2012 UKSCA National Conference Reveiw

I've just got back from the 2012 UKSCA National Conference at Royal Holloway, University of London and thought I would offer up a very brief overview. I'm not going to go into too much detail (you should have attended if you wanted to get all of the details!) but I'll give you some of my highlights!

I've not been able to attend the conference since 2009 due to my work commitments with the GB Women's Basketball team so I was interested to see how the conference was shaping up. Back in 2009 it was a veritable who's who of the worlds S&C illuminate (thanks Mark Jarvis for bringing that word to my attention this week). It seemed that "THE EXPERT HAD TO BE FROM OUT OF TOWN!). Whilst I really enjoyed the 2009 conference (easily the best I had been to for a number of years), I was a little frustrated by the fact that there was very few Brits being represented. Having worked in the S&C profession for many years I knew we were leading the way in many areas and the expertise in the UK really needed to be being shouted about.

What a difference a couple of years makes!

The conference line up for 2012 read like the who's of who of British strength and conditioning and I think it's a great reflection on the progress that the profession has made during the past decade.

Raph Brandon - S&C For Olympians: The Technical Approach for the English Institute of Sport

Raph Brandon delivered the opening keynote presentation and I have to admit that he did a very good job, setting the tone for the conference perfectly. I've know Raph from way back in the day when he provided support for me to England Netball players based in London way back in 2001 and right through my time at the EIS. He's a sharp customer and loves a bit of research (I'm reliably informed his Phd is the real deal), he pitched the keynote perfectly. A good blend of scientific rationale, packaged neatly so that even coaches like me could understand it! The take home for me was the importance placed on "Performance Modelling", now I'm not just talking about your usual needs analysis that we should all be completing. Raph highlighted the need to drill down deeper than a simple sport or athlete needs analysis and actually look at what it takes to win a medal or achieve a specific performance. Sounds obvious, but how many coaches simply look at the sport and assume they know which aspects of S&C are needed to improve performance.

Barry Spiering - More Bang For Your Buck: Maintaining peak physical performance during the competitive season

The minimal dose response Barry has worked for NASA - that's all I'm going to say! Barry set out a very sound rationale for the need to critically evaluate exactly how we prescribe our training volumes and intensity. The basic upshot is you'll be surprised at how little you need to do to actually get a training adaptation. The key for me is that whilst you can drastically reduce training volumes you need to maintain intensity at a very high level. I think some of the audience may have got a bit excited and possibly confused, thinking you only need one exercise, performed maximally, once a week to bring about an increase in performance....if they did then they missed the point. The key is that at certain points in the year (in-season, competition phases), we don't need to stick to traditional training models. Short, high intensity efforts once a week can be enough to maintain performance. It think the endurance community would benefit from spending some time with Barry, a little less volume!

Frans Bosch - Transfer of Strength Training - implications from how the central nervous system works 

Frans is at the top of his game and will always be challenging the boundaries of what we understand as S&C coaches. I really enjoyed his presentation but I think it may be a case of "don't believe everything you read, but don't only read everything you believe". Frans presented the case for functional training and suggested that for maximal impact on performance you need very precise intention with variable execution in order to learn and gain a transfer to performance. I don't have an issue with this point of view, but once again I wonder how many delegates are going to take his word and throw out all of their existing coaching practice. If we are not careful there will be athletes around the UK wobbling around on BOSU balls performing power cleans with slosh pipes with absolutely no coaching input on how to perform the lift correctly. I think there will always be a need to coach athletes using more traditional models and modalities but in certain specific circumstances it may be appropriate to take an alternative approach. Frans has presented something of a paradigm shift, it has merit but I think it also requires intelligent application.

Ben Rosenblatt - Rehabilitating athletes to perform at the Olympic Games: Science and Practice

The strength and conditioning industry is competitive and for aspiring strength and conditioning coaches it can seem as though doors are always being shut and there are no opportunities. Well, stop moaning. Ben is  a good example of what can be done if you have the desire. Six years ago Ben was a wide eyed student at the UKSCA conference at UWIC. Fast forward 6 years and Ben is presenting at the conference, and doing a bloody good job too! I've been speaking to Ben for the past couple of years, picking his brains on various rehab modalities and I was interested to hear him present some of his findings. Now Ben talks like Jamie Oliver and is a bit of a cockney wide boy but don't let that fool you, he knows his onions! Puka! What I liked about Ben's presentation was his honesty and the fact that he doesn't hang around for science to back his hunch. Sure he uses research to inform his practice but when it comes to delivery he cracks on. What he then does is collect the data in a practical environment which means that he's now in a position to offer some support to the work he's been doing. Academics may have a problem with some of his numbers but as a practitioner I think that the sort of practical and applied science that Ben performs in a 'live' environment is fantastic. He loves a paradox and this has driven him to really be at the forefront of work looking at occlusion training during rehab and tendon loading protocols for athletes suffering from acute and chronic tendon injuries. 

There were some other fantastic presentations, Neil Parsley took us through his work with Taekwon-do and I was a particularly 'proud Dad' to see Ian Pyper presenting on his work in triathlon and boxing (another coach that has done well for himself. He was my intern back in 2006-2007).

The number of delegates has grown, it was good to catch up with some old friends and also put faces to peoples twitter profiles!

I'm looking forward to 2013. The UKSCA conference came of age in 2012, the expert no longer needs to be from out of town.