Q: To test for aerobic endurance, my son’s high school basketball coach has his players timed on a half-mile run rather than a mile. They also lift weights, but what do you think of that as an endurance test for basketball? Oh, and his team won the state championship last year.
A: To apply this to the principle of sports specificity, a high school basketball player needs to be able to run a half mile in 1 1/2 to two hours. Sound crazy? Let’s do some math.
Al Vermeil won several World Championship rings when he was a strength coach for the Chicago Bulls. Vermeil says that according to video analysis, it’s rare that a single player will run as much as one mile during a basketball game. There are 48 minutes of playing time in an NBA game, but then there are time-outs, fouls, out-of-bounds and halftime—as a result, a typical NBA game lasts about 2 1/2 hours. It doesn’t take a highly developed aerobic system to cover a mile in 2 1/2 hours. At the high school level total playing time is only 32 minutes, so even if a player were on the court the entire game, it’s doubtful that he or she would run a half mile.
As for your son’s team winning the state championships, congratulations! Consider, however, that with about six high school sport classifications in most states—and 50 states—there are approximately 300 state championship basketball teams every year. And in high school it’s possible that one dominant player can make a significant difference in how well a team performs. In his freshman year in high school, for example, LeBron James averaged 21 points and six rebounds a game, and his team finished with a 23-1 record and a state championship. Guess how the team did during the rest of James’s high school career? My point is that there are many factors that determine success in high school basketball, and when you do the math, having extraordinary aerobic endurance is probably not one of those factors.
Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most successful strength coaches, having coached Olympic medalists in 12 different sports, including the U.S. women’s track-and-field team for the 2000 Olympics. He’s spent years researching European journals (he’s fluent in English, French and German) and speaking with other coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. For more on his books, seminars and methods, visit www.CharlesPoliquin.com. IM