In Practice Punishments (Part 3 of 4)

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I apologize for the delay in this post but I could not have written part 3 without the valuable knowledge I have gained on vacation. While I was gone I had the incredible opportunity to read a book called The Power Of Habit, by Charles Duhigg. It sounds like a self-help book, but is far from it. The author follows several peoples’ lives (from crack heads to Michael Phelps), and talks about the habits that frame their lives. The book is a fantastic read and helped me realize one of many of the issues in today’s athletics.


So, back to the question: Why are these inappropriate punishments being administered?


1. It’s what the coach did when he/she played.

Nearly every current coach has competitively played the sport he or she is coaching. There’s at least one or two coaches that they fondly remember. They remember the drills and punishments they did, and instead of trying to actually think about the conditioning from a scientific point of view, they carry on the routine of their fondest coach. When I was still coaching, I was certainly guilty of this.


2. The coach sees another team on campus doing it. 

Scenario: Coach of sport “X” sees the successful “Y” team working extremely hard doing sprints for 1 minute straight with only 30 seconds rest. Coach “X” thinks, “this is the secret to their success, look at how hard they are working. I need to get my team doing this ASAP!” 


In reality sport “X” is a volleyball team and sport “Y” is a cross-country team. Now it’s obvious these are completely different sports, but each sport uses completely different energy systems. Instead of me me going on a rant right now, just go read my post about energy systems. You wouldn’t put diesel into a non diesel engine. So stop training as such.


3. Giving out these punishments has become a habit.

This is where The Power Of Habit really helped me realize what was going on. This may be the biggest reason why players receive the same disciplinary conditioning practice after practice. Have you ever driven home, and not remembered how you got there? That’s because it is a habit. The routine is so engrained in your brain, you just let your body take over. It becomes mindless. This is the same issue with any given practice. Any habit has 3 crucial components. A cue, routine, and a reward.


In my example the cue will be 3 missed serves in a row and the routine will be suicide sprints. As soon as those 3 serves are missed, the routine kicks in to play, whistle is blown, “everybody on the line!” Ready? Go! The reward is a toss up, it could be the perception that everyone is now “fitter” to play the sport, that everyone has now learned their lesson, or a myriad of other answers.


The underlying issue here is that there needs to be a interdisciplinary respect within professional fields. Your history teacher shouldn’t assign you math homework. It’s like a race coach telling a race car driver how to go tune his engine best for a certain track. The coach knows the best way to go about the track, but the mechanics know the best way to prepare the car for the race.


Usually, it isn’t the coaches fault. Sometimes they are tasked with being the sport’s coach and the strength and conditioning coach. Most probably don’t even realize what their conditioning program is doing to their athletes, and just picked out their programming because it was in Men’s Fitness, or some basketball training book. Some may be restricted by funds, certain rules of the division or college, or some are just misinformed. The misinformation is the worst because it means the coach has stopped asking questions. They have stopped being a student. If you keep asking questions and search for the best answer, one with actual evidence/science behind it, ignorance will never be a problem. It may be more time consuming if you are not an expert in the field, but the results will be worth the effort.


“You are always a student, never a master.”

-Conrad Hall



Train Smarter to Play Harder

Please comment or feel free to email me with any comments, critiques, or questions.

Austin Einhorn, CSCS

Volleyball Skills & Conditioning Specialist

Contact: [email protected]

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