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Monthly Archives: January 2011

There are a number of questions that I’d ask if I were a senator at the current budget hearings.  These would effectively articulate the impact of the budget cutbacks on Texans receiving services, children, and providers of those services.

For DADS, I’d ask the following questions:

1. Waiver programs such as CLASS and HCS are taking significant reductions in funding.  How will this impact people already receiving services via these waivers?  How will this impact people on the interest lists?  How will this impact the providers of services?  Is there a concern that we will lose providers, impacting access to and the quality of services?

2. There are signficant reductions to “promoting independce” services and to institutions, how will this impact the people already receiving services?  How will it impact providers?  Again, is there a concern about losing providers?

3.  One of the riders calls for a “culture change consultant.”  Where did this come from?  Is this a good use of taxpayer money?  What will be involved in terms of FTE’s, staff time, and budget to report on DADS’ culture change status as per the rider.

For DARS, I’d ask the following:

The ECI program is seeing significant cuts, but a lot of this is from the failure of the budget to replace one-time federal stimulus funding:

1.  Why was one-time federal stimulus funding used to fund an on-goign program?

2. How will these cuts impact children already receiving services?

3.  How will these cuts impact access to services?

4. What will happen to children that will no longer qualify due to more stringent eligibility criteria?

I visited with the staffs of legislators last week.  While there are real opportunities with this budget to rethink how Texas does things, this is probably going to be lost (along with meaningful dialog) due to the redistricting fight that will be taking place this session.  In other words, a lot of people may put their careers ahead of services.

The Texas Senate has published its first draft of the budget for the 2012/2013 biennium. It needs to be remembered that this is the budget that is published to get a reaction and see who is going to advocate the strongest for what. This will be the first of several postings that analyzes this first draft of the budget and it will deal with the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services which provides services to individuals with developmental disabilities across their lifespan, the blind, the deaf, the autistic, and those in need of vocational rehabilitation.

Revenue:
First, the money that would be appropriated for DARS. For the sake of simplicity, all numbers compare the current fiscal year (ends August 31, 2011) with the next fiscal year (ends August 31, 2012). The short version is that the money appropriated to DADS would be reduced by almost 5%. The table below breaks this down.

FY 2011 FY 2012 Change
General Revenue Fund $113,745,122.00 $96,515,836.00 -0.151472746
General Revenue Fund Dedicated $14,614,959.00 $12,952,403.00 -0.113757144
Federal Funds $485,216,047.00 $471,567,491.00 -0.028128822
Other Funds $18,467,255.00 $18,509,128.00 0.002267419
Total $632,043,383.00 $599,544,858.00 -0.051418187

Impact on Services:
This reduction in appropriations would have a mixed impact on most of the services provided by DARS.

First, DARS would be add 11 full-time equivalent positions, this sounds like a lot but amounts to a .3% increase in their FTE’s.

In Texas the budgets fund strategies, so the next table shows those strategies that will see an increase and a decrease in funding. Only the percentage change in the funding is shown in the table. Note that in the Senate budget, the autism program is cut in half. It is eliminated in the House budget.

Strategy Change
Goal: Children with Disabilities
ECI Services -0.087968686
ECI Respite Services 0
Ensure Quality ECI Services -0.194099167
Habilitative Services (Bilnd) Children -0.303685935
Autism Program -0.5
Total Goal -0.117299261
Goal: Persons with Disabilities
Independent Living Svcs Blind -0.026928412
Blindness Education -0.451330347
Vocational Rehab Blind -0.118648822
Food Svs Employment Blind -0.104913334
Contract Svcs Deaf 0.020567216
Educ, Train, Cert Deaf 0.270750142
Genreal Vocational Rehab -0.050345681
Independ. Living Centers -0.278884744
Independ. Liing Svc 0.131074491
Total Goal -0.081828126
Goal: Disability Determination
Disability Determination Svcs 0.034301136
Goal: Program Support
Central Program Support 0.052894969
Regional Program Support 0.039014965
Other Program Support 0.050584385
IT Program Support 0.089154796
Total Goal 0.060196727

Basically from the table you can see several trends. First, we’re reducing resources to children via reducing the funding to early childhood intervention services. Second, while it is better for individuals to be in the community in some form, those resources are being impacted in a mixed manner. For example, many services that promote employment or community living (as opposed to institutionalization) are being reduced. Third, services to the blind are being reduced. Fourth, this occurs while more funds will be provided to determining disabilities (i.e. screening who gets access to services) and administrative support to the programs is being increased.

The state of Texas has performance measures for each of its state agencies, these measures demonstrate how the Legislature expects DARS to be able to continue accomplishing its mission in light of these reductions. Basically the buzz word is going to be efficiency. The Legislature intends for the majority of DARS’ strategies to serve more people with less money. Most of the strategies, with a few notable exceptions, are projected to serve more people but with less money being spent on each person. Of course the quality of services will not suffer because they will be delivered more efficiently.

Some notable items:
• 18% fewer children will receive ECI services. Funding for ECI services will be cut by almost 4% per child. Each child will receive 18% more hours per month.
• 32.5% fewer children will receive ECI respite services.
• The autism program will be cut in half.

Again, this is the first draft and the beginning of the process.

The Texas Senate has published its first draft of the budget for the 2012/2013 biennium. It needs to be remembered that this is the budget that is published to get a reaction and see who is going to advocate the strongest for what. This will be the first of several postings that analyzes this first draft of the budget and it will deal with the Department of Aging and Disability Services which provides services to individuals with developmental disabilities across their lifespan, the elderly, medically dependent children, and deaf-blind.

Revenue:
First, the money that would be appropriated for DADS. For the sake of simplicity, all numbers compare the current fiscal year (ends August 31, 2011) with the next fiscal year (ends August 31, 2012). The short version is that the money appropriated to DADS would be reduced by almost 34%. The table below breaks this down.

FY2011 FY2012 Change
General Revenue Fund $2,770,489,406.00 $1,806,959,621.00 -0.347783241
General Revenue Fund Dedicated $54,564,624.00 $61,562,124.00 0.12824243
Federal Funds $3,831,655,712.00 $2,502,608,490.00 -0.346859771
Other Funds $32,688,728.00 $38,935,472.00 0.1910978
Total $6,689,398,470.00 $4,410,065,707.00 -0.340738076

Impact on Services:
This reduction in appropriations would have an impact in most of the services provided by DADS. First, DADS would be eliminating 347 full-time equivalent positions, this sounds like a lot but amounts to about 2% of their FTE’s.

In Texas the budgets fund strategies, so the next table shows those strategies that will see an increase and a decrease in funding. Only the percentage change in the funding is shown in the table.

Strategy Change
Goal: Long-term services and supports
Intake, access, and eligibility 0.084115529
Primary home care -0.933123535
Community attendant services -0.285983285
Day activity and health services -0.345059457
Community-based alternatives -0.454603024
Home and community-based services -0.436013041
Community living assistance -0.460370286
Deaf-blind multiple disabilities -0.36162464
Medically dependent children -0.381479306
Consolidated waiver program -0.198768139
Texas home living waiver -0.687377996
Non-Medicaid services -0.033650511
MR community services -0.506493518
Promoting independence plan 0.758637278
In-home and family support -0.516566196
MR in-home services -0.5
All-inclusive care elderly -0.41116376
Nursing facility payments -0.352317511
Medicare skilled nursing facility -0.341865727
Hospice -0.316082805
Promoting independence services -0.308633222
Intermediate care facilities – MR -0.370506626
State supported living centers -0.106358305
Capital repairs and renovations -0.184433689
Total, goal -0.343797855

Essentially, these reductions are the same as in the House version of the budget. I wrote about this here: http://wp.me/pZf7K-1Y .

The state of Texas has performance measures for each of its state agencies, these measures demonstrate how the Legislature expects DADS to be able to continue accomplishing its mission in light of these reductions. Basically the buzz word is going to be efficiency. The Legislature intends for the majority of DADS’ strategies to serve more people with less money. Most of the strategies, with a few notable exceptions, are projected to serve more people but with less money being spent on each person. Of course the quality of services will not suffer because they will be delivered more efficiently.

There are exceptions to this, they are:
• More long-term care individuals will be served in community settings, reducing the number on waiting lists.
• Almost three times as many individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities will be assessed and receive service coordination. Recall from the table above that this strategy received 8% more funding.
• Approximately 9% more individuals will receive community attendant services, but the average monthly cost per individual will be reduced.
• Almost 24% more individuals will receive home and community based services.
• Individuals receiving CLASS services will increase by 4%, with a reduction in the average monthly cost per individual.
• There are increases in the number of individuals receiving Medicaid-funded nursing facility services each month (though the net cost is being reduced), increases in the number of individuals receiving hospice each month, an increase in the number of individuals served through promoting independence each month, and an increase in the average monthly cost per state supported living center resident.

Other Items:
Like the House bill, the Senate has two other interesting items in this draft budget:
• Hire a consultant on culture change for the state supported living centers, at not more than $250,000/year. This will include all kinds of reporting requirements on meeting culture change metrics.
• Close 1-2 state supported living centers after January 1, 2013 and do it in a way minimizes inconvenience to the residents and their families. Also hire someone to oversee the closure process.

Again, this is the first draft and the beginning of the process.

The draft of the House budget is out and as I wrote in an earlier blog it results in a substantial cut to DARS’ ability to provide early childhood intervention (ECI) services to the children of Texas. Essentially, if this budget were passed DARS would go from serving some 34,000 children in ECI to serving 26,000.

This reduction would be occurring while the population of Texas is increasing. In practical terms this would mean that DARS would need to tighten up the eligibility requirements so that fewer children would qualify for ECI.

Currently, DARS estimates that a little over 34,000 children will be served by ECI. If the current House budget is passed, it will go into effect on September 1. DARS will not kick out children that are currently being served by ECI, so between now and September 1 DARS will need to establish rules to tighten the eligibility requirements. This will mean that as children age out of ECI, fewer will enter so that the program will eventually average out to around 26,000 children being served (i.e. there will be periods where fewer are being served).

Why is this happening? On first reading, the impact of the House bill to DARS’ budget is not that bad, of the three strategies related to ECI only one has a reduction in funding, and this only around 1%. This should not equate to an almost 25% reduction in children served.

The problem is that none of DARS’ exceptional item requests are being funded. DARS asked for almost $28,000,000 a year to replace one-time federal stimulus funding. That federal funding is what increased the number of children served to its current level, without it DARS must reduce the number of children being served by ECI.

What does ECI do? It works with families, in the family unit, to provide therapies and services to children age 0-3 with disabilities. In other words, it gives parents the knowledge and confidence to get their children a good head start. Without ECI it will fall on the school districts to make up the difference, this is at a time where they are having budget issues as well.

What can be done? Probably the first step is to alert the Legislature about the importance of ECI. The second one is a philosophical one, should state dollars be used to replace what was meant to be one-time federal stimulus funding? The third step is to seriously reconsider ECI. DARS has done benchmarking of ECI compared to other states and Texans receive far less services than other states. There needs to be a careful, systematic, rethinking of how Texas provides ECI. It needs to be done in a manner that really thinks through all the ripple effects of change. Perhaps some form of scaling based upon disability severity, more severe could maintain the current programs and less could go to more of a group program that would cost less…

Okada et al had a study published in the January issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research looking at something very timely; namely core stability, functional movement screening, and performance.

They studied a group of college students and had them perform several tests, then looked for the statistical correlations between the results:
• Functional Movement Screening: Deep squat, hurdle step, in-line lunge, shoulder mobility, active straight leg raise, trunk stability push-up, and rotary stability. Everything tested bilaterally when possible.
• Core Stability: Trunk flexor, back extensor, right/left lateral trunk musculature tests (all are isometric holds).
• Performance: backward overhead medicine ball throw, t-run, single-leg squat

The results are interesting and speak to specificity of training:
• First, there was no relationship between the functional movement items and the core stability measures.
• Second, the single leg squat had a pretty significant correlation with flexor and lateral trunk tests. The thinking being that these muscles had to contract isometrically to support the trunk during the squat. It needs to be kept in perspective, however, that the r-squared for these tests was around .25.
• Third, there were significant negative correlations between the lateral trunk tests and t-run (i.e. the better your trunk test performance the faster your t-run time). Now, this needs to be kept in perspective as the r-squared for both was .15-.2. The idea being that the quadratus lumborum is important for performance of the t-run.
• Fourth, the medicine ball task (which was the explosive power assessment) did not correlate with any of the core measures.
• Fifth, the functional movement screen correlated with the performance measures in an activity specific manner. For example, push up correlate with the medicine ball throw.

Nowhere do the correlations exceed an r-square of .27. This means that less than 27% of the variability in the results is due to that performance measure, which in practical terms means a minimal contribution to performance of the task.

It’s a really interesting study to take both the core stability and functional movement screen measures and attempt to link them to performance. The study has some limitations. First, athletes are not studied. Studying athletes would give a better idea of whether these tools are useful to their training. Second, only two of the performance measures (t-run and medicine ball) are measures used in athletics. It would be interesting to expand the performance measures to true strength, power, and speed tests and see how everything relates.

Okada, T., Huxel, K.C., and Nesser, T.W. (2011). “Relationship between core stability, functional movement, and performance.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(1), 252-261.

The Texas House has published its first draft of the budget for the 2012/2013 biennium. It needs to be remembered that this is the budget that is published to get a reaction and see who is going to advocate the strongest for what. This will be the first of several postings that analyzes this first draft of the budget and it will deal with the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services which provides services to individuals with developmental disabilities across their lifespan, the blind, the deaf, the autistic, and those in need of vocational rehabilitation.

Revenue:
First, the money that would be appropriated for DARS. For the sake of simplicity, all numbers compare the current fiscal year (ends August 31, 2011) with the next fiscal year (ends August 31, 2012). The short version is that the money appropriated to DADS would be reduced by almost 5%. The table below breaks this down.

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  FY 2011 FY 2012 Change
General Revenue Fund $113,745,122.00 $94,865,836.00 -0.165978863
General Revenue Fund Dedicated $14,614,959.00 $12,952,403.00 -0.113757144
Federal Funds $485,216,047.00 $471,567,491.00 -0.028128822
Other Funds $18,467,255.00 $18,509,128.00 0.002267419
Total $632,043,383.00 $597,894,858.00 -0.054028768

Impact on Services:
This reduction in appropriations would have a mixed impact on most of the services provided by DARS.

First, DARS would be add 43.2 full-time equivalent positions, this sounds like a lot but amounts to a 1.3% increase in their FTE’s.

In Texas the budgets fund strategies, so the next table shows those strategies that will see an increase and a decrease in funding. Only the percentage change in the funding is shown in the table.

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Strategy Change
Goal: Children with Disabilities  
ECI Services -0.087968686
ECI Respite Services 0
Ensure Quality ECI Services -0.194099167
Habilitative Services (Blind) Children -0.303685935
Total Goal -0.117299261
   
Goal: Persons with Disabilities  
Independent Living Svcs Blind -0.902681012
Blindness Education -0.460179857
Vocational Rehab Blind -0.118648822
Food Svs Employment Blind -0.104913334
Contract Svcs Deaf 0.020567216
Educ, Train, Cert Deaf 0.270750142
Genreal Vocational Rehab -0.050345681
Independ. Living Centers -0.278884744
Independ. Liing Svc 0.131074491
Total Goal -0.081828126
   
Goal: Disability Determination  
Disability Determination Svcs 0.034301136
   
Goal: Program Support  
Central Program Support 0.052894969
Regional Program Support 0.039014965
Other Program Support 0.050584385
IT Program Support 0.089154796
Total Goal 0.060196727

Basically from the table you can see several trends. First, we’re reducing resources to children via reducing the funding to early childhood intervention services. Second, while it is better for individuals to be in the community in some form, those resources are being impacted in a mixed manner. For example, many services that promote employment or community living (as opposed to institutionalization) are being reduced. Third, services to the blind are being reduced. Fourth, this occurs while more funds will be provided to determining disabilities (i.e. screening who gets access to services) and administrative support to the programs is being increased.

The state of Texas has performance measures for each of its state agencies, these measures demonstrate how the Legislature expects DARS to be able to continue accomplishing its mission in light of these reductions. Basically the buzz word is going to be efficiency. The Legislature intends for the majority of DARS’ strategies to serve more people with less money. Most of the strategies, with a few notable exceptions, are projected to serve more people but with less money being spent on each person. Of course the quality of services will not suffer because they will be delivered more efficiently.

Some notable items:
• 18% fewer children will receive ECI services. Funding for ECI services will be cut by almost 4% per child. Each child will receive 18% more hours per month.
• 32.5% fewer children will receive ECI respite services.
• The autism program will be eliminated.

Again, this is the first draft and the beginning of the process. The Texas Senate will have their own budget draft which will have slightly different priorities.

The Texas House has published its first draft of the budget for the 2012/2013 biennium. It needs to be remembered that this is the budget that is published to get a reaction and see who is going to advocate the strongest for what. This will be the first of several postings that analyzes this first draft of the budget and it will deal with the Department of Aging and Disability Services which provides services to individuals with developmental disabilities across their lifespan, the elderly, medically dependent children, and deaf-blind.

Revenue:
First, the money that would be appropriated for DADS. For the sake of simplicity, all numbers compare the current fiscal year (ends August 31, 2011) with the next fiscal year (ends August 31, 2012). The short version is that the money appropriated to DADS would be reduced by almost 40%. The table below breaks this down.

@font-face { font-family: “Verdana”; }@font-face { font-family: “Cambria”; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: “Times New Roman”; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; }

FY2011 FY2012 Change
General Revenue Fund $2,770,489,406.00 $1,620,068,720.00 -0.415240962
General Revenue Fund Dedicated $54,564,624.00 $62,062,125.00 0.137405895
Federal Funds $3,831,655,712.00 $2,357,185,164.00 -0.3848129
Other Funds $32,688,728.00 $24,102,140.00 -0.262677336
Total $6,689,398,470.00 $4,063,418,149.00 -0.392558514

Impact on Services:

This reduction in appropriations would have an impact in most of the services provided by DADS. First, DADS would be eliminating 347 full-time equivalent positions, this sounds like a lot but amounts to about 2% of their FTE’s.

In Texas the budgets fund strategies, so the next table shows those strategies that will see an increase and a decrease in funding. Only the percentage change in the funding is shown in the table.

@font-face { font-family: “Verdana”; }@font-face { font-family: “Cambria”; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: “Times New Roman”; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; }

Strategy Change
Goal: Long-term services and supports
Intake, access, and eligibility 0.084115529
Primary home care -0.933123535
Community attendant services -0.285983285
Day activity and health services -0.345059457
Community-based alternatives -0.454603024
Home and community-based services -0.436013041
Community living assistance -0.460370286
Deaf-blind multiple disabilities -0.36162464
Medically dependent children -0.381479306
Consolidated waiver program -0.198768139
Texas home living waiver -0.687377996
Non-Medicaid services -0.033650511
MR community services -0.506493518
Promoting independence plan 0.758637278
In-home and family support -0.445664623
MR in-home services -0.5
All-inclusive care elderly -0.41116376
Nursing facility payments -0.352317511
Medicare skilled nursing facility -0.341865727
Hospice -0.316082805
Promoting independence services -0.308633222
Intermediate care facilities – MR -0.370506626
State supported living centers -0.106358305
Capital repairs and renovations -0.184433689
Total, goal -0.343797855

Basically from the table you can see several trends. First, we’re reducing resources to individuals that are institutionalized. More thoughts on this later. Second, while it is better for individuals to be in the community in some form, those resources are being sharply reduced as well. This suggest that many individuals will either receive completely inadequate services or will receive no services as a result of this budget. If they are lucky enough to have families that can take care of them…

The state of Texas has performance measures for each of its state agencies, these measures demonstrate how the Legislature expects DADS to be able to continue accomplishing its mission in light of these reductions. Basically the buzz word is going to be efficiency. The Legislature intends for the majority of DADS’ strategies to serve more people with less money. Most of the strategies, with a few notable exceptions, are projected to serve more people but with less money being spent on each person. Of course the quality of services will not suffer because they will be delivered more efficiently.

There are exceptions to this, they are:
• MR Community Services will serve about half the number of individuals each month, but the average monthly cost for an individual will remain fairly constant.
• MR in-home services will serve about half the number of individuals, with the annual amount per individual remaining fairly constant.
• There is projected to be a slight increase in the number of individuals receiving Medicaid-funded nursing facility services each month, but they will receive almost 15% less funding per individual. This same trend continues for hospice and promoting independence services.
• Intermediate care facilities – MR will see a slight decrease in the number of individuals served, but a 13% decrease in the monthly cost of each individual.
• State supported living centers will serve about 800 people less, but the amount per person will rise.

Other Items:
In addition to the above, the House has two other interesting items in this draft budget:
• Hire a consultant on culture change for the state supported living centers, at not more than $250,000/year. This will include all kinds of reporting requirements on meeting culture change metrics.
• Close 1-2 state supported living centers after January 1, 2013 and do it in a way minimizes inconvenience to the residents and their families. Also hire someone to oversee the closure process.

Again, this is the first draft and the beginning of the process. The Texas Senate will have their own budget draft which will have slightly different priorities.

Joel Smith et al had a really interesting study published in the January issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research looking at depth jumps. They had noticed that the use of a goal (or target) in conjunction with depth jumps increases the height of the jumps and the knee flexor moments. Based on this, their study was meant to determine the differences between a regular depth jump from a 45-cm box, a depth jump from a 45-cm box with an overhead goal, and a depth jump from a 45-cm box over a hurdle.

The hurdle height was set to be individualized and challenging for each athlete. The athletes, prior to the test, determined the highest hurdle they could jump over using a counter-movement jump. For the testing conditions, the hurdles were set to be 5cm lower than that height.

The Vertec was used in a way that when the subjects landed from the depth jump, they attempted to jump as high as possible with that height being recorded by the Vertec.

The authors used Division III male athletes and after a standardized warm-up had them perform 12 depth jumps, four on each condition. The results are interesting:
• Ground contact time: The depth jump hurdle had an almost 25% shorter ground contact time than the other two jumping conditions.
• Vertical velocity at toe off: The regular depth jump had the lowest vertical velocity, the hurdle condition the highest, and the goal jumping condition was in-between. Remember that having a lower velocity is a bad thing in athletics.
• Joint kinematics: In terms of statistically significant results; the hurdle condition resulted in lower knee flexion, knee extension, and hip flexion, and hip extension angles than the other jumping conditions. This has some implications because of how elastic energy works, the greater the joint angles before the jump the more likely some of that elastic energy is going to be dissipated.
• Ground reaction forces: Greater for the hurdle group by 16-17%.
• Moments/power output: Ankle and knee flexor moments were greater for the hurdle group, along with power generation and power absorption. The authors feel this is especially important as they point out that the ankle is the largest power absorber and generator in unilateral power production.

The interesting take-home part of this study is that the depth jump combined with the hurdle may be really valuable for athletes that are in sports that require a short ground contact time. There has been a lot of debate in the track and field literature over the years that a lot of standard exercises and plyometrics have a ground contact time that is too long to adequately transfer for track and field, many authors (the authors of this study as well) point out that short vs. longer contact times are fundamentally different motor skills. An athlete may excel at one but not the other.

This study does have limitations that the reader should be mindful of:
• There’s a skill component to performing depth jumps which could influence the outcome: Athletes with more or less skill will respond differently and may very well score differently than the ones in this study.
• There’s a strength component to performing depth jumps which could influence the outcome: Plyometrics seem to be more effective for stronger athletes, we do not know the strength levels of the athletes in this study.
• The subjects had some challenges with the Vertec jumps: Dropping off the box, rebounding, and jumping up to touch the Vertec takes some skill and this could have had an influence on the results of this group.

Smith, J.P., Kernozek, T.W., Kline, D.E., and Wright, G.A. (2011). “Kinematic and kinetic variations among three depth jump conditions in male NCAA Division III athletes.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(1), 94-102.

Castagna, et al. had a study published in the January issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research quantifying how professional soccer players train. The study looks at 14 members of a professional Italian soccer team during the course of 504 training sessions during a six-week preparation phase. This is a fascinating study for a number of reasons. First, it’s looking at real elite soccer players. Second, it’s looking at how those soccer players actually train and drawing some conclusions.

Soccer is a challenging sport to develop a strength and conditioning program for. First, the athletes cover 10-12 kilometers during the course of the game. Most of this distance is spent walking or slow jogging, but it still involves a lot of aerobic activity. Second, in addition to their conditioning programs athletes are practicing which adds additional stress to the athlete’s recovery system. Third, as with every sport, there are some inherent biases that may or may not be surmountable from the soccer coaches and athletes.

Heart rate monitor technology is allowing a strength and conditioning professional to do a better job of monitoring the athletes to put together training programs. Chris West, from the University of Connecticut, did a great presentation on how they are using this technology. Basically the athletes’ heart rates can be downloaded into a software platform so that it can be monitored during practice, competition, and training. This is a powerful tool to enable the strength coach to work with the soccer coaches to adjust the athlete’s training.

Castagna et al. looked at the aerobic intensity of the athletes training. They classified the workload based upon heart rate at selected blood-lactate concentrations. Low being HR at less than 2 mmol/L, medium between HR at 2-4 mmol/L, and high which was HR at greater than 4 mmol/L.

They found that the soccer players, across 504 training sessions, exercised 73% of the time at low, 19% of the time at medium, and 8% of the time at high intensities. Further, the time spent at high intensities had a significant correlation with improvements in speed at the two highest training intensities.

The authors drew a number of conclusions from this study:
• First, the soccer player training resembles that of endurance athletes in terms of the amount of time spent at each training intensity.
• Second, they feel that it is not safe to spend more than 8% of the training time at high intensity.
• Third, they point out that the time spent at medium and low intensity was not related to increased in aerobic fitness.
• Finally, they point out a dose-response relationship between intensity and improvements in aerobic fitness (i.e. spending more time at higher intensity leads to more aerobic fitness improvements).

Castagna, C., Impellizzeri, F.M., Chaouachi, A., Bordon, C. and Manzi, V. (2011). “Effect of training intensity distribution on aerobic fitness variables in elite soccer players: A case study.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(1), 66-71.

Athletes have different strength and conditioning needs across the course of their athletic careers.  This is important for the strength and conditioning coach to realize because one program will not fit all.  It’s also important to realize when reading research that is geared towards a very specific population and attempting to extrapolate the results to other populations.

 

Beginners/High School

Beginners respond to everything.  Beginners also need everything.  There isn’t a training history, there isn’t an injury history, the slate is clean.  This both limits and provides lots of opportunities all at the same time.

 

In general, beginners really need to focus on the following:

  • Strength training:
  1. What Bompa calls anatomic adaptations.  Getting the joints, bones, and muscles in shape.  Developing hypertrophy that can eventually be transferred to the athlete’s sport.
  2. Technique on fundamental exercises.  It is entirely appropriate to spend 2-4 years developing technique on the bench press, squat, deadift, power clean, power snatch, push jerk, and a handful of assistance exercises.  With a proper program a beginner will respond to these exercises for a long time, so there isn’t a need to do anything fancy.
  • Plyometrics:
  1. At the level of the beginner, it would almost be best to focus on these as injury-prevention exercises.  In other words, a handful of basic plyometrics exercises teaches landing technique which could reduce ankle and ACL injuries.
  2. There’s some evidence that plyometrics effectiveness is linked to strength levels, in other words failing to have sufficient strength means the exercises aren’t as effective as they could be.
  3. With the above in mind, the beginner should really be focusing on basic vertical and horizontal jumps involving both legs.  Again, there’s no benefit to being fancy here.
  • Speed/agility training: A beginner needs to focus on technique: how to run, how to start, how to stop, etc.  The beginner really could do this for 2-4 years and make great gains.  This ensures efficiency, speed of movement, and prevents injuries.

 

In generals, beginners should avoid the following:

  • Advanced speed training tools: Until an athlete hits the wall in terms of speed development, the resisted/assisted tools are not going to help very much.  For a beginner, using these will reinforce technique problems,  may create bad habits that lead to slower speeds, and may cause injuries.
  • Position-specificity: We don’t know how a 14-18 year old is going to develop, we don’t know what position he/she will play, and without a strength and conditioning foundation specific training is not going to provide the athlete with a competitive edge.  At this level the program should stay general.
  • Advanced periodization models: For beginners, there is no need to get fancy with the periodization.  The program needs to be progressive, structured, and safe.  If this is followed then the beginner will make gains.

Collegiate/National Caliber

Collegiate athletes (or national caliber depending upon the sport) have different needs than the true beginner and the strength and conditioning program should reflect that.  This is also the most-studied group in the literature, largely because the majority of researches work at universities.

 

A collegiate or national caliber-level athlete has a number of unique needs that makes them different from a high school level athlete:

  • The athlete is going to have a training history: While this is true, it’s also true that there is going to be a lot of variability in terms of the quality of that training history and what the athlete actually knows.
  • The athlete is going to have an injury history: This is going to need to be accounted for in the strength and conditioning program.
  • The athlete is going to develop a lot physically during the four years of college: This provides an opportunity for the strength and conditioning program.
  • At this level it is appropriate to distinguish between positions: However, as the athlete develops he or she may change positions and this needs to be kept in mind.  It means that, with team sports, there should be a core general program with some differences based upon the positions.

In general, collegiate athletes need to focus on the following:

  • Strength training: While the athlete has a training history, we cannot assume anything. Viewing training progressively, the initial focus needs to be on technique and anatomic adaptation.  Classic periodization (hypertrophy followed by strength followed by power) is ideal for this level of athlete.  Over the years, the athlete’s strength training exercises should become more advanced in terms of a greater variety of exercises and a greater variety of training approaches (for example, complex training, contrast training, bands, chains, that sort of thing) because the athlete will stop responding to the more general training as the years progress.
  • Plyometrics: Like with the strength training, we cannot make assumptions here.  Initially low-level plyometrics might be incorporated into the athlete’s warm-up to teach certain concepts (i.e. landing).  As the training year progresses these may become more advanced or morph into their own training session.  As the athlete progresses over the years and builds his/her strength and technique base, it is appropriate to begin incorporating greater volume and more exercises.
  • Speed/agility training: The initial focus needs to be on technique.  As the athlete progresses through the training year, volume and complexity pick up as the athlete has a chance to adapt to the workload and solidifies his/her technical base.  As the athlete progresses through the years of training, a balance needs to be struck between employing more advanced exercises and keeping the training applicable to the sport.  For example, there just aren’t a lot of sports where the athlete gets to run in a straight line for 60 meters or run through a pre-programmed cone drill, so thought needs to be given to this with regards to speed and agility training.
  • Position-specificity: We don’t know how the athlete is ultimately going to develop over college, but we can already rule out certain positions based upon body type.  For example, the 160 pound kicker isn’t going to be an offensive lineman at the end of his college career.  This allows for there to be some position-specificity in the programming.  This is especially important in terms of metabolic conditioning, speed, and agility training.

 

Elite/Professional

The elite/professional athlete has very different needs than any other class of athlete and the strength and conditioning program needs to reflect that.  The following are considerations for the elite/professional athlete:

  • The athlete has a training history: The elite athlete has a history with training, knows how to perform a variety of exercises, knows how he/she responds to different training approaches, and has an opinion about the effectiveness of those approaches.  All of this needs to be factored in with their training.
  • The athlete an injury history: This has to be understood and accounted for in any conditioning program.
  • This is the only sport the athlete participates in: An elite/professional athlete is playing one sport full-time, this both simplifies and complicates things.  It simplifies things because we’re not as worried about multi-lateral development at this stage, it complicates because the training needs to be very sport-specific and this can be a challenge if a coach isn’t familiar with the sport.
  • The athlete’s position is set: At this level the position that the athlete plays is pretty much set, changes to this are noticeable exceptions.  This means that any strength and conditioning program needs to address the sport, the athlete, and the athlete’s position.
  • General training won’t produce results: An elite athlete is close to their genetic potential in terms of functional strength and hypertrophy.  There also isn’t much time during the year for non-specific training.  As a result, any training is going to have to be focused on improving the athlete’s performance in his/her sport.
  • The athlete is in-season almost year round: Professional soccer players compete from July until mid-May.  Professional baseball lasts 180 days, but also includes winter and spring ball.  Professional football lasts from August until at least December (January/February if the athlete is in the playoffs), then there are OTA’s during the spring and summer.  In other words, the true off-season is very short for the elite/professional athlete.  Competition, travel, and the lack of an off-season all have to be factored in to the athlete’s training.
  • The athlete is hanging on against time: Time only moves one way and physical abilities will deteriorate over time, especially those related to speed and power.  All elite athletes, unless they retire beforehand, will see this happen.  With that in mind, training is geared to trying to allow the athlete to hang on as long as possible without becoming injured.

Masters

We don’t often think of masters athletes, but with the aging of the population in the west, fitness professionals need to keep this potential market in mind.  There are a number of differences that need to be kept in mind with masters athletes:

  • They don’t have the same ability to recover: This means that a great deal of care must be taken when introducing new exercises, increasing the intensity of a session, or increasing volume.  If this is done for one component, it needs to be balanced out in other components.
  • Even if they stay fit, time only moves one way: Performance will decline with time, even if the athlete continues to train.  Cross-sectional studies of weightlifters and sprinters shows that there are several points where performance drops sharply as athletes age, this is regardless of whether or not the athlete continued training.
  • If they haven’t remained fit, they can regain a lot of ground: Individuals who have not remained fit will lose muscle size especially to their type II muscle fibers.  This will help contribute to lower strength levels, lower power levels, shorter strides, slower reaction times, etc.  A lot of this can be reversed after only a few months of training.
  • Masters athletes are recreational athletes: Although they may not see it that way, at least today there is no place to go professionally with master’s sports.  They have careers, families, lives outside of this and the scale of their conditioning is not going to be anywhere near that of the collegiate or elite athlete.

With the above in mind, masters athletes should focus on the following:

  • Strength training: If the athlete is untrained, then any approach to strength training will improve performance, just like with a beginner.  The big thing is to take a very slow, gradual approach.  Many studies looking at elderly and strength training have the subjects initially train at 50-80% of their 10-RM.  If the athlete is trained, then it is appropriate to perform full-body strength training and use exercises such as squats, cleans, presses, etc.
  • Plyometrics: Remember that there needs to be a strength basis for plyometrics training to be effective.  If that foundation isn’t there, then this training will be a waste of the athlete’s time.  If it is there, then beginning with low-level plyometrics that teach landing and taking off are appropriate.
  • Speed/agility training: If the athlete is untrained, then the focus should be on teaching techniques and increasing stride length – just like with beginners.  If the athlete is trained, then the focus is going to be on sprints, and combination agility drills (start, stop, start again that sort of thing).  Too much speed/agility work is going to impair the athlete’s ability to recover.