Each week I hope to bring you an interview with a leader in athletic development. Ashley Jones is presently the Director of Physical Perfomance for the Super 14 power house The Crusaders and was on the athletic development staff for the All Blacks. Ash has previously been involved with the Sydney Kings (basketball), Newcastle, Parramatta, Northern Eagles (all NRL franchises) and has lectured throughout the world in the field of athletic development. I have known Ashley for many years and I believe him to be one of if not the best in our field. I thank Ashley very much for taking his time to answer some questions
What are the most important aspects of an athletic development program for a professional organisation?
I think ensuring the person in charge of the fitness program fits in with the personality of the team, I have seen some bad mixes that do not last. That said it is important for the out going person to be on hand to select who takes over from them, I know with my own experiences the best fit was when the previous fitness coach was on the interview panel, he knew the areas that the team could continue to grow in and selected accordingly.
What are the common mistakes made in athletic development programs
Ignoring the basics, the big rocks, which I believe are three:1. Strength & Power2. Speed3. Specific metabolic conditioningAs Rusty Jones from the Buffalo Bills once said "I get the team big, strong and fast and the head coach teaches them how to play the game" that maybe an oversimplification but I do not think it is too far away from the truth. Bottom line if these are not in place than anything else you do is irrelevant.
Who has inspired you and for what reason
My players each and every day, they teach me and keep inspiring me, they add to my program all the time and we grow together. From an educational perspective, I think Lyn Jones and Harry Wardell were the guys that influenced my initial thinking, but even going way back when I first walked into the American Health Spa in Brookvale, NSW, the gym owner Vince Basile, took the time to instruct me in the basics, which was ably supported by Dennis and Pat two local powerlifters, emphasis on technique was everything and I hope I pass that on to my own players now. Lately people like Louie Simmons and his Westside crew make me think and how I can use that to good effect with my players. From a personal perspective, his holiness the Dalai Lama, is a constant source of inspiration, for the way he approaches life.
What are your views on periodisation
Classic periodisation, Matveyev, I feel is inappropriate in team sports, I feel the Conjuagte methods where "whatever you do not train you lose" approach where all qualities are trained simultaneously and specific weaknesses are emphasised works best in my sport of rugby.
How do you keep updating your knowledge
I find that very difficult since a lot of conferences are on at times when I am with teams, so a lot of internet use, chats with fellow professionals and trying to look more to the power production sports, like Bob Sleigh, Shot, Discus, Hammer, speaking to coaches in those sports looking for something to optimise our power training, experimenting on myself with training protocols, I once read that if your full time job upon graduation from any science degree was to read the available literature in your subject area, for a 35 hour week, then after your first year in this "job" you would still be 3 months behind, so it is impossible to stay abreast of everything.
What are 3 things you do differently now compared to when you first started in athletic development
1. More emphasis on power rather than strength2. Games for anaerobic conditioning rather than just intervals3. Individualisation as I know the players and I listen to them more since they know their bodies better than I
What do you enjoy most about your work
"Find a job you enjoy and you never work a day in your life", that quote sums up my life now, I love the opportunities that each day brings to work with great motivated people who want to get better, the friendships the camraderie, taking a group of guys at the beginning of an off season, each group is uniquely different and then working with them days into weeks into months and assisting them in optimising their performance both collectively and individually is very rewarding, I love the team aspects of my job, and then seeing some of those players selected for higher honours is a bonus. I really like the quote from Mother Teresa, "we do not do great things, just ordinary things with great love"
What direction do you think the Athletic Development field should take
That is a tough question, I feel sometimes the scientists high jack the humanistic approach, we are working with individuals all the time, and I know I frustrate some of our science guys since I sometimes do things for no apparent reason other than a feeling, when I started some 15 years ago in professional sport I would say i did 90% of my coaching through science and the other 10% by art, now it is probably the reverse, the science obviously underpins what we do but it is still okay to go with what you feel is right.
I hope you got as much out of this interview as I did. It is interesting what Ashley states about the science as he comes from a very scientific background and I too have found that with experience the science gives me the background but at the end of the day I am working with people in an environment that is far removed from the lab.