Florida Practices Its Formula; Strength Coach Herring Has Ways to Gauge Gators' Intensity in Games and Drills

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Byline: MICHAEL DIROCCO

GAINESVILLE -- Matt Herring is a numbers guy.

Most strength and conditioning coaches are. They deal with weights, sets, repetitions, body-fat percentages, times, distances, heart rates and, well, numbers.

So when Herring tried to figure out a way to measure the intensity of the Florida men's basketball team's practices, he started fooling around with numbers. Eventually, after some trial and error, Herring had a formula that lets him, the players and the coaches know whether they practiced hard or had a easier day.

"I try to quantify all the physical things that we do in practice," Herring said as the eighth-ranked Gators (19-2, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) prepared for Saturday night's home game against Kentucky (15-6, 5-2). "This helps me to tell coach [Billy Donovan] each day what we did, how hard we did it and how much rest these guys might need to recover."

Herring's formula involves the distance the players run on the court, how much contact is involved, change of direction, the speed and the amount of recovery time. That's done for each drill the Gators run at practice, and each factor is assigned a specific numerical value. Those values are totaled, then multiplied by how long the drill was run in minutes, which provides an overall intensity rating.

For example, a 3-on-2 fast-break, full-court drill that lasts 2 minutes, 30 seconds would result in an overall intensity rating of 22.5 (see chart on D-7). At the end of practice, all the drills are added together for an overall practice intensity. Anything 700 or below would be considered a low-intensity practice. A very high-intensity practice would have a rating of 1,101 or greater.

Every preseason practice is charted, and Herring tries to continue into the season. However, helping rehabilitate injured players and his duties with other athletic teams at Florida don't allow him to chart every basketball practice once the season begins in earnest.

"The time that we really, really look at this is the preseason, when guys are first starting to practice," Herring said. "We build up in the offseason to try to prepare the guys for practice, not prepare them for games. Sometimes a big mistake or problem a lot of people do is they try to get their athletes ready in game shape in the offseason, and you can't sustain that level for that long. We try to get them in practice shape by Oct. 15, and then we use Oct. 15 to mid-November to get them in game shape, and once we start playing a regular-game schedule, then it's just more of maintenance, a day-to-day evaluation of how hard, how long, what we should do."

Herring has charted practices since the beginning of last season, and he's hoping to eventually have enough data to find a link between their intensity and wins and losses. He doesn't have anything concrete now, but he does have Donovan's ear.

"I think it's pretty good of giving you a barometer [of how hard the players are working]," Donovan said. "It's helpful. I really try to rely on the training staff. I try to rely on the strength coach. I try to rely on different people. If I had my druthers, it would be three hours every day, banging, playing, competing, going up and down, but I know that's not realistic, and that's not the best thing for our team.

"For us, the balance is when you're dealing with a seven-day work week, you take one day off, you play twice -- how do you maximize practice, how do you maximize games where you're at your peak? I find that interesting to try to figure that out."

Herring might not have a definitive answer, but he does seem to have one in regard to valuing the hustle stats that coaches love. …