Rodney Hill is a football strength and conditioning coach whose career has included stints at Mercer College, Penn State, Howard University, and now, the NFL. We sat down with Rodney to get his viewpoint on where he sees the future of strength and conditioning...
What are some strength and conditioning technology innovations that have made your job easier?
The GPS systems that teams have been implementing are a really neat tool being utilized in order to provide data almost instantly. It lets coaches know if the athletes are being overworked too drastically, which could lead to injury. There are also awesome tools out there that can get a gauge on how an athlete moves, while making note of imbalances and asymmetries in the body as it pertains to movement and strength qualities. These assessment tools can help you “balance out” an athlete and mitigate the risk of injury, which if you haven’t been able to tell, is "the name of the game" in my humble opinion.
How has technology affected the way you train athletes?
Technology has had an immense on not only the way that I train my athletes, but on the way that many of the strength and conditioning professionals around the world train their athletes. Before, coaches could only prescribe training loads based on asking the athlete how he or she feels. Now we are able to take a deeper look into these feelings. We can see an athlete's heart rate throughout an entire training session, their workload (based on specific metrics and parameters), and how many times they accelerate and decelerate, so it definitely helps a ton and makes training less of a guessing game.
Do you see wearable technology as helpful?
Absolutely. Again, it all comes back to using technology and data to give you real time results and the ability to alter training for the next session or even during the current training session. Athletes have a lot of other things going on outside of their sport that can take a toll both physically and mentally on them. These external stressors can greatly affect a training session the next day, whether it’s not getting enough sleep, dehydration, or eating the wrong foods, all of these factors can have a negative influence on a person’s training. The wearable technology allows a coach to dig deeper than "how do you feel?”, also helping the coach to build a relationship with the athlete.
What difficulties have new athletic technologies brought you and your peers?
Understanding some of the difficult algorithms and formulas can be difficult at times. When you are explaining something to an athlete, you want to be able to explain the “why”. If you can't understand whats going on, it is going to make it difficult for the athlete to understand what's going on. There is also a notion going around that all of the technology is making athletes and the industry in its entirety “soft”. Some coaches out there feel like a heart rate monitor or a GPS unit shouldn’t tell an athlete when to go or stop because you’ll never know how much an athlete truly has in the tank. I think there are valid points to both arguments (sports science is great, but can also make athletes and coaches soft). You just have to know as a coach when you can break an athlete off and when to hold back. In the professional setting, you will rarely, if ever break an athlete off. Air on the side of caution.
Looking towards the future, what technological innovations are you hoping for in your field?
Something that can centralize everything a strength coach is responsible for. Even better, something that can simplify our algorithms and formulas in a way that our other coaches and athletes can understand.
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