed to know about how to successfully incorporate a well thought out and planned nutritional program for your athletes.

Some of the things she discussed are:

1. Sport Nutrition Basics

2. Meal Frequency

3. Pre-Workout Nutrition
4. Recovery Nutrition
5. Game day Nutrition
6. Hydration
7. Weight Gain
8. Weight Loss
9. Proving tools to succeed
10. Dietary Supplements

If you want anymore information regarding Michelle and some of her products, check out her site: www.rknutrition.net

Complete Performance Program for College Basketball
Rich Wenner –
Arizona State University

Rich Wenner discussed every aspect of how he writes his programs for the basketball team.  Rich uses a very comprehensive program that is based upon the tier system developed by Joe Kenn.  The tier system is a system of training that allows the coach to organize training so that no parameter of athletic performance is left out.

Rich went into detail about what goes into a typical strength training session and conditioning session.  He talked about what they do before their training session, pre-workout shakes, movement prep, pre-hab; how they break down their strength training program and then what they do for recovery after training.  Rich definitely runs a comprehensive strength and conditioning program for his athletes.

Developing Strength, Power, and Quickness in Guards
Shaun Brown – University of

Shaun Brown may have been the most entertaining speaker of the weekend.  I don’t remember how much he actually discussed his topic, but he definitely told some war stories and about his experiences that has helped him to where he currently his.  Shaun has been around the game for a long time and has been around the basketball coaches of this generation.  His story telling and experiences definitely can assist any up and coming strength and conditioning professional. 

Shaun also went on to discuss his philosophy of training and how to work with basketball coaches.  Shaun gave some really great ideas on conditioning and some tips for improving basketball specific conditioning and movements.  If you have the opportunity to see, visit or even talk to Shaun, I highly recommend it.

Developing Strength, Power, and Quickness in Post Players
Todd Wright –
University of Texas

Todd Wright may the most well known basketball only strength and conditioning coach in the country and also one of the best.  Todd has a unique position at the University of
Texas as he is basically part of the basketball staff.  He is involved in every meeting, practice, individual and weight training session that the players go to.  He really gets to watch and observe his athletes move and see what their individual movement deficiencies are.  Todd is also well versed in Gary Gray’s functional system of training and uses the principles to improve the performance of his athletes.

Todd’s philosophy is based upon the following:

Training Movement “Grooving Movement”

Train the body as an integrated unit

The Body is has 3 Primary Drivers

        1. Gravity – Upright

        2.  Ground Reaction

        3.  Momentum

He then trains his athletes in the fundamental movements:

Squat - base







Crossover – uncommon

He uses the different types of drivers and angulations to create a large exercise menu to accomplish whatever goal he wants to for his athletes.  This allows him to be extremely specific when needing to create exercises to help his athletes in certain movements that they may struggle with.

Todd is definitely one of the most creative strength coaches in the country and is a very entertaining speaker.  He routinely speaks on the Perform Better tour and is a must see.

Heart Rate Training and Advanced Basketball Conditioning
Robert Taylor –
Loyola College in Maryland

Robert Taylor is a high energy coach, who is extremely passionate and knowledgeable about his training methods and how they can prepare his athletes for their sport.  Robert uses the Polar Team System to track practices and games to measure and monitor their fitness levels.  The Team System allows the coach to monitor athletes’ heart rates and their intensity scores over the duration of their activity.  That way conditioning and practice sessions can better mimic the actual physiological conditions of a game.

Robert runs a one man show at Loyola and is extremely efficient with how he is able to set each and every one of his athletes up with their own heart rate monitor and tracks their progress over time.  He then downloads the data and uses the information to inform the coach’s and athletes of how they need to set up their next training session or practice.

Robert gave practical examples of how to use this form of technology and it is a great tool that allows a coach to actually quantify how intense a training session is and if it is actually preparing athletes for competition.

Charles Stephenson and his staff organized a great group of sponsors, had beverages available both days, provided dinner and a social after day one, and also provided a continental breakfast and lunch on day two.  They were extremely helpful in every facet of the event, and everything ran smoothly.  Everybody in attendance was very open with the people that they met and mentioned on numerous occasions how great it was to get so many like minded people together.  Every coach that I met and saw was very willing to speak with each other and share ideas and philosophies.  I don’t think there was one disappointed person in attendance and I heard that the success of this year’s event will definitely increase numbers for next year’s event.  I know that I’m not the only one who can’t wait to come back next year.




©2004-2008 S B Coaches College, LLC.  All Rights Reserved