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NSCA’s Coaching Podcast, Episode 84: Dr. Chris Morris

by Eric McMahon, MEd, CSCS, RSCC*D and Chris Morris, PhD, CSCS
Coaching Podcast August 2020

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Coaches

Chris Morris, Director or Performance Science at the University of Kentucky, talks to the NSCA Coaching Program Manager, Eric McMahon, about the importance of capturing athlete readiness through data and technology. Topics under discussion include Dr. Morris’s time as a University of Kentucky football player turned PhD student, how sports science is critical to understanding athlete’s capacities on a much deeper view, and developing interpersonal relationships with athletes to create trust and buy-in.

Find Dr. Morris on Twitter: @CMorrisPhD | Find Eric on Instagram: @ericmcmahoncscs or Twitter: @ericmcmahoncscs

Show Notes

“It's a very nice pretty picture of we have a stimulus, we have fatigue, we have compensation, and then supercomp, and it all occurs within 72 hours. It's a beautiful concept. But in reality, very far from it.” 6:22

“We profile the game through our GPS technology to really understand what the demands of the game are, which aligns with NSCA's profile your sport or needs analysis of sport.” 12:14

“To be a good sport scientist, you have to understand both sides of the equation. You have to understand how your inputs and strength and conditioning are going to affect your outputs, so you can have an idea of what we're really measuring.” 16:07

“So I feel like a lot of people are going to be most valuable when they are good strength coach, and also have the ability to be a good sport scientist.” 17:07

“…if I can lower the stress outside of the training facility, identify areas in the athlete's life where we can reduce stress, then I can have a higher adaptive response in the weight room.” 25:41

Transcript

[00:00:00.00] [MUSIC PLAYING]

[00:00:00.60] Welcome to the NSCA Coaching Podcast, episode 84.

[00:00:04.66] So I feel like a lot of people are going to be most valuable when they are a good strength coach, and also have the ability to be a good sports scientist.

[00:00:13.56] This is the NSCA's Coaching Podcast, where we talk to strengthen conditioning coaches about what you really need to know but probably didn't learn in school. There's strength and conditioning, and then there's everything else.

[00:00:24.43] Welcome to the NSCA Coaching Podcast. Today our guest is Dr. Chris Morris of the University of Kentucky, Director of Performance Sciences. Chris, welcome.

[00:00:33.24] Thank you for having me.

[00:00:34.99] Yeah, man. So I'm really excited about this episode. You just spoke and recorded a session for our Advanced Periodization clinic, which is coming up virtually in November. So I'm really excited about that event and really glad you could be a part of that.

[00:00:52.23] Absolutely. No, it was a good opportunity. I was glad to be able to do it, talk a little bit about fluid periodization, my research, and some new methods and training.

[00:01:01.86] Yeah, so I want to ask you about fluid periodization and that topic, but before we start, just get into your background a little bit and tell us how you got started in the field of strength conditioning and your role now.

[00:01:12.21] Yeah. So I went to University of Kentucky in 2002, walked onto our football team there. And like I talked about in my presentation, there was two things that I quickly realized as a freshman at UK. One, there's some guys I've seen in the weight room that adapted a lot quicker. They could look at weights and get bigger.

[00:01:32.73] And then, two, as someone that got hurt-- I got hurt three times when I was there. There was guys that no matter what they did, never got hurt, were always adapting. And then, there's guys like me who never could seem to get ahead of the curve. And so right away I knew that even though we were training the same, there's two totally different outcomes.

[00:01:50.64] And it really kind of set the foundation for what would later become fluid periodization in my research. But after I got done playing football, started my master's program, and eventually my PhD. And around that same time-- I started my PhD in 2013-- Erik Korem and Coach Stoops came from Florida State, which had recently had just adopted Catapult, this new kind of high-performance model. And he brought a lot of tools and technology with them.

[00:02:19.53] One of them was Omegawave. And so being a former player, I just happened to kind of walk into the facility one day, introduce myself, said, hey I'm a PhD student. Would love to help out with anything that you need.

[00:02:30.48] And then that's when Omegawave, for me, kind of took off and that project, and where I really started to learn about the differences in genetic potential of athletes. And one, started to answer those questions of, why did I get hurt versus someone else? And why does some guys seem to excel in the weight room where others don't?

[00:02:46.92] The foundational components of why Omegawave works really kind of led me in that direction. And so that's when I wrote fluid periodization and the dissertation. And then from there, like I said, it kind of just took off. My career, I started at the University of Texas the year after I graduated from UK, and then Coach Stoops, a year later, had called me back and said they had an opening there. And since I'm from Kentucky, got my PhD at Kentucky, played at Kentucky, family's from Kentucky, I knew it was a great opportunity for me to go back and set up roots there at UK.

[00:03:24.98] It's really great that you can put some roots down and stay at UK all this time. That's pretty unique for our field. And you have a newborn at home, right?

[00:03:39.14] Correct. So had our first child in January, January 6. Was four weeks early. And it was funny. We literally got off the plane from our bowl game and we were in the hospital that same night.

[00:03:55.16] She didn't come for another five days, but I just thought it was funny. She waited to the exact moment when football season was over and she came. So yeah. But it's been a blessing. Quarantine, like I said, a lot of people-- for me, I've got to spend more time with my daughter that I may not have otherwise.

[00:04:09.32] Yeah, no, I feel the same way with my family. It's been a challenging time for everyone with a lot of uncertainty. And we didn't know what was coming when this came on. But the one positive has been spending extra time with our families. And I know my kids have really, really enjoyed that, and that's really great.

[00:04:31.60] Absolutely.

[00:04:33.38] So what you said about fluid periodization and your background really kind of triggered that, it kind of brought me back to The Sports Gene with David Epstein, talking about high versus low responders to training. Take a minute for our listeners and just explain what fluid periodization is. I think sometimes there's terminology that comes out in our field that may be closely associated with other terms, and you hear it and you just don't know exactly what we're talking about. So could you break that down for us?

[00:05:00.47] Right. So periodization itself is just a training method that alters loads and intensities to enhance athlete recovery and responsiveness to training. Fluid periodization is basically saying, hey, I have this plan. I've got these sets and these reps programs, but I'm going to take some sort of objective measure, what we call athlete readiness, to see if an athlete can receive that training load that they know.

[00:05:24.20] Readiness is impacted by a lot of different things. And so we talk a lot about how stress plays a huge impact on an athlete's ability to recover from day-to-day training. So no matter what we do as strength coaches, we're going to say, we're going to squat on Monday, but then we're going to turn around a dynamic three days later because that's when supercompensation's supposed to occur.

[00:05:43.76] The reality is that because if you've got those high responders and low responders, then you mix in the fact that you might have a high responder but has three exams that week, or had just got a fight with a significant other, or a grandparent has passed, the amount of stress makes him a low responder that week, because now the body has to determine which stress they're going to adapt to. And so if you take into consideration the amount of genetic variability that we see between athletes, the amount of external stressors, especially now more than ever in college athletes with social media, and academic constraints, and financial constraints, you quickly can see that there's no guarantee the supercompensation occurs like it is in the textbook.

[00:06:23.01] It's a very nice pretty picture of we have a stimulus, we have fatigue, we have compensation, and then supercomp, and it all occurs within 72 hours. It's a beautiful concept. But in reality, very far from it.

[00:06:35.31] And even in the presentation I gave you guys, take it all the way back to where periodization, like the foundation was even developed in the Soviet Union and how that came about with Soviet scientists, and how that was a perfect world for training because these Soviet athletes were told when to wake up, when to eat, when to sleep, and everything was very, very controlled. And we won't even talk about the pharmaceutical potential aids that they had in that.

[00:07:00.20] So we developed this training model that hasn't really adapted in 40 years. I mean, it didn't get to the United States until 1980. So the Soviets have had it for 20-plus years because they refused for scientists to collaborate with any other scientists in the world. And so it stayed in that little bubble. And even since 1980, we still have kind of held on to what we've known instead of kind of looking beyond that small little box, even when science has shown us that maybe this isn't the most optimal way to train.

[00:07:32.50] Yeah, so it really connects closely with the concept of autoregulation, but maybe broadens it a little bit when you're looking at the overall readiness of the athlete beyond the weight room setting. So that's kind of my takeaway. And not to give too many spoilers, but you gave a great automotive, like, vehicle dashboard analogy in your talk, and I think that was really beneficial. There's so many automotive analogies in our field. But if you just share that with our audience here today, and then we won't give too many spoilers down on the upcoming event, but I thought that was great.

[00:08:10.30] Yeah, and so basically the reason why there is so many automotive examples is because at the end of the day, the humans are machines, and a car is a machine, there has to be fuel, we have fuel. There's a power output, we have power outputs.

[00:08:22.55] So there's a lot of similar components, so I think it's really easy to make those parallels. But in the example that I gave is basically readiness, or having measurements of readiness, gives you a look inside the athletes under the hood, and what we represent as a dashboard. So we talk about two different components. And we'll just talk about what I consider readiness to adapt.

[00:08:46.83] So that's your heart rate variability and direct current potential that you can measure. And basically what you're looking at is, how much fuel do I have to train today? So if I get in my car and say, all right, I'm at a quarter tank. It's not very full. I'm not going to make it very far.

[00:09:02.50] How do I want to spend this quarter tank of gas? Versus the DC potential, which is representative of the brain, really, kind of as the computer of the car that receives all these stimuluses external to internal and then adapts to that environment. So if the DC potential's, low and the brain's ability to operate what we call functional systems is low, the entire structure of the body, like, if I push in the gas it might not be as responsive, or if I push in the brake. I might not get that immediate response.

[00:09:32.69] And so there's potential when those delays happen-- we'll relate it to running, for example. When running is such a very closed system, if the DC potentials might open up the door for an over stride or a braking mechanism that is a little bit delayed that may force or cause an injury. I know Landon Evans at the University of Iowa just released a paper talking about the DC potential was more reflective of injury than, maybe, heart rate variability. So it just shows the importance of what the brain is.

[00:10:05.23] So getting into your car and looking and having a visual representation of, what do I have to work with today? Am I able to go an entire training session? Do I have that fuel for it?

[00:10:14.68] And then, is the engine, is the brain, is the computer able to handle those type of training sessions? And you get immediate feedback before you start the session to say, you know what? Maybe I need to alter-- I'm going to need to take away some accessory volume because that's just gas I'm burning up that I don't have to adapt to.

[00:10:31.57] So it is, like, just kind of getting a look under the athlete's hood before you start the training. And then, we moved into the readiness to train component, which is your velocity-based training reps and reserve RPE methods. So both of those two combined gives you an overall picture of the athlete that day.

[00:10:47.74] Yeah. So Advanced Periodization Virtual Clinic will be in November. It's going to be a great event. We're going to have a lot of very high-profile presenters with a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge. So stay tuned for that, and we will be communicating that out to you very soon.

[00:11:05.63] Chris, I want to explore some of these emerging sports science professions. And your role at UK is, maybe, Director of Performance Sciences, it's a role that maybe wouldn't have been around 20 years ago, but we've seen an upswing of this type of oversight, sports science specific role in the field. Could you tell us what that job description looks like and how your role came about?

[00:11:32.33] Yeah. So it's an interesting shift in thought process. And I think a lot of it comes down to is, we are being bombarded with more, and more, and more information from technology that keeps on increasing. We're getting more information about our athletes. And we don't really have a vehicle to handle that type of information.

[00:11:56.51] I think the biggest thing that we do at UK that I think a lot of other people are striving to do, is a simple statement is, that we try to learn faster than everyone else by using the data that we get on our athletes every day. So I break it into three distinct categories of what we do. We profile the game through our GPS technology to really understand what the demands of the game are, which aligns with NSCA's profile your sport or needs analysis of sport.

[00:12:26.33] And then the next thing is profiling your athletes. So identifying strengths and weaknesses in our athlete that are relative to their sport. So we use the game demands to determine what our testing protocol is for our athletes. What should this athlete be able to do to handle the demands of the game?

[00:12:40.37] And that third component is monitoring the process. So one of the big research questions I have at UK is, what is my average expected growth of the athlete from year one to year two, from year two to year three, year three to year four? We always talk about-- our mission statement at UK is to maximize genetic potential.

[00:12:59.21] Well, what is genetic potential? And what is genetic potential for that athlete, and how do they progress from year one to year two? So a lot of it centers around good data collection, good testing, and then monitoring, giving the feedback to the athlete to say, hey, your growth rate is a little bit less than the average, or it's above the average. And it gives us an idea of where the athlete might be heading, and also allows us to have an early intervention.

[00:13:25.82] Hey, genetically, you may not be as gifted as some of our athletes. Therefore, you need to be better technically. So you need to be in the film room, tactically, meeting with your coaches to understand the game better, or you're just going to have to eat and sleep better than everyone else for you to even maintain SEC level of competitiveness. And you get that feedback for the athlete and it gives them a roadmap to success. So like I said, big three things is profile the game, profile the athlete, monitor the process.

[00:13:53.49] So you're adding another layer of analysis and evaluation. What are some of the challenges that come about with this role and how do you address those?

[00:14:07.08] So the big thing that we're working through right now is your models are only as good as the data you put into it. So really emphasizing things that we've kind of been taught, like, your pretests should be the same conditions as your post-test, meaning for testing on a hardwood court for a change direction, we need to make sure we're doing our post-test on a hardwood court versus, maybe, a field turf, getting good quality data into the system and making sure that that's across the board.

[00:14:36.50] So much that I feel like the future of this athlete assessment is going to be in an assessment center. So similar to what the University of Oregon has in the Mariota Center, it's one place where you do all of your athletic testing. It means the environmental conditions are the same, the surfaces are the same, and everything is very controlled. Or like the University of Nebraska has their Performance Center.

[00:14:57.34] But right now, it's like, OK, we're going to do our aerobic fitness test with our soccer team. And in August when we do our pre-test, it's 85 degrees, there's dew on the field. We do our post-test at the end of the season to see if there's any decrements of fitness, but it's 32 degrees and there's frost on the field. How do those two things affect the outcome of the test? So a lot of it right now is just trying to strategically figure out how we can make our testing conditions the same to make sure our quality of data is the same as well.

[00:15:27.73] You have a strength and conditioning background and you were also an athlete yourself. But you've progressed into a director-level sports science role. For young strength and conditioning coaches, what are some of the skills to focus on in pursuing a similar path?

[00:15:44.01] Right. So that's a really tough call, because I'm still at the point where we're creating this dichotomy of sports science and strength and conditioning. Like you said, I think, earlier, a good strength coach is also a good sport scientist. Sometimes a sports scientist is not a strength coach, but I feel like you have to understand. To be a good sport scientist, you have to understand both sides of the equation. You have to understand how your inputs and strength and conditioning are going to affect your outputs, so you can have an idea of what we're really measuring.

[00:16:21.49] I think for now, with a lot of the students that I'm seeing and coming up through the program is, one, an appreciation of what data is. Data is not going away. I think early days strength and conditioning, we weren't exposed to a lot of data. We work in Excel, but we don't really know how to leverage or harness Excel's power.

[00:16:40.96] And so to new strength coaches, I always tell them, I was like, really understand how to evaluate your athletes, have good record-keeping, and learn how to track progressions over time. That's essentially what a sports scientist is good at, is monitoring change over time. Because I don't think in the short term, there's going to be a sports scientist for every team like there's a strength coach for every team.

[00:17:07.42] So I feel like a lot of people are going to be most valuable when they are good strength coach, and also have the ability to be a good sport scientist. So have the ability to use tools that help you understand the demands of the game like Catapult, or have tools like Omegawave, or HRB Elite, or anything that can measure internal load to understand the athlete's response to these training loads. Because in reality, your Power 5 schools might have these positions overarching, but at the end of the day, I'm only one person at the University of Kentucky for 22 sports.

[00:17:39.97] I have to hinge on my strength and conditioning staff and help empower them, hey, this is Catapult, this is what it does, this is how you run it, this is how you read these reports, this is how you communicate to the coaches, this is how you drive change. And so a lot of what I'm doing is help educating my younger strength and conditioning staff members to take this role on themselves and learn and grow as a professional.

[00:18:03.59] So you see it sort of as a pathway. I mean, those young strength coaches could advance into more senior level role as a sports scientist or-- I think when we get into this field, sometimes we think of that head strength coach role as maybe the pinnacle position. And for many, that's what we want to achieve.

[00:18:24.82] Sports science, in many ways, is another career track for strength coaches and other practitioners in the field to move towards. So I think it's really exciting to kind of see what you're using technology wise and applying that technology. One thing I want to ask you is, how has technology changed the training and communication process with athletes and staff at UK?

[00:18:51.01] And just speak to that process. I think that's one of the big challenges that-- and fears by many coaches is, we add technology, it changes what I do on a daily basis. What's my role now? So speak to that if you would.

[00:19:07.27] I think any time that you introduce technology, I think a lot of people make a mistake because they want an intervention without a known outcome. So we're going to bring in Catapult and we're going start looking at loads. But all right, is that a high load? Is that bad? Is this load good?

[00:19:22.24] We oftentimes will bring a piece of tech and we'll say, oh, that's way too high. We need to back it off. Well, we've never collected data. So I think one of the big fears is that you're going to get this data and it's going to tell you to change right away, when in reality we won't know what to change until an outcomes occur, like an injury.

[00:19:39.88] So for example, working with women's basketball, or just a lot of my basketball teams in general, what they do is they have this really big preseason load, training load, and they get into the nonconference games, which also lines with the back half of the semester and they start pulling back on load. They start doing a little less, and a little less, and they get to Christmas break and they're all the way off.

[00:19:59.28] And then, of course, right after Christmas break happens, you see this huge load spike. So when you overlay and show them, like, hey, you training load is going down, all of a sudden you have this massive training load spike, and we started having injuries pop up, then that's an intervention with a known outcome. OK, we don't have to change necessarily a lot, but how about we not decrease our load so much going into finals and Christmas, but also, more importantly, is, after Christmas break, we just don't go from 0 to 100 really quick, we kind of bleed them back into it. And what we notice is we have less soft tissue injuries and we have a better production coming out of the off season.

[00:20:36.38] Now, I relate technology like anything. So just for example, if you ever use My Fitness Pal to track your diet. I think technology brings awareness to you. It's like, oh, I didn't know that that packet of ranch I have in my salad had 40 grams of fat. That makes me-- not subconsciously-- consciously now make a change. Maybe I don't use all of that ranch on my salad.

[00:20:59.40] It's just like with training load. Oh, I didn't realize we were training that hard before a game. Maybe I need to pull back. So a lot of times, technology brings awareness to our process, like, I did not know that this had such a huge cost, or I didn't know this had so many calories. And then, therefore, you can start to see, maybe I should pull back before a game or pull back before this happens. So a lot of times, data is powerful by just bringing awareness and actually capturing what's actually going on.

[00:21:29.16] Yeah, I totally agree with that. And you touched on holiday break and training around periods of inactivity. That's exactly what we're dealing with right now with COVID-19. How has UK responded and your department? What's the involvement of your role in return to training practices?

[00:21:50.07] Yeah. So the good thing is we've got so much historical data, we know where we need to get to. And now that we know that the NCAA has given us a timeline and we know what to expect, we can start progressing loads to make sure we can still meet camp demands. So basically, if I know where I'm going, now I can go back and backtrack and say, OK, these are my load progressions, this is what I can safely increase by, or is this going to be necessarily-- can we safely get there, or do we have to take bigger leaps and be more aggressive?

[00:22:19.68] Luckily, with our guys kind of starting to filter in right now-- we've got plenty of time before camp starts-- that we know that we can safely progress our loads back into our normal training camp. It's a little bit more interesting for, like, our soccer teams who don't necessarily get back until later in the summer as we're having to say, OK, if they get here on July 15 and they turn around and they start camp on August 1, the message to them is, hey, this is what you're going to be required to do when you go to camp. And you're only going to have two weeks with us before you get here.

[00:22:51.06] But we program these high-speed distances and progress them week-to-week to make sure that you meet those. So it's more of like, hey, if you knew your test was five miles and you had to get a certain time, as an athlete you knew that you would work your way up to it. So we give them these loads and explain to them, like, hey, if you don't come in prepared for this load-- because it's not going to change-- then you're putting yourself at risk for injury. And our players really respond well to knowing exactly where they have to get to. And they can see their load progressions because we give them that feedback.

[00:23:23.13] That's great. Let's go back to the beginning for you. Who are some of the biggest influences on your coaching style? And who do you read and follow in the field?

[00:23:33.66] So you know Erik Korem was obviously my big influence because he introduced a model to me early on-- the high performance model. And I think a lot of times, even with Erik, those early adopters really-- I'm not going to say struggled, but they didn't understand how much data was involved in that. And if you didn't have a good data structure to handle that data, and your feedback mechanisms weren't there, the athlete became kind of overwhelmed by the amount of testing without really understanding the process.

[00:24:09.47] And so Erik was an innovator in that area and helped me kind of understand the importance and value of quantifying external load, quantifying internal load, understanding the athlete's adaptive process. People like Bryan Mann with velocity-based training, understanding that athletes aren't going to be necessarily ready to train, and you had to have some sort of mechanism. I remember when I wrote my dissertation, getting into the discussion section and really struggling to find other people that had that kind of mindset or this autoregulatory process, and there's still, to this day, there's just not a whole lot of research revolving those methods compared to linear and undulated traditional type training methods.

[00:24:49.46] So Bryan Mann was big in that process as I kind of wrote my discussion and continued that foundation of fluid periodization. I think, a lot of times, like, from a scientist perspective, Selye even though people can be critical of his work, really showed-- his research shows that there's a non-specific stress elicits the same reaction. It doesn't matter what the stress is.

[00:25:18.73] And I think the global concepts that he established to say, hey, it doesn't matter if it's stress from a test or stress from a training session, it's going to have that same sequential process in the body. And that's where it kind of gave me the idea of athletes have a limited gas tank. And the more stress there is in the athlete, the less gas they have to adapt and train.

[00:25:38.35] So I always say, from a fundamental standpoint, if I can lower the stress outside of the training facility, identify areas in the athlete's life where we can reduce stress, then I can have a higher adaptive response in the weight room. And I've seen that in my own personal life in this quarantine, where you remove some of the stress from work.

[00:25:56.76] I'm around my daughter, my perspectives change. I mean, great sleep, eating great food, and my strength numbers have been going up steadily, and my body comp's changing. It just drives in the fact that how much stress plays a role. And I really contribute to Selye's work.

[00:26:13.96] And my last favorite scientist-- I know these aren't strength coaches necessarily, but there are people that kind of laid that foundation were Anniken and functional system. And a lot of that, again, is built around Omegawave's foundation and concepts. But it really showed me how important the brain is in regulating the adaptive process in the athlete, and how important it is to maintain what I call a brain health in that whole training process.

[00:26:39.17] So I'll give you the opportunity here to jump in to the strength coach side of things. What are some things you love about the strength and conditioning coach professional? What are some areas that we fall short?

[00:26:53.74] So the concept, the reason why I wanted to get into strength and conditioning when I was a masters to begin with was because I was fascinated with the idea of development. You basically have an athlete that's-- it's art, right? You have this blank canvas, essentially, and then you have the opportunity to mold and change that athlete by the inputs that you put in with the reps and the sets. And because strength coaches spend so much time with the athlete compared to any of the other coaches, you develop a much stronger relationship with the athlete. And I think anyone else in the performance staff, you develop that trust.

[00:27:26.20] And you teach them so many lessons other than just how to bench, or how to squat, or how to clean. It's more like, how do you take care of yourself as a person? How do you be disciplined?

[00:27:36.76] How do you hold yourself accountable? All these things that you learn in the weight room that I think set you up for life lessons beyond athletics. It's your workplace. Are you accountable to your work? Are you disciplined to get things done? What's your mindset and how your mindset affects your performance outcomes?

[00:27:57.10] Where I'm starting to see kind of-- and I think strength coaches in general, I think it comes down to the education that we've gotten in the US has not kept up with how athletics is changing from this data mindset. And I think, because even the NSCA, we're starting to see that shift in the things that you guys are doing to bring in these sports science, these data-driven concepts into your education system, and really understanding the importance of evaluating the athlete and being able to track that progress over time. I just think that's a product and we've never been exposed to it.

[00:28:32.03] So we've lived in this little bubble of, I know how to do this, I know how to do that. And we kind of fail to see the 30,000-foot view, which I think is what sports science is. It sees the big, holistic picture of an athlete, instead of like a very small strength, power, speed, et cetera.

[00:28:52.05] Yeah. So you touched on technology there. What's the future of S&C look like for you?

[00:29:01.87] So for me, if I could really-- we talk about sports science, and I've had conversations before. Right now, it's not really sports science right now. It's more strength science.

[00:29:14.32] And we're very focused on just, like, the strength and conditioning science versus sport, because sport entails tactical, and technical, and mental components, when we're really focused on right now is physical. My long-term goal is, one-- because we're really good at evaluating physical now, it's really easy to do-- is develop kind of a Madden profile for an athlete to say, OK, what are the key contributors of this athlete physically, technically, tactically, and mental?

[00:29:44.28] Because an athlete can compensate in any one of those four domains, if someone's genetically not gifted physically, then how can they make up for it technically, tactically? Because there's never going to be a blueprint for, what does an NFL player look? What does an SEC player look like, because they're going to compensate across the board.

[00:30:02.89] So for me, I think the future of performance science, holistic science, is being able to evaluate technical ability, tactical ability, physical ability, and mental ability, and do it enough to where you can always have for the athlete, this Madden profile. So I can say, hey, my strength is a 72 but my technical ability is in 85. I know that the average NFL player looks like this.

[00:30:31.60] So it gives the athlete that roadmap to say, all right, I'm maximized-- I'm a junior or senior and I've plateaued strength, I've plateaued speed. The amount of work that I put in is not going to give me the big return on investment versus if I say, OK, let's maintain these levels that I'm at right now and really enhances other area of technical deficiency and bring that up. It's going to make me a better overall player.

[00:30:56.10] So it's really, for me, is identifying the avenues for every athlete of, what's going to give us our biggest return on our investment of time? Because now, with NCAA coming down and saying, hey, you can only have so much time with your athletes, how do we maximize that time individually, physically, technically, tactically? Because right now, I think my senior is going to train the same volume as my freshman.

[00:31:16.80] And we know that the freshman is going to get a much bigger return on the investment than my senior. So is there a way that we can say, hey, seniors that have developed-- and we've seen that plateau in these abilities-- can we then just take their time and devote it more to, maybe, film, or something on the practice field, or a skill component? I think when we get to that level, then we'll actually be doing sports science, the holistic view of the sport, not just so singular and what we call strength science.

[00:31:42.24] Yeah, so let's jump that holistic view of athlete development towards the career development of strength coaches. What are some non weight room, or as they get called, soft skills that really benefit strength and conditioning coaches throughout their careers?

[00:32:01.87] Yeah, so I think a lot of that is-- and that's more like the Brett Bartholomew speed, and a conscious coaching, and developing those interpersonal relationships with these athletes, because if an athlete doesn't-- I won't say respect-- if an athlete can't relate to you, they're going to have a hard time working hard for you or buying into your process. So you can be the greatest in writing programs, but your athlete doesn't buy into it and doesn't work hard, you're not going to get that return on the investment.

[00:32:34.54] So being able to clearly communicate with an athlete and develop those interpersonal skills, so we say, hey, this is why we're doing these things, or this is why I'm holding you accountable the same as everybody else. I don't care if you're a starter or one of my third string guys. This is why we do things.

[00:32:51.53] So really having your core values established and then holding those players accountable to those things. And just being consistent with how you have your training principles, how you run your weight room. Everything is the same for every athlete. And I think in the long-term, you get a lot of respect. They may hate you in the short-term, temporarily. But then a lot of times you see them come back and say, I'm glad that that person did that for me, because now I'm so much more accountable in these areas.

[00:33:21.42] Yeah, so as a young strength coach pursuing the field, what was the best advice you got?

[00:33:28.31] My favorite thing that they ever said to me was, have your training principles, or methods, or principles, or a few methods, or many. So basically, don't be married to a particular style of training. So you may be someone that identifies with Olympic weightlifting and that's all you want to do with your athletes. But that's just a method.

[00:33:46.83] Methods can change over time, but your principles don't. So principles meaning, like, within NSCA progressive overload and specificity, those things never change, but your methods might. So what it does is, all right, this athlete can't squat because of spondy.

[00:34:01.97] Well, OK, that's a method change, right? Well, I can belt squats and I'm going to get the same outcome. And it really kind of changed my mindset that there's so many ways that we can train an athlete and provide a stimulus, our methods, that it really just didn't focus me into this very small box of, all right, we're going to do an Olympic movement, then we're going to go into a core movement with a squat. And then if anything of that gets thrown off, then it just completely ruins your training session. So really kind of understanding my training principles, and then not being married to methods.

[00:34:33.26] That's great. How can our listeners connect with you?

[00:34:38.33] So my email is on our website. It's just Chris.Morris@UKY.edu. Any of my social media accounts, @cmoorisphd. But yeah, email or any of my social media accounts, hit me up on there with any questions that you might have.

[00:34:59.53] Awesome. Dr. Chris Morris, University of Kentucky, Director of Performance Sciences, we are really excited for the NSCA advanced periodization virtual clinic coming up in November, and your presentation on that. So thanks for that, and also thanks for being on the podcast.

[00:35:16.21] Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

[00:35:19.04] To our listeners, thanks for tuning in. And also, to our sponsors, Sorinex exercise equipment, we appreciate their support. You often hear these podcasts recorded at NSCA conferences and events. Why not join us at the next one?

[00:35:30.93] You can get all the details on upcoming events at NSCA.com/events. Thank you for listening to the NSCA Coaching Podcast. We truly appreciate your support and wouldn't be able to do this without you. If you enjoy our episodes, please write us a review at iTunes or Google Play, wherever you download your episodes from. Also, be sure to subscribe so that you get these delivered to you every other week right on time. You can also go to NSCA.com and check out the episodes there.

[00:35:56.63] [MUSIC PLAYING]

[00:35:57.45] This was the NSCA's Coaching Podcast. The National Strength and Conditioning Association was founded in 1978 by strength and conditioning coaches to share information, resources, and help advance the profession. Serving coaches for over 40 years, the NSCA is the trusted source for strength and conditioning professionals. Be sure to join us next time.

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Eric L. McMahon, MEd, CSCS,*D, RSCC*D

Strength & Conditioning Coach, NSCA Headquarters, Colorado Springs, CO, United States

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Eric McMahon is the Coaching and Sport Science Program Manager at the NSCA Headquarters in Colorado Springs. He joined the NSCA Staff in 2020 with ove ...

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Chris Morris, PhD, CSCS

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Chris Morris is currently in his fifth season as the Director of Performance Science at the University of Kentucky. He is responsible for developing a ...

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