Sports Training- James Smith Sounds Off

Some Truths About Sports Training

This is from my friend and mentor and former Pittsburgh sports training except, James Smith.  He’s since moved to Portugal to work with Ruby.  This is from a Q&A section from  He goes by “The Thinker” because he wasn’t permitted by his employer to use his real name in this capacity on this website.  James is famous for confusing those that don’t understand training and sports science.  He’s refuses to “dumb it down” for the average person because they average uneducated person shouldn’t be working with our athletes.  (See my post for more information on specifics of how our sports training and sports coaching education system falls short post.) His response is a “bit heavy” for the average reader but he makes some excellent points at the end that should be easily understood in his reference to the mindset of the typical sport coach and “weight coach” in the US.

Some quick background on his response:  In the strength and conditioning community we frequently argue about which squat is best(back, front, box or other variants) or even if single leg movements are better than two footed movements like squats(uni lateral verse bilateral argument .  We argue about which is best, powerlifting vs Olympic lifting vs High Intensity training.  Several of my competitors in the Pittsburgh Sport Training market strictly body build athletes which may worse than the prior three examples.  Jame’s response refers to the misguided mindset which leaves our athletes falling short. Isn’t it and shouldn’t be all about them?  I know our coaches care. Caring or compassion isn’t the problem in the US.  It’s time that we provide a platform for them to learn how to properly coach.    

 So Thinker, what’s best for sports training? hmmm……..


Ask The Thinker

By James “The Thinker” SmithPublished: June 13, 2011Posted in: Sports Training 

Dear Thinker,

Concerning Olympic lifts vs. throws and jumps…I agree with you in the fact that throws and jumps are superior especially for football players. But do you think that doing, say, medicine ball throws, is enough weight to apply a great enough of amount of force to increase the athletes rate of force development. Also, I think that it is more important to strength train using pulls and squats, mixed with sprints and resisted sprints. Yet, I see very few programs at the collegiate level training consistently over 80% with a lot of volume under 80%. While many coaches will say the max effort method is too “dangerous” for the athlete, they will still have an athlete training the snatch, clean and jerk. The weights the majority of these athletes are using in the Olympic lifts lifts are not great enough to elicit the highest amount of force production.


Terms such as rate of force development (RFD), maximal strength, force production, training percentages, and so on, analogous to facets of Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, are in fact, relative and are not meaningful until compared to a secondary fixture.In the case of sports training, this fixture is the competition exercise – the specific work regime of each individual.This is why I have long since abandoned the debate over exercise selection that does not fall within the realm of special physical preparation.The framework of thinking associated with powerlifting vs Olympic lifting vs High Intensity training and so on, actually has little relevance towards training objectives other than powerlifting, Olympic lifting, strongman, and bodybuilding.The discussion of RFD, maximum strength, training percentages and so on, may only intelligently be initiated after a specific competition scenario is described.All that matters is that sport’s results improve. The problem is that the monitoring process utilized by the corporate level of collegiate coaching is 180 out from what’s relevant.Training monitoring must assess drills that register high in transference to the competition exercise.The current emphasis and contents of record boards on weight room walls, and the contents of most weight rooms, are an excellent example of how misguided the profession is in its monitoring efforts.The problem is further compounded by the fact that sport coaches are just as uninformed in sport science as their strength coaches and thereby rely upon the monitoring of the same misguided drills that strength coaches hang their hats on.This has everything to do with the fact that the industry is built upon the misguided foundations of exercise science/physiology.Sport science/physiology is what is fundamentally important and precisely what this country’s sport system and academia are deficient in.

The exercise science/physiology mindset is associated with questions such as:
– which forms of training are more appropriate to develop RFD and maximal strength.
– what’s better for football, Olympic lifting or powerlifting
– what are the best conditioning drills for football

The sport science/physiology mindset is associated with questions such as:
– which forms of training are more appropriate to develop RFD and maximal strength for a guard in a 2 back, pro style offense, specific to the play sets in which the guard is pulling.
– what special strength mean(s) transfer the highest relative to the neuromuscular and kinematic structure of the pulling guard coming out of his stance referenced above
– how do you address the sequence and development of energy system training of a no huddle, hurry up, pass heavy, spread offense versus a 2 back, play action, pro style run based offense

The misinformed and misguided efforts of the coaching industry, aka the tumbling disaster known as the US sports system and related academic and certifying courses, damage no population more severely than the athletes themselves.

I enjoy providing an alternative approach to those who will listen.