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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Lowe's Senior CLASS, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.

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Houston's Alan Bishop: "When it comes to a mindset, I want to inspire a person."

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UPDATED: May 31, 2020 -- 6:28 p.m. CT

POSTED: May 30, 2020 -- 6:25 p.m. CT

Friday morning, I had a great conversation with Alan Bishop, the Houston Cougars' Men's Basketball Director of Sports Performance. Bishop provided me so much information, I've divided his comments into 3 articles.

The first article deals with the impact of COVID-19 on his job and the June 1 return of student-athletes to campus. The third article discusses his path from Utah State to UH.

The HRR: How would you describe / define your methodology?

Bishop: I've thought about this a lot. I would say the most simplistic way that I can describe it is: health drives performance. Three words: Health drives performance.

The reason for that is, if you really think about it, is sports is not necessarily a healthy endeavor. Exercise is healthy. Sports is not because in sports you have injuries. In sports, things go wrong. When it comes to sports, the number one way to derail performance is injury. If you're sitting on the bench next to me getting zero minutes, you're not helping us win. So, the biggest thing is how do you keep your best players on the floor. Producing. All of it comes down to is if you're healthy, you can get on the floor. You can produce. You can perform; and, you're going to enhance your student-athlete experience. You're going to get the most out of college because you're going to get everything out of your experience from a competition standpoint.

With that, there's things that apply to everyone. Everyone's going to do a chin-up as long as they're healthy because there's a lot of benefit to strengthening that shoulder gird from a health standpoint. But, we will train as a team June, July, August, September. Okay. They'll be little tweaks to the program. But, I want to train as a team. Drive that culture work together. Overcome adversity together. We want to develop that team culture together.

Well, after those four months, we want to bring them in on a one-by-one basis. Bring them in in small groups. We will tweak it to the man; so, we might say, 'Hey, deep knee bends today.

But, it's not it's not necessarily 15 individualized personal training session on that look nothing like anybody else. I think that's kind of a misconception that sports is you know that 15 completely different philosophies running. The philosophy is the same. Movement is movement. We'll adjust to the man; so, that, on any given day, there might be ten variations of the same training program for the same training skeleton, but it's just going to be variations. But, it's just going to be variations of the plan.


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The HRR: When a player is injured, how do you work with the medical staff for the rehab process? How does that work?

Bishop: When a player has an injury, when they are dealing with that, it's immediately going to be we have the best. We have the best athletic trainer; and, we have the best doctors. We have the best surgeons. We have the best medical personnel. That's going to be a process that starts letting them be the best in the world at what they do. Whether that's surgery. Or, whether that's something else. They're going to be the ones who handle that. We're going to fix the injury. From there, we'll start a rehabilitation with our medical. Now, if somebody injures the lower body that does not mean that we're prohibited from training the upper body.

If somebody is coming in with a lower body injury, they will still be working with me doing a modified upper body training session because you don't just want to lose all of our strength and lose all of our progress. Or, the opposite, if somebody's dealing with an upper body injury. We can still come in and intelligently train the lower body. So, they're still going to be training properly during the rehab process - Assuming we can do it safely and assuming it's not going to interfere. But, then after that rehabilitation process, we have something called transitional rehab. Transitional rehab is something that after the injury is essentially healed. It doesn't mean they're ready to go right back out and start sprinting, changing directions, cutting, banging bodies, etc. It just means that the injury is now healed.

Now, we've got to put them in the next phase and that's transitional rehab. Getting them to a point where they hit certain markers and certain percentages of where they were at pre-injury that we feel great about putting them in a full capacity back in the training back into competition.

It's a very, very lock step approach amongst all entities. What we do from nutrition because there's different nutritional protocols to take with kids that are injured. Medical. Surgery. Rehabilitative. Physical therapy. I mean, everything is done as a group; discussed; and a lock step approach to make sure that we're doing it right by that athlete in the long term.


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The HRR: Sports performance. We've talked a lot about the physical part. Does it also include mental? And, I'm really thinking, you touched on it a little bit earlier, you know the truly holistic approach. Is there a mental component specifically for a player who's injured and coming off an injury? Such as helping him overcome the injury?

Bishop: Here's what I'll say. If a player is coming off an injury, injuries can really do tough things to an athlete's head. Whether it's their identity. Whether it's you're just watching everything that you've prepared for, and all of a sudden, it's gone overnight.

Well, it's not gone. It's coming back. We just got to keep him locked in mentally and engaged in the process. So, I think the biggest thing is, as coaches, when it comes to a mindset, I want to inspire a person.

'Do you know the biggest difference in a donkey and a racehorse?'

The biggest difference is when the gate opens and there's a donkey or racehorse standing behind you, when the gate opens, and there's a donkey behind it, you've got to slap it the butt with your stick. You've got to grab the rope and just pull him because they don't want to do anything. They're fighting you the whole way.

But, when the gate opens on a racehorse, it can't wait to get out of the gate and get out and go as fast possible. It's just sitting there waiting for the opportunity to go.

The reason I say that is it's just a mindset. And, I think that when it comes to athletes, the more racehorse you have in you -- as opposed to more donkey -- I think the better you're going to be in life. You're going to be a champion in life. It's that important.

I don't want to sit here and force him to come to this and force him to come to that. I want them to be inspired to want to be great because when they have the inspiration to do the work on their own, that's when you have something special.

I think the greatest part about what we have here at UH is we have great people. We have great coaches. We have great support staff. We have great athletes.

We have just unbelievable people; but, from a culture standpoint, our entire staff -- everybody from medical staff to the chef -- that's helping us put together these amazing menus together -- to my assistant strength coach. Everybody. They are all in all the time.

When it comes to be rehabbing an athlete, you're going to walk into an environment where everybody, from top to bottom, side to side, has got your back. And, they're here to support you and help you along the way; and, that does a lot of good for a kid's psyche.

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