Adapting Across Sporting Codes

Navigating Athletic Transitions: Lessons from Sam Dodge, Head of Strength & Power at Adelaide Football Club

Transitioning between sports can be daunting for elite athletes, posing challenges beyond the game’s physical demands, encompassing culture, training methodologies, and unique sport priorities. In this blog post, we explore insights from Sam Dodge, Head of Strength and Power at the Adelaide Football Club, reflecting on his journey from rugby to Australian Rules Football (AFL). The theme of Adapting Across Sporting Codes resonates throughout, highlighting complexities in such transitions.

In this Prepare Like a Pro Podcast episode, we sit with Sam Dodge, Adelaide Crows’ Head of Strength and Power Coach. Sam, drawing from extensive sports performance experience, shares insights on adapting training from Rugby Union to Australian Rules Football (AFL). Challenges and strategies are discussed, emphasizing the need for flexibility and open-mindedness when navigating diverse sporting landscapes.

Whether you’re a coach, athlete, or sports enthusiast, this episode offers valuable insights into high-performance training in Australian Rules Football. Adapting Across Sporting Codes remains a central theme as Sam discusses mindset and approach adjustments. The episode serves as a guide for understanding the intricacies of transitioning between sports, shedding light on critical aspects contributing to success in unfamiliar sporting territories.

Tune in to stay ahead in the game and learn from the best with Sam Dodge on the Prepare Like a Pro Podcast! Adapting Across Sporting Codes is a continuous process, and this episode is an inspiring source for navigating challenges and triumphs associated with switching between different sporting disciplines.

Highlights from the episode:

  • Advice and challenges for coaches transitioning from Rugby to AFL
  • How he tackles neck training in AFL
  • Difference between the head of strength and power of Rugy and AFL
  • How he does primer sessions for rugby and footy
  • How did he individualize his program for a large squad of 40-45 players

1. Cultural Adaptation in Athletic Transitions

Firstly, Sam Dodge emphasizes the importance of quickly adapting to cultural differences when transitioning between sports. His experience highlights the need to respect and understand the unique dynamics of each sporting environment. Additionally, cultural adaptation extends beyond the nitty-gritty of strength and conditioning, emphasizing a holistic approach to integration.

2. Game Priorities: A Shift in Focus

Dodge further sheds light on the fundamental differences in the priorities of rugby and AFL. While both sports demand strength and power, the emphasis varies significantly. For example, in rugby, physicality can determine the outcome of a game, whereas AFL puts a premium on the ability to run and maintain play. Therefore, understanding these distinctions is crucial for athletes leaping these codes.

3. Neck Training in Australian Rules Football

Another fascinating aspect of Dodge’s insights is the attention given to neck training in Australian Rules Football. The unique nature of contact in AFL, with hits coming from all directions, necessitates specific training. Consequently, Dodge reveals that neck strength training is consistently incorporated into the program, showcasing the commitment to addressing the sport’s distinctive physical demands.

4. Role Variation in Strength and Power Coaching

In addition, Dodge shares an unexpected aspect of his role at the Adelaide Crows – involvement in combat grappling. This revelation highlights the variations in the responsibilities of a Strength and Power Coach across different codes and clubs. Furthermore, it underscores the adaptability required in such roles to cater to the specific needs of the team and its coaching staff.

5. Individualized Training: Tailoring Workouts for Success

Moreover, a key takeaway from Dodge’s philosophy is the emphasis on individualized training. Managing a large squad of 40 to 45 athletes requires a nuanced approach. Hence, he advocates for a comprehensive profiling battery, including measures like max strength, jumping ability, isometric strength, and conditioning. This approach ensures that efforts in the gym are targeted and aligned with each player’s unique physical qualities.


In conclusion, Sam Dodge’s journey from rugby to AFL provides valuable lessons for athletes navigating similar transitions. Beyond the physical aspects of training, understanding and respecting the cultural nuances of each sport is paramount. Consequently, the ability to adapt methodologies while acknowledging the distinctive priorities of the game ensures a smoother integration into a new sporting environment.

In the dynamic world of elite sports, the insights shared by Dodge serve as a guide for athletes and coaches alike. As the sporting landscape continues to evolve, the lessons learned from transitions between codes become increasingly relevant, shaping the way athletes approach challenges beyond the field of play.

People mentioned:

  • Frans Bosch 
  • Mark Kilagon 
  • Adam Beard 
  • Mark Bennett 
  • Jeremy Moody
  • Matthew Knicks 
  • Pat Lamb 
  • Robbie Mills
Listen: iTunes | Spotify

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