As a strength and conditioning coach I often say “The day I go into the gym and think I know it all is the day I stop helping my athletes” and with that in mind I am constantly in continuing education mode, talking to other strength coaches, reading and traveling. I recently had the pleasure of spending a week in Austin with the Longhorns Men’s Basketball team at the University of Texas. Head strength coach Todd Wright, and his assistant Logan Schwartz have created a very unique approach to training basketball athletes (and all athletes) and over the past few years have developed talents such as TJ Ford, LaMarcus Aldridge, DJ Augustin, and Kevin Durant.
Within my first 30 minutes in their strength and conditioning facility, Todd and the guys had blown my mind with their depth of knowledge and ability to get the best out of their athletes. Their training philosophies are based on science by physical therapist Gary Gray and as far as I know only 4 other schools utilize the same system; Richmond, UCLA, Florida and Alabama. Good company, and all employ strength coaches who have worked previously with Todd.
Because of NCAA rules basketball athletes are only allowed so many on-court hours in the pre-season but have almost unlimited time to do strength and conditioning work…and work they did! Morning workouts started anywhere between 6-8am and athletes were grouped by year, position or need. Groups of 4-6 busted their tail for about an hour, were provided some (NCAA approved) post workout nutrition and headed off to class and right behind them was the next group ready to go. On a few days they returned later after class for some recovery, regeneration, stretching and hit the court for individuals which were in reality small group (4) workouts lasting 45 minutes or less. The intensity and effort remained high for the entire workout and though the players were gassed afterwards it was clear they had been well prepared.
A drill I really enjoyed was when Todd spent some time one day teaching their help defense principles and incorporated that into a conditioning workout. It’s sad to see in this day and age coaches still having their athletes run long distances or for long periods of time. It was refreshing to see Todd take a basketball concept, and add another level by demanding ultimate physical effort in each repetition. Todd often repeated a phrase while I was there “The only thing non-neogtiable in this program is effort!” and consistently demanded, and got, the most out of his guys.
A hilight of the trip was watching TJ Ford, Royal Ivey and some other former Longhorns play some pickup ball with the current group of players. It was special to watch TJ and Royal competing hard with the young guys, picking them apart but at the same time constantly teaching…pointing out their mistakes, correcting them and offering valuable advice.
It was a pleasure to spend a week with another group of people who clearly love the game of basketball and have worked extremely hard to develop a successful program both in the win column and in sending players to the NBA and Internationally. A huge public thank you to everyone at UT and I look forward to implementing some new strategies with our team at Ryerson as we move forward in developing our own winning culture!