From playing varsity basketball to now coaching at the varsity level, Shawn Swords has done it all. Swords played professionally overseas, while also having the opportunity to represent our nation at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games. Since his return home, Swords has taken on the role as the head coach of the successful Laurentian University Men’s Varsity Basketball team. We had the opportunity to talk to this influential individual in the Sudbury community to gain his perspective on another side of basketball – off-court fitness testing and training.
Off-court training and testing were introduced to Swords throughout his adolescence, specifically for his hockey career when the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) was still an option. It was more prominently advocated in his routine once he got to the university level and only got more serious throughout his playing career.
1. Fitness Testing Keeps Athletes in Game Shape All Season
Swords noticed the importance of strength and conditioning while he was away, playing professional basketball. It was a way to stay strong and explosive throughout the entire season. Swords expressed that playing at such an elite level, there is not enough time to focus on anything other than to better yourself. To develop himself growing up, Swords participated in a wide variety of sports to help enhance the various muscle groups that would help him succeed in everything he did.
2. Fitness Testing Develops All Muscle Groups in Athletes
Swords believes that there is a benefit to introducing some things to youth in regard to off-court training. It is a crucial component for youth to develop all of their muscle groups to further enhance their capabilities on the court. It is important for children to also learn how to take care of their bodies at a young age, which in turn will also help them succeed in the long run. Using weights to enhance fundamental skills, in any sport, should come when an individual truly knows what journey they would like to pursue in sport.
3. Fitness Testing Improves Team Dynamic
Systems for strength and conditioning are set up within the basketball program that Swords runs. He noticed that on top of the team staying in shape throughout the season, the main benefit from the extra off court training was through the mental aspect of it. Having the team altogether, outside of a basketball setting, improved the team dynamic tremendously. The mental side of any sport is a huge aspect, something that Swords takes very seriously to keep his team on the right track.
Time has always been one of the biggest challenges that Swords has faced throughout his career. There are so many time constraints in everybody’s day. Being a coach and trying to run an elite program requires tremendous amounts of time with all the different aspects of what goes into the lives of his players. From class, to practice, to individual shoots, and then some time for yourself, there needs to be some sort of time management component to coaching to assure the health of your players as well as the upkeep of the program.
It is evident that through all of his own experience, Shawn is a lover of data – which is growing in sport every day. Having another platform to view where his team could improve on, where they dominate, and how that compares to the rest of the league is a very intriguing idea. Shawn takes the mental aspect of his athletes very seriously. He believes that off-court training allows for an outlet for his athletes throughout the season, especially as a group where his team becomes closer, and team the chemistry grows in a setting outside of practice.
Photo by Devenae Bryce
Off-court fitness testing is essential for athletes to stay in shape. The use of data and technology helps ensure that teams can focus on developing what they need to and gives athletes insight on what needs to be worked on individually. REP-Team is a tool that allows coaches and training staff to see how teams and individual athletes are tracking and evaluate where improvement can be made!
Stop guessing, start progressing!