I posted a video on my Instagram story of myself utilizing a Jump Mat while doing some plyometric work. A friend of mine then commented about how the facility I work out of has some awesome equipment. I'll admit, we definitely do. We have a lot of fancy equipment that we utilize in our training. Bar Velocity Trackers? We have multiple. A Jump Mat to test Ground Contact Time (GCT)? We have one. Laser timing system for timing sprints? We have those too. Normatec Recovery system and Ice Baths? Check and check. And that's just scratching the surface of it all.
While all of these tools are great, we have to remember that they're just that: tools. And like any tool, they are useful when used correctly by the person using them. Every piece of equipment has a distinct purpose and parameters for their use. If you use it in the wrong way, you minimize the effect of it or get no effect at all. You wouldn't use a hammer to screw a bolt into place because that's not what it's purpose is. You have to know each of these pieces and how they coincide with the type of training you're doing.
Another important thing to remember, is that while these tools are extremely useful as a training tool, they also serve as a marketing tool. In the fitness industry, especially something so niche as Strength and Conditioning, a great way to draw attention to your facility is that "state of the art" equipment that people see on TV or Social Media. You'd be surprised how many parents get blown away when we evaluate their children with laser timers. It's like they just watched their kid go through the NFL combine! That experience creates some added value, because they don't find that tool everyday (rightly so, because those timers are super overpriced).
The difficult thing to admit for most coaches and trainers is that the tools aren't always necessary, as much as we try to convince ourselves they are. Buying an electric drill is great, but why spend the money if a screwdriver will do?
This is sometimes the dilemma with training. Each piece of technology has a price, and we have to assess what we really need in order to make high performing athletes. Bar Velocity trackers are great, but we can see when a bar is moving fast. Especially when it comes to high school athletes with little to no training under their belt, the bar moves fast or it doesn't. Jump Mats are the same: we can see if an athlete spends a lot of time on the ground or not. If you have a smart phone you can slow down the video and use different features of the phone. Apps like Coaches Eye, Iron Path, and Bar Sense can give a rough glimpse into velocity, and track bar path while saving money (you already bought the smart phone). While it may not be a rep by rep basis, these tools are just as effective.
And here's another truth about fancy equipment. It cannot and will not mask bad coaching. Just because you have all of the funding in the world and cool training gear, it does not make you a good coach or trainer. There's a human element to coaching and creativity element. A good coach or trainer can get great results with anything. They may not even need barbells, kettlebells, or dumbbells. They just need some open space and the ability to communicate.
So while I admit that the equipment is nice, I'll be the first to admit it isn't 100% necessary. A training program isn't all about the equipment, it's about utilizing what you have at your disposal in the best way possible.