Athlete Development in Irish Basketball
April 17, 2021
In the first of our ‘Athlete Development Series’ we hear from Basketball Ireland’s Heads of Athlete Development, Pete Madsen Msc and Kevin Foley Msc.
When we think of athlete development, we immediately consider the IRFU and potentially the GAA as two sports in Ireland who lead the way in terms of building what we call ‘robust’ athletes. To paraphrase Nick Winkleman (IRFU Head of Athlete Development) “robust athletes - is essentially developing players that have the capacity to consistently engage in training and games with maximal effort”
‘Learn From Everybody Else’ is a mantra I try to live by and is something I picked up during my time working in Irish Strength Institute. As a result, in order to improve our knowledge and understanding of athlete development as newly appointed Heads of Athlete Development three years ago, Kevin Foley and myself decided we needed to learn from some of the best performance coaches in basketball and rugby.
Our goal was to see how S&C/Athlete Development/Physical Preparation operated at the highest levels, in an attempt try to integrate what we had learned, into our Irish basketball community. With that in mind, we spent time with Kostas Chatzichristos (Head of Performance at CSKA Moscow Euroleague BC), Jonas Sahratian (Head of S&C at UNC Basketball) and Charlie Higgins (Head of Athlete Development at Leinster Rugby). The common denominator for us was that off-court physical preparation was perceived as integral part of the sport and that it was engrained in the culture.
The question then became ‘How do you we create this culture and encourage the Irish basketball community to accept the benefits of off-court physical preparation?’. In one word - education! We want to provide consistent, up-to-date, usable information and support for all of the Basketball Ireland community and hope that this information can be used to help Irish basketball players of all levels become more ‘robust’ athletes.
From an underage International perspective, our goal was to take this concept of Athlete Development to another level. It is vital we continue to create our own national standards when it comes to physical performance. By gathering this performance data we can essentially begin to monitor the progress of our athletes as they transition up the age groups, but also set standards and assess our own normative data. This type of athlete development pathway allows us to individualise our programming to meet the needs of the athletes, but also get a more precise picture of where our teams are in terms of performance qualities such speed, repeat sprint ability, strength, movement capabilities etc. I believe it is an area that local clubs should engage with also.
It is no secret that playing the sport of basketball is physically stressful on the body. The physical demands of the sport involve lots of explosive movements such as repeated sprinting, jumping, landing, rapid change of directions, sudden stops and a high amount of physical contact from paly to play. To put it into perspective a simple vertical jump can induce 8.9 x bodyweight at the ankle joint, 6.9 x bodyweight at the knee joint and 5.5 x bodyweight at the hip joint. With that in mind, preparing the body to be able to better handle the physical demands of sport is a must.
If we take the simple ‘Lay-up’ as an example, we can see from the above picture the basic mechanics needed to perform the shot. Working on developing strength, power, mobility & stability around the lower limbs to be able to accelerate, extend the right knee up, have the strength/power to push off from a single leg to drive your entire body upwards and then be able to absorb the force from the ground upon landing (never mind absorbing mid air body contact from defenders) is something we as strength coaches can help develop and improve. When we factor in other high intense movements required by a player in 20 minutes of play, we can see how physically demanding basketball potentially can be.
The term ‘Athlete Development’, or ‘Physical Preparation’, can mean different things to different people. It could be a youth athlete learning how to control their own bodyweight, a player returning from injury, a player hoping to make an Irish squad or earn a scholarship, or an older athlete hoping to prolong his/her playing career. Regardless, there must be a multi-factorial approach to how we support our basketball players off court, namely improving basic movements patterns, nutritional advice, how to recover appropriately, how to become faster & stronger. No matter what stage you are at in your basketball career ‘Athlete Development’ or ‘Physical Preparation’ is something that never stops, it might differ in how it looks or feels but it should never stop!
There is a misconception with many sport coaches and parents that S&C is all about lifting heavy weights in an attempt to become muscle bound. The S&C coach is like any other coach. The job of physical preparation is exactly that – to prepare an athlete to be successful on the court while reducing the risk of injury. Keeping them on the court playing basketball is the main aim.
Ian King (the famous Australian Physical Preparation coach) said that it is important to address the biggest weakness each day you train, without creating a new one. This is the aim of Basketball Ireland’s Athlete Development Team. Working on athlete weaknesses consistently until they become strengths. If the athlete’s biggest weakness is speed, then that should be a priority in training, if flexibility is the biggest weakness then that’s the priority and so on.
- Athlete Development can benefit basketball players at any stage of their playing career
- Strength & Conditioning programmes are designed to help athletes improve physical weaknesses to improve performance and reduce risk of injury.
- Hire a professional S&C coach and invest in your potential as an athlete and extend your playing career.
At Basketball Ireland we have the privilege of having some very well educated and experienced S&C coaches who will be delivering educational pieces on a number of related topics over the coming months. Please feel free to reach to any of them if they live in and around your county.
We want to reach out to the wider Irish basketball community and will answer questions related to S&C. Please email any questions to email@example.com, with the subject title ‘Ask the S&C coach’.