Ask the expertYouth strength and conditioning

Ask the Expert: Dr Joe Eisenmann

 Dr. Joe Eisenmann is a diverse scholar-practitioner with 25 years of experience as a professor, researcher, sport scientist, coach educator, strength & conditioning coach, and youth sports coach. Currently, he is a consultant and serves as the Head of Sport Science for Volt Athletics, Perform-X Training Systems, Sports Performance Tracking GPS, and the National Strength and Conditioning Association along with being a visiting professor at Leeds Beckett University Carnegie School of Sport.
Athletic Evolution
1)What has led you into youth sport?
Quite frankly, I’m still a kid at heart living in the glory days of youth sport! My wife will confirm it as well. But yes, like many of us, I enjoyed and had some success as a youth athlete and it led me into my education and a career in physical education, exercise science, strength and conditioning, and specifically youth athletic development. As a teenager, I began coaching youth (tee ball and Little League) baseball and that continued during my undergrad years as I coached high school-aged baseball in the summer while I was also still training and competing in baseball. I’ve always been fascinated and curious about the youth sports and athletic development journey and its potential impact on health and positive development.
2) What has been your biggest influence in your practice in youth sport?
To expand on my answer from above, two of my biggest influences, in terms of mentors, in youth sport / athletic development were John Frappier and Greg Lanners. I met John Frappier when I was an undergrad training at his innovative facility in Fargo ND called Frappier Acceleration. John was a very bright Master’s educated sport scientist who spent time in Russia in mid-1980s and devised unique high speed treadmill and plyometric training in the U.S.  This really influenced my thinking on teaching and training speed and change-of-direction (movement). Upon graduation from undergrad, I spent 1 year prior to beginning graduate education in Alexandria MN where I was a middle school strength coach ($2000 stipend!). Greg Lanner ran the high school program and he was a former University of Minnesota strength coach who decided to leave college S&C and teach elementary school and also serve as the high school S&C coach. He really taught me about teaching technique on the Olympic lifts and core or traditional strength training exercises.
Of course, my PhD advisor Professor Bob Malina was a huge influence as well, mainly from the academic standpoint of understanding and studying child and adolescent growth and maturation first and then applying to concepts of fitness and youth sports. Let’s first understand the system (growth and maturation) before thinking of perturbations (training).
There are certainly many other influences both academically and more recently practitioners. I’ve said a few times recently that I’ve met more brilliant practitioners in last few years that my academic colleagues really need to listen and learn from in order to move the field forward. Of course, this is a two-way street as well.
3) What is your particular area of interest?
I’m sort of a multi-potentiate. I have several interests, and am perhaps more of a generalist.  Overall, I embrace a holistic integrated sports performance approach within LTAD (participation and performance pathways) and to describe what this fully means would take an entire paper. In brief, this entails how do we test (assessment, technology and data analytics), train, and energize (psychology and nutrition) the growing and maturing ‘athlete’ (athlete= everybody) to enhance health, fitness and performance from the technical, tactical, physical and mental domains.  In this regard, I see myself more as a director of LTAD than having any specific expertise.
I also have a great interest in knowledge management, knowledge translation, implementation science and coach education. I’ve gone from being an Ivory Tower researcher and professor to being someone very interested in gathering and synthesizing knowledge, translating it for the end user, educating on best practices and implementing these best practices into the real-world.
Athletic Evolution
4) What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Well, I’ll be honest. Up until about 5 years ago, I had a low social and emotional IQ. I was a ‘elitist’ professor who knew it all.  At this time, I was transitioning from being a regular professor to re-engaging myself in youth athletic development and being the director of Spartan Performance.  A good colleague and friend told me, “Joe, you might be the smartest person in the room but nobody listens to you. You just run everybody over.”  Wow – gamechanger.  This colleague is also very well-read on human interaction and leadership and thus I began doing some self-reflection and reading on the art and science of people skills. We hear this a lot more recently – that is, we need to go beyond sets and reps and make sure the athlete and our colleagues understand how much we care and we need to communicate better.
5) What advice would you give to coaches working with youth athletes? 
I’m going to turn around the last question and say this is also a major piece of advice I would give to young people starting out and also those who have been in the field – learn and practice effective people skills.
Now specific to working with youth athletes, the advice that I would give is – read, study and understand the dynamic and changing cognitive, psychological and physical development of the growing and maturing child and adolescent before thinking about sets-reps, drills, etc.  The other piece is studying and practicing physical education or sport pedagogy. Coaching is teaching.
6) Can you recommend any particular resources for youth sport coaches?
Growth, Maturation and Physical Activity by Robert Malina, Claude Bouchard, Oded Bar-Or
Strength and Conditioning for Young Athletes: Science and applicationby Rhodri S. Lloyd and Jon L. Oliver
Children Moving:A Reflective Approach to Teaching Physical Education with Movement Analysis Wheel by George M. Graham
Coaching Better Every Season: A Year-Round System for Athlete Development and Program Success by Wade Gilbert
Successful Coaching by Rainer Martens
Best Practice for Youth Sport: Science and Strategies for Positive Athlete Experiences by Robin S. Vealey and Melissa Ann Chase
Canada Sport 4 Life website
@JeremyFrisch  – great videos of authentic child movement obstacle courses
Perhaps the greatest resource is finding an established practitioner(s) who also has great understanding of the literature in the field and going to watch training sessions, while taking notes and having informal discussions with this person. Then go back home and read the published literature to these methods while incorporating the lessons into practice.
7) Where can people find out more about you and your work? (Social media links, websites etc.)
Twitter: @Joe_Eisenmann
(I generally use Facebook for personal and family stuff, not professional.)
Website (under construction):
Google Scholar:
We are very grateful to Joe for his time and informative answers! For more great content like this, like us on Facebook!
Are you a grassroots youth sport coach or PE teacher who wants to improve the athleticism of your athletes?? Check out our Fundamental series athletic development programs here.

3 thoughts on “Ask the Expert: Dr Joe Eisenmann

  1. Great information and answers to leading questions. I will never forget your visit to North Dakota and the NDHSCA Coaches Convention. Keep on Keeping On!
    Coach Orvik

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