Jan 29, 2015Strong Finish to a Memorable Season
By Rich Jacobs, MS, SCCC, CSCS
This past season, the Xavier women’s basketball team captured its fourth straight regular season conference championship, a conference tournament championship, and made a run to the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament Elite Eight round, where they lost to Stanford University in heartbreaking fashion. Here, Team Strength and Conditioning Coach Rich Jacobs evaluates how his strength training program contributed to the Musketeer’s stellar run.
In November, I documented our team’s approach to strength and conditioning on this site in an article titled “Motivating and Building Champions.” In that article, I detailed the team’s expectations and the manner in which I approached its strength training goals.
At the end of the season, it was time to look back and evaluate my strategy. To do that, I consulted with Xavier Head Athletic Trainer Jody Jenike, ATC, and Head Women’s Coach Kevin McGuff. Our consensus was that the team looked healthier and stronger at the end of the season, which topped off their confidence during our tournament run.
Throughout the team’s grueling battles during practice and competition, the women stayed relatively healthy and we didn’t have a single season ending injury. Remarkably, we entered the tournament with a strong, healthy, complete team, which contributed mightily to our successes.
Part of the reason our training program succeeded was the consistent adaptations made to the regimen throughout the season. Volume was decreased on a linear basis and some days were changed on the fly into a stretching and core day if they told us their bodies felt broken down. Having the flexibility to adapt to the players’ needs is essential in maintaining training balance–and it all starts with the foundation.
Our off- and pre-season programs were developed to increase strength, power, and endurance and exercises fluctuated from big and basic to more sport-specific. One of the main goals was to decrease the chance of injury in the three major areas: ankle, knee and shoulder as talked about in “Motivating and Building Champions.” I believe that this goal was met by the constant participation of the players. The tireless efforts of the athletic training staff were also a major part of our athletes’ day-to-day and injury avoidance–which allowed them to participate at full strength at every game and practice.
The team embraced the in-season program and attacked it one to two days per week. I used a periodized program incorporating multi-joint, full-body movements with goals of being efficient with our time and getting as much muscle activation as possible. Squat and press, alternating dumbbell press, landmines, and leg press are a few examples of the exercises we used to progress strength while in-season.
University of Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban once said, “Win or lose, give yourself 24 hours and then move on.” At Xavier, we have embraced that way of thinking and it is embodied by the returning player who met with me and planned workouts for the remaining weeks of the spring semester and into the summer.
Our players are determined and hungry for more. For strength and conditioning coaches, the off-season can be the best time of the year to have an enormous impact on the team. This is when we can really dig in and work on decreasing or increasing size and improve strength physically and mentally. Our quest is to become one of the most dominant programs in the country–and it begins today. We will not rest until our goals are met.
Rich Jacobs, MS, SCCC, CSCS is an Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach at Xavier University. He can be reached at: [email protected].