Here’s a video post about heat illness. Since several high school athletes have died already this year due to the heat, I thought that it would be a good time to address it. The video discusses prevention, signs & symptoms, and treatment.
A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the feet. Today, I thought that I would address the arms.
I spent part of last week volunteering to help some 9-12 year olds in a camp. My job was to teach them flag football. During the week, I had a few opportunities to watch the kids and see how they performed the various drills (when they weren’t pouring water on each other and whatever else they could think of). It amazed me how many of the kids didn’t use their arms correctly while running. Arms were flying sideways, going in circles, and pretty much doing everything except being used to run like an “athlete”. Now, I understand that the kids were young and had never been taught how to run. It just made me think about a few how important the arms are.
How important are your arms in sprinting? The action of your arms is connected to the action of your legs. Don’t believe it? Try this simple drill. Stand up and jog in place allowing both your arms and legs to move. Now pump your arms faster and faster. What happens to your legs? They move faster!!!! See, I told you they worked together. This is a drill that I like to use when I start discussing arm mechanics with athletes. No matter if they are 8 years old or 28, they can quickly figure out the importance of using your arms.
If you take a look at the above picture of Jesse Owens and two other runners, you can see arms a legs working together. Each of the athletes is at a slightly different point in their stride but they are all using similar mechanics. When the left knee drives upward, the right arm moves with it and vice versa. In young, untrained runners this one of the most glaring problems. Just like the kids in camp last week, their arms move through multiple planes instead of simply moving anterior-posterier. This incorrect movement makes the body work harder and makes it slower going from point A to point B.
Does this only apply when running in a straight line like a track athlete? Not at all. Look at the rugby picture and check out the arms.
These guys know how to use their arms to run
These players are in the process of changing directions and they are still using their arms to help out. The arms can help you to accelerate when you run and change directions. One of the first things that I try to evaluate and correct in an athlete is the use of their arms. Then I keep on them through running drills, conditioning, agility drills – pretty much any time that correct arm usage is important. It really helps them to run better in all directions and to be a better overall athlete.
That’s the question. Does it matter? Does it really matter? About now you’re asking, “does what matter?” (That, and why is there a picture of machine gears on a sports performance blog). I have answers for both of these.
The question “does it matter” refers to the various parts of training an athlete. Things like flexibility, power, strength, rest & recovery, planning, nutrition, outside of training activities (use of tobacco, drugs, and alcohol), stress, quality of training, etc. I could probably list a lot more but I think that you’ve got the idea. So, do they matter? Do all of them matter? Are some more important than others? They all matter!!! Each one represents a major part in the process of developing an athlete. If you mess with one part, you mess with the whole athlete. Want an example? It’s a well know fact that stress caused by a job, school, a personal situation or anything else can affect you physically. In fact, too much stress can put you in the hospital. Stress, which is usually non-physical in nature, can affect you physically. See how things are all tied together. Your body works together as one. If one part is not functioning up to par, other parts try to help out. That is one of the amazing things about our body. Of course, if a part or system has to pick up the slack from some other system, then it can’t do it’s own job 100%. That decreases your ability to function fully. If you are an athlete, that’s not what you want. You want every part to be working together at 100%. That makes you able to train and perform better and will lead to better results.
The best way that I’ve ever heard this explained was by Mark Verstegen. He used the example of a bunch of gears or cogs working together. Each of the gears represented some of the things that I mentioned previously. (See, I told you that there was a reason for the pic of the gears). The basic idea was that each of these gears helps to keep the entire machine (your body) working smoothly.
I’ve had athletes finish a workout and then go light up a cigarette. First, it’s unhealthy in general (and disgusting, but that’s my opinion). Second, he was an athlete!!! Why would you go train hard and then go do something to sabatoge yourself immediately afterwards???? I know that we can’t control everything that our athletes do. I get that. However, we have to educate them as to why all of these things are important. I don’t think I’ve met too many athletes who just wanted to “make the team”. Most of them have a competive desire to excel, to be the best. Hopefully we as coaches can make them understand the importance of taking care of all of the “gears” in the system.
Last night I went to a local business networking event. It’s always interesting to meet new people and to connect with them. One lady told me the story about how much it helped her son to have worked with a strength and conditioning coach when he was in high school. Positive experiences about our profession are always great to hear. Then we got into the part of the story about her son’s athletic career after high school. That’s when things got interesting.
The son was a catcher in baseball and was active in the high school band. He played high school baseball in the spring and then played on other teams the rest of the year. Now, most of us can predict where this story is going. Eventually playing baseball and being in the band caused too many conflicts. Instead of his school trying to work things out he is forced to choose between the two. He chose to stick with baseball. Once he graduates he has opportunities to play in college. By this point: a) he has started having shoulder problems b) he’s burned out. Any ideas why this may have happened???? Playing year round baseball maybe???? The best jocks in high school used to be 3 sport athletes. Not anymore. Now everyone wants to “specialize” thinking that this will lead them to that brass ring that they all want, a college athletic scholarship. Yet all to often it winds up with similar results. The kid either doesn’t want to play sports in college or they play for a year and decide that it isn’t that much fun anymore.
Why does this keep happening? Are parents and coaches not realizing the issues? If a kid wants to play a sport year round, I am ok with that at a certain age. Like I said, if a kid wants to do it. It shouldn’t be because a coach or parent says to do it. I think that it’s a problem if a 10 year old is playing year round baseball (or any other sport). Let him/her try other sports. It will develop their overall athleticism and they might actually have some FUN doing it. Even if a kid only wants to play one sport, give them a break at some point. Let them recover mentally and physically. Focus on strength, speed, and agility training. That will develop their athleticism. It can also be a time to “prehab” the body to prevent injury during the season. Maybe some parents and some coaches need to take a realistic look at things. For every kid that is able to get a college scholarship in the year round model, lots of other kids end up hurt and burned out. There are reasons, for example, that major elbow surgery is being done on teenage baseball players. This never used to happen. What changed??? Think about it.
To bring this all to a happy ending, the son from the baseball story is now playing in an adult softball league. There is no pressure, it’s just for fun and he’s having a blast. I’ve heard similar endings to other similar stories. The athlete still enjoys playing, but they just want to do it for fun.
The take home point = the year round sports model needs to change.
I’ve got to confess that I was planning this post last night. At that time, I wasn’t aware of a recent Webmd article about sports training for female teens. Fortunately, I saw a link for it on Twitter this AM. The article is a great lead in to my post. If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to do so.
I think that the article does a great job of touching on several points. First and foremost, it addresses several things that females need to be doing to prepare and it explains why. Anyone who works with athletes should be aware of the fact that female ACL injuries occur more often than they do to males. They should also know how to train an athlete to try to prevent their occurance. The article also emphasizes having a well designed plan to follow when training. The article closes by discussing the imporantance of proper nutrition. This is a subject that cannot be overemphasized when dealing with athletes at any level.
By now you’re probably wondering what my original post was going to be about and how this article played into it. My original idea was to write about the training of athletes needing to be led by someone who is qualified to do it. Too many times I’ve seen a sport coach decide to design a strength/speed/agility program for their athletes. There are some sport coaches who can accomplish this and design a safe and effective program. Unfortunately, there are a large percentage who cannot do this. Just because someone coaches a sport does not mean that they have a full understanding of :
preventative (“prehab”) exercises
I have worked with some great coaches in my career (and a few not so great, but we won’t go into that….). There is no doubt that some of those coaches understood their sport inside and out. My favorite sport to watch is football. I’ve watched it, played it, and worked around it. While I might know some about it, I have worked with coaches who knew 100+ times more than I do. They were the “experts” in their sports. I could have never coached their sport as well as they did. On the other side of that, I tried to make it so that they couldn’t do my job as well as I did.
When you consider the training and development of your son/daughter or your athletes, please keep all of this in mind. There are qualified people who can run a strength/speed/agility program. Of course, there are also some who claim that they can. Believe it or not, designing and running a fitness program is much different than training athletes to maximize their potential. Find someone who has experience dealing with athletes, someone who has a degree in exercise science or a related field, and someone who has credentials from a credible organization. Not only will these people understand how to train an athlete to get better, they will understand the biomechanical and physiological aspects of the sport so that they can design and implement a top notch program.
P.S. If you want to see what one training program for females looks like, check out the video of the Auburn Softball Team below.
Info is posted on our website about speed & agility training for high school athletes. The training sessions are twice a week from July 5th – August 4th. Check out the Sports Upgrade website for more info.