Want to see somebody have an epic fail? Here’s the simplest way that I know: show an athlete how to do something (a drill, an exercise, etc) and then tell them to go do it. Oh yeah, and after you tell them to go do it, take zero time to actually COACH them on the drill. You know what happens? They fail!!!! Wanna guess why? Because you didn’t coach them!! I know, this never happens in the real world, right?. Wrong. It does, every day.
Coaching isn't showing, it's teaching.
Here are three reasons that it shouldn’t happen:
No matter how great the drill/ exercise is, if the athlete doesn’t get coached in the correct way to do it, they will never perfect it (and learn what they should from it).
Every time that the athlete does the drill they are creating a muscle memory pattern. If the athlete does the drill incorrectly, they are cementing that poor technique into their memory. It is much easier to teach a new pattern than to change an ingrained one.
Safety is probably the biggest reason. If you don’t coach them, not only will they use bad technique, they may get away with unsafe technique. The last thing that you want is for an athlete to get hurt because you didn’t coach him/her.
Remember, coaching is teaching. To be a good coach, you have to take an active role.
"Don't worry son, it's your parent's fault that you can't run track. They gave you bad genes. That's why you failed the genetic test."
Genetic Testing of Athletes
It’s hard to believe, but one day this could be the reality. Little Johnny (or Susie) could be told that they can no longer play a sport because ‘they don’t have the right genes for it.” In case you haven’t heard about it, there are now companies out there who will provide genetic testing of kids for athletic purposes. The companies claim that they are trying to help the parents so that their kids can be steered to sports that they are the most suited for. I’ve got some problems with this whole concept.
5 Reasons Genetic Testing of Athletes Is Wrong
Specialization – Don’t we have enough of an issue with kids specializing in one sport too early? Isn’t this going to make things that much worse? In case you aren’t aware of my views of focusing on only one sport, you can read my thoughts here. There are a lot more athletic and medical personnel who share my viewpoint due to burnout issues and physical wear and tear on the bodies of young athletes. The testing companies say that it will save you money because you won’t put your child in something that they won’t be that good at. Of course they’re going to say that – they are selling their product.
Goes Against What Sports Teach – You remember all of the things that sports teach a kid – hard work, dedication, perseverance, teamwork, not giving up, etc. Guess what? Genetic testing robs your kid of the chance to learn many of those basic things. If they are put into something that will always come easier to them than some other sports, then how will they learn to do something when it is difficult for them? Additionally, if you already know that you have the necessary tools, what’s the motivation to work hard to develop them further?As for teamwork, one of the issues with teams is that every person is not exactly the same. You have to learn to work together and realize your strengths and weaknesses. That might be hard to do in a sport where all of the athletes have the same gifts.
Injury Information – One of the factors behind genetic testing is that it could possibly identify players who are at risk for certain injuries. Maybe there is some benefit to this in certain cases. However, most of the parents who most want the testing done on their kids are focused on one thing only – a college scholarship!! Guess what parents? As soon as your future college coach finds out that you are at greater risk for certain injuries, oops, there goes the scholarship down the drain. Years ago I was involved in a discussion about female ACL tears and femoral notch width as a factor. The discussion eventually turned to the a question of what would happen if college coaches ever wanted to know this information about potential signees. Ethics dilemma? You bet!
Do We Need A Test? – I understand that the test gives exact details about what a kid is capable of. Do we really need a test for this? If you want to know if a kid is fast, have him race other kids. If you want to know if he’s a good jumper, test his vertical jump. As a young kid, training won’t have had much of an effect yet. Just compare your kid to other kids and see how they perform. If they are naturally fast, or strong, or whatever else, then you probably know enough.
Let The Athletes Be
Obviously somebody thinks that this is a good idea (probably the people making money off of the tests). I’m all for using technology to help coaches and athletes. I just think that genetic testing goes too far. I like the excitement of seeing someone develop and use their God given ability, regardless of what that is.
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.
Hopefully you read part 1 of the series on active rest. Today, in part 2, I thought that we would discuss some of the science behind the idea of active rest.
The concept of active rest originally came from the system called periodization that was developed by Russian sports scientists. The system was primarily used with weightlifters. It was used with great success during the Soviet Bloc years and led to many Olympic medals. The basic idea was that a training plan was laid out for an athlete that adjusted the volume and intensity of their workouts over time. By going through these different training phases it was believed that the athletes would get better results and be on track to peak in time for competitions. The phase after a competition was called the “transition” phase. In the American terminology this began to be called the “active rest” phase.
Now to the real details about the science behind it. I know, if you really hate lots of scientific stats and info you just want to get to the conclusion. Guess what? As much as people including myself believe in the concept of active rest, there isn’t a lot of scientific proof that shows how effective or ineffective that it is. There have been some studies done testing the results of active rest right after a workout. While these have shown a improvement in the amount of lactate in the blood after exercise, the studies were only looking at the immediate effects. Two studies have been done that look at possible longer term effects – one on rugby players and one on soccer players. The results of both studies found that active rest didn’t really help the athletes to recover any better than complete rest. The rugby study noted that the players who participated in active rest did feel better psychologically than their teammates who rested completely.
Since there isn’t a lot of evidence to prove the benefits of active rest, should you still include it in your program? I think that you should for three reasons:
Active rest will help to circulate blood through the body. This helps to clear waste and deliver more oxygen to the cells, which is always good.
Active rest will help you to feel better psycholgically
Active rest will allow your body to heal up many of the little sprains, strains, aches, and pains that we all pick up while training hard
So, there are some definite benefits to active rest. I encourage you to give it a try. Just pick a 1-2 week period and try some lighter workouts. Your goal should be to do about 50-70% of your normal workout. That percentage should apply not only to the amount (volume) that you do, but also to the intensity. When planning your training, try to do exercises and activities that you don’t normally do. It’s a good opportunity to change things up. It’s also a good chance to spend a little time rehabbing an injury or focusing on a “weakness” (e.g., flexibility, core strength, etc). Let me know how it works for you.
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.
This is probably one of the most interesting articles I’ve read in a long time. I’ve heard Matt speak a couple of times at clinics and was fortunate enough to get to observe him conduct a training session at UF. I think that he does a great job and this article explains why. Matt puts emphasis on three things in the program:
Developing sport specific athleticism
Injury prevention training
Addressing individual weaknesses
Obviously most of us try to design our programs in a way that the same 3 items are addressed. I do admit that a volleyball team has less bodies to train than some other sports so some things are easier to plan for and incorporate. Regardless, it is a good read and worth your time. I encourage you to check it out.