May 11, 2017
Bulldog Success

This past season, Anthony Harvey became the first strength and conditioning coach at Mississippi State to work exclusively with the women’s basketball team. Thanks to Harvey’s unconventional coaching, the team made it to its first ever NCAA Division I championship game, upsetting the University of Connecticut along the way. And while they didn’t take home the title, the Bulldogs did end their season with an impressive record of 34-5.

As reported in an article in USA Today, Harvey pushed his athletes by keeping them constantly on their toes, creating competition, and never giving up on the details.

“He has really pushed us to our limits and past our limits,” guard Dom Dillingham said. “He knows us and he’s personable. I think he gets the best out of us.”

At the beginning of the season, Harvey set this precedent by joining in on parts of practice. Not only did he do a two-lap warmup with them, but he also joined the team for an Indian run. He added an extra level of intensity to the workout by telling the athletes that they had to stay ahead of him the entire time.

To continue this energy throughout the rest of the season, Harvey varied target times that he asked the team to meet during specific drills. At certain points, the times he assigned seemed entirely unrealistic. One such drill involved the athletes running half the court in under 5 seconds after an already grueling practice. Even if they reached the goal, he would keep this to himself, making them dig deep to do even better.

“I kept giving them these impossible times and I had the stopwatch knowing they are not making the time,” he said. “And then they started making the time and I still told them they weren’t making the time and I needed more.”

Another drill involved the players doing 400-meter runs in preparation for the team’s yearly mile test. Inside his head, Harvey had a target time of 65 seconds for the guards and 70 seconds for the post players. But he told the players that their goal times were 63 and 66 seconds.

“They know the times that I am giving them are extremely fast,” Harvey said. “But they don’t know my target time.”

How does this help them break through their point of exhaustion? Besides making them work for a faster time than he really expects, Harvey also changed the amount of rest that players had between runs. While there were longer breaks between the first few runs, they became significantly shorter for following repetitions. Harvey did not tell the team that the rest time was changing, making them think that they should be able to hit the same numbers on each repetition. The athletes then pushed themselves harder to meet the same goal time, not knowing that they were feeling more tired because of less rest.

This same thought process is translated into the weight room. Instead of telling his athletes exactly how many repetitions of each exercise he expected, Harvey would keep the number to himself. This keeps the athlete from taking it easy on certain reps, as they don’t know when they will be asked to stop.

“… if you don’t know the end, you have to give me 100 percent every time,” said Harvey. “Because if you don’t, I am just going to add more to it.”

Throughout each of these drills, Harvey strived to create the attitude and ability in his players to always give maximum effort. If they do this in practice, then chances are greater that they will still be able to work their hardest when they begin to feel tired in a game situation.

“When they’re playing the opponent and the fourth quarter comes, a lot of the teams will start to dive while we start to go up,” said Harvey. “That’s been the staple this year.”

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