Tag Archive for: strength and conditioning


North American football is one of the most popular and exciting sports in the world, and while the term ‘football’ in North America will typically refer to the American game, north of the border, Canadians have their own unique version of football that overall has similar physiological demands. However, there are several noteworthy differences in rules and gameplay that will change an athlete’s approach to physical preparation. As a result, the purpose of this article is to compare and contrast how the differences in Canadian and American football might alter an athlete’s strength and conditioning program. Athletes who may benefit from this article will include:

  1. High school athletes (Canada/USA) transitioning to play 3-down football in the CIS.
  2. Collegiate athletes in the NCAA who are preparing to play professionally in the CFL.
  3. Professional athletes coming from the NFL who are preparing to play in the CFL.


Needs Analysis

In general, North American football  is an intermittent, field-based contact sport that primarily stresses the phosphagen anaerobic pathway, which is responsible for explosive, high force/power movements such as sprinting, jumping, and cutting.  This energy pathway powers high-intensity anaerobic activity lasting 0-10 seconds; as high intensity activity exceeds 10 seconds, energy production switches to the glycolytic system (lactic). However, because the average football play lasts only 5-7 seconds in duration, the glycolytic system will rarely be stressed in competition.

Despite the short-duration of each play and the corresponding importance of explosive movements, these short-duration, high-intensity movements are interspersed by long breaks in gameplay that may last anywhere from 40-seconds to several minutes. As a result, the oxidative system is also a primary contributor, as the ability to recover fully between plays will draw upon on an athlete’s aerobic fitness.


General Training Strategy

From the aforementioned needs analysis,  it can be summarized that North American football is purely an alactic sport, which is where most of the training focus should lay. In terms of on-field work, this means that coaches should focus on a short-to-long linear sprint program that emphasizes technique and acceleration, particularly in the 5-20 yard range. Moreover, given the agility demands of the sport, a quality football strength program should also involve a sound progression of multi-directional running and jumping skills. In the weight room, exercises and their respective volumes and intensities should be structured in a way that supports the development of alactic qualities. Examples of this include Olympic weightlifting movements and squatting/pressing variations at high-intensities, in addition to medicine ball throws and plyometrics to develop explosive strength that will transfer to gameplay.  Additionally, extensive tempo and accessory circuits can be implemented, which will elicit cardiovascular adaptations and aid in recovery.  Of course, weight room activities should also place an emphasis on promoting both hypertrophy and mobility, which will transfer to performance as well as injury risk mitigation.


Major Differences in Gameplay

Despite the commonalities, there are several noteworthy differences between the Canadian and American games that warrant consideration when developing a football strength and conditioning program.  The first major consideration is the field of play, as the Canadian football field is both longer and wider than its American counterpart. Additionally, the Canadian end zone is also 20-yards deep as opposed to 10-yards. Despite there being an extra player on both-sides of the ball (12-players total, versus 11-per-side in American football), this larger playing field offers receivers significantly more room to make a play, and consequently makes Canadian football a much more pass-oriented game.

Another big consideration is the difference in rules on offence.  In Canadian football, the offence is allowed 3-downs to advance the ball 1o-yards. Moreover, all personnel in the backfield may be in motion (in any direction) prior to the ball being snapped; this is referred to as a ‘waggle’.  In contrast, rules in American football allow for 4-downs to advance the ball, however, only one receiver may be in motion (parallel to, or away from, the line of scrimmage) before the ball is snapped.  Again, these rules will typically favour a passing offence, as the waggle will afford receivers a ‘flying’ start as they enter their routes, while the shortage in downs will make the run game less viable.  There will also be more emphasis on special teams, as there will be more opportunities to kick the ball.

Defensively, in Canadian football, the defensive line must line up 1-yard behind the line of scrimmage, whereas in American football, the defensive line lines up directly on the line of scrimmage. Tactically, this will make it more difficult for pass-rushers, as they will be less likely to beat offensive lineman purely off of quickness and athleticism.

Lastly, on special teams, in American football, the receiving team may call for a ‘fair catch’, which allows a returner protection from blindside hits. In contrast, in Canadian football, no ‘fair catch’ is allowed; however, the kicking team must allow the returner a 5-yard “halo” when the kick is initially caught. While the halo does offer much more protection from injury as it will prevent unexpected hits, returners should be cognizant that they will encounter more contact overall simply from being required to field the ball on every kick.

The major rule differences that may affect physical preparation are summarized in the table below.


Training Considerations for Canadian Football

While all North American football strength and conditioning programs should be very comparable given the demands of the sport, special consideration should be given when transitioning between the Canadian and American game.

  • 1.) Overall, Canadian football players are comparatively smaller than their American counterparts.  Of course this is partially due to long-established recruiting standards, but it is also reflective of the unique demands of Canadian football.  The larger field requires athletes to cover more ground, while fewer downs and a shorter play clock collectively translate to shorter rest periods. Correspondingly, this tends to favour smaller athletes that are more mobile and better conditioned.

  • 2.) Training considerations for offensive linemen in Canadian football remain relatively unchanged. However, since defensive linemen are forced to play 1-yard off the line of scrimmage, more emphasis can be placed on hand-skills and sport-specific technique, as the increased distance will make it more difficult to beat O-linemen cleanly via pure athleticism. Moreover, the smaller active roster size in Canadian football requires more athletes to play special teams, which increases the likelihood of D-linemen getting an additional tap on the shoulder for kick return/coverage.  This will require greater levels of conditioning, and the ability to cover more ground during kickoffs and punts. As a result, while strength programs for Canadian D-linemen should still emphasize hypertrophy and the development of lean muscle mass, it may be less critical for athletes to gain mass simply to hit a number on the scale, and more utility might be found in developing a versatile set of athletic abilities instead.

  • 3.) Skill players (wide receivers/defensive backs) and big-skill players (running backs/linebackers) in the Canadian game should place a greater emphasis on high-speed upright sprinting, as the larger playing surface will allow athletes to reach higher speeds during gameplay.  Training strategies may include involving more flying starts to increase specificity to the waggle, as well as including sprint distances that approach 40+ yards in order to reach higher top-end speeds.  Consequently, skill players should also focus more attention to eccentric strength, as change-of-direction tasks will require athletes to decelerate from higher velocities. Also, it is noteworthy that even if high relative velocities are not reached in gameplay in some cases, the development of a higher maximum velocity and the corresponding speed reserve would translate to increased stamina and recovery.

  • 4.) Due to the absence of a fair catch rule, it may be advisable for kick return specialists to increase focus on injury prevention strategies due to the increased number of collisions they will face upon fielding the ball.



Due to the unique requirements, some athletes who might struggle finding their place in American football may in fact thrive in a Canadian football environment. While strength and conditioning programs for each should overall be quite analogous given the similar demands of the sport, careful examination should be made when transitioning between each version of the game. While the development of alactic qualities will be the cornerstone of any successful program, an increased emphasis will be placed on high-speed & upright running, conditioning, and mobility in the Canadian game.


This blog is an off-the-cuff response to an email that I received from a former student of mine.  Some details have been removed for privacy, and others have been added for clarity, but generally, these are my thoughts on the Functional Movement Screen.  In summary, it’s all about how it’s administered and what is done with the data; the context and environment must be conducive to utilize the information in a productive manner.


I was an exchange student in your KIN303 Lab. I’ve had a longterm injury, which  only started to get better while I was in Canada, rehabbing with the FMS. I can feel myself leaning toward the FMS side of things and I just wanted to ask you some questions as you definitely seemed to lean on the strength side of things. The last thing I want to do is narrow my thinking this early on. I think it’s best not to become too one sided, already I can see there’s times when the FMS way is seems best and times when the strength way is best, but I still have so much to learn.

From you I just want to know what negatives you have on the FMS? And what makes you choose such a strength-based outlook? And then also what negatives you have on the strength-based outlook and the positive you have on the FMS side of things. I’d also be keen to look through a bit of your work (think you were writing a thesis) on strength based training. Appreciate your time.


The FMS/strength debate is a contentious one, so I wanted to make sure I had the time to sit down and give you a thoughtful reply. Firstly, it’s great that you’re already starting to think critically about these things early on.  I’d agree with you that it’s potentially dangerous to become narrow minded, no matter what stage of your career you find yourself in. That being said, jumping in head first into a particular stream or philosophy is the best way to learn about it, so long as you keep an objective/critical mindset and don’t drink too much of the kool-aid.

As for my own philosophy, I hope I didn’t come across too strongly and give the impression that I’m very pro-strength and anti-FMS.  They are two approaches to two distinct, yet somewhat overlapping, areas of sports performance. In my view, the “strength” approach falls in the realm of strength & conditioning in a performance setting, whereas the FMS falls more in the realm of rehabilitation in a more clinical setting.

I was influenced very heavily by the FMS for the first 3-4 years of my career. I took FMS level 1 & 2, and a number of semi-private mentorship courses before becoming an auditor and helping to facilitate and teach the FMS. The clinicians that I worked with are brilliant and taught me a great deal about the FMS and how the human body works. I’ve also been treated under its principles for injuries of my own, and I agree that what they do with rehab works. I’m without a doubt a better coach for knowing what the clinicians taught me, and I’m certainly glad I have the certification, knowledge, and experience with the FMS under my belt.  Not only is it becoming an industry standard, my experience with it also allows me to speak critically about it with my colleagues if I need to.

In terms of any “negatives”, that all comes down to the context and how it’s being used. If all you have is a hammer, everything ends up looking like a nail.  I’ve seen trainers try to forcibly apply FMS and corrective exercises in a high performance manner, yet they have no idea how to coach or program for sprinting, weightlifting, and other developmental aspects of performance. Correcting movement dysfunctions and improving movement quality certainly helps to a point, but past that point you run into diminishing returns and I’ve found the low threshold stimulus of common corrective exercises is not enough overload for the system to adapt.  Also, there’s the notion that asymmetries exist naturally both among individuals, and within particular sports, and in turn may be required or advantageous for performance. So, spending time trying to balance these asymmetries out may either be counter productive or an inefficient use of time. In the high-performance environments, particularly in collegiate and professional systems, time is money; contact time with athletes is extremely limited, and the priority is to win games. Time is often better spent practicing the sport, or training to improve transfer to sport. You also can’t forget that taking time away from strength training in order to correct movement may put an athlete at greater risk of injury if an athlete’s strength levels are sub-par compared to his/her peers and they enter competitions weaker than their opponents.

One common way around the issue is to provide corrective ‘homework’ to a client. However, despite your best intentions to educate the client, some individuals just want to lose weight and get a good sweat on, and might get irritable if you have them doing low-threshold work for too long. The same goes for the high-performance athlete; the athlete may have performance goals that they may be required to hit, or they may need to prepare for a competition or event in a very short amount of time; spending time on corrective exercises in this regard may be counter-productive. The measure of a good coach would be how to effectively sneak in corrective work, while keeping stakeholders happy with what you’re doing. Or, is it possible to “correct” movement with strength work, which would be even better.

On the “strength” side, insofar as 303 was a “high performance strength & conditioning” course, I was attempting to convey that in order to improve in the “high performance” athlete (as opposed to general population), you must progressively load the organism in order for it to adapt and see an increase in strength/power. From my experience, I was indoctrinated so far into the FMS, that I was ignorant of the other extremely important aspects of high performance training, such as advanced periodization models, linear speed training and sprinting mechanics, tapering strategies, and getting hands-on programming/training experience with high level athletes and teams, which is ultimately where I wanted to be in terms of my career. I always say jokingly that I want to be a great strength coach and not a crappy physiotherapist. I’ve learned the FMS to an extent where it suits/exceeds my needs as a performance strength coach; if I wanted to get deeper into the rabbit hole, I’d become a physiotherapist or athletic therapist.

Apologies for the long email, but hopefully that answered some of your questions.  To be honest, I’m still finding my place on the spectrum of FMS/strength.  I have had experiences where I’ve banged my head against the while trying to apply corrective strategies when all the athlete needed was more strength work. Conversely, I’ve come across situations recently where very “strength-based” coaches have tried everything in the book to correct their athletes’ movements, and have come to me for a screening where the FMS found and “corrected” the issue immediately. Here again, I like to use the tool analogy; a hammer is a great tool, but you’re not going to use it to screw. FMS and strength training are merely tools in your toolbox; how and when you use them determines whether you’re a good or bad coach.

Poor Training Methodologies: Unstable Surfaces

One of the most misguided ways that speed/power athletes can train is by using unstable surfaces. In a gym setting, unstable surfaces usually come in the form of BOSU balls, exercise balls, and balance boards. Uneducated athletes and trainers will often perform weight training exercises such as squats, lunges, deadlifting and even pressing variations while standing or kneeling on these unstable surfaces. In a lot of cases, the athlete will even perform the exercises unilaterally (i.e. standing on one leg) in order to further decrease stability during the exercise. The thought process behind doing this is that the unstable surface creates a more “functional exercise” by throwing the athlete off-balance and forces the athlete to increase the activation of “core” and stabilizer muscles. However, as we will outline below, this is one of the worst ways to train when it comes to strength and power development.

The importance of external load and intensity

In order for an athlete to become stronger, faster, or more powerful, an athlete must progress in intensity.  In strength & conditioning, “intensity” is defined as a percentage of maximum load or velocity. Therefore, for a workout to be classified as “high-intensity”, the work you do needs to be upwards of 95-100% of the 1RM in a particular lift, or 95-100% of the maximum velocity you can sprint. Anything outside of these percentages is, by definition, not high-intensity. Intensity does NOT equate to ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) during a particular exercise (how difficult the exercise feels), or outward signs of fatigue. 

Therefore, for an athlete to become stronger in the weight room, he or she must successfully lift an external load (i.e. weight) that is heavier than what they have ever lifted before, or in the case of power development, they must perform the exercise with a faster rate of force development (RFD)  – that is, more powerfully – than ever before. Likewise, if an athlete is training for speed, they must sprint at a velocity that is faster than they have ever run before. This ensures that the human organism is appropriately stressed, and has a reason to positively adapt and supercompensate. Conversely, if the exercise does not meet a minimum threshold of intensity, the human organism does not have a reason to adapt and the athlete will not improve.

How unstable surfaces hinder force production

Unstable surfaces greatly decrease the level of intensity that an athlete can train at by decreasing the external load that an athlete can lift, and this has overwhelming support when doing a quick search through strength and conditioning literature.  Behm et al (2002) found that force production decreased as much as 70% when using an unstable surface compared to a stable surface, and Kohler et al (2010) found little supporting evidence for the use of unstable surfaces or loads due to the decreases in force production. Chulvi-Medrano et al (2010) found that the use of instability devices does not increase performance during the deadlift.  McBride et al (2010) found that unstable surfaces decreased the amount of load used in squatting exercises, and recommended against their use due to the potential to limit physiological adaptation. Not limited to the lower body, Saeterbakken & Fimland (2013) found an inferior effect of unstable surfaces on muscle activation and strength during bench pressing. This list of refuting evidence against unstable surface training goes on and on.

Opportunity cost and Risk

Another important consideration when choosing which exercises to use with an athlete is the opportunity cost; how beneficial is the exercise, how much time will it take to coach or perform, and is there another exercise that could be used instead that might lead to faster performance enhancements in the same amount of time? Even if there was some merit to doing single leg squats on a BOSU ball with 25lb dumbbells in hand, wouldn’t we get a greater physiological adaptation by doing a barbell squat on solid ground with even a pedestrian 135lbs on the bar?

Also in the opportunity cost analysis is the determination of the inherent risk of an exercise. One of the main objectives of a strength coach is to take measures in training that will mitigate the risk and likelihood of injury during training or competition.  In that light, training with unstable surfaces can greatly increase the risk of acute injury due to the inherent instability of the exercises. Anecdotally, I have heard horror stories of a trainer who had a young athlete stand on a soccer ball because it was “functional balance training,” only to have the athlete fall off and break his ankle. Needless to say, sometimes unstable surface training is just not worth the risk it presents.


In conclusion, using unstable surfaces when training is one of the poorest training methods when attempting to develop strength and power in an athletes.  Unstable surfaces greatly decrease the intensity of training by limiting the external load that can be used. This ultimately prevents the athlete from getting stronger and faster because the ability to progressively overload the exercise and stress the human organism (which is crucial for positive adaptation) is greatly diminished.

The acronym BOSU stands for “both sides up,” meaning that the exercise tool can be used with the athlete standing on either the dome side, or the flat side up.  However, with unstable surface training clearly being inferior to stable surface training, “BOSU” might as well stand for “both sides useless.”

Why does Canadian sport struggle?

In sports, conditioning is paramount.  All else being equal, the strong, quick, powerful, agile, and efficient athlete will always dominate the weak, slow, and uncoordinated athlete.  Given this common knowledge, why then in typical Canadian athletics is formal strength and conditioning an afterthought?  In the typical Canadian athletic program, largely due to early specialization and the misnomer of “sport specific” training, it seems like teams focus almost solely on skill and team development, and spend very little time, if any, in the weight room to develop the conditioning that will produce better, well-rounded athletes.  Moreover, if a team does possess a weight training component, chances are that it is administered simply by leaving inexperienced athletes to work out on their own with little or no supervision from coaches/trainers who may have limited knowledge of effective strength and conditioning principles.

1297515980545_ORIGINALThere are obviously exceptions to this, as powerhouse schools such as Terry Fox and Vancouver College that are consistently in the top ten in both ‘AAA’ basketball and football have formal strength and conditioning programs.  Moreover, after working with Simon Fraser University’s strength and conditioning team, I can tell you that their program is at the pinnacle of the industry.  However, why is the culture of Canadian athletics so poor aside from these elite programs?  Is it funding?  Lack of interest?  A feeling of helplessness that these elite programs will never be defeated?  Or is it merely because we can’t cultivate a passion for sports?

Sports Culture on Steroids

I’ll never forget the experience I had when I traveled to California for a Christmas basketball tournament in my “junior” year of high school, where I was awe inspired just by the difference in the magnitude of the facilities.  The hosting school had multiple, dedicated full-sized fields for soccer and football, Olympic sized swimming pools, bleachers that seated thousands (not hundreds), locker rooms so big you could get lost in them and pristine weight rooms with every piece of equipment imaginable.  The list goes on and on.  I was jealous.  My years of playing high school basketball were arguably the most fun in my life, yet south of the border kids were having the same experience on steroids.  Why can’t our Canadian athletes experience this as well?

Creating a Culture

Physical therapist Kelly Starrett touches upon a notion of cultivating a culture of Supple Leopards.  That is, creating interest and excitement around the concept of movement and mobility by relating it to increased athletic output so that athletes will take care of their own bodies, which will ultimately make them exponentially better athletes, and in turn, happy winners.  The fitness industry has successfully cultivated a culture of health-conscious, active people, particularly here on the West Coast with Lululemon and the yoga movement.

In that same light, I think it’s our responsibility as strength coaches, trainers, athletes, and fans of sport to cultivate the same culture and excitement around sport itself and in particular, excelling at sports.  After all, isn’t that what a lot of us are training for in the first place?  Recall the excitement of Canadians dominating the 2010 Olympics, or the Vancouver Canucks run to the Stanley Cup.  Wouldn’t it be cool if the casual fan were THAT passionate about sports around here, too?

Some Clarification

My intent isn’t to spark a political debate regarding sports versus healthcare or education, or American funding versus Canadian funding. My intent was to highlight the fact that with the current allocation of resources to sports (or lack thereof) in our community, certain elite schools are consistently on the top of the rankings. Why do they keep producing the best athletes? I believe it’s because they create a culture where excelling and upholding their tradition and reputation of being provincial powerhouses is important to the coaches and the athletes, and the sense of pride filters down and influences them to do everything they can to maintain that reputation, i.e. strength and conditioning, which most other schools are lacking.

This is in contrast to schools with failing sports programs, where there is barely enough interest to field a team, and the emphasis isn’t as much about excelling at sports, but rather merely participating. To create passion for sports, you need to create a winning environment (see the Canucks recently versus the rebuilding years and the corresponding buzz in the city about the team). To create a winning environment, you need to produce good athletes. How do you create good athletes? Place importance on strength and conditioning, which overall I think is lacking. It’s part of our job as strength and conditioning coaches to sew the seeds and get kids excited about strength and conditioning so they can excel, which will start the process of developing PASSION for sport, rather than a passing interest in it.

The power of sport

Sport has the power to transcend all barriers in contemporary society, as race, gender, sexuality, religion, status, education, socioeconomics, intelligence – the roots of politics themselves – seemingly lose all relevance once athletes come together onto their chosen battlefield and immerse themselves in the sanctuary of sport, and time stands still as we engage in the centuries-old tradition of competition.  While some may dismiss sport as mere “games,” sport remains the lifeblood of athletes all across the globe; some of us live and breathe sport and others among us cannot imagine a life without it.  The love between an athlete and sport is one of the most intimate relationships in existence, and it’s one that only other athletes understand.

With such a great power at our disposal comes the question of who is entrusted with the responsibility of wielding it?  The answer is the coach.  Like generals of war or elders within a tribe, coaches attain their positions of power through time spent in the trenches, and accumulate wisdom through lessons that only years of experience can teach them.  Therefore, it is our responsibility as coaches to pass down this knowledge, ensuring that tradition and culture of our sports are passed down in their purest forms and live on through the ensuing generations.

Harmonizing Art and Science

To be a successful coach, one must be well versed in several areas including, but not limited to, communication, interpersonal skills, psychology, exercise science, and tactical sports knowledge. This is where the culmination and the marriage of art and science come together to produce successful athletes and sports programs.  I will explore two prominent figureheads in coaching, their philosophies, and how they have influenced my career. First I will examine Bruce Lee, whose philosophies represent the art of coaching.

Bruce Lee tip #1:  Charisma

Bruce had an infectious charisma about him; he was simply such a COOL guy (insert George Costanza joke here), and while I have no background in martial arts whatsoever, just thinking about the guy makes me want to swing around a pair of nunchucks in a yellow jumpsuit. Consequently, the inspiring ability for Lee to have influenced not only martial artists of his time, but a mass of individuals that transcends time and spans across sports and generations, is a testament to the immense charisma he possessed, and all coaches should strive to use their passion and ability to gain the respect and admiration of their athletes and ultimately influence generations of athletes in their own sport.

Using his persona to captivate his audience, he devoted himself to spreading his philosophies on life. Lee stated, “Martial arts has a very, very deep meaning as far as my life is concerned because as an actor, as a martial artist, as a human being, these I have learned from martial arts.” I think we as coaches and athletes can nod along at the life skills we’ve learned through sport – responsibility, teamwork, communication, leadership, respect, etc.  Lee used his passion as a means to teach lessons about life, and though he used a very specific teaching aid in the form of martial arts, Lee believed that “all types of knowledge ultimately mean self knowledge.”  So, it’s imperative for us to look at coaching not only through the lens of our respective sports, but in the greater context as well.

Bruce Lee tip #2:  Adaptability

The second principal tenant of Bruce’s philosophy is adaptability.  In his interviews, Lee frequently refers metaphorically to adaptability using the concept of water; even though water appears soft and serene in nature, it is strong enough to penetrate the hardest of objects when applied in the correct way.  In his most famous quote, Lee elaborates:

“Empty your mind; be formless, shapeless, like water.  If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. If you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle.  If you put water into a teapot, it becomes the teapot.  Now, water can flow, or it can crash!  Be water, my friend.”

While in this quotation Lee was referring to a combative athlete reacting to his opponent, this concept of adaptation is easily expanded to the broader scope of coaching.  A good coach works to understand all aspects of his athletes, the coach-athlete relationship, and the scenarios they will face together.  Armed with this analytical mindset, the effective coach remains flexible, particularly in the face of adversity, and adjusts his coaching or training plan in order to maximize the potential for success. Lee closes his metaphoric discussion by summarizing succinctly that “running water never grows stale, so you gotta just keep on flowing.

Bruce Lee tip #3:  Balance

Another principle tenant in Bruce Lee’s philosophy is balance.  No doubt influenced by the Chinese philosophical concept of yin and yang, Lee believes the key to life is harmony.  Lee stated on the Pierre Berton show that biasing either extreme is not the mark of a good athlete, but rather:

“It’s a combination of both.  Here is the natural instinct, and here is control; you are to combine the two in harmony…if you have one to the extreme you will be very unscientific; if you have another to the extreme you become all of a sudden a mechanical man, no longer a human being.  So it is a successful combination of both.”

When applied broadly to the coaching profession, this concept of balance can be applied to numerous dualities.  For example, a coach must successfully blend science with art, theory with practice, and structure with creative freedom in competition.  Going back to Lee’s aforementioned metaphor, water can both flow and crash.  As a result, it is necessary to balance both and know when it is appropriate to apply either extreme or an amalgamation thereof.

Bruce Lee tip #4:  Simplicity

The final prominent pillar of Bruce Lee’s philosophy is simplicity, and ensuring that what is taught and practiced is effective.  Lee came about this philosophy after a famous fight he had on a San Francisco rooftop.  Despite winning the fight, Lee believed it took far too long to subdue his opponent, and he realized that the kung fu styles he had been practicing throughout his life were too flashy and ineffective in a real combat scenario.  After this, Lee proclaimed that he doesn’t believe in styles anymore in that they are too rigid, and consequently found success by blending several styles of martial arts together.  For this, some consider Lee to be the father of MMA.

Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”

As a coach, there is no need to reinvent the wheel, and there are tried, tested and true methods on what to focus on to achieve success:  In basketball, it’s reading and defending screens; in football, blocking and tackling;  in strength and conditioning, it’s powerful, multi-joint movements with progressive loading.  In sports nowadays, there seems to be a growing trend towards finding the newest golden nugget that will guarantee individual or team success: GPS, heart-rate variability, movement screening, “functional” movements, “core” stability, “sport specific” training – the list goes on and on.  While it’s good to expand your toolbox, it’s essential to focus on the meat and potatoes before you add the garnish.  As Wooden puts it, “if you keep too busy learning the tricks of the trade, you may never learn the trade.” 


In sum, I believe the coaching attributes that Bruce Lee demonstrates, namely passion, adaptability, balance, and simplicity are essential traits to have as a coach, and can collectively be understood as principle ideologies that constitute the art of coaching.  In the next blog, I will cover the science of coaching and Charlie Francis.

Source:   Chew (2014). Coaching Philosophy: Harmonizing Art and Science, KIN 586, School of Kinesiology, University of British Columbia