You Can Write It On The Board, But You Still Have To Coach It

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A few days ago, a friend of mine started an online discussion about coaching.  He made a statement that criticized coaches who just write the strength workout on the board and then don’t actually “coach” it.  He was referring primarily to high school sport coaches.  In an ideal world, this wouldn’t happen.  Unfortunately, it happens much more often than most people realize.
So why does this happen? Usually it’s due to at least one of the following reasons:

  • The sport coach does not have a great strength training background.  He/She knows that their players should lift weights but they don’t understand all of the details about technique and program design.
  • The coach is overwhelmed with the duties of their sport and uses the class to plan for practices and games, make phone calls, etc
  • The ratio of players to coaches makes it difficult to truly instruct the athletes in proper training techniques

While all of these do make things difficult for the coaches, it still shouldn’t excuse them from just writing the workout on the board and trusting the kids to follow it correctly.  So what are the drawbacks for the kids involved?

  • Safety – As we all know weight rooms can be dangerous places. Poor supervision greatly increases the chances of something bad happening.
  • Not following the plan – As most of us know, teenagers all think they have a better way of doing things. In many instances, they will choose to follow their own plan rather than the ones they are given. This can create problems related to recovery among other issues
  • Effort Issues – Obviously some people are not nearly as motivated as others. Without someone watching over them and pushing them a little bit, they will never achieve what they’re fully capable of. Of course the other side of things is that some people are super highly motivated. Sometimes somebody has to hold these people back a little because they don’t understand the big picture of the training plan.
  • Fails To Prepare Them For College – Besides the fact that the athletes are missing out on proper physical conditioning that will benefit them at the college level, they are missing out on even more.  They are not being taught that strength training is important.  They also are learning that minimal effort is acceptable.  I’m sure that their college coaches will just love that.

While there are possible solutions, I won’t go on a rant about the most obvious one – putting a qualified person in charge of the S & C program – or any other ones.  I will say this, it’s a shame that it happens.  In the end, it affects the kids negatively.  Hopefully this is a trend that will change sooner rather than later.

 

Mark

P.S.  Be on the lookout for our mobile site www.sports-upgrade.mobi to debut soon.

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The Right Way

I have been very fortunate to have some great influences in my life.  I have had numerous family members, friends, and others help me out and show me the way.  I was also blessed to have several incredible coaches when I was younger.  They not only taught me the sport, but they taught me about  life.

There are two coaches that I will probably always remember.  One was a youth soccer coach and one was a high school football coach/ strength coach.

The soccer coach taught me two important lessons:

  • Work hard – As young kids, we probably ran more sprints than other teams that we played against.  While hard work isn’t always fun, it is necessary to get you better.  We learned to accept that and we had good teams as a result.
  • Nothing is given – I had my first sports injury experience while playing soccer.  I hurt my knee and the doctor had me sit out for two weeks.  I had been a starting forward before the injury.  My first game back I was told that I was going to be a starting midfielder.  I said “Coach, I’ve never played midfield.  I play forward.”  His reply, “You’ve been out hurt and you lost your spot.  You have to earn it back.”  That may have been the hardest I ever played in my life.  By the second half, I had my spot back at forward.  Lesson learned.

From the football coach, I learned too many things to count:

  • Hard Work – As a player, I learned even more about the importance of hard work and never slacking off.  I also realized how many people don’t like hard work.
  • Structure – I was also very fortunate to be part of a well-structured strength training program.  There was an intelligent plan and we followed it.  It took me awhile to realize how rare this is in high school programs, even today.
  • Program Implementation – Later in life, I got to work with my former coach for 8+ years.  He taught me an incredible amount about designing and implementing programs as well as many of the finer details of strength training.  He did a great job teaching and explaining why certain exercises should be done a certain way.  He also made sure that the whole program was sound and done correctly.
  • Working Around Injuries- One of the greatest things that I learned was how to work around an injury when training an athlete.  I really learned to look for alternative exercises instead of just having an injured athlete sit out.
  • Faith – I also have to give him credit for teaching me about many things other than coaching.  Tops on the list has to be all that I learned from him about my faith.

After thinking through all of the things that I learned from these coaches, what is the most important life lesson that I learned?  It has to be to do things the right way.  In life and in coaching, it is important to do things with integrity, to work hard, to not slack off, and to do your best.  Every day we can find examples in the news and in our own lives of people not doing things the right way.  It’s easy to avoid adding your name to that list – just do things the right way.

Mark

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Video Analysis & Coaching

Do you use technology in your coaching?  How often?  To what extent?   One of my favorite uses of technology is to use video analysis.  I think that it really helps me to see what the athlete is doing in a new light.  It also enables you to give feedback to the athlete in a different format.  As we all know, their are three types of learners:  verbal, visual, and kinesthetic.  The use of video definitely helps those visual learners to see what they are doing right and wrong.   I really believe that video helps a large number of athletes and is a tool that needs to be used even more.  That being said, I also think that just like any good thing, it is possible to go overboard.  Do you have to video every single rep or drill?  No.  Integrate video into the program at regular intervals.  Use it initially to get a baseline idea of how the athlete does on a particular skill.  Use this info to help teach the athlete and then give them a chance to improve the skill for several session or weeks.  Then get some new footage and let the athlete see the comparison.  This should be often enough to gain the benefits of video without turning every day into a video day.

I know that Dartfish just released some info which stated that over 400 medals were won in the London Olympics by users of their software.  I’m sure that many other athletes used some form of video analysis to perfect their performances.  If video can help that many Olympic winners, it can help athletes at other levels too.  Make sure to find ways to integrate it into your coaching.

Mark

For more info on video analysis, check out the Sports Upgrade Video Analysis Page

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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

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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

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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?

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Gentle Reminders From Coed Softball

Bats ;ic

A few months ago, my wife convinced me to join a coed softball team with her.  I’m not really a softball person, but she knew several members of a team and they needed a few players.  I figured out that I could fit it into my work schedule so I agreed to play.  I thought that it would be good since I haven’t played anything competitive in awhile.  Little did I know how much softball would help me.

I can honestly say that I’ve had fun playing.  I’ve also enjoyed the competition and the personal challenges.  Being a little older I tended to get more bumps, bruises, and dings in my body than I seem to remember from my younger days.  Some things haven’t changed much though:  I still get frustrated when I make mistakes and excited to make good plays and win games.  So what has all of this done for me?  It’s made me really examine each bump and bruise, each mistake, every high and low.  You know what?  It helped remind me what it’s like for my athletes when the same things happen to them.  It made me remember why athletes don’t want to “sit out” when something hurts.  It reminded me of the emotions that play such a large role in sports.  While I know that coed rec league softball isn’t exactly the Olympics, it still helped remind me what it’s like to have a little “inner fire” inside.

While I hadn’t really forgotten any of these things, it was still good to experience them again.  When we deal with athletes we can’t afford to forget what it was like to be one.  If we do forget, we won’t ever be able to truly connect with them and understand them.

Mark

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Why Junction Boys Syndrome Still Exists

The May issue of the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research has an excellent article called “The Junction Boys Syndrome”.  The syndrome title is based on the book and movie called “The Junction Boys”.  These both tell the story of the year that “Bear” Bryant took over as head coach at Texas A&M.  He took his players off-campus for a brutal pre-season camp.  Numerous players were injured and/or quit the team during the camp.

The article by Scott Anderson discusses the fact that modern football “training regimens are too often built on tradition versus based on science and place players at-risk”.  He then gives us information and facts about the 21 nontraumatic deaths in NCAA FBS football since 2000.  Sixteen of these deaths occurred during strength and conditioning activities.

Is Anderson right?  Yes,  Are many of these deaths caused by the “tradition” of intense work making tougher and better football players?  Unfortunately, yes.  Why is this?  There are numerous resources available to help people design safe and effective training programs.  There are also qualified Strength & Conditioning coaches to design and implement the programs.  We even have Certified Athletic Trainers who can help monitor athletes for signs of medical problems during workouts and then care for them if necessary.  So why do we still have deaths?  I think that there are three main reasons:

  1. Influence of the Football Coaches – The S & C world is full of stories of sport coaches dictating how they want the strength and conditioning program run.  While some of this has to do with trust and respect, if the S & C Coach is qualified and competent, let them do their job.  If they aren’t qualified and competent, then hire someone who is.
  2. The “I’ll Make You Puke Mentality” – While I understand the get tough mentality, I think that if a S & C Coach uses puking as the goal for the workouts that he designs, it’s sad.  With all of the research and knowledge at our disposal, there should be a better goal that they can come up with.  Vern Gambetta has discussed his thoughts on work and makes a good point “…puking at the end of a workout is not the measure of a good training.”
  3. Tradition – It is true that in some instances, football training is still in the dark ages.  Top this with the fact that there are still numerous veteran coaches who believe in doing things traditionally, and it leads to problems.  New research is published all of the time to help show what works and what doesn’t.  S & C Coaches should constantly be trying to learn and use this knowledge to make their programs better.  As for the football coaches, see #1 above.

Should we still have nontraumatic deaths during football training?  No.  The last thing that any of us want is for one of our athletes to die due to the training program that we have designed and overseen.  Scott Anderson ends his article by saying that it is time for these deaths to stop.  I don’t see how anyone could disagree.

Mark

P.S. If you want to know how we believe that training should be, click here to find out Sports Upgrade

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Plan Management

Planning Pic

Sometimes you've got to go to plan "b"

A Kink In The Plan

Have you ever been several weeks into a team’s off-season training program a new kid suddenly shows up?  Sometimes its a kid that has moved into the area, but a lot of times it’s a kid who is coming from another sports season.  He or she has been playing sport B while his teammates in sport A have been putting in time and effort in their strength and conditioning program.  We all like working with multi-sport athletes, but it does create some interesting challenges for us as coaches.

Things To Consider

There are several things to keep in mind while trying to get these “newbies” up to speed with the rest of the group.

  • Recovery – If these athletes are coming in from another sports season, they are probably already tired, worn down, and “dinged up”.  Oftentimes these kids are rushed into the off-season program for another sport.  As a coach, I’d rather give a kid a few days off before they get started on their training program with me.  An athlete who is worn down can’t give 100% and is more likely to get hurt.  Giving them even just a week off between seasons can be beneficial.
  • Differences in training levels – Even if these athletes are “in shape” for the sport that they just finished, they won’t be in shape for the sport that they are going to.  Each sport has different physical and physiological demands.  These athletes usually can’t be expected to start off at the same level as the athletes who are currently in the off-season program.
  • Adjust the plan – When we create an off-season plan, we put all of our knowledge and know-how into it.  And now we have to change it because of one kid?  Yes.  To build on the previous point, an athlete that is coming into your program will need to be eased in ,unless he is coming from a sport that has a solid in-season program.  He won’t be able to complete the same sets, reps, and intensities as the other athletes.  Just remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.  He or she will catch up to the other athletes soon enough.
  • Focus – While it is sometimes difficult to do, try to find a way to focus on these kids.  If they haven’t been lifting regularly or doing the same program, there should be an emphasis placed on technique.  That way once they catch up to the other athletes, their technique will be good.  This is especially important in lifts such as the squat, clean, and snatch.  You should also get plenty of feedback from these kids on how they feel.

What To Do?

When you have a large group of athletes, it becomes difficult to integrate a new kid into the mix.  However, for the good of the athlete, you must pay attention to these “newbies”.  All too often they show up and just get tossed into the mix with the other athletes.  While it may take some creativity to integrate them properly and at the right pace, it will benefit them in the long run.

Mark

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