How well do you know your kids coach?

This is a question that looms large in the light of the incidents at Rutgers University concerning the Head Basketball coach Mike Rice. This post is not going to be another rant on who did and didn’t do what at Rutgers. As much as I think the actions and reactions of all the involved parties are despicable, I would like to spend this time to discuss your kids and their coaches.

I have been saying for years that a youth athletic coach has more influence in a child’s life than parents give them credit for, or pay attention to. When a young athlete is a part of a team, playing a sport they love, and are committed to, they are eager to learn from and please the person they think can help them increase their skills. That person is the coach. The coach has all of the power to decide what type of playing time they get. What positions they play, and even what those players will be taught about the game. Yet parents rarely know anything about that coach.

When your child goes to school each day parents have the comfort of knowing that their teachers have qualifications to teach their kids. They know that these adults have been trained in the disciplines they are teaching. They know that teachers have to be scrutinized by their school districts and trust those teachers to teach and care for their children.

Let’s look at youth sports. How many coaches are actually trained in the discipline of coaching? Most “coaches”  work some other profession during the day and then coach as a volunteer or part time job after work. Few are trained in the disciplines needed to effectively teach athletes how to become better. Such as communication, cognitive learning types, personality types, sport specific fitness and nutrition and many more topics that are crucial for athletes to increase their skills at the sport they love. Many coaches rely on information and styles they were watching when they were young athletes. Or they have played the sport  and are now watching their kids grow up with it. Playing a sport in your past does not qualify you to be a coach. Yet many parents do not ever ask about the coaches qualifications.

Most parents simply drop off their player at a practice and return later to pick them up. It is common for parents not to know what is being taught and how at their kids practices.

The incidents at Penn State and recently with the Rutgers Head Basketball  coach are clearly the greatest forms of abuse. But there are many lesser abuses that take place everyday from many coaches that go unrecognized or unchallenged. To demonstrate what I mean by that I am going to describe several coaching styles for you.

  1. The coach that plays favorites.

This person usually does not know how to coach. The reason they play favorites is because some players are easier to deal with than others. There are some kids that do take to his/her coaching. Those kids tend to have the same cognitive learning type as the coach. He/She can only teach that type of player and the others are not given opportunity to grow. To disguise their inadequacies this type of coach will only play his favorites in an attempt to win games and look like a good coach. For those players not part of the clique, they begin to doubt themselves and their abilities. If the favoritism goes on for too long the “outsiders” will simply quit. Sounds like abuse to me.

  1. The coach that doesn’t know how to teach mechanics.

All sport is movement based. Regardless of your child’s favorite sport they need to be taught competent movement skills. Especially at the younger ages. Many coaches are not trained in anatomy or neurology, and cannot understand how the human body adapts to movement at different ages. This is understandable. But there are many coaches out there with players who do not even know how to teach the specific mechanics of the sport they are coaching. Such as how to properly throw a football, or pitch a baseball. How to swing a bat or tackle a player safely. Most times these coaches are fearful of teaching something that might create injury. While that is noble it does not make them qualified to coach that sport. To disguise their inadequacies this type of coach will only play the more competent players at crucial positions in an attempt to win games and look like a good coach. For those players not yet as competent at the mechanics they sit the bench, and begin to doubt themselves and their abilities. If players sit for too long they will simply quit playing the sport and lose out on the opportunity to grow and learn through the game. Sounds like abuse to me.

  1. The screamer.           

We have all seen this coach before. The type that wants to” break them down first, then build them up.” These coaches use harsh words and demean players with very critical and uncalled for statements, in a feeble attempt to motivate. I have personally witnessed a baseball coach call his 12-13 yr. old players idiots, stupid, retards and worthless. All this coach managed to do was create fear and anxiety in the players. Once the players feel anxious and afraid they cannot do well while playing the sport. Then the coach will sit them “until they learn how to play better.” This type of coach will justify the behavior by saying it makes the players stronger and the ones that can’t take it probably shouldn’t be playing the sport. Players will never succeed in an environment where they are afraid to make a mistake. This type of coach should never be given permission by any parent to coach their player. Sounds like abuse to me.

  1.  The coach that labels players based on current competency.

This coach also does not know how to coach. They are simply throwing the mud on the wall to see what sticks. The kids that “stick” play and the others are thought to have no talent. Physical coordination and competency takes place at different speeds for all people. It is ridiculous to believe that because a player is not good at a physical activity today that they are not talented. Or that they cannot improve at the skill enough to be an asset to their team. This type of coach labels his players and sometimes those labels will follow a player all the way into high school and beyond. Sounds like abuse to me.

These are just a few examples of the wrong way to coach youth athletes. If your player plays for someone like this they do not have a coach. A youth athletic coach is a communicator, a mentor, a provider of information for the purpose of developing a young person. As a parent you should always be aware of the techniques and practices used by your child’s coaches. We seem to be very protective of our kids in every area but sports. Too many people will allow their kids to be coached by folks who are harmful to the development of their child. Nobody would accept that from a teacher at your local school. So why would we accept that from a coach?

There are many reasons for this phenomenon.

  1. Parents won’t speak up because the coach may not play their kid if they do.
  2. Parents don’t want to be labeled as a complainer.
  3. Parents don’t want the coach to be harsher to the player in retaliation.
  4. Players don’t want to be social misfits because their parents got involved.

If the possibility of any of these reasons being real truly exists, your kid is playing for the wrong coach. I have also heard, “well he is the only coach around what can we do?”

Or, “the league (or school) chose this coach. We don’t want to go against the grain.”

Parents, the proper development of your youth athlete is crucial to your family, the community you live in, and the future of our ailing country. If that is not worth speaking up for I don’t know what is. Advocate for your greatest resource; your children. Do not let any person, let alone a coach, abuse and stunt your child’s growth.

Abuse is abuse regardless of the severity, and should never be accepted from someone you are trusting to teach and mentor your youth athlete. Ask about the coaches qualifications. Ask to see their resume. Meet one-on-one to feel out this person. Don’t ever take for granted that because they have been assigned to your kids team that they are automatically the right person for the job.

If you become aware of issues with your player or another player do not be afraid to speak up and try and help find solutions. Any coach, athletic director or league official who tells you to mind your own business is not the kind of person you should allow in your kids life. Today’s kids are tomorrows’ leaders. Let’s give them the education they deserve, and need, to be a part of tomorrows’ solutions, not tomorrows’ problem.

This is a great discussion on first pitch strikes and the 1-1 count. These are very basic, yet extremely important pitching principles.

Quickness is characterized as explosive acceleration from a stationary position (Twist, 1997). It is the key to beating an opponent to the play and is demonstrated over very short distances. The best athletes are not always the fastest. Quite often it is the quickest player that dominates. A “quick” athlete can accelerate to their top speed in a very short period of time, can change directions and re-explode to top speed, and has a fast reaction time. All these attributes will help the hockey player win foot races to the ball, will help when attacking with the ball, and will help defenders react to movements by ball handlers.


Quickness, speed, and agility training are all inter-related and are designated as “neuromuscular” training. These drills will help the athlete react quicker and will enable the athlete to control the muscle with better co-ordination. Agility is important, because it increases the ability to move in multiple directions. A trait needed by every athlete in every sport if they wish to compete.
Neuromuscular training is skill training. The emphasis is on quality, not the quantity of training. Drills must always be performed in a rested state and the training session should be stopped when fatigue prevents proper technique. Athletes should progress in this type of training by using quicker feet in each successive session.
Focus on horizontal and lateral movements and single-leg drills (see below). Also include pivots (turning front to back), auditory or visual cues within the drills, and try as much as possible to incorporate a sport skill (i.e. puck handling or shooting at the end of the drill).

Q-A-P (Quickness, Agility and Plyometrics)

Most Q-A-P drills develop acceleration, foot-speed, and the anaerobic energy systems. Q-A-P training should be the first training component in the workout, because proper technique is extremely important (fatigue from other training will interfere with correct technique). All drills must be performed at the maximal intensity for a short duration (5- to 15-seconds), and there must be a full recovery (~ 1- to 2-minutes) between repetitions. Plyometrics are drills to help explosion.Always warm-up and stretch prior to explosive training.

Agility

An agile athlete can change directions without decreasing speed. Drills need acceleration, deceleration, many movement patterns, directional changes, simple sport-skills, and adequate rest periods (Remember, these are not anaerobic conditioning drills!).

BOX RUNS

  • sprint forward, touch the ground, shuffle to the right, touch, backpedal, touch, and shuffle left to the starting position (~10 second duration)
  • length of sides can be 5-15yds, mark corners with cones

    STAR RUNS

  • start in middle of a marked box and number each corner
  • sprint to each corner in a specific order OR use a different movement pattern to
    get to each corner
  • return to the center (starting position) after going to each corner 

    CLOCK DRILL

  • tape down hexagon area with sides measuring 12 inches
  • start in the middle and jump over the line to the outside on both feet, then jump
    back over same line, jump out over next line, etc., for 3 revolutions 

    T-TEST

  • sprint 10-yards, touch ground, shuffle 5-yards left, touch, shuffle 10-yards right,
    touch, shuffle back to middle touch, run backward to start 

    WAVE RUN

  • backpedal 5-yards diagonally to the left, stop, sprint forward diagonally to the left,
    stop, reverse direction to backpedal left again, stop and reverse direction one final
    time to sprint forward 

    SHUFFLE & GO

  • take 3 large shuffle steps right (OR left) and turn into a 10-yard sprint 

    CONE RUNS

  • arrange cones in a random pattern and sprint through the cones (10-seconds)
  • make lots of directional changes and movement patterns necessary 

    Plyometrics & Power Training

    Plyometrics improve speed, quickness, agility, and power BUT should not be used if recovering from an injury. It would be beneficial to have a certified coach demonstrate these exercises. Repetitions of plyometric drills must be performed in rapid succession (i.e. there should be little contact time with ground after landing from a hop OR jump). Each repetition should be a maximal effort. Rest 1-2 minutes between sets.

    For further information, see Allerheiligen (1994).

    BOUNDS

  • stride forward using alternate legs with an emphasis on the distance of each stride
  • land on the ball of the foot and explode rapidly to minimize contact time
  • include an arm-swing in the movement as well
  • perform the alternate-leg bound up an incline to increase the resistance and
    difficulty of this exercise 

    HOPS

  • greater emphasis on distance rather than height
  • all hops can be performed single-leg OR double-leg (single-leg is more intense)

    Forward

  • hop straight forward with an emphasis on distance
  • maintain a slight bend in the knee to absorb the force on landing
  • explode off the ground as quickly as possible to minimize ground contact time

    ZigZag

  • hop forward at a 45-degree angle to the right, land, and reverse direction to hop
    forward at a 45-degree angle to the left, repeat in the alternating fashion
  • remember to land and jump explosively as soon as possible 

    JUMPS

    Lateral

  • can be performed for either height OR lateral distance
  • stand with feet shoulder-width apart beside a soft object OR line
  • jump sideways off both feet, land, and jump in an explosive manner in the opposite
    direction, repeat in this alternating fashion

    Split-Squat

  • step forward as in a forward lunge, this is the starting position
  • explode upwards off the front leg and switch leg positions in the air so that the back
    leg is now at the front to support the landing
  • upon landing, drop back into the lunge position and then explode upward again off
    the front leg
  • complete for the desired number of repetitions for each leg
  • alternative – do not switch legs in the air, rather perform all jumps for one leg before
    switching

    Tuck

  • bend the knees and explode upward (as in a vertical jump)
  • bring the knees up to as close to the chest as possible at the top of the jump
  • land and jump as soon as possible to minimize contact time with the ground 

    Q-A-P Workout Design

    WARM-UP

  • 5-10 minutes of low-intensity activity using many different movement patterns
  • shuffles, crossovers, jogging forwards and backwards, torso rotations
  • running form drills (high knees, skips, heel-to-butt kicks, walking lunges)
  • 3-5 minutes of activity-specific stretching for injury prevention 

    Q-A-P BEGINNER WORKOUT

  • Choose 2 agility drills and perform each for 2 repetitions.
  • 2 sets of 8 double-leg zigzag hops
  • 2 sets of 8 lateral jumps (each side) 

    INTERMEDIATE WORKOUT

  • Choose 3 agility drills and perform each for 3 repetitions.
  • 3 sets of 8 squat jumps
  • 3 sets of 10 single-leg zigzag hops (each leg)
  • 3 sets of 10 incline bounds 

    ADVANCED WORKOUT – I

  • Choose 4 agility drills and perform each for 3-4 repetitions.
  • Incorporate a sport skill into the agility drills.
  • 3 sets of 10 single-leg lateral jumps
  • 3 sets of 10 single-leg zigzag hops (each leg)
  • 3 sets of 10 tuck jumps (each side)
  • 2 sets of 8 wide-stance squat jumps 

    ADVANCED WORKOUT – II

  • Choose 5 agility drills and perform each for 3 repetitions.
  • 3 sets of 8 single-leg zigzag hops
  • 2 sets of backward sprinting (5-8 seconds duration)
  • 3 sets of 10 tuck jumps
  • 3 sets of 10 lateral jumps (each side) 

    COOL-DOWN

  • 3-5 minutes of light activity
  • 5-10 minutes of stretching for flexibility improvement and relaxation 

 

According to dictionary.com the definition of a system is as follows:
sys·tem
–noun 1. an assemblage or combination of things or parts forming a complex or unitary whole.

Have you ever wondered how a good cook can take a good recipe and tweak it to make a GREAT recipe? Take pizza for example: We all like pizza but there is one person or one pizza place that just makes the BEST pizza you have ever had!


Have you ever wondered why/how that pizza is so good? Well the answer is simple they have a system and they plug the right things into the system to get an amazing result – the pizza you LOVE! A recipe is a system and a great cook can take a basic system such as:
1. Dough
2. Sauce
3. Toppings…

and make it into the most complex whole pizza you have ever tasted by plugging an assemblage or combination of things or parts into each category.
Good cooks can take that basic system or recipe and plug in the ingredients they know will get them the results they are looking for. The same goes for a good coaches.

Every successful coach, no matter the sport or level, has a system. The system dictates how a practice/workout is run, what is expected and has specific goals. Your system is your road map and will help you take your team where they want to go. A system will guide your team to success.

How do you measure success? Wins and losses, points scored and points against. None of the traditional measuring practices actually allow your staff, or players to truly evaluate success, tweak the system when needed, and remeasure. Scores and wins are not always indicative of success, and are outside of the realm an athlete or coach can control. How can you measure success without a system.

If performance improves, injury rates decrease, and the players are becoming a cohesive unit under one system, but the team still performs poorly in the win/lose column is that still considered successful? What do you think?
Your system is your measuring tool. Without a system you will have very few avenues for measuring success. Then you will probably revert back to the score board as your measuring tool.
If you don’t have a system of training you HAVE to develop one. To get started, look to another coach to see how they do it, and then look to another and then look to another to really get an idea of how you want to develop your system. Make sure it fits your philosophy and it is adaptable. Go to visit another coach. This might allow you to pick up some new exercises, tips and cues that you might be able to implement into your program. Please remember the new things that you see and pick up have to fit within your system.

As a coach I have a system that measures the players improvement as well as my improvement. True reflection is important. Get feedback from the parents and players also.

As far as successful coaching is concerned I look at this criteria the most. How much social awareness have my players gained. Will they be part of the solution not part of the problem when they leave. At the end of the day, very few of them will make money playing their sport, and even if they do, if they leave a more responsible, confident, “better” human being than when they arrived, and my program had anything to do with that, I view my time with them as successful.

 

I had to take nearly an hour yesterday at basketball practice to help my team get back to a place of excitement about basketball. The girls were almost all upset about an incident that took place at practice the day before. When I first saw how long it took to accomplish I was upset about ” wasted” time. We could have been drilling and getting ready for our upcoming game. Why were we just talking and why was it taking soooooo long. As
I sat last night contemplating all of this I realized it was best to take the time to air out issues and feel better about things before working any further on “skills”. Ironically enough I got this article by email this morning and thought you would all like to read it.
Why Performance Training Alone Isn’t Enough
By Melissa Lambert
As a former collegiate athlete, I remember spending my off seasons training every opportunity I had including weight lifting, running and playing with the men’s team to increase my speed of play. I took pride in having the top times in running and physically being able to outplay others. However, I remember playing our rival team and making a huge mistake that could have resulted in the other team scoring. What could have possibly gone wrong when I was in the best shape of my life? I neglected the most significant component of an athlete, my mind. The mental aspect of any sport can make or break a talented athlete regardless of their training regiment. I didn’t spend nearly the amount of time training my mind as I did training my body. 

It wasn’t until becoming a girls’ premier soccer coach and a licensed therapist that I realized how much of performance was based on mental skills. More of my time was spent off the practice field counseling my young athletes than actually playing. Coaches expect players to be ready to perform and leave all baggage behind, but if the athlete lacks mental toughness they will not see peak performance. Sport Psychologist, Gary Mack, defines the seven characteristics associated with mental toughness: 

Competitive: An athlete who does whatever it takes to win and will go the extra mile for a team. As a coach or fitness professional, observe whether your athletes fight for the ball after making a mistake or give-up. 

Confident: An athlete believes he or she can’t be stopped. These athletes believe in their abilities and don’t allow self-defeating thoughts to take over. 

Control: Mentally tough athletes have control of their emotions and behaviors. They won’t allow coaches, players and parents to get into their head. 

Committed: An athlete who is highly motivated and will avoid letting outside distractions deter them from their goals. As a coach it’s important to observe the commitment of each individual athlete to themselves and to their team. 

Composure: Mentally tough athletes who can deal with adversity and stay focused under pressure. Those athletes who lack faith in their abilities have more trouble managing their emotions. 

Courage: Athletes who believe in themselves are more likely to take a risk. In order to improve individually and as a team an athlete must step out of their comfort zone. 

Consistency: An athlete can play their best on the worst day. They possess inner strength to block thoughts that would negatively impact performance. 

What coaches don’t realize is how much work goes into developing a mentally tough athlete and the impact of environmental influences. The most significant factor in preventing an athlete from being mentally tough is known as negative cognitions or thoughts. As humans we all have core beliefs about the way we see ourselves, others and the world based on life experiences. A young athlete who lives in the inner city is going to see the world differently than another young athlete who lives in a rural environment. 

A therapeutic tool I commonly use with both my young patients and athletes is cognitive mapping. The athlete would identify a series of events, followed by their thoughts, feelings, behaviors and consequences. The athlete would be able to visually see how a particular event led to a specific thought. For example, a 13 year old male basketball player missed the winning foul shot and thought he must be a horrible athlete. As a result he may have felt depressed or angry, which resulted in giving up. The consequence was sitting the bench for not working hard after making a mistake. However, if the athlete was able to recognize the belief “I am a horrible athlete” as being irrational and change his thought about the experience, his feeling would also change. 

Coaches can support their young athletes by encouraging them to set daily or short-term goals that are measurable. Children specifically like to set long-term goals like winning a conference championship or setting new personal records but lack action steps to get there. As a coach, be sure to know the goals of your athletes and check in frequently on their progress. 

It is also important to stress the power of control each athlete carries as an individual and as a team. It is guaranteed mistakes will be made; however are your athletes responding by working harder or giving up? Mentally tough athletes have the ability to control their thoughts from becoming self-defeating. A baseball pitcher may walk a batter, but how he perceives the situation will impact the outcome of his next series of pitches. 

Coaches play an intricate role in helping to develop mentally sound athletes at any level whether it’s recreational or an elite program. Studies have proven that mental training will not only enhance performance and improve productivity but increase one’s passion or enjoyment of the sport. However, achieving inner excellence takes time and effort in the same manner as physical training. 

One of the biggest mistakes coaches make is having the need to improve performance solely through training and play. Realistically, ask yourself whether it’s your need that’s getting met or the need of your athletes. If you coach a high school team and have practice the week of finals be attentive to their emotions and take time to address what’s on their mind. Performance training and talent can only go so far without the ability to conquer self-defeating thoughts. 

Melissa Lambert
Melissa Lambert 
LPC, M.Ed, YFS1, YNS, HSSCS 
Child and Adolescent Therapist

Epic Performance from EPIQ Knowledge

Great performance depends on many factors including: everything you put in your mouth (nutrition); the physical and mental activities you choose to do or not to do (preparation); the amount of rest and reflection you allow yourself (recovery); and all the stuff you tell yourself in your own head (self-talk).

Many people think of intelligence as your IQ or ‘book smarts’. However, this is only one kind of intelligence. Other major intelligences are your emotional intelligence (EQ) and your physical intelligence (PQ). The great thing is that you can improve all of your intelligences with effort. EQ, PQ and IQ – you can remember them as EPIQ (pronounced ‘EPIC’). The goal is to increase your EPIQ performance in all aspects of your life as much as possible.

Your EQ, popularized by Dr. Daniel Goleman in his book The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights, is your ability to control your own emotions and read the emotions of others. It is a major contributor in your social skills – how well you interact with other people. Are you responsive or reactive? If you are in tune with Einstein’s theory of relativity but have no idea how to hold a conversation with another human being, you would have a high IQ but a low EQ.

Your PQ is your ability to control your own body. This breaks down into conscious control – coordination, strength, flexibility and balance, and unconscious control – how well your internal systems respond when called upon. How good of a job does your brain do at controlling your heart rate, disease-fighting immune system, and appropriate hormone responses to eating, stress, excitement, challenges, etc. Your physical intelligence is how well tuned your body machine is.

These are all important factors in leading a successful life and experiencing peak performance in competition or academic endeavors. Your IQ will help you solve life’s challenges, your EQ will help your daily interactions with others and your PQ will help you stay strong & healthy and fight disease of all sorts.

Your brain is the master coordinator of everything you do, feel, think and experience and the fitness of your brain determines your IQ, EQ and PQ. The more you work on the different aspects of brain fitness the better it all comes together. Each of these intelligences helps the others as well. For example, the better your PQ, the better your hormone stress response system works, the easier it is to stay composed under pressure, and the better your EQ gets. Staying composed in challenging situations also gives you a better chance at clear thinking and problem solving and increases your IQ.

This is only one example of the many ways that your intelligences work together. The more you work on your brain fitness the better they all get. It all comes back to variety. Using nutrition, physical and mental activities, appropriate rest and positive thinking to improve your brain fitness and improve all of your intelligences.

A focus on brain fitness will allow greater success at school, in sports, work or business, improved relationships and improved brain and body health. Improving your brain fitness will help you move from where you are today to where you want to be.

In the next post I will highlight some of the activities and classes at Peak One Performance that guide our young athletes to healthy choices for brain fitness. These activities encompass the ingredients needed to experience peak performance; nutrition, preparation, recovery, and self-talk.

 

Shawnee Wisdom

Posted: 12/05/2011 in Uncategorized

I truly believe that the most overlooked part of the youth athletic training process is the “Mental Game”.

You can have the most intricate set and reps scheme, a great plan for training and practices, and have the optimal blend of structural balance within your programs.

But looking at the long term ”big picture”, if you can’t get your athletes to work hard at every thing they do, and truly believe that the work is going to benefit them, then you may never see your athletes play at or near their potential..

In the world of technology that we live in today, I think many coaches and trainers get too caught up in trying to find a new exercise or drill when they should really focus on how to get their athletes motivated to work harder.

The mental aspect of training is so important and is rarely ever touched upon by coaches or strength and conditioning professionals.  In athletics, the most talented teams don’t always win.  It’s the teams that have the belief and confidence that they won’t lose. Look at the last two World Series Championship teams.

The San Francisco Giants and the Saint Louis Cardinals were both underdogs going into the World Series. Both teams had to face the American League “giants” the Texas Rangers. On paper the Rangers were the better team in both years. However, they never came out on top. If you listen to interviews from the players and coaches of the Giants, and Cards, what you will hear them talk about the most is a belief that they were going to make it happen, and that they would do it together, as a team. Both the 2010 and 2011 World Series championship teams had something in common; a manager that believes in accountability, and a strong mental approach to competition.

I believe that we, as coaches and strength and conditioning professionals, can promote these feelings and create the environment throughout our training that will give our players the edge they desire…but we have to demand it, and exemplify it, each and every day.

Mental toughness is having the developed psychological edge that enables you to:

1. Generally cope better than your opponents with the many demands (e.g., competition, training, lifestyle) that are placed on you as a student athlete.
2. Specifically, to be more consistent and better than your opponents in remaining determined, focused, confident, resilient and in control under pressure.

The key psychological characteristics associated with mentally tough athletes are;

a. Self belief/ Confidence

b. Focus

c. Motivation

d. Composure (handling pressure)

e. Resiliency

 

Mental toughness is often thought of as an elusive quality that only the elite possess. I myself, as well as many sport psychologists and coaches believe it can be taught.

For the majority of athletes, the outcome of athletic competition is the most accessible and common way to build mental toughness or confidence. These players get their confidence from their results.

They believe in themselves more if they are winning than when they are losing. This is a terrible roller coaster to ride for a young athlete. Nobody wins all the time.

I teach my athletes to get their confidence from their preparation. When a coach  takes the time to point out to his/her athletes that at practice every rep counts and show them that they are accomplishing difficult tasks, and doing things that they didn’t think were possible.  This builds confidence, a positive attitude and a belief that they can handle themselves in any situation that arises.

We as coaches have to create this environment that creates and promotes mental toughness – which is teaching our athletes how to do the right thing ALL THE TIME!

 

In my many years of research, and educating myself on how to be a better coach and trainer, I have read many books, seen hundreds of DVD’s, and attended countless webinars and seminars. One of my all time favorite organizations through out this process is the Positive Coaching Alliance. In my studies with PCA I was turned on to a psychologist from Stanford named Carol Dweck. Dweck wrote a book called Mindset- The New Psychology of Success. This book is great.

The pages inside describe the differences between a Fixed Mindset and a Growth Mindset. Athletes with a fixed mindset believe that their talents and abilities are simply fixed. They believe they are born talented, and that’s that. In this mindset athletes are so caught up in being and looking talented that they may not live up to their potential. Athletes with a growth mindset, on the other hand, think of talents and abilities as things they can develop-as potentials that come to fruition through effort practice and instruction.

These are Dweck’s Mindset Rules:

Rule 1:

Fixed Mindset: Look talented at all costs.

Growth Mindset: Learn, learn, learn!

Rule 2:

Fixed Mindset: Don’t work too hard or practice too much.

Growth Mindset: Work with passion and dedication—effort is the key.

Rule 3:

Fixed Mindset: When faced with setbacks, run away or conceal your deficiencies.

Growth Mindset: Embrace your mistakes and confront your deficiencies. Take a look at the diagram below for a moment and absorb this concept.

 

With those rules, it is clear to see why coaches need to teach their players to have a growth mind set. The key to becoming great at anything is a willingness to learn, to work hard and to acknowledge your shortcomings/weaknesses to become better at whatever task you decide to take on. These mindsets can easily be seen in young athletes for the attentive coach.

There will be athletes on your team or in your gym who have a fixed mindset won’t be able to accomplish a certain task or a finish a certain drill/exercise, while those with a growth mindset realize that they may not succeed the first time but will keep trying and learn how to get better at the drill to make themselves better.

These mindsets can be cultivated by coaches, sometimes without them even knowing it. A lesson I learned from PCA was not to fall into the “talent trap”. This can also happen to parents. Dwecks research offers clear guidance on how to avoid the talent trap.

For example; a player on your team does something great during a game. The feedback he gets from his coach (and parents), can help cultivate a mindset. See the slide below for the guidance provided from Dweck.

Coaches need to show their players that they value effort and practice not simply talent. Listen to what Dweck has to say about the coaches’ influence and how mindset should be cultivated properly.

Mindset is not exclusive to the athlete, but is certainly as influential to the student. Some kids are told their whole lives how smart and talented they are. This talent trap can be detrimental to any young person. Believing you are naturally endowed with the skills to succeed in sport and/or academics can create a lazy lifestyle. Many of these young Student athletes simply give up when things are difficult because they believe their “talent” is innate and fixed. Sounds like a trap to me.

The student athletes that are groomed within the growth mindset are the ones that excel and become the top in their sport or field of endeavor. See what Dweck’s research says about this.

Parents and coaches I plead with you to be careful what you say and do when praising your young student athletes. Beware of the trap.

I recently got my hands on a transcript from a seminar entitled the Ultimate Pitching Coaches Boot Camp. This seminar was held in 2007 in Houston Texas. While my intent was to increase my knowledge on how to be a better pitching coach for the dozens of pitchers I currently train, when finished reading I took something else away as a key point to remember. That point had to do with adolescent physiological development.

The point was made by renowned expert Phil Donley. Phil is a Hall of Fame Athletic Trainer- a Consultant to the Philadelphia Phillies for the past 5 years- Has Measured Over 1400 pitchers and is the Author of 12 books. He is considered by many as the preeminent expert in arm care and arm health for pitchers.

Phil Donley presented some excellent data on when bones become skeletally mature.  It made me think of a comment spoken to me on Saturday by one of my 7th grade basketball players. I had told the player, who has height but lacks any real strength or agility,  that he needed to be in the G.Y.M. with me a couple of days a week to build some strength. He told me that another coach of his commented about how kids shouldn’t strength train at young ages because it would stunt their growth. “I don’t want to stop growing coach” is actually what he said to me. WOW. It is amazing how uninformed opinions can shape how young athletes think.

Let’s look at some intriguing figures set out by Donley in this seminar. This information has actually been available in the literature for more than 20 years. I’ll focus on the shoulder  just to keep things brief.  In a baseball population, the epiphysial plate most commonly injured from throwing at the shoulder (Little League Shoulder) is located at the proximal humerus; this growth plate (physis) accounts for about 80% of humeral growth, and matures by age 19 in most people.

 

Current literature on biomechanics indicates that the maximum shoulder external rotation and ball release phases of throwing (being the fastest motion in sports) provide the highest rotational torque and distraction forces, respectively, with the maximum external rotation phase being most likely related to the development of little league shoulder. According to the Western Journal of Medicine, “The act of throwing a baseball hard is an abnormal whip-like action which places a forceful repetitious traction strain on the shoulder joint. Shoulder pain in youngsters engaged in organized competitive swimming programs can also be explained in this way.” I could not find any clinical evidence that resistance strength training is detrimental to the development of bones.

 

Donley went on to explain that bone maturation isn’t uniform across the body.  While the shoulder growth plate might mature at 19, the elbow Growth plate (distal physis) is finished between ages 10 and 16.  The proximal and distal radius plates might maturation anywhere between 14 yrs. old and 23 yrs. old.  Meanwhile, the clavicle matures at ages 22-25, and the scapula generally matures by age 22.  How many of you have ever heard of a college football being held out of weight training for all four years of his participation because weight lifting might stunt the growth of his clavicles and scapulae?  The truth is we know that the strength training benefits of increased muscle size and strength actually protect from injury on the field.

 

So, violent (over use in pitching or swimming) and traumatic events such as being tackled or falling, far exceed any stress on a young athlete’s bones that we could possibly apply in a resistance strength training setting. At Peak One Performance we believe that a young athlete should start resistance training as early as their attention span allows it. The emphasis, of course, would be on body weight exercises, technical proficiency, and most of all  keeping things fun.

Injury prevention is a key component to strength training for these young athletes. When accurately assessed, an athlete is placing a ton of stress (3-6 times body weight in ground reaction forces) each time they stride during the sprinting motion.  Kids jump out of trees and off of swings all the time.  They lug around heavy backpacks.  They are expected to get every out they can from their baseball coaches. Besides increased performance, general health, and self-esteem benefits, it’s only right to give them a chance in trying to avoid injury by strength training with a qualified youth athletic trainer.

Another great point  made by Eric Cressey (widely known throughout MLB as a  top trainer) is “that as an adolescent athlete grows, his center of gravity moves further up from the ground.  This is a big part of the lapse in coordination we see in kids during their growth spurts.  A little bit of strength goes a long way with respect to maintaining the center of gravity within the base of support, and makes an athlete more comfortable ‘playing low’ (hip and knee flexion) to bring that center of gravity closer to the base of support.”

Appropriate resistance training is not only safe for kids, but it’s also very beneficial.  In a review published by Faigenbaum and Myer, the authors concluded:

“Current research indicates that resistance training can be a safe, effective and worthwhile activity for children and adolescents provided that qualified professionals supervise all training sessions and provide age-appropriate instruction on proper lifting procedures and safe training guidelines. Regular participation in a multifaceted resistance training program that begins during the preseason and includes instruction on movement biomechanics may reduce the risk of sports-related injuries in young athletes.”

When performed correctly and made fun, resistance strength training is safe and provides tremendous benefits to kids in both the pre-adolescent and adolescent stages. The Peak One Performance Academy provides the environment needed for your young athletes to enjoy and grow from their training experience.

My stand is; strength training at Peak One Performance for pre-adolescent and adolescent student athletes is awesome. Having your child learn the importance of an athletic lifestyle at a young age is crucial to many areas of development. Beside not stunting physical growth, it strongly promotes mental and emotional growth. It helps your child understand nutrition and the benefits of properly fueling the body for athletic and academic prowess. All promoting a stronger, more competent adult life. Let’s give our kids an opportunity to grow up and become part of the solution, not part of the problem.

 

Here is an excerpt  directly from The Complete Athlete Development program from Brian Grasso. Not only do I agree with his words here I have seen first hand the validity of these comments.

“Divergent Beliefs
Many youth sport coaches infract on the notion that the here and now is the most important. Winning today’s game or this weekend’s tournament is critical – even when talking about 10 year old soccer.

In this case, the coaching style is very much reflective of the need to win.
Perfectionist-based tendencies are required during practice and game settings. When they are not received to the level the coach desires, yelling, belittling and negative criticism often purveys.

The same holds true for many parents. Demonstrating quality skill level and achieving success are thought of as the most important factors for participating in youth sports. Some parents offer negative feedback, poor critiques or inappropriate comments during the game. The message is clear to the young athlete – Success now is important. In fact, success is the only way I can avoid the negativity.

Trainers and training centers working with young athletes also fall into this category as well. The sales pitch is often made on the notion that improvements in speed, strength and jumping capacity will be both dramatic and immediate.
There is a stark and very real scientific consequence to each of these actions however. Young athletes, although children, still fall under the same physiological realities as adults. Before I demonstrate the mental fallout that young athletes experience due to the above circumstances however, ask yourself this question –
If my boss responded to me positively only when I was perfect and belittled me when I wasn’t,  how motivated would I be to continue in my job? ”

Film, the Next Frontier

Posted: 11/16/2011 in Uncategorized

For years I have been using film to analyze my students and players. It started in my yard with my own son. Filming and watching film to try and find mechanical flaws to his approach to hitting.

As I learned and trained in the physical movements of sport in general I realized that the film could tell me so much more than just how well he swings a bat. I began to use the film to analyze students and their movement capabilities.

Running form, bi directional competency, jumping form, neurological timing and sequential movement ability, and much more an all be analyzed with film.More importantly shown to the student. The visual tool of slow motion film has been priceless to the achievements of my students and to me as a coach and trainer.

Film cannot lie or have an opinion. Many times players are being taught how to do certain athletic skills such as pitching or hitting a baseball, shooting a basketball, or tackling an opposing football player, by coaches who are watching their form and mechanics in real time. Well, the professional coaches in the world of sports today do not “wing it” and state opinions to guide their players. They use film to analyze, break down the movements and show the players with this visual tool how to improve. If a coach is not utilizing film to train the player is not getting the  as much factual information as they need to make improvements. Knowledge based on the latest sports science research is the only thing that makes common sense. In fact, anyone who tries to coach and give advice using only the naked eye is at a huge disadvantage, because the naked eye isn’t fast enough to capture the fastest motions in sports. Unfortunately this is still how most instruction is taught, but there’s a better way and it involves using video…

It is my opinion that any parent who has the desire to help their player can do so best by using film. It has taken me years to become proficient and understand the biological mechanics needed for my players in their individual sports. I have tried so many different softwares and tricks to analyze the films. It can raelly be overwhelming as a parent to know where to start.

So… with that said I have put together a small video tutorial on how to use free software that comes with a windows PC to get started watching your players film in slow motion right at home. This is not the most intricate way to go about the business of film analysis, but will get any parent started, with enough information to help guide you into a better understanding of your players strengths and weaknesses as an athlete. Take a look.

M.O.L.D: The Key to Long-Term Athletic Performance

Taken straight from the IYCA’s Youth Fitness Specialist – Level 1 certification material, this acronym should be the calling card for every single professional and/or volunteer working with young athletes:

M = Movement Must Dominate

Every aspects of your work with young athletes must come under the pretense of ‘movement’.  Free-motion-based strength, torso, ROM, mobility, flexibility, speed, agility and cardiovascular training absolutely must be key to everything.

O = Open to Communication Variances

Coaching and communication are two of the much more important, but largely ignored aspects of proper athletic development.

Kids learn at different rates and via different means.  If you are not prepared to accept that and create a system of communication that reinforces both positivist and your willingness to educate, you will only ever be half a Coach.

L = Learning Style Variances

Not unlike ‘O’; young athletes sometimes need to see.  Other times they need to hear or feel.

Short-term training models are built to make young athletes tired and showcase rapid improvements in biomotor numbers.

Long-term training models are designed to instruct and infuse skill – the numbers will come (and they’ll be much better in the long run).

D = Don’t Train… Teach

Perhaps the nexus on which the entire IYCA is built…

We are not Trainers or Performance Specialists – we are Coaches.

And by default, a Coach’s job is to teach so that “next level” potential is maximized.

Do you ever ‘test’ your young athletes? Their speed? Strength? Flexibility? If so, why?

You know, most Coaches and Trainers can’t answer that question. They test because they think they’re supposed to. They believe they need to in order to show ‘results’.

When dealing with athletes ages 8-13 do we really need to know how many pushups they can do in a minute? From the stand point of development the answer is “No”.

At the younger ages what is most important is how, not how many. When testing, what trainers and coaches should be looking at is form and competency, not reps.  The push up test is typical in a lot of programs for a lot of different sports. The test itself is viable. But why?  Most coaches and trainers are counting the number of reps instead of things that are really important. Such as posture, pelvic alignment, scapular position, retraction, protraction, elevation, cervical spine etc. All of these things are more important than how many reps can be performed. If the skill aptitude increases so does the performance.

Performance is not the goal it is the result. How a young athlete gets there is so important. Unfortunately too many young athletes, their parents, and their coaches are putting the cart before the horse.

Focusing on proper form and movement will only increase the athletes’ ability to perform. Without this focus it will be detrimental to the athlete in later years if their athletic career.

Some kids become coordinated faster than others and are told their entire young life that they are talented and athletic. They are never really analyzed from a movement proficiency point of view. They go through their young athletic careers feeling and thinking as though they are always going to be great. Typically the day comes when they face a bigger, stronger, well trained opponent and they do not have the ability to compete with that player.

The wrong focus is not only plaguing our elementary and middle school athletes. I was recently at a college prospect camp for the sport of baseball.  The players there were high school seniors and juniors. The coaches were timing the player at the 60 yard dash. This is a very common test for baseball players. There were 58 players being tested that day. The player with the best speed on the day probably had the worst form. He ran with a short stride length, and choppy steps. He stood tall right after he started. He also did not run in a straight line. These are all signs of poor technique.

The 60-Yard Dash is all about technique. Yes, you heard right. It’s about more than pure speed. And by taking the time to learn and practice the proper techniques, an athlete can drastically improve his 60 time.

Step one for success: correct sprint mechanics. Efficient sprint mechanics enable an athlete to fire the proper muscles in the correct sequence, which maximizes speed. By refining their sprinting form for the better, the athlete will improve his stride length and frequency—the defining attributes for running faster.  The head, knees and toes—and everything in between—should be positioned and aligned in order to make the most of your speed potential.

The player I mentioned above impressed not only the coaches with his speed but intimidated the others. That player, as well as any of the others would be best guided if he were taught the right way. Instead of being told he was the best, based on his time. His potential is stunted because he is tested with the wrong application… time.

In closing I am not opposed to testing athletes at any age. I simply believe it is particularly important that young athletes be tested for competency in movement rather than speed time or numbers of reps performed in a certain time. The stop watch does not determine how good of an athlete you are. Your ability to functionally control your body is the key to being your best.

At Peak One Performance we are extremely sensitive to the sequence of training. The central nervous systems of young athletes do not all develop at the same pace. You can have two athletes in the room of the same age and have very different and apparent abilities. That does not stop me from training them the same way. The steps are sequential and all athletes need to master each step in order and with proficiency before moving to the next step.

You may see the more developed CNS learn the movements in less time. However they still need to master the levels before moving on. Sounds like their favorite video game doesn’t it?

Let’s talk speed.

Producing fast and agile young athletes isn’t as easy as some people make it out to be.

But it’s not that hard or complex, either. Speed and agility isn’t about running on treadmills or
through ladders. It’s about teaching young athletes how to move, accelerate and decelerate properly.

All you have to understand is where to start. And that’s part of the problem.

Almost every Trainer and Coach I know talks about speed and agility from an ‘acceleration’ point of view.

How you can get your young athletes to move faster and hit top speed most quickly.
But the reality of speed and agility training is that DECELERATION skills are much more valuable and need to be taught and perfected first.

If a young athlete knows how to stop and change directions well, they are guaranteed to be the quickest player on the field or court.

Basketball players don’t run top speed in a straight line. Neither do football players, baseball players, soccer players, tennis players or volleyball players either.

To be good at any of those sports, athletes need to be able to get to a position quickly, make a play, decelerate, recover and change directions with quickness.

And you won’t ever develop those skills by simply ‘learning’ to run in a straight line or executing endless ladder and cone drills.  Teaching speed and agility is a matter of having a sensible
sequence of skills that young athletes can learn, master and perform with great technique.

It all starts with learning how to decelerate.

There are three basic types of deceleration:

a. Lateral (athletes moving from side to side)

b. Linear (athletes moving from front to back)

c. Angular (athletes moving in diagonal lines)

Think about the sporting application

Tennis players move laterally to make a shot.  Football players move in a linear way to take on a block.  Volleyball players move angularly to dig a ball or make a pass.  And there many even more sports that require athletes to decelerate in all 3 ways.
Teaching speed is not unlike teaching Math or English.  Before you can perform calculus, you need to know how to add.  Before you can write creative essays, you need to understand how to use commas and periods.

With speed and agility, BEFORE I start having young athletes go through ladder, cone or treadmill drills, I need to teach them how to decelerate well.

Once they have that down, you can teach them how to accelerate and reach top end speed

Progressive Education is Key to Success

A student couldn’t understand advanced literature unless they were taught to read.

They couldn’t solve difficult mathematic problems without a basic foundation of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
A degree in science couldn’t be obtained without first being exposed to the basic elements of biology, physics and chemistry taught at the high school level.

Elementary through High School is a progressive building block of knowledge gaining that allows students to eventually specify and excel in a single area of study.
If a student were to miss any of the steps leading up to their degree their chances of success are significantly lower.

The school years have been created based on understanding curriculum, and the time needed to be taught properly.

If you were to take all the lessons contained in a standard second grade school year and condense it down to 6-weeks of class time, you would find that students would not understand, comprehend or retain much, if any, of the material.

They would be overwhelmed and simply unable to move on to higher levels of education successfully. Students need basic building block of knowledge, and it needs to be taught in a timely, progressive manner.

You Can’t Study Just Math

Even if an 8-year-old child excelled and loved everything about math, a parent wouldn’t restrict them from learning the material offered in all subjects.

Removing basic curriculum such as linguistics, Science and Music would severely handicap students from a developmental learning perspective.

General knowledge is a critically important element for children to be exposed to and learn at a young age. It sets the foundation for thinking process, problem solving and even study habits.

Athletic competence also requires progressive training

Athletes cannot hit homeruns, or throw 30 yard touchdown passes without the knowledge of the basic movements required to do so.
They could not navigate high school track and field events with success, without proper running form.
Players could not even adequately weight train without knowledge of proper anatomical movement.

The youth sport experience should also be a progressive building block of knowledge intake that allows young athletes to eventually specify and excel in a single sport.
If a player were to miss any of the steps leading up to High School sports their chances of success are significantly lower.

Youth sport curriculums need to be created with age appropriate, sequential teaching methods designed to build an athletic foundation. That foundation needs to start with an understanding of basic anatomical movement, and coordination.

You Can’t Just Play Basketball

Even if your 8 year old loved everything about the sport, and showed early promise and talent to play, you should not allow them to “specialize” in one sport.
Removing the movements that are found in other sports will decrease a players’ ability to have a strong overall movement foundation.
A good movement foundation eventually leads to mobility, flexibility, and multi directional quickness that is needed to excel at the High School level and beyond.
If anatomical understanding does not take place at an early age it is harder to learn as a student matures. This causes student athletes to become overwhelmed, not keep up and eventually drop out of sports all together.

Young athletes ages 8-14 need to study, understand and execute movement from many types of sports and exercise to be able to have success.
Below is a video from a trainer from Athletic Revolution explaining the concept of proper movement training, and why it is important. Enjoy!

At Peak One Performance we have combined the latest full body gaming technology with the ancient art of human movement. Take a look.

When Microsoft announced the release of its new full body motion detecting gaming accessory (the Kinect) I knew we were going to get one for the G.Y.M. I had watched the commercials on TV with eager anticipation. There are not a ton of games available. The ones that are can and will change how the world plays games.
For us the idea of having an avatar character that mimics your every movement with precision, behind a sensor that scans your whole body was intriguing. After using the Kinect sports game for one session it became apparent that this “game” will be a life changing tool for many of our young student athletes.
A traditional strength training or coordination development class would always use some resistance bands or medicine balls and work on proper form in athletic movement. We concentrate on the physical movements found in all physical activity. As a player gets older we then offer multi directional sport specific movement training. That all sounds great, but it’s very challenging to find activities that will keep young people interested and motivated to get to the G.Y.M. multiple times per week. As much as I have been down on student athletes playing video games after school for hours at a time, I find myself advocating for the new Microsoft Kinect.
The games can allow our players to work on proper movement techniques while competing with classmates or the computer generated opponent. The scanner sits under the monitor and when set up properly detects the athletes’ movement from head to toe. We have experimented significantly with the sensor. It does read all movement, and the better you execute the movements with proper form the better the scores of your avatar. To run faster the scanner needs to see your body running properly. To throw farther your mechanics need to be correct.
We do not simply put the athletes in front of the TV and walk away. Our trainers have the same job to do. We monitor all exercises and movements to make sure the player is executing properly. The XBOX keeps track of the results with the players’ individual profile. Times, distances, games played, etc., are being tallied by the Xbox and always on file. We have developed several age appropriate programs with this great technological fun. This technology will be used in our Sports Performance classes as well as our Coordination Development classes. For more information about how your child could benefit from Peak One’s programs email us at reply2peak@gmail.com or call Coach Mike at 970-402-4566.

Just think about the physical capabilities of a soccer player. Speed, strength, endurance, multidirectional quickness, great acceleration and deceleration, are all attributes of a footballer. Now picture them doing all of that with only one leg. The physical disability would be impossible to overcome…right? WRONG! Watch the video below for an eye opening testimony on how courage and persistence can out-weigh physical capability.

Can’t you just here the world exclaiming, “WOW, those guys are amazing”?
At first glance you are amazed at the stability and balance of the players. Then it hits you that they are fast. Then you ask yourself, “How did they do that?” Well the answer is they spoke it. They told themselves they could. They told the world they could. And they did.
Many youth athletes see themselves as having physical disabilities. I am too slow, too short, too thin, too fat, too weak, etc. Often these perceptions influence young people to stop playing sports altogether. Others will stay in the sport and use their perceptions to keep themselves from ever experiencing peak performance.
Kids who stay in sports but have poor self images, or misperceptions of their capabilities will usually pound themselves with negative self-talk. That self-talk is responsible for the lack of results these student-athletes experience, not their physical capabilities. The right mental attitude will allow these players to train properly and improve their physical skills.
Take the Haitian soccer players from the video above. They actually had physical disabilities. They were all missing a limb. Yet the players have become very adept at playing the sport. Imagine yourself in the place of one of the athletes. An unbelievable tragedy affects your life. You lose your home, maybe family members, and you have lost a leg. Imagine the self pity you could go through, “I lost everything, and I will never have a normal life again”. The power of courage and confidence is incredible. The self-talk of these courageous players must be more like, “I will overcome this tragedy”, “missing a leg will not stop me”, “I will adapt”.
As a coach or a trainer it is imperative to help guide your players in the area of confidence, and positive self-talk. As a part of our program we have taught our young players to speak what you want, not what you don’t. We assign the players a buddy each week and those two are responsible for monitoring each other, and their words. For example; the team is at bat. The opposing pitcher seems to be unhittable. Our team speaks “I hit the ball hard to the gaps where nobody is.” If a player hears his buddy say, or thinks his buddy is thinking, “I can’t hit this guy” they are to help their buddy get back on track with the words. We change buddies each week to give every player a chance to work with every other player.
As simple as that sounds it is incredibly powerful. This concept does not take much time to teach or monitor. It puts the players in a position of accountability. It allows you to do less talking, and more guiding. When your team speaks what it wants it will have greater success, and feel accomplished even when losing in competition.