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Treating People as Individuals

I was speaking with a client the other day that used to train at another performance facility. We were doing an exercise and she commented about how she liked that her program was individual to her. She told me that at the place she used to go to, they would take athletes in specific sports and just group them together and they would all do the same workout. I said that didn’t make sense as each athlete is individual and has different needs. She said that was a problem because when she felt like something wasn’t a good exercise for her they would tell her that they can’t change the program for everyone; so she would just “stick with it.”

I find that half funny and half stupid. I find this to be the trend amongst other strength coaches that train groups of athletes (2 or more at a time). “We have a program and everyone is on board for it.”

My first issue with this is what the heck is the point of assessing athletes if you are going to ultimately do the exact same program with all of them? I mean honestly, if we are doing assessments and looking for asymmetries or functional issues that are keeping the athlete from better performance, then those things need to be addressed.

My other issue with this is that everyone is individual and while the basics work and there are some fundamental lifts that we can all agree on, you still need to figure out which lifts are going to be best for the individual athlete and at what time in the program those lifts should be utilized (ie, when will said athlete be ready for a specific exercise).

While training groups of athletes can be tough as you have a lot of people to supervise, I think if you can strive to make programs as individual as possible, you will be on the right path.

A guy that I think has gotten it right and does a great job is Nate Shaw, head strength coach for the AZ Diamondbacks. I had the chance to meet with him before a game last season and then I saw him speak as part of a seminar that the entire Diamondbacks medical team were doing (the head ATC, team chiropractor and team massage therapist). I have to say, I am really impressed with the job that he (and the rest of the Diamondbacks staff) does as he assess his athletes and really tries to make the programs individual as far as each athletes needs. Even though he may have 24 athletes to train, he really seems to approach it with the idea of 24-individual, one-on-one, athletes. His postural assessment is comprehensive and from that, he evaluates which corrective exercises will be most beneficial for the athlete, as not all of them present with the same problems.

Whether you are training one athlete or thirty just remember, different people have different needs.