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Monday, July 18, 2011

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Spreading the word: Florida Gators staffer Nobuhisa Yoshida believes Japanese basketball players need to alter their training methods. COURTESY OF NOBUHISA YOSHIDA

Yoshida hopes to use lessons learned with Gators in Japan

Staff writer

Some six years ago, Nobuhisa Yoshida decided to hang up his basketball shoes for good.

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Back to school: Nobuhisa Yoshida joined the University of Florida staff in 2010. KAZ NAGATSUKA PHOTO

After graduating from the University of Toledo with a degree in exercise physiology in 2002, he played for the Saitama Broncos, who at the time were in the Japan Basketball League, for a couple of years. He also served as their strength and conditioning coach.

He practiced with the forerunners of the bj-league's Tokyo Apache for a short period as well.

But Yoshida, originally from Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, didn't seek a career on the court, though the bj-league, Japan's first-ever pro basketball circuit, was about to tip off in 2005.

Instead, he chose to wear a polo shirt and shorts and move away from being a cager.

"I got the opportunity to be with Saitama for two years as a player and strength coach," Yoshida said during a short stay in Japan for his brother's wedding last month. "And I thought about in which way I would really be myself. Then, I figured, maybe I could be more of a help for the future of this country's basketball being a strength coach."

After working as a strength and conditioning coach for domestic college and high school basketball teams as well as a corporate-league softball team, Yoshida found his place in Gainesville, Florida, in August of 2010.

Upon his arrival at the University of Florida as a graduate student (human performance major), he joined the school's men's basketball team as an assistant strength and conditioning coach.

Yoshida quickly adapted to the job for the Billy Donovan-led program, which has won two national championships — back to back in 2006 and 2007. He helped the team advance to the Elite Eight, getting the Gators to their furthest point since their last title season, in March.

"Had I been there when the team was winning the consecutive titles, I would've had a better time," Yoshida, 32, said with a chuckle.

While there are no definite, clear-cut answers in strengthening athletes, what Yoshida and his coworkers at Florida emphasize is making their players exhibit their power as functionally and effectively as possible.

"It's certainly important that you can keep running for 40 minutes in basketball," Yoshida said. "But you also need to have abilities to change speed and directions. Better players have them while they have power. They've got better body balance in other words."

And that's exactly what the Japanese basketball players have got to work on, and he wants to convey this to his country.

Yoshida said that the training standard for Japanese basketball players is way behind the international level, and unless they rethink their approach, they will never prevail abroad, in the NBA or in the Olympics.

In Japan's sports world, it's often believed that gaining more bulk costs speed and quickness. But Yoshida said that speed and power can be compatible with each other by going through right ways of training.

"One of the players I've coached (at Florida) has raised his leaping height by 10 to 20 cm while gaining some 10 kg," Yoshida said.

The key is to train with movement. Lifting heavy weights can make your muscles bigger but if you do that slowly, the muscles won't be functional and that takes your agility away.

Another thing Yoshida stressed to Japanese athletes is to attach greater importance to quality than to quantity for training. He said that they need more volume and intensity.

"Some people may be training with quantity," he said. "But if they do it with less impact, it doesn't mean much. You have to have bigger impact in order to make your body stronger."

Yoshida had another important event other than his brother's wedding during his recent stay in Japan. He held a seminar in Yokohama, along with the head strength and conditioning coach of the Kajima Deers, of the X League, Masaki Asakura, for athletic trainers and strength and conditioning coaches from the bj-league, JBL, X League, collegiate teams and students that are studying sports medicine in U.S. universities.

In the seminar, Yoshida, wearing a vivid blue Gators polo with the school's logo on his chest, introduced what he has absorbed through the top-notch NCAA hoop powerhouse team.

Likewise, Yoshida, who is projected to graduate next year, hopes to pass the experience he's earning in the States on to Japan.

"By me doing as much as I can at Florida, hopefully I'll be able to create some paths for those who may come later," he said.

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