• Coaches Corner with Meg Stone
    Meg Stone, MA, FNSCA, is the Director of S.P.E.C. and the Assistant Track and Field Coach at East Tennessee State University. Coach Stone is a two-time Olympian that competed in the discus for Great Britain; she also competed for the University of Arizona and still holds the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) record outdoors in both shot put and discus. With many years of collegiate coaching under her belt, Coach Stone served as the Coaching Manager for the United States Olympic Committee. Recently, she was presented with the prestigious “Legends in the Field Award” by the College Strength Coaches Association, the only woman to receive this honor. In July 2009, she received the honor of earning the NSCA Lifetime Achievement Award.
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  • CoachesCornerBannerCoaches Corner | Meg StoneMeg Stone, MA, FNSCA
    Meg Stone is a two-time Olympian that competed in the discus for Great Britain. Stone competed for the University of Arizona and still holds the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) record outdoors in both shot put and discus. In 1994, she took the position of Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at the University of Arizona working with all NCAA sports, including football. She then moved to Texas Tech and held the same position. In 1996, she moved back into full-time track and field as the Associate Head Coach at Appalachian State University. In 1999, she returned to her native Scotland to become the National Track and Field Coach and the first woman ever to do so. Before moving to Johnson City, she was the Coaching Manager for the United States Olympic Committee. Recently, she was presented with the prestigious “Legends in the Field Award” by the College Strength Coaches Association, the only woman to receive this honor. In November 2008, Stone was appointed the Director of the Center of Excellence for Sport Science and Coach Education. She is a Fellow of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), and in July 2009 received the honor of earning the NSCA Lifetime Achievement Award.
    1. How long have you been working in the field of strength and conditioning?
    I have been involved with the strength and conditioning field as a full-time coach since August 1984. It is coming up on 30 years soon.

    2. What is your training style/methods regarding training?
    See question 3.

    3. How has this training style/methods evolved over the years?
    Training Style
    Many and varied as it should be for every coach; my approach to coaching may be a little different from the norm. I strongly believe that a coach evolves with the athletes he or she coaches. I have experienced moving through several stages of coaching. With new athletes who are learning the process/program I tend to be in “teaching mode” and the style is strongly authoritarian (with some athletes I will never move on from this approach). When the time is right, there is a natural transition toward “coaching mode” which predominately consists of correcting and reinforcing the coaching cues used in teaching mode. In other words, eventually coaching overtakes teaching. I guess the coaching fraternity would call this moving into a cooperative style of coaching. 
    Several athletes I have coached have developed from the coach to mentor role, where we assume equal responsibility for performance and then we evolve into colleagues and learn from each other in that respect. I have only reached this stage with a few athletes and they are mainly Olympians and professional players. I believe the task of a good coach is to “do yourself out of a job,” meaning that you have guided this athlete in such a way that they are comfortable with their own knowledge of the sport and only need you as a pair of guiding eyes to provide feedback. For example, Tiger Woods and Andy Murray do not need a coach to tell them how to play a shot or to motivate them, but they do need the coach for technical feedback on form. Throughout the lifespan of a coaching relationship, there are several qualities I think need to be present: trust coming from character, respect coming from knowledge of the field, and motivation coming from within both the coach and athlete.

    Training Methods
    Throughout my nearly 30 years of coaching experience, the basis of every program I have designed has been the use of the Olympic lifts and their derivatives. The program design involves pulling and pressing movements, but not on the same day unless it is a two days per week program, and then there may not be a choice but to have them on the same day. Most sports are concerned with the five “S”s: speed, strength, suppleness, stamina, and skill. When we combine strength and speed together we arrive at power—defined as force multiplied by velocity. How quickly we can apply force is described as rate of force development (RFD). If we wish to develop these characteristic in our athletes, we must find exercises that develop these characteristics. Since athletes use their whole body in athletics, we must find whole body movements that develop these characteristics. The Olympic movements and their derivatives match this approach.

    4. How has this training style/methods evolved over the years?
    Actually, exercise selection has not changed much over the years. What has changed is the method with which the exercises are used and adapted. Early on in my career, I used the full squat almost year-round, now I have come to see the benefit of half and third squats at particular times of the year. I hate to admit this, but I did use circuit training until I realized the error of my ways. I have not used this particular form of training for at least 10 years.

    5. Who has influenced you the most throughout your career and why?
    There is no doubt that the person who has influenced me throughout the years has been my husband, Mike Stone. The reason is that Mike started out as a weightlifter and has been deeply interested in strength and conditioning research and application for the best part of 45 years. He truly has been and continues to be interested in how to develop strength and how to develop the most efficient method of training. He is not interested in fads and gimmicky equipment, nor is he interested in making a lot of money by selling the unsuspecting public a canned program for anything. If he tells you it works, or it does not work, it is because he has meticulously researched the subject. If you get into a discussion with him about strength and conditioning work of any type, you better come prepared as there is no one better to discuss the business of coaching strength and conditioning work with than Mike Stone.

    6. How do you adapt your programming to fit the needs of each athlete you work with?
    Record keeping – each athlete we work with has a folder and everything they do is written in that folder (whether it is in the weight room or on the court or field). Repetitions and sets are recorded, as well as the number of repetitions done by each position-specific player. For example, how many times did the outside hitter in volleyball hit the ball in a spike in a kill drill? Every drill performed by any team member of a sport is recorded along with the amount of time they practiced as well as each player’s perceived effort of each practice. This way we can begin to get an idea of volume load and effort in each practice. We do this in an effort to assess the work load, manage fatigue, and get a handle on injuries.

    7. What do you think is the most overlooked concept in the field of strength and conditioning?
    Fitness/fatigue – I really do not think we have a good handle on fitness versus fatigue. You can only push a player or team so far until the law of diminishing takes effect. After all, anyone can make an athlete tired, which is an easy and simple task. But planning a program with the balance of sport specific fitness as opposed to running athletes into the ground are two entirely different approaches. The strength and conditioning professional constantly faces that challenge in their dealings with sport coaches. We know that one of the primary reasons for injury is due to fatigue. Planning a program in order to manage fatigue is not easy but in order to do the best for the athletes, this issue must be addressed in the program planning.

    8. What resources do you use the most when it comes to getting continuing education as it pertains to the field?
    I will usually read journals and books, conduct research, search the internet, and interact with other well informed professionals such as Clive Brewer from the English Rugby League.

    I also will use any resource relevant to our field; the issue is not what resource, but rather what is in the resource. It is important to be very discerning in what you are reading, seeing, or listening to since there are many so called “knowledgeable” people in our field. If you do not know much about physiology, nutrition, biomechanics, sport medicine, etc. you will fall for anything. Anyone can stand up and talk, throw around funny comments, and entertain or dazzle you with their rhetoric, but that does not mean that the person talking has a foundation in good science, research, and evidence-based practice. You will only know the validity of what they are saying if you are knowledgeable on the subject matter, otherwise you could be falling for the latest guru craze.

    9. What is your take on “specificity” of training and how (if so) do you apply it to your programming?
    Specificity involves both intramuscular and intermuscular task specificity. Intramuscular task specificity involves specific patterns of activation of muscle units. Intermuscular task specificity refers to patterns and interplay of activation among muscles during a specific task. So by looking at a particular sporting movement and trying to mimic that in the weight room may or may not involve “specificity.” Closer attention needs to be paid to the type of activation of the muscle groups.

    10. What is your favorite tool in your tool box?
    My computer – I record everything I do and keep extensive records of all projects.

    11. What are your 5 favorite exercises?
    It depends on the sport, athlete, and goal, but I do not think there are any replacements for squatting movements, explosive movements such as cleans and snatches, and derivatives of the Olympic lifting movements if you wish to develop explosiveness.

    12. What advice do you have for young coaches who are beginning their careers and hoping to “follow in your footsteps”?
    If you are set on a career in coaching and especially strength and conditioning and you want to be a “good” coach, get yourself educated so you do not fall for anything that is out there or the latest gadget that comes along. When you prescribe an athletic prescription or exercise dose for an athlete you must understand precisely what that prescription is doing to the athlete. Knowledge is powerful and allows you to make good choices that will safeguard your athletes and allow them to fulfill their genetic potential.
  • Disclaimer: The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) encourages the exchange of diverse opinions. The ideas, comments, and materials presented herein do not necessarily reflect the NSCA’s official position on an issue. The NSCA assumes no responsibility for any statements made by authors, whether as fact, opinion, or otherwise. 
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