Thursday, December 15, 2011

Using Breathing Patterns in Your Programs

I apologize for the sound quality and the fact my camera ran out of juice at the end.  Also ignore the awful squat pattern, I have zero dorsiflexion and I'm in the process of seeing some PT's about it.  That's what happens when you sprain your ankles 10 times each in a year when your 18 years old.  Otherwise, leave some feedback on what you think and if you've started to incorporate breathing patterns into your coaching.





Check out Charlies DVD here, DNS, and Functional Movement Systems for much more information than I could ever provide. 


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mad Libs and "Sports Specific" Training

I remember using Mad Libs as a kid for a fun way to learn grammar and different ways to phrase a sentence.  Maybe Daniel Coyle would consider it deliberate practice for grammar?  Why am I bringing up Mad Libs?  Well, from my experience and what I hear from other coaches, everyone wants sports specific training.  Working with high school age and younger, the sports specific training is somewhat laughable.  "Johnny needs to increase his vertical 8 inches before basketball season." Oh really? He literally can't even squat or do a proper lunge, I think I'll start there instead of the exercises you saw Lebron James do in a magazine.

Do I want my training to specifically help one's sport? Most definitely, but there needs to be an efficient base of movement, strength and power, which is specific to every sport. 

So here's my Mad Lib for when a parent come's to talk to you about there 13 year old phenom and what type of program they need.

"First, thank you ______ (add parents name name) for choosing me to help your son/daughter become a better ________(choose a sport) player.  I understand you want to see your child succeed at a high level, and don't worry, I got your back.  Our mission is to create an environment where _______ (add athlete's name) can improve and maximize their athletic potential.  From my experience, looking at _______ (choose a sport) athletes, they always need to improve their mobility, stability, core strength, upper body strength, lower body strength, and overall power.  This base of movement creates a quicker, faster, and more explosive ________ (choose a sport) player.  You probably want to improve their ______ (choose a sport specific athletic characteristic), and we enhance that by using ________ (choose specific exercise that improves that quality).  We also aim to prevent ______ (choose typical sports injury) by screening ______ (add athletes name) and looking for imbalances and movement deficiencies.  Our program is also designed to create a well balanced athlete who stays healthy by using a dynamic warm up, single leg strength exercises, and proper core exercises.  I think we both can agree that the best ______ (choose a sport) players are almost always the best athletes.  You came to the right place because I train each athlete like they were my own child and will look to make him the best _____ (choose a sport) he can be."

Friday, November 25, 2011

What Environment Do You Supply?

I recently went through the Titleist Performance Institute's (TPI) Junior level 3 certification.  TPI does a great job of bringing together research from multiple backgrounds to create a simple and organized program that anyone could immediately implement. 

Denis McDade was one of the presenters, and said something so simple, yet very profound.

"If you have to demand someone to do something, than you haven't created an environment where they value that particular skill, exercise, or program."

I immediately slapped myself and did 20 pushups for not having already thought of this statement.  This is coaching at it's greatest.  Looking in the mirror and asking what do I want my athletes to value?

Do I provide the environment for them to grow these values?

What can I do to improve the way I communicate these values?

This can range from big picture ideas such as hard work, being on time, being respectful, all the way down to the everyday training details like mobility, stability, lifting technique, and so on.  I know in my programs I need to do a better job of having the athletes value regeneration through methods of hydration, nutrition, sleep, etc.  They all know they should be eating better and sleeping more, but they don't have a emotional connection because they haven't been in an environment has made it important to them..... yet.

One of the big picture ideas that immediately came to mind was in Remember the Titans.  Denzel knows his job isn't football in training camp, it's creating an environment where they boys respect and fight for each other.  If this scene doesn't fire you up, I don't know that we could ever get along.



Monday, November 14, 2011

Flanking Fitness Part 2: Youth Sports and Physical Acitvity

If you haven't read part 1 yet of Flanking Fitness, go back and read that first.   Our entire field of sports performance or athletic development training is based on a flanking manuever.  We (coaches/trainers) will improve athletes at their sport without actually practicing the sport itself. 

As we look at youth sports, I feel that we are in some serious trouble.  Physical education is being cut at schools daily if it hasn't been already, obesity rates for youth are the highest it's ever been, media has scared parents from letting kids play unless a "play date" is arranged, and club sports now have elite level teams for 5 year olds.  There are some serious battles on both ends of the pendulum. 

On one extreme, kids are unhealthy in every way possible and absolutely hate physical activity.  On the other, kids are put on a traveling team at age 7 and our early dropout rates are absurd.  On either extreme, the end result seems to be the same.... Instead of physical activity being a beneficial and fun way to improve your quality of life, it has become something we think of as a chore and another event to try and schedule in on our iPads. 

How are we facing the youth fitness problem head on?  Play dates, sessions with trainers, forcing kids on sports teams, etc.  Physical activity and athletics is now a chore.  

How can we flank it?   Dave Jack and I had a conversation a while back on how making it fitness based is the wrong idea for young kids.  Making it an enjoyable experience through movement is imperative.  We can't hit this head on where we force kids to move.  I wish like hell we could bring back fun PE classes with gymnastic rings, climbing ropes, jump ropes, monkey bars, etc.  The playground seems to have disappeared in every facet of physical activity.  These fun environments are gone.

I grew up in an environment where physical activity and sports were just apart of what we did.  All of my friends growing up still play sports, rock climb, snowboard, etc. because it's fun.  We have this connection with fitness in a way that we don't even consider it fitness, it's just how you live.  We also were allowed to ride our bikes everywhere and play sports without 10 parents and a doctor watching.

My biggest suggestion is to create environments where MOVEMENT is fun.  Create a positive experience, and let everything else fall into place.

I wish I had more specific answers because I know how sports has made my life so much fun and how many great people I've met playing basketball, soccer, or lifting weights.  These have become life long connections that we still talk about and share to this day.

Comment below with your idea's on how we can win the battle on youth sports. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Flanking Fitness Part 1

Flanking has been used throughout history in wars, political campaigns, and economic depressions.  The United States was founded on flanking with the Boston Tea Party, the Green Mountain Boys (C'mon I'm a Vermonter), and our militia.  Flanking is an indirect solution in order to achieve a direct result.  If we went head on with the Red Coats during the Revolutionary War, we would have most definitely lost.  Instead, we had farmers ambush from the woods and use unique tactics in order to achieve the same result.  Flanking is the essence of thinking creatively and "outside the box."
If Mel Gibson can't do it..... Chuck Norris can.

So how do we do this in performance training, fitness and youth sports?

Speed
RFESS or Bulgarian Split Squats
Facing it head on: Practice sprint mechanics and doing more sprints. 
Flanking: Power and strength work in the weight room. Single leg work, deadlifts, core work, mobility and motor control will all improve speed on the field.  If a kid has weak hips, all the sprint mechanic drills won't fix that, but doing the right things in the weight room will lead to tremendous gains. 

FMS (Functional Movement Screen)
Facing it head on:  Improve movement by practicing the "big 3" screens.
Flanking: Use correctives on the "little 4" that will indirectly improve the big 3 and movement in general.  Soft tissue work, stretches, mobility and RNT/motor control are all flanking the direct issue.  The entire Joint by Joint approach is based on a flanking idea.  Where ever the pain is, look above and below the joint.

90 seconds gets twice the results
6 Pack Abs or "Getting Lean or Toned"
Facing it head on: Do situps and crunches or buy a bull$*&T product from an infomercial. 
Flanking: Delete the negatives from your diet (grains, sugar, and processed food), eat more veggies and lean meats, do full body strength exercises, and add some high intensity intervals.



Eliminating Joint Pain
Facing it head on: Surgery, pain killers, and braces.
Flanking: DNS, SFMA, ART, Graston, chiropractic work and the dozens of other therapies that address soft tissue, the neurological response and treating the body as a whole unit.  The therapy and clinical world is completely founded on flanking pain.


Youth Fitness (obesity, participation, and physical culture)
Part 2.........

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fedex Day Take 2

I recently had one of Sports Performance classes go through another Fedex Day (click on the link if you aren't familiar).

13 athletes, 8 boys and 5 girls, all were freshman in high school.  Mainly multi-sport athletes that play basketball, soccer, and lacrosse. They had 1 hour to do whatever they wanted in a weight room, as long as they're exercising, they included a warm-up, and wrote down an overall reasoning for the exercises. 

What I thought was a positive:
-My favorite was that all the girls did farmer's carries.
-No sit-ups were done for core.
-A relative good mix between upper and lower body- improvement on the past
-A lot of TRX rows and pull ups were performed
-They were asking questions about certain goals and what exercises will help improve them
-Everyone was smiling and laughing
-Many wanted to try a new exercise or make up a matrix for something else (we do a lot of matrices)

Things I think need improvement
-No one did an olympic lift or big power exercise.  Only a couple did box jumps and jumping exercises.
-I would have liked to see more boys do leg exercises
-Lower posterior chain work was absent.
-Very little Single leg work

What do I do from here?  Evaluate how I am coaching the "needs improvement" side and see if by next trimester the kids value olympic lifts, lower body posterior chain work and a lot more single leg work. 

I highly suggest you try this to see how your athletes value what you are teaching them.  It also is fun for them to have some time to just try things out and experiment while your there to keep them safe.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Josh Foer Talks about the Art of Practice

Basketball junkie, Sefu Bernard, sent me a great video from Josh Foer, the author of Moonwalking with Einstein.  Foer is a journalist who took up the art of memory and ended up becoming the national champion.  In this video, Josh talks about how experts practice with a different mindset than do others who simply stay in an autonomic state.The first example he explains through typing is so basic, yet so genius in describing how our brain can function with practice


Joshua Foer: Step Outside Your Comfort Zone and Study Yourself Failing from 99% on Vimeo.


An important factor to consider with any sort of skill is measurable results.  The experts find ways to measure if their methods are making progress.  Don't just guess.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Self Discovery in Training and Athletics

I sometimes wonder why I've fallen in love with sports and training.  What I've come up with is simple, self discovery.  Its a method to consistently challenge my body and mind on a daily basis. 

In today's technology advanced world, you can indirectly experience whatever you want through a YouTube video.  However, that indirect experience can only create a false sense of awareness.  Where we truly grow our body and mind is when we put our frame in the actual experience. I get this feeling pushing myself in a weight room, on a basketball court, or starting a new skill.  There is no iPhone app that can simulate this feeling.  Taking something you once struggled with and owning it.  Being completely in the moment, to the point where time seems irrelevant.  This self discovery takes you to places you never thought possible. 

Who said humans can't fly?


The ability to push our bodies to adapt is a beautiful process that all people should not take for granted.  This is something I worry that kids in our technology age won't get the chance to experience because of our lack of physical culture.  We now favor classes teaching kids how to use a computer rather than how to use their body.  Experience is our greatest teacher, but experience must be first hand for true learning to take place. 

You only get one body in this life time.  I dare you to really see what it can do.  I also challenge you to pay it forward by creating environments for our youth to enjoy these experiences.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Reason to Stop for a Second.... or a Reason to Never Stop


There aren't too many pictures that will stop me in my tracks.  However, this picture absolutely rocked me from the inside out. If you're a poker player, many would say this kid was dealt 2 7 off suite but with the look on his face, he thinks he has aces.  I stumbled upon this on Facebook, with this as the caption:

DON'T EVER GIVE UP!
If you can’t fly ~ then run
If you can’t run ~ then walk
If you can’t walk ~ then crawl
But whatever you do…
You MUST keep moving forward

What caption would you write?


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Do We Rob Athletes Of Their Creativity?

I'm a big Will Smith fan. From "Summer time" to Ali, I even have the Fresh Prince theme song as my ringtone and don't plan on changing it, ever.  One of his underrated roles was I, Robot.  It was an futuristic concept where humans created domestic robots that functioned off of 3 laws.  The robots end up evolving from these 3 laws and try to revolt and take over.  Spoiler alert, Will Smith saves the day in the end.

How does this connect to youth sports and performance training?  I was watching a soccer game with my good friend and great physical therapist, Cari McClemons, and we always get into talking about youth sports and coaching.  She was telling me about a team her son, who's 6, played for where the coach would constantly yell to the kids about where on the field they should be.  It got to the point where many of the kids would just look over to him all game long waiting to get yelled at for being out of position.  Zero creativity, zero spontaneity, zero fun.

Unlike Hollywood movies, I don't think these kids will pull the "I, Robot" and turn the coaches rules against him for total power domination.  Unfortunately, these kids end up either quitting because playing is no longer fun, or become robots waiting for there next command.

Talk about creativity, Parkour is the epitome of it.
It made me question what I do as a coach.  Am I creating robots in my own setting?  Do I ask enough questions and use the rights drills to enhance creative skills?  This is why I have my athletes go through a FedEx Day once a trimester.  It shows my areas of weakness as a coach, and also gives them a day to be creative and program their own workout.  

I want my programs to enhance the ability to be a critical and creative thinker.  I do this by asking a lot of questions, encourage athletes to ask a lot of questions, and set up drills that enhance creativity within movement, e.i. mirror games, human foosball, etc.  I can only coach them for 4 years.  I want them to take this knowledge of movement for the rest of their life. 

Creativity within the movements and rules of the sport are what makes it fun.  We all go after the same result but in so many different ways.  It's what make us human, but we can't rob our youth athletes by making them follow a piece of paper everyday.  Be creative in ways to teach creativity. 

One last video to show you a creative way to fish.  I think I need to try this....

Monday, September 26, 2011

Gifts are for Birthdays

I hate to be Mr. Negative on a Monday morning, but I need to question a word that we hear probably everyday, especially in the athletics world.

Gifted.

I now cringe when I hear it.  Similar to the evil 1950's teacher scratching the chalkboard at school, which you now must visualize and it probably made you clench your teeth in imaginary pain.  My apologies.  However lets think about how the we and the media use the word gifted.

What are gifts?  Something you receive without compensation.  We then look at our elite of the world, and see them as very gifted.  Sure Kobe Bryant was gifted with his height and probably a couple more fast twitch muscle fibers than the rest of us, but to say his game is a gift?   Ludicrous.

If you ever meet Kobe, I dare you to tell him his game was just a gift.  His jump shot?  Yeah, it was carried down from his father in that jump shot DNA strand scientists just discovered. Oh his ability to control his body to get the defender off balance, yeah that was his Christmas present from 1999.  The real gift is that his Dad was a professional basketball player, and he had the opportunity to watch and emulate for his entire childhood.  That was the real gift.

When we see the elite perform, we forget about all the time they've spent working incredibly hard on their craft.  The countless hours of deliberate practice and how much many of these people have sacrificed to be able to perform at the highest level.  So please give them there credit.  Their skill is not a gift from the DNA God's.  Yes they might have a couple advantages when it comes to genetics, but I bet we could find thousands who had those same genetic gifts who didn't end up in the elite.

This classic Jordan commercial sums up my thoughts completely.  Choose your words wisely and all but eliminate the word gifted when describing elite performers.



Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Watch What You Say... Someone's Always Listening

This past summer I had a great group of athletes training with me.  We got after it in the weight room and learned movement skills on the field.  Since I work with young high school athletes usually 14-17 years of age, I never REALLY know how much they take in or how much they absorb.  I try my hardest to communicate in a way were it empowers them to learn the skill and apply it rather than me barking orders so they will comply.

I was taken back when multiple athletes of mine came up to me during our workouts or when school started to tell me that they noticed themselves and teammates not "staying in the tunnel," a cue I stole from Lee Taft.  One even picked on me when there was a teacher-student soccer game and I changed direction rather inefficiently.  He yelled "Coach, your shoulders got high, stay in the tunnel."  I couldn't help but smile like a proud father.  I was completely in shock that already after just weeks of training some of my athletes are noticing and applying the concepts I've been teaching.  I just imagine what they will be like by juniors and seniors with 2-3 years of training under their belt.

I'm not writing this so I look like some great coach.  I wrote about this because I think we under estimate how much our young athletes (high school and younger) want to learn these concepts and apply it to their sport.  I've caught myself, and seen other coaches, just demonstrating the drill and never explaining the principle behind it.  I've realized briefly teaching the principles behind what I do leads to a deeper engagement into the drills.  They also tend to notice the concepts on other athletes and teammates, and can pick out inefficient or efficient ways of performing skills.

Don't cheat your athletes and allow them to learn with you!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Grit..... The Underlying Variable of Excellence

Angela Lee Duckworth presented about the topic of grit, and it's relationship to experts in different fields.  She has found a way to measure this and studied it in military setting, the national spelling bee, schools, and other areas.  Below is her presentation that made me question what we teach and communicate to our youth.  We talk about discipline, self control, and education, but many do not teach or find ways to communicate grit.  Grit being loosely defined as perseverance, diligence, and the ability to push through challenges and obstacles.





Here is an article in the New York Times about Duckworth's work in the school systems.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/18/magazine/what-if-the-secret-to-success-is-failure.html?_r=1

How do you communicate grit?  How could you improve your grit score?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Finding the Edge with Practice

In youth sport leagues, teaching skills is usually coached by demonstrating, then simply expecting the kids to benefit from repetition. What about the kid who is athletically underdeveloped and the basic skill you expect everyone to perform is too hard for them? What about when the drill is too easy for the 8 year old "stud" athlete?

Either way it's wasting valuable practice time.

The edge is when we find that spot that is just a little out of reach, and we can quickly make adjustments to get there. Some have called it deliberate practice, deep practice, or meaningful practice. If it's too easy, little progress is made and the brain can quickly fill up with ideas and thoughts that hard work isn't necessary because everything comes easy to me. Fixed mindset. If it's too hard the brain can shut down with frustration.


Maybe better practice was what Shaq needed?

Finding this edge is an art. Every skill and exercise can be different for each kid. After recently teaching some young athletes the skill of jumping and landing, we quickly realized breaking down the skill is MUCH, MUCH harder than making it complex. Narrowing the focus to one aspect of the skill and building from there is necessary for laying a successful foundation for growth. Keeping the kids engaged by asking questions about how they are performing and how there peers or the coach is performing allows them to be apart of the process and continues the ignition to expand the skill.

The amazing part after breaking these skills down to the very basics and giving success, we saw nothing but smiles and a desire to keep staying at their edge. We even had a couple kids say, "I don't think I'm at my edge." So we progressed them.

There is no reason we can't have a young child understand this concept and apply it to other skills like music, math, science, etc. Understanding how they can get the most out of their practice time makes learning fun and engaging, rather than something they're told to do.

If you're in the San Diego area, Encinitas/North County, I am working with a company called Brain Highways to teach young kids, ages 6-8 and 9-12, this ability to find their edge by using 8 fundamental movement and sports skills. The class starts October 5th on Wednesday evenings. To sign up visit this link,http://www.brainhighways.com/c/sports, or shoot me an email @ Caseywheel@gmail.com.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Defining Hard Work in Real Terms

It's funny how we label people and athletes hard workers without ever defining the term. Is it because they spend long hours every day? Are they constantly engaged or just inefficient? If someone plays hard in a game but doesn't practice hard, is that a hard worker? I got to thinking about how we really define this vague and overused term. I also feel hard work alone will never get someone results. Being a creative and critical thinker, combined with hard work, make a vicious duo.

I think it's time we start to set a couple criteria for the term hard worker and see where this goes.

-One word that should always be included with hard work is diligence. The act of persevering to me is the main characteristics of hard work. When you hit a struggle, obstacle or challenge and break through to find a solution, no matter what that is hard work. (This is where we see a lot of kids who put in a lot of sweat but never challenge themselves. They are just spinning at the wheels. They're not hard workers, they just want to appear to be.)

-One who tries devotes most of their time (60-80%) to master the basics of their craft. Do the common things uncommonly. Do some research on this guy you might have heard of.... Jerry Rice.

-One who commits. Mastery comes over time. Overnight success is a flat out lie. Grow up Peter Pan and stop watching fantasy movies. Then go read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.

-One who spends purposeful extra time in areas of indirect usefulness, but often will come around to serve them in the long term. If you're a coach, it's probably useful to read self help books like The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. Though there are no anatomy or corrective exercises in the appendix, but it might be the reason you aren't connecting with your athletes.

-One word.... preparation. People appreciate and pay for preparation. Do your homework in advance and make it look good. People appreciate when you can answer the question they have before they've asked it. No one pays to see you wing it unless your one hell of a musician.

One thing about "hard workers" is that they don't even know they're working hard. It's just how they go about everything. They are completely present and mindful in any skill or job they engage in. This is a learnable (made up word on spot) skill that we should look to improve daily, and TEACH to our youth.

These are some of my criteria. What would you add?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Perform Better Long Beach Summit Review

For the past three years I have attended Perform Better's 3 Day Summit in Long Beach. This is by far one of the best educational events to attend. The presenters are some of the best in the world, there is a wide range of topics, and the best part is that the attendees can spark up as much good info as the presenters give. On that point, I have to thank coaches Elsbeth Vaino, Tim Vagen, Chris Dubois, Chris Shah, Sean Skahan, Jack McCormick, Seth Munsey, Rett Larson, and many others who I had the privilege to meet, and discuss everything from overall power to connecting with clients and athletes. You guys truly made the weekend a special one.

Now onto some notes and tidbits that have been resonating in my skull over the past two days. I'll shoot some notes from some of my favorite speakers and lectures I attended.

Dan John- 4 Quadrants of Lifting
-The role of the strength coach is easy, the impact is why you're really there.
-GET KIDS STRONG- my kids need to be lifting heavier!
-Food journals are the biggest key for nutritional compliance. if someone hasn't filled it out make that the beginning of their warm up.
-Starting at the beginning of EVERY new skill, drill or tool takes courage and humility
-Did I say get strong?


Lee Burton and Gray Cook- Corrective Strategies and Movement Code
-You can't correct someone out of constant daily negatives- eating apples won't help you if you haven't quit smoking.
-must have positive short term responses to obtain long term adaptations
-progression is the hardest thing to adjust for each individual
-3 major foot positions-attack the weakest
-core/spinal muscles fire differently in different foot positions
-don't turn movement problems into anatomy!
-would you change and eye chart for a elderly person to drive? than why would you change movement
-systems beat programs every time
-proprioception is key!-article to come on that later
-limited movement patterns decrease the ability to adapt
-risk of injury is 2.5x greater if FMS is 14 or below/asymmetry is present.

Mike Boyle- Success Secrets
-Write goals down- NOW!
-want to make more money? impact more people
-early adapters will always succeed. be able to go with the flow instead of resist change
-what will people say about you in 10 years? great question to ask about yourself
-before all the BS, get good at what you do!
-cliche's are cliche's because they are true
-crazy parents and coaches are your best source for marketing- see opportunity in them
-net vs gross- net=meaningless, gross=meaningful

Rachel Cosgrove- Breaking Through with Female Clients
-Women remember the "breakthrough moment"- Give it to them!
-treat all female clients like athletes no matter what
-every before and after story had a coach or person who provided the knowledge and support-be that person
-Be real with your clients and find the connection point- don't be superhuman
-Mirror language helps with connection and trust
-NEVER force your idea of what they should be, guide them to theirs
-people remember images and stories- use good analogies
-BEST ADVICE OF THE WEEKEND- What one change can you make this week that will have the biggest impact on your results?
-For women looking for fat loss, use jean size instead of the scale
-progressions, challenges and records keep them coming back for more.

Todd Wright- Dominate Your Space
-4 tips- curiosity, communicate, systems(organization), surround yourself with good people
-movement is driven by gravity, ground reaction forces, mass and momentum
-driven from top down AND bottom up
-proprioceptors- transducers of information (20x more in dense fascia segments)
-the bodies ability to adapt is AMAZING
-the best athletes have the ability to own their space not be the absolute strongest or most powerful
-agility is a auditory or visual response that changes ones sphere
-strength can be added through power

Dave Jack-Good to Great
I would love to talk about certain points Dave made but it would honestly do no justice. He spoke straight from the heart and his voice and passion are what made the talk GREAT. He could have been talking about how to sell hotdogs at a baseball game and I was all in.


All of these speakers provided some amazing insight into training, nutrition, communication and other aspects that can only make me and the other attendees better coaches. I suggest every coach attend events like these to sharpen your knife. Sometimes you get brand new information you've never thought of and often you get reminded of the little things you need to do better.

Me, Tim Vagen and Elsbeth Vaino
Me and Chris Dubois hanging!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

When Early Specialization is OK

If you look at every Youth Fitness or Sports specialist, there is a common theme about early specialization. Many of the experts strongly feel that kids MUST play multiple sports and avoid early specialization, and for good reason I agree. Multiple sports create a balance of skills and athletic ability that can be hindered by specialization. I am completely on board with this concept and believe playing multiple sports at a young age truly develops physical literacy, which creates better athletes in the long term. Many world class athletes credit playing multiple sports as a reason why they are so effective.

However, in certain circumstances early specialization can be very beneficial for developing athletes, under one circumstance: it is self imposed because of a deep love of the sport. I shouldn't even use the word specialize. It's more of a deep obsession that has been ignited by special circumstances.

A great example is Ted Williams. If you've read anything about his childhood, he played baseball ALL THE TIME. He would search for anyone to pitch to him, day after day, year after year. He enjoyed playing baseball at a level that few people can comprehend. In our perception, he specialized at a very early age, and according to most experts he would not fulfill his athletic potential. I think his athletic career turned out to be pretty decent.

Many world class athletes actually did specialize at an early age, but their specialization was self imposed. I will steal two concepts from two of my favorite books and authors, that leads to this early obsession. First is from Daniel Coyle who wrote The Talent Code. Coyle writes about the idea of ignition in this article, and sums it up with these three points.
  1. The moments are serendipitous. Nobody sets it up; there’s no mediator. It happens by chance, and thus contains an inherent sense of noticing and discovery.
  2. They are joyful. Crazily, obsessively, privately joyful. As if a new, secret world is being opened.
  3. The discovery is followed directly by action.
Go read the rest of that article, and The Talent Code while you're at it.

The next concept is what Malcolm Gladwell centered his message around in the book Outliers. They need the right opportunity and environment to grow this ignition and skill. Gladwell's research and interviews discovered that many so called "gifted" performers actually were given an incredible opportunity to consistently practice their passion. Often at a young age, or the right age. If Ted Williams was born in the Rhode Island instead of San Diego, he would not be able to practice hitting day after day, all year round, and my guess is would not have been as good of a hitter. A big reason why you see most great baseball prospects from warm climate states and hockey players typically come from the northern states.

Where our culture goes wrong with early specialization is when the passion and desire comes from external sources, e.i. the parents or coaches. Now kids have a full time job playing baseball or soccer, before their legal age to work. Kids are now unwillingly forced to play a sport most of the year if not all because they showed "potential" in their local league. The special cases where early specialization is beneficial, usually comes out of chance and letting the love of the game naturally develop.

So it's OK if a kid who loves playing basketball all the time to play it a lot more than other sports. If he's playing out of a love for the sport, let him be. My guess is most of the time they will want to play other sports with their friends anyway, but letting them have this special bond with an activity they love is something we shouldn't say is wrong. What is wrong is when take a kid who just likes to play and tell them they must love to play, and play a lot because if you don't make the all star team when you're 8, you'll have no chance at a college scholarship. Like Ron Burgundy says, "It's science."

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Underlying Factor of the 10,000 Rule

The concept of 10,000 hours to becoming an expert is often very misunderstood. Many believe that simply practicing all those hours automatically qualifies one as an expert. This concept first was discovered by Herbert Simon, who found that experts learned approximately 50,000 chunks of information usually over a 10 year span. Anders Ericsson also researched into this concept and discovered the importance of deliberate practice.

Deliberate practice is "not inherently enjoyable," according the Ericsson. It requires working in a constant struggle, pushing limits, and reaching just outside your grasp.

Simon included a key word that many will over look in his definition of an expert, learned. Those who consistently push and learn are those who become experts. Simply going through motions for 10,000 hours and staying in a comfort zone does not make one an expert because they have 10-15 years experience. What's the quality of that experience? Did they learn 50,000 new chunks of information, or did they just observe?

A great example in my own life was when I was in high school and used to shoot baskets for hours upon hours. I would shoot jumper after jumper but often it was a set shot, without dribbling or a casual pull up, over and over. As a result I was a good shooter when open, but off the dribble or when guarded closely, I would struggle. If I had added moves, pushed the speed of my release, or even changed to different spots (free throw to baseline perhaps), that would have been deliberate practice. Shooting the same shot over and over had a low transfer of learning to my actual game. I may have had as many hours as a lot of college players by the time I was 16 but I didn't have the same amount of quality work of someone who practiced more efficiently.

The old saying of it's not how long you practice but how you practice, actually is being scientifically proven by Ericsson and many others. The only difference they find after a certain point of expertise is the number of hours in deliberate practice.

I get worried when parents and coaches read about the 10,000 hour rule and think that putting their kid into 100 games a year and 5 summer camps that will speed up the process. The 10,000 hour rule is a long term approach that relies more on consistent and quality practice. Simply forcing kids into more games and specialization at a young age is detrimental is so many ways.

To sum it all up, 10,000 hours of practice depends on the quality of those hours. True experts seek consistent improvement of their craft, while the others stay content.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Hierarchy of Questions for Athletes with Nagging Injuries

I wrote this article back in March after a discussion on strengthcoach.com. It will be posted on strengthcoach.com this week but wanted those who don't have the membership to be able to read it as well.

Mike Boyle inspired me to write this article not only to share good information but more to have the right questions to ask and also the right hierarchy of needs for athletes with certain nagging injuries. Coach Boyle recently talked about too much emphasis on the Functional Movement Screen being the answer for everything. While it should be apart of the evaluation process, there are other factors to consider.

1. Workout Program

A) Is it your program they’ve been training with consistently?

a) If this a reoccurring injury you’ve seen with numerous athletes in your program?

-If yes, you need to look at your program and what needs to be changed.

-If not than move onto #2

B) Were they working out with someone else before they came to you?

a) Yes- Overlook program and see changes that need to be addressed.

b) No. Move to #2

2. Extra Work

A) In-season with a coach

a) Do they perform an absurd amount of conditioning/extra running?

-If yes, good luck. You don’t want to step on shoes but you want to help the athlete. Making connection with coach and educating is your best bet but is not always easy to do.

-If no, go to B.

B) Self induced extra running/workouts

a) Do they “run” or over train to an unhealthy extent?

-If yes, try to eliminate extra work by educating athlete and show them how jogging and too much training leads to these types of injuries.

-If no, go to 3 or 4.

C) Do they jog?

-If yes, than look at either eliminating or helping them jog properly. Also go to ¾

3. Nutrition (not always needed but could be a factor with certain injuries)

A) Have the filled out a proper nutrition log, and have an adequate diet?

- If yes, and they were truthful than go to 4.

-If no, than look for changes in their diet than can be made, especially in regards to water, lean protein, vegetables, and fruit. Still go on to #4

4. FMS (some could argue this goes first and others last. Either way if you have the time I would FMS them anyway)

A) Do they have a score below 14, asymmetries or pain?

-If Yes, than either refer out or use correctives.

-If no, refer out or go back to #1 because they probably are lying.

Friday, July 29, 2011

What we can learn from the Video Game World

A lot of parents will complain about how obsessive and unhealthy video games have become. All over you hear about how our childhood obesity rates are through the roof (25-30% last time I checked) and that inactivity is at an all time low. We look to sports to be an integral part of a solution to bring obesity down and activity up. I honestly think we are losing that battle in a general sense. However, not many people ask why video games are so popular. Why do kids love video games? Maybe we can take a similar model and apply it to athletics.

Lets look at some reasons why kids love playing video games and compare it to the USA's version of youth sports.

1. Judgements-Anyone can play video games. There is no judgement from the video game if you're tall, short, fat, skinny, fast, slow, etc. They can just play! Kids feel SAFE playing video games!

2. Progression- It starts off easy. The first levels from each game are very simple to get down the basics of what you will need as you get further on. In sports game you can start with easy mode and progress to professional mode at your own pace. The video games have mastered progression.

3. Skill acquisition- Struggling with a certain area? Kids can work on it until the skill is mastered playing video games. Often you can't advance until you've mastered the basic skills and buttons of the game. You can take as much time as you need without any pressure from outside sources. Once again safety!

4. Creativity- Many kids can win the level, kill the opponent, score a touchdown, etc in a different fashion than their friends. They develop styles that work for them and can try new things without anyone yelling at them. They feel safe to try new things because they don't have a coach eyeing everything they do.

5. Rewarding- Depending on the game you get rewarded in a different manner depending on the objective. If you lose, you just start back at the beginning and do it again.

Now lets at each of these points and how we teach sports.

1. Judgement- Kids are judged immediately these days. The bigger, faster kids will get more attention from coaches and parents, meanwhile those who struggle at first end up hating the sport or dropping out. Kids absolutely pick up on these cues. Even worse we make recreational and competitive teams starting at age 5 in some clubs. Those who start a competitive team at that age deserve some good ole fashion pink belly.


2. Progression- This is an area for great improvement. Either it's too lose or too strict with many youth coaches. Master basic skills in a fun way where learning is taking place. Standing in a line for a passing drill that's boring does not help but throwing them in complete chaos without direction or building into the structure is also detrimental. I know that many youth coaches are parental volunteers but I think it's time for leagues and organizations to introduce basic concepts on skill acquisition and deliberate practice.

3. Skill acquisition- This is a part that will get rushed through. Many kids struggle in one area and excel in another. In a team sport, a coach can't wait for everyone to master each skill or your team would never get anywhere. A solution is that coaches need to learn how to ignite players to practice weaknesses on their own. Talk to parents and kids about ways to improve certain areas. A good way for a youngster is to mention how some great athletes also struggled with that skill as well but practiced hard and look at them now. Don't just tell kids they need to practice, churn the passion so that they desire to get better. More info? Read Daniel Coyle's book The Talent Code.

4. Creativity- This one I will throw on coaches shoulders because you can't find a 5 year old who isn't creative. Creativity is squashed by coaches who try to control the situation. Instead set up the drill, explain the rules, and watch them play. Studies are starting to come out (check out Mike Williams) that more "coaching"/talking is not the most effective way for kids to learn and transfer skills. Letting the athlete come to conclusions through their path is much more effective than doing what coach says. The kid also will feel more accomplished. Setting up the situation for learning is your most important job as a coach. If not you'll feel like you have a meeting with Gary Cole in Office Space.


5. Rewards- We must reward, but reward the right things. Praise effort, taking risks, and thinking outside the box, instead of ability or "talent." This feedback is critical from long term growth. By rewarding effort over ability we teach them how to find the opportunity that lies in every situation. Rewarding ability can lead to fixed mindsets, big ego's, and the inability to face challenges. More on this go read Carol Dweck's book Mindset.

The overall message is that video games figured out a way to make kids safe playing their game, while giving them a sense of accomplishment and skill. Youth sports in the USA has gone the other direction. I'll end it with a quote from Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard,

"
The solution may be for a lot of the world's problems is to turn around and take a forward step. You can't just keep trying to make a flawed system work."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lessons and Notes from the Seattle Sounders Mentorship


Oh what I thought I knew.....

It's funny looking back at how much I thought I knew when I first started out with a frat boy like confidence on how I could train any athlete, anywhere. Then I heard Gray Cook talk for the first time and was put in my place like a dog who just shat on the carpet and it's owner found out. Tail between my legs ready to listen to anyone and everyone for more advice and knowledge.

I'm still an infant in this coaching world but feel I have worked very hard in my early years to at least be able to hold a respectable conversation about training or be able to ask questions where eyes aren't rolled in the back of their head saying "Here we go again..."

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to travel to Seattle for the Seattle Sounders FC Sports Science mentorship. Sounders fitness coach, David Tenney, set up a great weekend with some great speakers including Patrick Ward, Joel Jamieson, Darcy Norman, Jordan Webb, and of course Coach Tenney. What was even better about this conference was it was limited to only 30 attendees making it open for a lot of discussion, networking, and a relaxed atmosphere.

This conference also put my tail back between my legs. Listening to these guys talk made me realize, yet again, I have oooohhhh so far to go as a coach. I'm just scratching the surface of what there is to learn. Here's some notes and take aways from the weekend

-Stress comes in good and bad forms. You must account for it all and be able to individualize and adjust training in response to it.

-You also must measure this stress in some form. There are expensive, high tech ways (Omegawave) and inexpensive, low tech ways (resting HR and questionnaires). This gives you a much better idea and allows for better communication with your athletes.

-Recovering from stress can happen in many ways. Certain methods are good at certain times and sticking to one way will not work all the time. Example, ice baths are great if you need to recovery in a short period of time from game to game, but might not be the best idea at the beginning of a training program because the inflammation is the bodies way of recovering.

-Soft tissue work doesn't always need to be deep tissue work. Sometimes just stretching the skin will relieve a lot of tension. Patrick showed me this first hand with my calves.

-Recovery reserve, movement reserve, and fatigue reserve- Go read Patrick Wards article here. Huge concepts that help you figure out how to see a bigger picture.

-There are some many systems intertwined that we will never know it all or can say "this one thing will determine..." Learn principles, use methods, measure results, ask questions, analyze and assess. It's a never ending puzzle.

- Fitness/S+C coaches working with team coaches should have disagreements, friction, even arguments. If you don't make it personal and keep the purpose in mind, that is how you will evolve and find more efficient ways. Loved the story Sounders Coach Sigi Schmid told us how he met with UCONN's soccer coach, and he complained about how much he fights with his S+C coach. Sigi's reply, "Yeah, you're supposed to disagree. That's why you're both there."

-Smaller incremental changes are necessary with many of your athletes. Patrick Ward talked about how he has changed a golfers motion so well when they got on the course they had no control over their new motion. He realized he added too much at one time. Add stress, let them recover, add a little more, let them recover.

-Specificity with our drills must be looked with a different lens. It's a measurement between a movement and a skill, that's it. Start from what your trying to improve and go down the chain keeping in mind your original skill. A good way to know if a drill is specific, if you had elite athletes doing it, would they be better at it than an amateur? If so, it's probably specific. Go read everything by Joel Jamieson @ 8weeksout.com

-One main goal we want is to increase the consistency and durability of our athletes. We want their trainablility (their ability to recover from a stress) to improve. Sometimes that means recovering instead of pushing further.

I could go on and on about what I learned at this event. These things are a lot of fun, and I encourage any coach to find 1-3 of these to attend per year. You really do learn a lot from listening to how others think and put pieces of the puzzle together. It's also refreshing to see the top coaches in our industry are so open to share their philosophies and knowledge.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Labeling Our Athletes


Putting labels on our athletes can be a very dangerous use of words. Positive labels such as gifted, special, and naturally talented can be just as damaging as using negative labels like lazy, unfocused, or even worse, a waste of talent. Labels can have a very long lasting affect that can be detrimental to long term athletic development and character.

Every coach should know that labeling your athletes negatively can kill an athletes confidence, self esteem, and performance. And please, stay out of coaching young kids if your only style of coaching is yelling and screaming like a jackass.

But why would calling players gifted, special or naturally talented negatively affect performance? Labels can put players into a fixed mindset that says they can effortlessly get by because of genetics. If we constantly tell kids how gifted they are, a typical thought could creep into there head that says,"If I'm gifted, I don't need to work as hard because it will come automatically." These labels lead to complacency and a sense of entitlement. If they hear that enough, they start to believe that the hard work they put in is no longer necessary. Now next season when they face a kid who's now better than them from last season how will they react? Often, they will back down from the new challenge because it questions what we've identified them as; gifted.

We can counteract this by praising effort instead of ability, and showing great examples of great athletes who continuously out worked their peers.

Do we want to give players any labels whatsoever? I think we absolutely can, if they have deserved them consistently. There are 3 labels I hope my athletes are aspiring to earn. There could certainly be more, but I feel if I encourage these 3 ideas than everything else will fall into place.

1. Be a diligent and hard worker.- I think one of the best compliments anyone can receive is, "Damn he/she works their tail off." It means your willing to pay your dues and take what's yours. I want to slap anyone who says, "I would have been just as good as them if I worked that hard." Oh yea? You know why they are better? Because they worked hard.

How do we teach this? Praising effort over results.

2. A risk taker. Name me someone who's surpassed expectations without taking multiple risks? Don't worry I'll wait......

Name someone who loves to try new things that you don't like to be around...... Again, I'll wait...

How can we encourage risk taking? Showing that opportunity lies within every situation, good or bad, and praising when he/she tries something new.

3. A creative and critical thinker. This comes over long periods of time, and ties very nicely into being a diligent and hard worker. Evaluating your progress and results, asking for feedback, and looking at what others have done in the same situation lies at the heart of creative and critical thinking.

How can we develop creative and critical thinking? Putting young athletes in challenging situations and asking questions instead of giving directions. Lay out the parameters and let them run wild! Like the late George Carlin said, "We must teach kids to question!" (Watch the video below if you're a fan of his humor.)




Friday, July 15, 2011

Agility Game: Mirror Drill 2 for 1

This agility game has quickly become one of my favorites. The mirror drill has always been popular, especially with basketball coaches. However, a lot of the time the players become bored with just staying in front for 10 seconds without an objective. This past winter I was working with a semi pro basketball team and challenged them to this version. The leader/offense tries to get two feet outside of the paint before the mirror/defender can touch one foot. I time them for 10 seconds to see how many times they can achieve the 2 for 1. We then rest and switch leaders and mirrors.

It turned out to be much more competitive and players were moving much faster. I use this now with my athletes in the summer and has been a staple agility drill. Over the past couple weeks they have become much more disciplined about staying low and in a tunnel (thanks Lee Taft). It's great to see them taking the concepts and applying them to a reaction stimulus.

Here's a couple videos of one of my small groups having some fun with it this past summer.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ajax FC..... The Science behind Talent Development

Even though it's been over a year since this article came out by Michael Sokolove in the New York Times entitled How a Soccer Star is Made, I felt compelled to write about how far behind the United States is with youth development in sports.

Ajax has always been known as a European soccer power. Since much of the money for soccer is now in the Spanish, English, Italian, and German leagues, AJax has recently been unable to purchase the best players to compete at the highest level. What they did to adapt was create the world's best youth development program nicknamed "De Toekoms"- The Future. It has produced some of the top players in the world including Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart, and many players currently on the Dutch National roster.

Ajax now supports it's club by developing these young players into absolute super stars and having the major clubs, who the players would probably end up with anyway, purchase their rights. This has become a very lucrative business, making the clubwell over $80 million.

Now if you talk to many American coaches, they'd probably think these kids are so much better than the players in the States because they play more and against better competition in tournament after tournament starting from the day they can walk. Oh how wrong you would be.....

There are three main points that I will compare from how Ajax develops players to how the USA has been know to develop players.

1. 12 and Under....LTAD vs Peak By Friday
Ajax- The players who are chosen to enter the Ajax club are only allowed to play in one game on the weekend and only practice 3 times a week for about 2 hours a day up until the age of 12. The other times they let them play games outside of structured practice with their friends. They found the value of not having anyone telling them what to do with the ball is essential for future development. Since the country is so passionate about football, it is often not hard for these kids to find games in the streets, parks and neighborhoods. Ajax realizes they want these kids to be world class, not elite 10 year olds. The best part? Ajax pays all expenses but a $12 insurance fee per year.
American- "Is he gifted? Lets have them sign up for 2 clubs teams and play with their school. Averaging over 100 games a year." This logic is not that uncommon. Our coaches only prior experience is playing the sport in high school or college and have not been educated at all on how young athletes acquire skills. We kill their creativity by the constant coaching, which is synonymic with yelling what they're doing wrong, and the pressure the parents get to put them in the next competitive 8-under team. By the way parents, you have to pay for all expenses.


2. Small Sided Games
Ajax
- This is the heart of the practice with Ajax, especially at a young age. Ajax has done their research and looked at how playing small sided games for young players gives them touches than playing 11 vs 11. It also forces them to make quicker decisions, learn to move and control the ball in a small space, and not get lost on such a big field. Combine this over many years and hours of practice, making players much more effective than ours. Why?
USA- Right away kids are thrown into 11 vs 11 without practicing skills and how to move within the sport. We may use small sided games to warm up, but we will then go into block practices where everything is choreographed and over coached. Instead of putting players into a situation to learn, we instead put them in situations where the is only one way. This kills the creativity of the sport.


Develop the Athlete First
Ajax
- Ajax has pulled players away from games to teach proper running technique and improve fitness so they have the ability to use their skills through an entire game. They look to change improper running technique and other movement patterns that may hurt them in the future.
USA- This has become much better in the past 5-10 years but it would take a special parent, coach and athlete to take a kid away from the game for a short period of time to work on athleticism. Many parents freak out that their kid won't be seen in the next tournament by the college scout in a 12-Under Show Case.

I certainly don't agree with why Ajax develops their players, as it seems more like slave trade than anything. However, we should take notes on how they put their system together. They encourage long term development, look for the science behind skill, and make sure the body can hold up with the rigors of training as they get older. I'm asking coaches, parents and athletes here in the US to take a second look on how we can improve our youth sports. In other places of the world they have competed and beat us with less selection of athletes and more understanding of talent development.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Agility Game: 4 Corners

Happy 4th of July everyone!

This past week during a summer training session, one of my girls suggested a game called 4 corners. Personally, I had never played or even heard of the game, but I immediately loved what I saw and will use it in the future.

How the Game works: Four cones in a square about 7-10 yards apart. One person is in the middle. Think of the game like stealing a base. The four on the outside are trying to switch with each other, while the person in the middle is racing to a cone before the 4 corners do. Sounds a little confusing but see the picture and watch the video below.
Why it's great?

The kids accelerate, decelerate, react to each other, take chances, and have some fun. Kinda like a couple sports I know....It's a great game for me to use on a day where a linear speed is the focus but also does have elements of change of direction and lateral movement.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

3 Techniques to Improving Coaching Communication

My readers will know I absolutely love the idea of deliberate practice. Daniel Coyle even made a great acronym for it in his last post, R.E.P.S..

R-Reach and Repeat
E-Engagement
P-Purposefulness
S-Strong, direct, immediate feedback

As I learn more and more about deliberate practice I think of ways to apply it to improving as a coach. How can I deliberately practice coaching better? It's not a very easy question to answer. Practicing a sport, instrument, or new skill can be much easier to find ways to deliberately practice better. But how can we do it as a coach? Of course we can read books about new drills and progressions, and constantly look to improve our program. What I want to talk about is how can we deliberately practice communication. We must take a proactive approach, and figure out where we need improvement.

Step 1: Have a notebook with you at all times during the workout.

I have to thank fitness pioneer Alwyn Cosgrove (picture left) for truly waking me up to this idea. Everyone knows it's a good idea to have something handy to write down ideas but he put it in a whole new context for me. When Alwyn started training and coaching he would write down 100 words for every session. He had 30 sessions a week (30x100=3,000 words) x 50 weeks? He literally wrote 150,000 words per year. If a average book is 250 words per page, he wrote a 600 page book every year.

Now I don't always write 100 words per session but I always keep a notebook handy for new ways I coached a drills, things I see that need to
be improved, areas of weakness with my communication, or a joke that wasn't funny (which is probably in the 90% range). This is the utilizing reach and repeat method for communication. Push yourself to find weaknesses! Once again thank you Alwyn, this significantly improved me as a coach.

Step 2: Ask Athletes for Honest Feedback

The best part of coaching is the relationships you build with your athletes. Having them on a friendship, but I'll still do anything necessary to improve you even if that means breaking you, bond is unparalleled. Asking your athletes at the end of sessions of what they liked or disliked, what areas were unclear, what parts do you think could be improved. The better the relationship, the more honest the feedback will become.
Hug it out bro....


Step 3: Ask other Coaches to Critique

This is hard for me as I am the only coach now at my school and getting another coach to come watch isn't always easy. However, this is a very powerful tool that can really be beneficial. In the sport performance industry we always talk about how important it is to go to watch other coaches, usually the experts. How often could we ask a fellow coach down the street to just come observe and see if he finds any areas that need sharpening? I certainly don't have coaches emailing me that often about coming to watch my small program develop, time to go find them. However I do live in San Diego aka a whales..... oops I mean "America's Finest City", what they $%*^ are you guys waiting for!

Having a coach who is from a whole different sport is probably even better. They look at it with a beginners eye, but still with the eye of a coach. Use that to your advantage. In fact I need to get on that now, have a great 4th of July weekend. My beer of choice will be Leinenkugel. A great summer wheat!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Conditioning At it's Best

I recently read Ultimate MMA Conditioning by Joel Jameison. This book is outstanding to say the least. I wanted to write a book review but Patrick Ward of Optimum Sports Performance beat me to it and did a much better job than I would have.

Check it out here...... http://optimumsportsperformance.com/blog/?p=1963

Monday, June 20, 2011

Building into the Structure

The word coaching is often very misunderstood by the masses. Many times a coach substitutes coaching with telling, and even worse yelling. In the movies, television, and media we have forever associated good coaching with who can do the best job of telling their players what they're doing wrong. It's about time we challenge this idea.

I've been fortunate to learn from some very good teachers and coaches as an intern as well as through mentors, certifications and volunteering on my own. One of the biggest concepts I've learned in my early career is the idea of "Building Into the Structure." I took this phrase from Nancy Green at Brain Highways in Encinitas, CA.

When I first started out I would become very frustrated with young athletes doing things wrong or not listening to directions. Over time, I've realized this was 100% my own damn fault. The drills I used were too advanced, I would give directions at the wrong time, I would place myself in the wrong position to demonstrate, and I wouldn't have proper progressions that would've led to correct technique, and so on and so on.



By no means have I figured a perfect way to teach all drills and techniques, but I quit putting the blame on my young athletes and instead looked at the man in the mirror (I apologize if Michael Jackson is now stuck in your head for the rest of the day). I now realize I must build the desired result into the structure. The structure being the drills, how I ask them to position themselves, how I position myself as the coach, EVERYTHING! Fine tuning the little things can turn a good program into a great program.

Coach Wooden and his assistants used to spend just as much time planning the practice as they would actually practicing. It got down to the details of where the ball racks would be for each drill before it started. They built efficiency into their structure.

This applies to athletic development training by how you use your progressions, and create a logistical flow to your facility. Simply throwing a complex movement on a new athlete then getting mad that they "didn't listen well enough," or "weren't paying attention" is simply awful coaching. Instead, designing new progressions that will lead them to actually learning the movement correctly might be a different route. Again, if your athlete's aren't doing what you want, look in the mirror and take the blame or nothing will ever change.

At TPI's Junior Level 2 certification, Denis McDade led us in a youth coaching oath. I wish I remembered this verbatim but it went something like this...

"I (your name here)..... will not blame or get frustrated with..... a young athlete..... for my inability to teach.... a basic skill..... that I thought I just tell them once but they didn't do it right so now I need to re-evaluate everything I know about coaching."

A good way to figure out what part of your programs need more built into your structure is to have a notebook or print out of your daily plan. Every time you notice you get frustrated, note what drill or exercise that was on and why you're frustrated. Go back after practice, or at night, and break down the drill to it's inner core. Read, call another coach, watch DVD's on how others have taught that particular skill and figure out what will work best in your situation. Deliberate practice at it's core for coaching....

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sport Performance Coaches: Athletic Development vs Strength and Conditioning

I haven't been able to write in a while because I was in Yosemite and Northern California with a group of 10th grade students from my school. I was forced to go on a the trip to one of the most beautiful places on the face of the planet with 10 outstanding young adults, fellow faculty Emma, and our fearless leader Josh. We got rained on, hailed on, and attacked by a baby cub. No worries though, I'm a bear whisperer and was so intimidating that it ran away (picture to the right proves that).


Time to get to the post......

Three Examples of Athletes:

Athlete #1: 22 year old senior in college. He's going into his final season of hockey and most likely will not turn pro after the season.

Athlete #2: A 10 year old girl who enjoys soccer, lacrosse, and swimming. Long legs and very skinny.

Athlete #3: A 19 year old Red Shirt freshman on a division I football team. Needs to put on strength, power and size to be able to compete with the bigger athletes.

Obviously you would not train these three athletes the same. If you coach these three athlete's, what your trying to prepare them for differs drastically due to their needs and the needs of the sport. I like to break it down into what percentage needs of short term training, 3-12 months, and long term training, 1+years. Short term training is looking at preparing for upcoming seasons, matches, fights, etc. Long term is looking at Long Term Athletic Development (LTAD) that will maximize the potential of the athletes when they reach a competitive phase.

No matter what athlete you are don't start this program...


Athlete #1- Probably 90-95% short term training. Since this is their last go round, all focus is on getting them as strong as possible for the season as well in the best condition possible.

Athlete #2- 100% long term training. You could care less about getting them prepared for their weekend soccer tournament. All your focus is how can I help this young girl become the best athlete possible when she's ready for tough competition.

Athlete #3: I would give this about 65% Long term and 35% short term. You trying to prepare them for their sophomore through senior year, and possibly a professional career. Your goal is not having them in top condition for the season but you do want them to be prepared for the practices with them team. Conditioning is a important aspect but you're still considering this athlete as a long term project.

What does this all mean? In the future we may need to break the sport performance world into two different coaches. Athletic Development Coaches and Strength and Conditioning coaches. Programs like TPI and IYCA have already started certifying and education those interested in working with 5-18 year olds. Strength and Conditioning Coaches are well established and work with ages 15-???. There is an obvious overlap depending on the sport, athlete, and schedules.

I propose this division of coaches because working with young kids has become very important due to P.E. classes being dropped, obesity/overweight problems (25%+ with youth), and technology causing increased lazyassness (trademarked). If you've been introduced by IYCA or TPI Junior Program to a LTAD model, you know that you can have a HUGE impact on developing athleticism from a young age. I've also seen very good strength and conditioning coaches who coach a group of young kids and do almost the same things they would with a college athlete. This can potentially be a big mistake. Children are not young adults!

The strength and conditioning world continues to develop with great coaches like Mike Boyle, Eric Cressey, Todd Wright, Dave Tenney, Joel Jamieson, and MANY others constantly pushing the envelope. Topics like energy system development, unilateral training, load vectors, and others continue to push the field into new ideas and better programs.

Can one person wear both hats? Absolutely, but I think specializing in one will benefit the athletes much more than trying to learn everything. Additionally, working with a 5-8 year old is a much different animal than a college football player. Learning to communicate effectively with each type of athlete will take years to master.

Below is a table I've developed that is a very broad diagram of how an average athlete may progress from long term development into preparing for particular seasons. This can change drastically due to the sport (think gymnastics vs golf), to an athletes goals, role on the team, and other variables. The blue area consists of Athletic Development Coaches and the red area is directed towards strength and conditioning coaches.

Long Term vs. Short Term Athletic Preparation