Derek Hansen from SprintCoach joins the show today to talk all things speed, including sprinting, acceleration, coaching, his time with Charlie Francis, adapting to your athletes, subjective and objective experiences, auditing yourself, and implementing protocols for team and individual sports.
After playing sports through college, Derek jumped over to the coaching side when he went to graduate school and decided to coach track athletes in his free time. After figuring out a 9-5 engineering job wasn’t for him, he worked coaching back into his life and eventually started his own sprint group. This led to a university strength and conditioning gig while he continued to put out his own articles and content. Derek has spoken at the NFL combine and helped NFL teams develop their athletes, and now primarily focuses on speed for team sports. He has also turned all of his knowledge into a series of courses called Running Mechanics Professional.
There’s no denying that speed is important in all sports, but the development can be drastically different depending on the sport. You have to look at the specific demands of the sport and adapt your sprint training accordingly. For instance, a basketball player is going to need acceleration, but a special teams player on a football field may regularly need 100 yard sprint speed. Another large consideration is that time is a huge constraint for coaches, and you need to learn to be flexible. The ability to take sprint concepts and condense them down for the respective sport will go a long way for your athletes.
Derek was lucky enough to spend around 10 years working with Charlie Francis, so we dug into some of the big takeaways he has from that experience. The biggest takeaway Derek has is adapting to the strengths of your athlete. Every circumstance and athlete is different, and the direct applications of Charlie Francis were completely different depending on the context and strengths of each athlete he worked with. Another interesting note here is that Charlie didn’t plan workouts like most coaches do today, and many times he would change programming during the session due to the stimulus he was observing. While he had an idea of where he wanted his athletes to be and where they were going, he operated more off of a “gut feel” based on what the athlete is showing him.
This sparks a conversation on the way we program and track our athletes today and if always having predetermined long term plans might be making our coaching and athletes more fragile. Derek draws the comparison of coaching to stand up comedy, and just comics need to always be developing new material and adjusting to their audiences, as a coach you need to be doing the same for your athletes. You want concepts and principles as guides and then to be agile with those concepts, which takes years of experience and critical thinking to develop.
Another challenge with sprint training is that it’s extremely hard to measure the on field effectiveness of the training. Lots of coaches aim to use measurable tests in the weightroom in order to demonstrate their prowess as a coach, but those don’t necessarily translate to on the field performance. Derek aims to find the balance between the weight room and qualities needed for the athlete’s sport. Much of this was learned through years of trial and error.This is why real life experience cannot be emphasized enough for young coaches along with the willingness to fail. While research studies can point us in the right direction, they fail to observe the effort over long periods of time.
We transition here to look at the process Derek goes through when starting with a new team on speed development. In general most coaches aren’t as familiar with speed concepts as they might be with weight lifting, so Derek’s first step is to educate the team and staff on what speed training actually is. Sometimes he will simply go through his courses with the team, which may be a process and take quite a bit of time. The next step is to understand the environment the team is currently working with in regards to if they are in an off season, training camp, in-season, and various time restrictions. Additionally, he needs to establish relationships with the other staff members such as position coaches, head coaches, rehabilitation, and the organization as a whole. If he can’t relate to the staff, then he can’t implement the changes that need to be made. The process of getting complete buy in for results can take years.
Next we discuss Derek’s online courses. Sprint training is extremely technical, which presents a challenge to online based work with clients. The presentations Derek provides are just the start of sprint training and there needs to be feedback involved.
Derek includes assessments of someone on video during the presentations, and then tries to do a live video session or a video submission for feedback purposes. Derek is currently trying to scale his process of online coaching, while keeping the same level of interaction he has while in person.
Lastly, we dip into the programming for sprint training and the spectrum of speed for training. James brings up the short to long and long to short approaches commonly used. For instance, the short to long approach will begin with 5-10m accelerations with a work up in volume and distance over time. While the long to short may start with repeat easy long runs and transition to shorter and more intense sprints over time. Derek prefers to use the short to long method for team sports. The reason being that with the long to short model, an athlete might not be exposed to enough high velocity training which could result in injury during the season while also possibly limiting their peak prior to competition. However, Derek does know of coaches who use more of a concurrent model but typically in more of a pure track and field setting.
Enjoy and hit that subscribe button if you learned a thing or two.
2:00 – Derek’s background
6:30 – Speed in team sports and individual sports
14:00 – Derek’s time with Charlie Francis and general coaching