Bill Foran - NSCA’s Coaching Podcast, Season 7 Episode 1

by Eric McMahon, MEd, CSCS, RSCC*D and Bill Foran, CSCS, RSCC*E
Coaching Podcast April 2023


Veteran Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Miami Heat of the National Basketball Association (NBA), Bill Foran, joins the NSCA Coaching Podcast and reflects on a more than four-decade coaching career. Foran discusses his early beginnings teaching elementary school physical education, with NSCA Coaching and Sport Science Program Manager Eric McMahon, and what led him towards pursuing collegiate and professional sports strength and conditioning. Foran shares stories of resourcefulness from the early days, before the strength and conditioning field was formally defined, up to more recent years using sport science technology and foundational core principles to inform training practices for elite NBA players, such as Lebron James and Shaquille O’Neal. This episode is informative for strength and conditioning coaches at any level, emphasizing the importance of building lasting relationships with athletes and head coaches, as well as taking advantage of all that the NSCA has to offer.

Reach out to Coach Foran at by email at | Find Eric on Instagram: @ericmcmahoncscs or Twitter: @ericmcmahoncscs  
Learn more about NBA strength and conditioning with the National Basketball Strength and Conditioning Association (NBSCA), an Official Sport Partner of the NSCA.

Show Notes

“And I learned right then I enjoyed developing athletes a lot more than the Xs and Os of the game.” 3:05

“I was trying to get across the importance of leg, hip, core strength, but we didn't have the testing, how to test for power back then. We didn't have that. So I came up with a quotient called the power quotient, and it was just the square root of their vertical jump in inches times the square root of their body weight in pounds. And basically it was just a number where I could rank people.” 9:43

“You get your degree, you get your certifications, get as much experience as possible either as a GA, an intern, or work for free, whatever it is. You need that experience, and then you need to network, network, network.” 23:15

“But the big thing is, you've got to show the athletes you care. Connect with them at the personal level, but when they know you care and you're willing to work, that's the other thing, outwork everybody. If you show them you care and outwork everybody, you're on your way.” 23:33


[00:00:00.00] [MUSIC PLAYING]
[00:00:04.28] Welcome to the NSCA Coaching Podcast, season seven, episode one.
[00:00:10.10] You get your degree, you get your certifications. Get as much experience as possible, either as a GA, an intern, work for free, whatever it is. You need that experience, and then you need to network, network, network. But the big thing is, you've got to show the athlete you care.
[00:00:29.93] This is the NSCA's Coaching Podcast, where we talk to strength and 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.
[00:00:39.88] [MUSIC PLAYING]
[00:00:41.30] This is the NSCA Coaching Podcast. I'm Eric McMahon. Our guest today is the longest tenured strength and conditioning coach in professional sports history, Bill Foran. He's been a member of the NBA's Miami Heat since 1988 when the Heat, along with the Charlotte Hornets, entered the league as expansion teams.
[00:01:01.85] Currently, he's a consultant with the team after serving decades as the team's head strength and conditioning coach, a position now currently held by his son, Eric Foran. Bill, I ran into you at the most recent RSCC Reception at the 2023 NSCA Coaches Conference before you gave your keynote lecture. It's great having you with us here on the podcast.
[00:01:27.66] Thanks, Eric. Glad to be here.
[00:01:30.10] Yeah, so for anyone who missed that keynote, you were talking about lessons of a veteran strength coach, a session that we've gone back to a few times in the last few years. Just bringing in some of our legend coaches who have done great things in the profession over many years. Give us a snapshot of what you talked about.
[00:01:51.47] Oh, I told stories of four decades in the profession, but I started with where I started. And when I graduated from college, I was teaching elementary phys ed and coaching at the high school. Smallest school in the conference, hadn't had a winning season in years. And I'm looking at our athletes, and I'm thinking, we've got to make them better.
[00:02:16.26] And I started a strength and conditioning program-- this was in the late '70s, which is kind of not many out there like that. But luckily, it was about a half hour from Michigan State, and I would meet with their strength coach, and I was already taking classes in exercise phys, one class for a semester while teaching. And I'd go visit, he says, you know, Bill, you're the only high school coach that comes around. And he had the possibility of hiring his first grad assistant in strength and conditioning, and I could go back full-time, finish my degree, and get some experience, and so that's kind of what happened.
[00:03:02.15] We started winning in football at the high school level. And I learned right then I enjoyed developing athletes a lot more than the Xs and Os of the game, and so it was a nice step right to Michigan State. And I finished my degree that year, and this doesn't happen anymore, but this was spring of 1981. That summer, there were two openings at the college level-- Washington State and Mississippi State.
[00:03:33.32] And this doesn't happen in this day and age, but I went from a grad assistant to the head strength and conditioning coach at a Pac 10 school, which is unheard of. And even at the college level, things were brand new, and they had not been to a Bowl game in 50 years-- 1931 Rose Bowl. And the athletes bought into a basic fundamentally sound program, and we started winning.
[00:04:05.34] And that got me to the University of Miami, where five years, 55 and 5, two national championships, it's a pretty amazing run. And then the Heat came along, and we were rolling at the U, but I had one assistant, 18 teams. And the Heat came along, and the rest is history.
[00:04:29.49] Wow. Jumping off with an expansion team in the NBA, and you never had that experience. You think you got thrown into the fire there, but really you got thrown into the fire a lot earlier, jumping from a GA to heading up a program at the Division I level. That's really impressive. We think about leadership progressions or moving up through our career, and a lot of us, we want to be head strength and conditioning coaches and lead a program, but there was probably a lot of learning during that time where you were managing all those different teams and programs.
[00:05:07.31] One thing that jumped out to me, you mentioned your background in physical education, and that's a theme that comes through when I talk to Boyd, when I talk to coaches that were around during the early stages of our profession. Physical education was a huge part of that. What is it about physical education that provided a great framework for strength and conditioning to build on? And do you think that's something that coaches today maybe miss out on because they're coming out of more exercise science-based schools?
[00:05:41.92] I like the combination. It's interesting because I was teaching elementary phys ed, and I just loved developing young kids. I'd see little overweight kids and become their friend and help them, and you could see their confidence just go sky high when the PE teacher was paying attention to them, and then they became pretty good athletes. So I really enjoyed working at that level watching kids grow physically and mentally.
[00:06:16.66] Now, you mentioned Boyd. A quick story. So I'm coaching high school football, and we have the strength and conditioning program. I had no idea there was a profession.
[00:06:27.22] And I read in a newspaper, they talked about the All-American strength team. This was either 1978 or '79, and they talked about Boyd and the NSCA. And I thought, wow. I can't believe it. There is a profession. This is what I want to do. So I reached out to Boyd, and he sent me a letter, and he suggested I meet with the guy at Michigan State, which I already had done, but I still have that letter from Boyd.
[00:06:54.73] That is so cool. I think about that a lot. I think about the progression of coaches from years past to where we're at today. I know when I got into the profession, early 2000s, exercise science, kinesiology programs were really on the rise.
[00:07:12.11] And I went to Springfield College, where it was historically a physical education school, but a lot of strength and conditioning coaches have come out of there, and that has over time become a strength and conditioning major and a strength and conditioning grad program. So how coaches are getting trained today is a lot different than maybe in the past, but you had to be very resourceful just to find the profession and network with those who were doing it, and there was probably few and far between. But it's really interesting to think back about where our profession is, but it really hasn't been that long.
[00:07:55.35] You're right because my exercise phys, back then, was mainly cardiac rehab. It wasn't strength and conditioning, but all my electives they let me gear towards strength and conditioning. And I'd go out and I'd go visit the Detroit Lions, the Chicago Bears, and talk to their strength coaches and write up papers. So I tried to gear everything towards strength and conditioning because it wasn't there. I kind of had to make my own path.
[00:08:23.46] And it's interesting, we can talk about this a little more later, but that's in a way where sports science is now. Strength and conditioning has paved the way for a lot of people to work in sport, and there's a lot of positions out there that years ago there weren't. Well, there's an emerging group of positions in sports science. You see that in the professional teams. We see that in the college teams. That's really growing, but even 10, 15 years ago, it was hard to find degree programs dedicated to those areas.
[00:08:56.90] But I do want to ask you about some of those progressions that you've seen. I know technology has changed a lot since the '70s, '80s when you've started. Just during your time with the Heat you've probably seen so many changes happen. What are some of the biggest differences today in the field that you see from the early days?
[00:09:18.33] Yeah, with all the testing now with the force platforms and the cameras, we didn't have any of that back then. In fact, at Washington State, I wanted to, in the '80s, bench press was king. And I got to Washington State, and everybody had big bench presses, but that doesn't help you run faster or jump higher.
[00:09:43.90] So I was trying to get across the importance of leg, hip, core strength, but we didn't have the testing, how to test for power back then. We didn't have that. So I came up with a quotient called the power quotient, and it was just the square root of their vertical jump in inches times the square root of their body weight in pounds. And basically it was just a number where I could rank people.
[00:10:12.70] So a 200-pound running back with a 34-inch vertical, does he have more power than a 300-pound lineman with a 27-inch vertical? It would rank everybody. And so we did that, and to my surprise, I put the top 15 up on the board. And of those top 15, six were on the football team. All six for starters. Four were all Pac 10.
[00:10:40.51] I think seven on the track team were on the board because of those seven, they were back-to-back Pac 10 champs, number two in the country behind Arkansas. Their best athletes were up on the board. And then the starting power forward for basketball and the heavyweight Pac 10 champ in wrestling.
[00:11:00.52] So of the top 15, everyone had great success. And what that did is open the eyes of the other athletes of the importance of the Olympic lifts and squats compared to the [INAUDIBLE]. You want a strong upper body, but that's not number one. So I was into that early on. Now, technology can handle all that, so it's come a long ways.
[00:11:24.05] Yeah, you had to create the tools that you were using because the field really wasn't there yet. The technology wasn't there. The science, like you said, was based around aerobic exercise, physiology, cardiac rehab. Yeah, a very medical knowledge base around performance training, which wasn't much of a thing at the time.
[00:11:46.80] And as that evolved, I think of your history with the NSCA. You'd been to a lot of conferences over the years. And the early 2000s, '90s, early 2000s, that was a huge time in research. We had Dr. Kramer coming from endocrinology into exercise science and all the publications, Mike Stone and the many researchers that have--
[00:12:13.22] Yes.
[00:12:13.70] Have really enhanced the field. So it went from a time where you were creating any and every tool you could to do the best you could in that environment to now we have so much information. You may not be a huge social media guy, but coaches today have so much access to other coaches' opinions, posts on research articles. And we have to be really great filters of information today, which it's talk about just the opposite end of the spectrum from we have almost too much information to handle. Is that something you notice during that time?
[00:12:58.19] Yes. There's so much out there that it's pulling people away from the fundamentals a little bit. You've got to get back to what works and pick and choose, but there's so much. I see people getting off track a little bit because the fundamentals are tried and true.
[00:13:18.41] Yeah, I think the-- I feel like the science really hasn't changed that much in 20, 30 years, but our access to some of these metrics and testing, like you mentioned, has given that science new life, and we have new access to just how we look at power, vertical jump, or all these. And so it is actually a really healthy exercise for coaches today to go back on some of that research because those are the origins.
[00:13:53.48] I love when coaches get on here and be like, yeah, we stick to the basics, the fundamentals, and it really goes a long way. I want to ask you, over a lot of years, you've probably had thousands of programs that you implemented with the Heat, but what were your core principles that you stuck to with training?
[00:14:14.71] Total body balance training, with emphasis on legs, hips, and core is kind of what I've always got into. And I've got a little story. My first year with the Heat, our very first draft pick was Rony Seikaly. And Rony was a 6'10" center out of Syracuse. So we're an expansion team, the very first year, and we went with the youth movement.
[00:14:42.57] So he's starting as a rookie, and he's not physically prepared. And he got beat up that first year with all these big, huge strong centers in the NBA. He was 6'10", 230 pounds, but to Rony's credit, the next off season, he did not miss a workout. He stayed in Miami all summer long and trained. And he went from 230 to 252, stayed at 8% body fat, increased his vertical jump three inches, and the next year, he was voted the most improved player in the NBA.
[00:15:21.23] So that helps with longevity when you're very first pick, strength and conditioning was so important. It opened the eyes to the Heat what this position can do for athletes. So that was pretty amazing.
[00:15:38.72] At that time, was it an uphill battle to be a strength coach in the NBA? Was it-- I know in baseball, the reputation of strength coaches when I got in really wasn't all that great. Did you have a lot of convincing to do that your role was valuable?
[00:15:57.32] Well, Rony came in for his first workout, and he said, I'm here to work out, but I don't squat. I said, squat day is tomorrow, but we're going to get a good workout in today. And I said, we squat differently here. That's all I said.
[00:16:14.66] Next day, he comes in. How do you squat differently here? I said, we squat correctly. Well, he didn't want to squat, but it opened his mind, and he started working at it, and that's how he made all his improvements. His squat was one of the big lifts that got him bigger and stronger and jumping higher.
[00:16:34.13] So yeah, back then, there weren't many two or three full-time strength coaches in the NBA at the time I came in. It's crazy. It was just at the ground floor.
[00:16:47.21] But we also had another rookie who had to start-- he was our two guard, and he didn't like to squat. And this is the start of the second year. It's in November. We played at home against-- it was still the Showtime Lakers. The Lakers come in, we're an expansion team. They beat us by 40.
[00:17:10.74] And the next day in practice, the head coach says to two guard-- he says, what happened last night? It was, oh, Bill made me squat. My legs were sore. Whoa. Now, I'm pigheaded and I did make him squat, but he threw me under the bus, and the coach wanted to fire me on the spot.
[00:17:33.42] Oh, man.
[00:17:34.26] He cooled down. This guy-- so you've got to pick and choose your battles, and I wouldn't have been so pigheaded now. I'd start with goblets. I didn't know about goblet squats back then, but I would have started on that or leg press. But had to get a bar on his back, but he didn't want to do it, so he threw me under the bus. So you've got to pick and choose your battles, but I survived it.
[00:18:03.30] That's a good story. I think a lot of coaches can connect with that one of something maybe doesn't go the way you hope it would, or yeah. Wow. I want to ask you about the NBSCA, an organization you've been a part of and an advocate for a number of years.
[00:18:24.36] When we were talking at the coaches conference, you came right up and we started talking about the RSCC program and how valuable you think it is for the NBA but for professionals in the field in general. If you would, speak to high certification standards and why that is important in our profession.
[00:18:45.15] I think that's the most important certification out there because you have to be a true strength and conditioning coach to get that certification. So over the years, different NBA teams would hire physical therapists to be the strength coach or hire an athletic trainer to be the strength coach. Now, I've worked with a lot of great physical therapists and great athletic trainers, but they're not strength and conditioning coaches.
[00:19:09.06] And the RSCC, to get that, you have to have been full-time strength and conditioning coach for two years, and a physical therapist doesn't have that. Athletic trainer doesn't have that. So with that certification, you're getting a true, qualified strength and conditioning coach.
[00:19:28.36] And I do know that right now, in the NBA, the collective bargaining agreement, you have to have CSCS, but anybody can get that. But the Players Association I hear is pushing for the RSCC, which would be wonderful because we know it's a qualified strength and conditioning coach.
[00:19:51.66] Yeah, it is encouraging. And we at the NSCA, we have relationships with PBSCCS, MLB, PFSCCA for the NFL. We have a new partnership with SCAPH, the hockey pro strength coach organization, and also the NBSCA for the NBA coaches. And every one of these organizations, is that a different point in their history, the leagues? They're all a little bit different, but the one thing they have in common is that we are all fighting for dedicated strength and conditioning coach roles.
[00:20:25.45] And by dedicated, not in terms of just effort, but dedicated in the role as a strength and conditioning coach and not having to do two jobs as a assistant athletic trainer or strength and conditioning coach because we know those are both full-time jobs in themselves. And when we think about the value of strength and conditioning and how important it is, we know that it requires someone doing that on a full-time basis, and that's really the basis of us at the NSCA pairing up with these organizations however we can. Support the collective bargaining process, support the coaches who are doing the advocating for this process.
[00:21:12.36] RSCC has been a great vehicle in professional baseball. NBA, we're hoping to have some progress really soon on that, like you're mentioning, to advance the coaching profession. And I was really excited when you came up to me and asked me about the RSCC program.
[00:21:31.65] We were, of course, at the RSCC reception, and it was a really-- I had a great time. We were hanging out with Chip Sigmon and Jerry Palmieri and just a lot of great coaches coming to our conferences right now. I want to ask you about your history with the NSCA.
[00:21:48.90] You've been NSCA loyal for a lot of years. What's it meant to you? What's the NCAA been to you--
[00:21:58.15] It's been huge. They've been there for me all these years. My first NSCA conference was in Kansas City, 1981. And then I went 38 straight and didn't miss until COVID. So Boyd told me I'm the second longest behind him, but I made 38, but then COVID hit, but then I got to the one in January in Charlotte back again.
[00:22:28.53] So every year I went. You get to connect with guys from around the country, so that's amazing. But I'd always pick up something at every conference where I could be a better strength and conditioning coach. So yeah, the NSCA has been there from the beginning and made a huge difference with my career.
[00:22:49.92] That's awesome. I want to ask you, you've worked with hundreds of coaches over the years. You met a lot of students. Your son is in the field. What qualities do you think set apart a strength and conditioning coach today, and what advice would you give to students or aspiring coaches as they pursue the field?
[00:23:11.13] Well, again, you get your degree in exercise phys, but somewhere in kinesiology. You get your degree, you get your certifications, get as much experience as possible either as a GA, an intern, or work for free, whatever it is. You need that experience, and then you need to network, network, network.
[00:23:33.48] But the big thing is, you've got to show the athletes you care. Connect with them at the personal level, but when they know you care and you're willing to work, that's the other thing, outwork everybody. If you show them you care and outwork everybody, you're on your way. And then along with that is be a lifetime student because there's so much out there with research. Continue to be a student and work as hard as you can, and you'll love it.
[00:24:06.63] That's awesome. I want to have some fun. You've worked with some really, really great athletes over the years-- Shaq, LeBron. It's impressive. What makes those guys different? I don't think everybody-- I don't think everybody gets that opportunity to or get that much exposure with the elite of the elite. I'm sure you have some cool stories. I don't want to put you on the spot, but what do you see with those guys?
[00:24:39.72] Yeah, it's amazing just the size, the speed, the attitude to get to that level. They have the total package. It's just amazing to see on a daily basis the great ones and how they take care of business and truly professional.
[00:25:05.07] One of my favorite stories though, is we had an athlete come from University of Alabama. Their head coach, Wimp Sanderson, I believe was good friends with our head scout. And he asked, would you give this guy a tryout?
[00:25:22.02] Well, he comes in, he's 6'8", 185. Outworked everybody. We're a young team. This was, I think, our second year in the league. He made our team because he outworked everybody.
[00:25:34.63] But in the summertime, he'd come to me-- and this is Keith Askins. Keith would check with me at the start, at the end of the season, when's your vacation, Bill, because I take mine at the same time so I'll always be here. So 185 the first year, then 194, then 205.
[00:25:54.79] Every year for five years, he had to make the team. One year contract. He'd outwork everybody, and he ended up being 6'8", 220. Good defensive wing player. Could knock down the three and played nine years with it. It was the longest undrafted at that time when he came in. Those are the stories I really like is he's willing to work and get better, and then you've got the genetic traits in Shaq and LeBron that just take it to the next level.
[00:26:24.85] That is cool. I think it's really impressive-- I tell this story a lot because I'm not a basketball guy, but I went to a G League game a while back, and there was three seven footers on the court, and I'd never seen a seven footer in my entire life, so I had to go courtside and check that out. But I think the NBA is just so impressive when you see how massive these human beings are and just how athletic they are.
[00:26:55.90] I think it's a testament to you over a lot of years just learning your craft and building a program. It's obviously very unique in our profession to be with a franchise through its entire history. And obviously your family is very embedded in that organization, and it's pretty special what you've done.
[00:27:18.70] And I know being a keynote at our conference, that was something we were really happy about being there. And yeah, Bill, we just wanted to let we appreciate you.
[00:27:31.18] Well, thank you. That's good to hear because NSCA has been great for me, so that's wonderful to hear. Thank you. And one of the good things with the loyalty is I was very fortunate I'm with a very loyal professional team because they're not always like that. But having Pat Riley as my boss is a basketball coach that really believed in strength and conditioning is huge because that's not always the case. I've heard horror stories around the league with coaches don't want their guys to lift and whatever, but Pat was a big believer, and he's a loyal guy and an amazing boss, so that made for a great career.
[00:28:15.22] Yeah, this episode, we went from working with elementary PE to all the way up to Shaq and LeBron, so there's a wide spectrum there. I think it's pretty cool to think about all the growth in the field over so many years. And I think one of the huge takeaways for everyone tuning in is that no matter how successful you are in this profession, continuing to grow, continuing to give back, continuing to attend conferences and events and network and build relationships with other professionals and help the field grow. There's a lot of value to that.
[00:28:57.11] Bill, I have to say, when I was in grad school, we actually used the book you wrote in one of our grad school classes at Springfield College, so that takes me back, and that was really my first exposure to your career at that time. And yeah, really appreciate you being on today.
[00:29:16.90] That was great. It was fun, Eric. The back and forth has been wonderful, so I appreciate that.
[00:29:21.64] Yeah, it's a lot of fun. I went into coaching. Never thought I'd be a podcast host, so here we are. But for anyone tuning in wants to reach out, what's the best way to get in touch?
[00:29:34.31] Probably email.
[00:29:39.69] Perfect. We will include that in the show notes if anyone of our listeners want to tune in. Thanks again for being with us. To our listeners, we appreciate you, and we also appreciate Sorinex Exercise Equipment for being a sponsor on this podcast.
[00:29:55.64] Hi, coaches. I'm Liane Blyn, the 2022 and NSCA College Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year. You just listened to an episode of the NSCA Coaching Podcast. Thanks for tuning in to hear important conversations about the strength and conditioning profession.
[00:30:09.83] Don't miss an upcoming episode. Subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, or Google Play and comment on some of the highlights at NSCA's Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. You can also hear full episodes on the NSCA's newest channel,
[00:30:25.34] [MUSIC PLAYING]
[00:30:27.52] 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.
[00:30:46.09] [MUSIC PLAYING]

Photo of Eric L. McMahon, MEd, CSCS,*D, TSAC-F,*D, RSCC*E
About the author

Eric L. McMahon, MEd, CSCS,*D, TSAC-F,*D, RSCC*E

NSCA Headquarters

Contact Eric McMahon

Contact Eric McMahon

Your first name is required.
Your last name is required.
Your email is required.
Your message is required.
Your reCaptcha is required.

Your email was successfully sent to Eric McMahon

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 ...

View full biography
Photo of Bill Foran
About the author

Bill Foran

Contact Bill Foran

Contact Bill Foran

Your first name is required.
Your last name is required.
Your email is required.
Your message is required.
Your reCaptcha is required.

Your email was successfully sent to Bill Foran

Bill Foran is the longest-tenured strength and conditioning coach in professional sports history. He served as the Head Strength and Conditioning Coac ...

View full biography
#NSCAStrong #NSCAStrong

has been added to your shopping cart!

Continue Shopping Checkout Now