Coach In Motion

Coach Pic

When you’re coaching, do you stand still?  Do you sit?  Do you always view things from the same angle?  Why???  First off, you are coaching.  Coaching = Teaching.  For teaching math you might be able to stay fairly stationary.  For teaching a sport, you need to be on your feet.  It lets you do a better job.  Plus, it sets a better example for your athletes.

There are three major reasons that it helps to be on your feet.

  1. It keeps the energy level higher and the focus better for you and the athlete.
  2. It makes it easier to demonstrate and make corrections.
  3. It makes it easier to see.

While all of these are important, the last one may be the biggest reason to move around.  Some coaches have a favorite place to stand when they watch an athlete do a particular skill.  Some like to stand directly in front, some to the side, etc.  They feel that this gives them the best position to see the skill and correct mistakes.  Personally, I try to move around some and view the athlete from different angles  This gives me a more complete view of what is going on.  It lets me see things in different ways and sometimes leads to a better understanding of how the athlete is executing that particular skill or drill.

Are you stationary when you coach?  Have you fallen into the rut of watching from the same place every time?  Shake things up and move around some.  It will give you a better view of the whole picture.

Here’s another post of mine on coaching.

Mark

Share

Female Strength Training

Barbie Pic

The cover says it all.

One of my favorite magazine/journal covers ever comes from an old issue of Training & Conditioning.  I love the title “Barbie Doesn’t Play Sports”.  To me, it promotes a hard working, tough image.  To me, that sums up my feelings about successful female athletes.  They aren’t afraid to work hard.  They aren’t afraid to work hard on the court or the field.  They aren’t afraid to work hard year round.  However, as important as it is, sometimes it is hard to get these same females into the weightroom.  Why is this?  I think that this is largely because of it being an area that they are unfamiliar with.  Strength training is scary for a lot of females.  Many of them have been bombarded by images from female bodybuilders.  These pictures always depict some lady who is loaded up on every supplement (legal & illegal) that she can pump into her body.  Unfortunately, this is the image of strength training that gets burned into many females minds.  They quickly decide that if lifting weights makes you look like that, they don’t want any of it.  Unfortunately, females need to be in the weightroom.  Why?

  • Injury prevention – Just like male athletes, females need to develop strength to help prevent injuries and limit the severity of those that they do get.
  • Improved performance – A stronger athlete can run faster, jump higher, accelerate quicker, and decelerate more effectively.  These all lead to better sport performance.
  • Correction of weaknesses – Females who haven’t ever taken part in a solid strength training program tend to have various muscular weaknesses.  These then add to injury problems and limit their performance potential.  Strength training can quickly start the athlete down the road to correction.
  • College preparation – Any high school athlete that wants to go on to play in college needs to strength train.  Not only will it help their performance (and therefore their recruiting), it will make them stand out once they get to college.  If the first time that an athlete has ever lifted is when they show up to college, they are already behind.  In my mind, if a female shows up on day 1 and is already comfortable and proficient in the weightroom, she has set herself apart from many of the other incoming freshman athletes.

So, how do you get females into the weightroom?  Educate and market.  You may have to teach them about the benefits and get them to realize that they won’t end up looking like the female Hulk.  You are also going to have to really make a motivated effort to get them started.  Once they start to see some benefits, the marketing should take care of itself.

Mark

Share

Concussion Prevention For Football: Strengthening The Neck

Football Tackle Pic

Is this a concussion happening?

Concussions In Football

One of the hot topics in sports medicine the last few years has been concussions.  It seems that every where you turn, concussions are being discussed.  Many articles and news stories have been run covering all aspects of concussions – testing, treatment, prevention, even the possible limited lifespan of American football as we know it.  One idea that has received some mention is the concept of neck strengthening to help prevent concussions.  Since football season is underway, I thought that I’d address this topic.

Why is neck strength important?

Almost any type of impact in sports can cause a concussion.  These impacts can come from other players, the ground, or even a ball.  We usually think that you have to get struck in the head to get a concussion.  That’s not entirely true.

Youth Football Tackle Pic

Even a blow to the body can cause a concussion if the forces are great enough

Anything that causes a sudden movement of the head can cause the brain to accelerate inside the skull.  Of course, after it has accelerated, it strikes the inside of the skull which causes a concussion. Having strong neck muscles can help to limit the dramatic forces that can take place when struck in the head or elsewhere.  While not all concussions can be prevented, anything that we can do to keep the head more stable should help to decrease the chance of getting one.  Years ago, I was taught that it was important for football players to strengthen the neck to prevent neck injuries.  It’s also an important to part of concussion prevention.  Some college football programs have placed a renewed emphasis on neck strengthening.  Has it helped reduce concussions?  Several of these colleges have reported about a 50% decrease in concussions.  While these weren’t scientific studies, I think that  we should all take note and realize that include neck training in the programs for our teams.

What To Do

So, what should you do to train the neck?  You should focus on exercises that work the neck in six directions:

  • Flexion
  • Extension
  • Lateral Flexion (right & left)
  • Rotation (right & left)

These exercises should be done twice per week for 2-3 sets of 10.  If you have access to one, you can use a 4-way neck machine for everything except the rotation movements.  Other possible methods to complete the exercises include:

  • Manual resistance (individual or partner)
  • Resistance with a towel (individual or partner)
  • Resistance with an exercise band (individual or partner)
  • Neck Bridges

While it is important to train all of these specific neck motions, you must also train the trapezius muscle.  The trapezius helps to extend the neck and can help to add stability if it is strong.  The best exercises to use are shrugs and upright rows.  These exercises should be included twice per week also.  Shrugs can be done for 3-5 sets of 5-10 reps.  I usually keep upright rows to 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps.

One more thing that can be done is to add in some perturbation movements.  Many times in football, an athlete doesn’t see a block or hit in time to prepare his body for the impact.  These movements can help  improve neck stability during these unseen impacts.  To do perturbations, have an athlete in a seated position with their eyes closed.  Their neck should be held in a neutral position.  Have their partner suddenly but gently push their head in random directions.  The athlete should respond to the push by attempting to stop the head motion using their neck muscles.  I would suggest doing one set of 20 repetitions.

I have always believed in training the neck to prevent neck injuries.  With the  rash of concussions that seem to be happening in football, it has become even more important to train these muscles.  Make sure to find time in your program to include these exercises.  I know, none of us ever have enough time to fit everything in our strength programs.  Now there’s one more thing to include?  Just remember, while it may be important to do the bench, squat, clean, etc,  there is nothing more important than preventing potential injuries.  Make neck strengthening a priority in your program.

 

Mark

P.S.  While the info in this post was related to football, it applies to many other sports also.  The same program can be used for athletes that play soccer, lacrosse, and many other sports.  It can be especially vital for females to strengthen their necks.  Experts in concussions have begun recommending neck strengthening for females after realizing that they tend to have less neck strength than males.

Share

Throwing Curveballs?

Little League Pitcher Pic

Is his arm in danger?

The 2012 Little League World Series ended yesterday, with Japan winning impressively.  Of course, with youth baseball always comes some debate about arm injuries.  Should young pitchers throw curveballs?  Should the pitch be banned in Little League?  Do pitchers throw too much?  Are neither of these factors to blame when a pitcher gets hurt?  Are both of them to blame?  It’s always interesting hearing the different sides of this issue.  Let’s look at a few facts:

  • Breaking Pitches – Many people place the blame for arm injuries on kids throwing curveballs.  Is this really a factor?  There is evidence that certain pitches (especially sliders) can place more stress on the elbow joint.  There are some who believe that the curveball argument is valid, and some that don’t.  In my opinion, while the curveball may not be fully to blame, it certainly isn’t helping things.
  • Round and Round –  Is year round baseball to blame?  It certainly seems to be a factor.  In my opinion, a major factor.  Kids need a chance for their arms to rest and recover.  They can’t do that when they play baseball (or softball) 10+ months a year.
  • Keeping Count – Do pitch counts help?  Most youth baseball leagues have some form of limit on how much a player can pitch in game and in a week.  These are steps in the right direction.  They also need to be in place since some youth coaches probably are less concerned about the long-term health of their players than they should be.  However, a short term limit on pitches may not solve all of the problems.  One study of MLB pitchers recently showed that the cumulative effect of high pitch counts affects the pitcher long term more than one outing may affect them in the short term.  This ties in with the whole year round argument.
  • Well Hello Tommy John – The number of “Tommy John” surgeries to repair elbow ligaments has risen dramatically in recent years.  This surgery used to rarely be done for young athletes.  Not surprisingly, it is now done much more often.

What To Do?

To save us all some time, I’m going to list three things that we can do to stop this arm abuse epidemic:

  1. Stop having kids play baseball/softball year round
  2. Get kids on a strength and conditioning program that will develop their overall athleticism
  3. Stop teaching young pitchers the curveball

Will this stop all arm and shoulder problems in young pitchers?  Probably not, but it should definitely help reduce them.

Mark

Here are a few related posts:

Year Round Sports – Agggghhhhhh!!!

Youth Training & Development

The Sports Specialization Solution

Share

Nutritional Supplements & Young Athletes

Supplement Use By Youth For Sports Performance Improvement

I found a news article a few days ago about the usage of nutritional supplements by kids.  The article discusses a study that was originally published earlier this year.  It focused on the use of supplements by children and adolescents for the purpose of improving sports performance.  So what do I think about all of this?

Shocking Findings

So what are my thoughts on the study?  I decided to put my them on video.  Here they are:

 

Help your young athletes to make good nutritional choices.

Mark

Share

It Keeps Getting Better

image

We’ve all seen some amazing performances during the Olympics the last two weeks.  We’ve seen athletes display amazing abilities.  The question in my mind right now is, just how far can these athletes go?  Remember when a sub 4 minute mile was unthinkable? That is until Roger Bannister ran one?  Remember how it used to be watching the men’s 100 meter dash?  Then Usain Bolt came along and started blowing everybody away.  Today’s athletes routinely perform feats that were unimaginable when I was a child. Just how far can they go? With the ever growing amount of research and knowledge into sports performance, are we nearing the limits of human potential? Or have we just scratched the surface? I personally hope that the latter is the case. If it is, the next 30 years are going to be loads of fun.

Mark

Visit The Sports Upgrade Homepage

Share

Thoughts On The Olympics

Ryan Lochte Training

Just like many of you, I’ve spent part of the last week watching the Olympics.  There has been a big deal made about Ryan Lochte’s training and some of the unusual things that he does to prepare.  These include tire flips, keg tosses, and using ropes.  Some other S & C coaches have given their thoughts on his workouts.  Some of these were positive and some not so much.    Some of us might not feel comfortable putting an athlete through strongman type activities.  Ryan’s S & C coach, Matt Delancey, does.  I’ve heard Matt speak on a few occasions at clinics, including one lecture on the use of strongman exercises with athletes.  I also had an opportunity to watch him at work.  Matt is a former strongman competitor so yes, sometimes strongman exercises make it into the routines he uses with his athletes.  One thing that you may not know is how much Matt emphasizes correct form.  He is much less worried with how much weight someone can lift than he is with developing and maintaining proper form.  His number one rule for strongman exercises is that as soon as the athletes form breaks down, you stop the exercise.  I believe that having a full understanding of an exercise how to perform it correctly is crucial to being a good S & C Coach.  While many of us might not feel comfortable including strongman exercises, often that is due to our background and a lack of knowledge about the exercises.  While some might not agree with using these exercises with a swimmer, his coach is very comfortable with it.  He is also very competent to teach the exercises and keep them safe.  Whether we agree with the program that Ryan does or have some issues with it, we need to keep one thing in mind:  every coach is different.  Every coach has different backgrounds and experiences, different styles, and different levels of comfort with certain exercises or methods.  That’s one of the neat things about strength and conditioning.  While there is a lot of science that we rely on, there is also room for each of us to be unique and create our own program.  Just because a program is different than one we might design, that doesn’t mean that it’s bad.

Here’s a sample of Ryan’s Training.

Strongman Exercises For Everyone?

One post I read a few days ago stated that Lochte’s training would have a negative effect on many clients.  The author felt that many of their clients would come in begging to include tire flips, etc in their training.  He’s probably right.  I’m sure that due to the publicity, many athletes and coaches will suddenly want to include these in their training.  Guess what?  In general, that’s probably not a good idea.  Remember, training programs should be individualized based on many factors including what the athlete is capable of.  There also needs to be consideration given to what the coach can safely teach the athlete.  This is where my greatest fear is.  I hope that coaches stick with what is right and with what they can safely teach.  Unfortunately, some won’t and they will end up needlessly injuring some athletes.

Mark

Share

Smart Work

I spent the past week working at a sports camp for young kids.  The camp used a large local park that was open to the public. During several of these days, I saw a local Strength & Conditioning coach working privately with a young athlete (about 13 years old).  During my breaks I tried to sneak a peak at what drills they used.  While I didn’t see anything new, what I saw did make me think about working smart vs just working hard.  What I saw each day wasn’t smart work, it was just hard. I saw lots of repetition of drills, but very little teaching and correction.   While working hard can be the focus of certain days or certain drills, it seemed to be the focus of every day for this athlete.   While I wasn’t close enough to hear what the coach was saying to the athlete, I didn’t see the coach trying to demonstrate or correct any technique. What I saw was a series of drills run over and over until the kid was exhausted. Most of the young teens that I have trained need a lot of fundamental drills and a lot of technique work so that they can develop their basic athletic skills. That is working smart. That is also smart coaching. S & C coaches get paid to develop athletes. Yes, sometimes that involves working them hard. However, when dealing with young athletes, there should be a lot of smart work. That should be what differentiates a S & C coach from the average person – the ability to teach an athlete, not just run them through some drills. A great coach is a great teacher.

Mark

Here are 2 other related posts that you might enjoy:

Coaching = Teaching

Why does junction boys syndrome still exist?

Share

Don’t Be A Sucker!!!

Pic of a sucker

Don’t Be A Sucker!!!

The British Medical Journal just published an interesting study about sports performance products. They looked at a variety of products that are marketed in the sports performance world. No matter if the product was a supplement, a shoe, a sports drink, or any other item, the scientists checked to see what claims the product made. They then tried to find research that validated the claims. Guess what?  In many cases there wasn’t any published research that supported the product claims. Even if research did exist, many times it wasn’t enough to scientifically conclude that the advertised benefits were in fact true. Is this surprising? Probably not. While this study was conducted in Britain, I would guess that similar results would be found in the United States. Several notable American companies (Nike & Powerade) were included in the study because they market and sell in both countries.

In the U.S., the FDA thoroughly evaluates any new drug before it is approved for use. I’m sure that Britain has a similar process in place. Unfortunately, the FDA doesn’t try to regulate supplements. They only step in if there are numerous complaints and/or health risks (who remembers ephedra????).

Here are a few surprising facts from the study:

  • Over 50% of all product websites that made product claims did not provide any references for studies that would support these claims
  • When contacted, some companies were not willing to share their research (In reality, this may not be that surprising)
  • Once company believed that simply providing a video of their product being used was “sufficient”

So, what is the reality?  Just like with many other products, companies tend to make impressive claims about the benefits of using their products.  Unfortunately, these claims often aren’t supported by solid research.  Regardless, due to marketing to a gullible public, many people don’t question the claims and just buy the products without further investigation.  This tends to work out great for the companies who keep putting money in the bank.  So what should consumers do?  Remember the old P.T. Barnum quote “there’s a sucker born every minute”.  Don’t be a sucker!!!  Don’t believe everything that some company tells you about it’s newest diet pill, muscle growth powder, sports drink, shoe, shirt, or anything else.  Be smart and do some research.  While it is great to be able to just hop on the internet and Google something to get info about it, realize that not everything you read on the internet is true either.  Make sure to get info from good sources.  If you’re not sure where to start, Pubmed publishes abstracts from numerous scientific journals related to health, fitness, exercise, and medicine. Start there and see what you find.

Just remember, Don’t Be A Sucker!!!

 

Mark

Sports Upgrade

Share

Good Nutrition is 24/7

Fruit stand pic

What do your athletes eat???

As a coach, you have control over what your athlete does for a few hours a week.  You can control what drills they do, how they do them, etc when you are coaching them.  As for what happens the other 22 hours of their day, that is up to them (and their parents if they are young).  Unfortunately, what they eat during that time away from you can drastically affect their recovery and their future performance.  As we all know, the eating habits of the average person in the US are currently lousy.  This includes both adults and kids.  That means that we have an uphill battle to fight.

(As a side note, sometimes parents allow kids to make horrible choices.  A prime example was an 11 year old that I used to train.  He regularly showed up to training sessions with a huge energy drink.  What???  How does an 11 year old do that???  Oh, that’s right.  His mommy let him do it.  When dealing with kids and teens, it is often vital to change the parents ideas on nutrition.  If they don’t change, the kids won’t ever change either.)

So, what can we do?  Here are 3 things:

  1. Get the athlete professional help – First off, we have to leave the diet planning to the Registered Dietitians (RD).  We wouldn’t want them writing our training programs and we shouldn’t try to do their job.  We can however have one speak to athletes and parents.  This could be done as an occasional seminar for all athletes/parents.  It could also involve one-on-one help if needed.  Regardless, it can be beneficial to develop a good working relationship with a local RD who has a background advising athletes.
  2. Have plenty of handouts ready – Having handouts ready on nutrition is a good way to get info to parents and athletes.  Parents are often willing to look through these while their kids train.  There are all kinds of wacky diet plans and concepts that have been publicized.  While someone may believe some of these, it never hurts to present them with good info from trusted sources.  Who knows, it might change their thinking.  Where can you find this info?  Try your local RD or various nutritional sites on the web.  The Gatorade Sports Science Institute also has a lot of valuable handouts on their website.
  3. Become a thorn in the side – Make sure to constantly remind your athletes (and parents) about good nutrition.  Ask them how they ate since their last workout.  Remind them when they are leaving to eat well.  Just mentioning it to them once probably won’t do the trick.  Let them know that even though you aren’t there with them 24/7, what they do during that time still matters.  For older athletes, if you know that they are going to a big cookout or some other event, you might send a text to remind them to keep things in check and not eat everything in sight.

How an athlete chooses to eat when they are away from you is ultimately up to them (or their parents).  While I’m not one that thinks that a kid should never have a piece of cake or pie, I do believe that it is part of a coaches job to impress upon them the importance of good nutrition.  As we’ve seen in the news, most of the teens and adults in the US are missing out on that message somewhere.  Maybe we can help a few of them.  Plus, if they are serious about their training, good nutrition is vital to recovery and performance.

Mark

Like us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter

Sports Upgrade

 

Share