James (also a regular podcast contributor and presenter within the Rugby Strength Coach Community) has worked with a ton of sports, most notably American Football, rugby, and track and field, in addition to consulting with military and police operations and individual athletes from all over the world. I have personally followed his work for around 10 years, beginning with his Q&A on Elite FTS. Though a lot of what he talked about went over my head for the first few years, it is now safe to say he is one of the smartest coaches I know. Meeting him in person and spending a few hours in his company has been one of the most insightful experiences I have had as a coach.
This book is James’ complete breakdown of the topic of sprinting. It represents over a decade of his own experience and learning, and also shares a great deal of material from those coaches who he has learned from including Charlie Francis, Yuri Verkhoshansky, Anatoli Bondarchuk and Dan Pfaff.
- Science of sprinting and training theory of sprinting
- Merits of sprint training relative to popular methodologies (MAS, yoyo, 300yd shuttle)
- Practical considerations and applications of sprint training i.e. reduction of NCI, increased alactic capacity etc.
- Detailed biomechanical and bioenergetic analysis of sprinting
- Sample specialised strength drills, power speed drills, and suitable activities for the development of different speed qualities
- Examples of practical programmes from various sports (100m, decathlon, football, rugby, handball)
What I liked
This is the most extensive sprint training manual I have read as coach. It is all here- extensive theoretical and practical examples of why speed is so important to what we do, highly detailed breakdowns of all the variables that the coach must consider to improve speed, how to put the theory into practice, and the means the coach has at his or her disposal to achieve that goal. In particular I liked specific examples drawn from actual athletes (including images), stats and real world programmes, so that one can see how all the elements may come together in the real world, which is missing from pure track and field books.
What I didn’t like
There is nothing here per se that I did not like. However I struggled with some of the ideas; some conceptually- I struggle to understand fully how a long to short progression would look relative to a short to long progression in a sport like rugby. Some ideas I just struggle with due to the practicalities, for example more or less replacing all conditioning work with pure alactic sprint work and extensive tempo. I can’t argue with his logic, but it is a massive departure from what a lot of coaches are used to and that may create some political issues, and I have to consider the opinions of other coaches whom I respect and weigh up the respective arguments.
If you are not used to James work, be warned that he does not dumb it down (which I can relate to and like). This will require multiple readings to get full value out of it, and like most good books you will be left with more questions rather than answers, and feeling a little dumber at the end of it. You will not find cookie cutter programmes or simple rules to satisfy you, so you will have to put a lot of work into understanding the underlying concepts so that you can make them work in the real world for yourself.
Also be warned if you have travelled somewhat of a conventional educational journey as a coach so far, because you may have some traditional or popular coaching ideas dismantled, for example the real value of MAS training, management and prevention of non contact injuries, the management of the training load etc.
Who would benefit from this?
If you train athletes who run, so the vast majority of coaches) you should purchase this book. Speed is by far the hardest ability to develop, and this book is the most comprehensive I have read (in both theory and application) about how to tackle that problem.