Quantity vs Quality of Training

I just finished a column on Swedish basketball for a future issue of Women’s Basketball. I wanted to know what had happened in Sweden to elevate Swedish basketball.

I interviewed Sandra Jansson, a player who I coached against in Sweden. After the 2002-03 season, she accepted a scholarship to the University of Miami (she subsequently transferred to Barry University in Miami), so she is familiar with basketball on both sides.

Sandra, in some ways, changed my mind about warm-ups and dynamic warm-ups. I noticed her pre-game ritual, as she went through dynamic warmup activities. When I left Sweden, I realized that with 10 teams in the league, over 100 players, not one player injured her ACL during the season. I can’t think of a Pac-10 season that has gone by without at least one ACL tear, and it seems like the same can be said of the WNBA. While it may be a stretch, I wondered if the warmups had something to do with it, which is why I started looking into ACL tears and dynamic warm-ups and changed my perspective on warm-up activities (my Swedish team jumped rope before practice and started with light ball handling exercises).

In the email I received from Sandra, she made one comment which I thought was very interesting:

The intensity in college is very high, but I felt that college emphasized quantity instead of quality. With TE [Telge Energi, her Swedish club] and Benny Johansson as a coach, we were all into QUALITY. Quality is much better than quantity. We never once – in 8 years with Benny Johansson — were punished to do suicide runs etc. His philosophy was never to punish players for certain mistakes. Sure if you made repeated mistakes in a game, you would be taken out, but in practice there was never a question of punishment. With TE we practiced between 4-7 times per week (depending on the week), and 2 hours per practice. With UM we had practice 6 days/week, and with Barry it was 5-6 days/week. Since UM and Barry wanted to practice quantity instead of quality, I felt that I was more exhausted while in college than what I was with TE.

An astute observation, as I have felt that coaches organize practices to be hard, rather than effective. When coaching or training athletes, what is the goal? Sometimes, a hard, conditioning-oriented practice is the goal. However, is it the goal of every practice? Does the intensity vary between practices? Do we think about the quality vs. quantity spectrum?

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