Football Fanatic Craziness

Football Warmpu

How good of a job does your S & C Coach do?

If you know me, it’s no secret that I love college football.  It’s much more exciting to me than watching the NFL.  As we get near the end of the season, it’s always interesting to hear the fans perceptions of their favorite teams coaching staff.  If a program isn’t heading in the right direction, it doesn’t take long for the fans to start calling for coaches to be fired.  Of course, if a team seems to fall apart late in games or gets lots of injuries, the fans always blame the strength and conditioning staff.  I have to say though, that the best comment that I have heard about this recently was that this is the staff member that fans are least able and qualified to evaluate.  I’ve got to agree with this.  Here are a few reasons why:

  • Fans have no idea what is involved in the day to day running of a strength program.  I could never begin to give an accurate assessment of the job that an insurance salesman does, why should he be any better at evaluating what a S & C professional does?
  • They also have no idea what level the players were at when they began the program.  We have all seen fantastic athletes who excel in high school purely on athletic ability.  Once they get to college, they aren’t the only big fish in the pond.  If they’ve never had to work hard in the weight room, they may be behind when they get to college.  It may take them some time to catch up.
  • Many factors go into the success of a team during a season.  Yes, conditioning level is important.  However, if a team has very few quality backups, it leads to the starters staying on the field even longer.  It doesn’t matter how many sprints that you run during practice, football is an intense game, especially for the big bodies on the O-line and D-line.  Eventually, everything will catch up with them and they will get tired.
  • Injuries happen.  I’ve worked with teams that did the same work in the offseason that previous teams had done.  Once the season starts, for some unexplained reason, they seem to have a rash of one type of injuries.  I’ve seen seasons where teams were hit by a string of shoulder injuries to players, or ankle injuries, or knee injuries.  These injuries took a toll and made it more difficult for the team to succeed.  Yet those players worked hard in the weight room in the off-season, not only to get stronger but to help prevent such injuries.  Sometimes that’s just the way that things happen.  I’ve also seen players get injuries that limit what a player can do in practice, yet they are able to heal up enough for the game each week.  Many times fans don’t know all of the details off what goes on behind the scenes.   Therefore, they don’t realize how this can affect a players play and development.
I realize that fans love evaluate everything about their team, especially if the season isn’t going well.  It’s part of what makes things interesting. However, when it comes to the S & C staff, fans might want to consider a few things before calling for peoples jobs.  Just something to think about.
Mark
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The Athletic Position For Sports

The Athletic Position

No matter what sport the athlete plays I’ve always been a big believer in teaching them the role of the athletic position (or stance) while training them.  It plays a huge role for athletes in sports such as volleyball, football, baseball, tennis, and basketball.  While I think that many coaches try to get their athletes into this position, I’m not sure that they try to explain the importance of this stance to them.

Beach Volleyball Pic

What is an athletic position?

An athletic stance is one in which your feet are about shoulder width apart, your weight is centered on the balls of your feet, your knees and hips are flexed, your torso is leaning slightly forward, and your head and shoulders are up.

Why Is It Important?

While for many athletes, being in an athletic stance my come somewhat naturally, that may not be the case for all of them.  Athletes need to be comfortable in this stance and they need to be able to get into (and out of) this stance quickly.  Why?  Because this stance is involved in many sports.  This stance is the one that athlete get into before jumping vertically, it is a defensive position in basketball, it is part of a power clean, and the list goes on and on.  If you look at the beach volleyball picture above, the 2 players that are on the ground are in variations of an athletic stance.  It’s true that neither one is a perfect example, but we are also looking at an isolated picture.  Think about the position that the two other players were in just one second earlier. Right before they jumped, they both would have been in an athletic stance so that they could maximize their vertical jump.  Athletes may only stay in an athletic stance for a brief time, but they must be comfortable getting into and out of that stance. If not, it will impact their speed of play and efficiency.

Make sure 

Make sure to include teaching of the athletic stance in your training.  It plays a vital role in many sports and your athletes need to be comfortable in the stance.  They also need to understand why this stance is important, not only for their specific sport or position, but also the role that it plays in jumping and other skills.  With today’s athletes asking “why” more and more, this may help them to understand the importance of this position better.

Mark

 

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Motivation For Sports Training

Any idea how many hours of training it takes for an athlete to perfect their sports skills?  The Soviets believed in the 10 year/ 10,000 hour rule.  They felt that it took an athlete 10,000 hours of practice spread out over 10 years to achieve their maximum potential.  That works out to about 20 hours per week for 10 years.  That doesn’t take into account school, work, family, friends, travel, vacations, and all of the other stuff that seems to fill up our time.

Clock Picture

What motivates you through all the hours of practice?

So, where does an athlete get the motivation to endure all these hours of practice and keep going?

  • Parents?
  • Coaches?
  • Teammates?
While all three of these can give some external motivation, the fact remains that the athlete had better be able to provide their own source of internal motivation. If they can’t, they won’t be able to achieve much.  If the athlete doesn’t want it bad enough, no coach, parent, or teammate can get them to put out 100% effort every day.  We all have days when we feel sluggish or unmotivated.  That’s where external motivation can help.  We all reach points of frustration in our development.  Again, that’s were external motivation from others can help.  However, if the athlete can’t motivate themselves to go all out, to put in extra practice time, to get plenty of rest, to eat right, and to do all of the other things that are necessary to excel,then they will NEVER achieve their fullest potential.
If you work with young athletes, it’s never a bad idea to find some time for teaching about life.  It doesn’t matter if the kid grows up to be an athlete, a salesman, a DJ, a teacher, or anything else, they need to learn the importance of giving 100 % effort so that they can excel in their chosen field.  That’s one lesson that is more important than sports.
Mark 
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Looking For Ideas From Old Stuff

As a coach, I’m always looking for ideas and trying to get better.  One thing that I’ve found useful is to go back and look at old handouts and notes from conferences that I have attended programs I have been given, etc.  It seems like you never get to see every presentation that you want to (or need to) at conferences.  Even if I do get to see a good one, I’m always trying to glance at the handouts, look at the slides, listen to the speaker, and somehow take notes.  That’s why I look to look back at this info at some point later in time.  I usually look at some of it in the days right after attending a conference but some of it waits until later.  That’s the info that I like to pull out when I have a question that I want to answer.  I might want to look for drill ideas, compare programs, or try to get better in an area that I want to improve in.  That’s when I go to the presentation handouts.  I know that some folks probably just toss most off this stuff out after a few years, but I view it as a valuable resource.  I very much believe that you can’t just copy someones program or way of doing something and make it work just as well for yourself.  However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get some good bits of info from other people and add them to the knowledge that you already have.  This is part of becoming a better coach.  So, don’t just throw out those old notes – use them to get better!!!

Mark

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3 Reasons to Use a Tennis Ball During Drills

Tennis Ball

What can a tennis ball do for your training?

Sports performance people are always looking for new ideas to use when training athletes.  I thought that I would share something that has had good results with my athletes.  One of the things that I like to use during agility and ladder drills is a tennis ball.  Now, I don’t use it all of the time and I don’t use it with beginning athletes. Otherwise, I try to find ways to incorporate it into the drills frequently.  I have them catch it during the drill, catch it as they finish a drill, catch it and toss it back to me, or anything else that I can come up with.  So why do I use it?

Reasons To Use A Tennis Ball

  1. It forces the athlete to keep their head up.  I understand an athlete keeping their head down while doing ladder drills for the first few times.  However, as one coach used to tell kids “The ground has been there for millions of years.  It’s not gonna move.”  Once the athlete has a feel for the movement, they need to keep their head up.  If you play sports with your head down you’re in deep trouble.  This is when I will toss them a tennis ball during the drill.  It forces them to keep their head up (or get bopped in the nose).
  2. It makes drills more complex.  You should always have a way to progress a drill.  It should start out simple and then progress to something that is more complex.  When you add something to a basic ladder or agility drill, it makes it more complex.  In sports, athletes have to adapt and react to what is happening on the court or field. They must make combine simple actions into more complex ones.  By making an athlete catch or throw a tennis ball while doing a drill, you have taken a simple action (footwork to complete the drill) and made it more complex.
  3. Helps teach transitions.  Almost any sport is full of transitions from one action or speed to another action or speed.  Think of a soccer player running up the field who must then trap a ball that is passed to him.  He has to transition from pure running to the action of trapping the ball.  By incorporating a tennis ball at the end of a drill, an athlete is forced to change from one action (the drill) to another (catching the ball).  The goal is to make this transition as smooth and quick as possible. I like to have an athlete catch the ball at the end of a drill and then sprint a few steps.  This forces them to transition from the drill to the catch and then again to the sprint.

Now, I’m sure someone is wondering why I use a tennis ball and not some other type of ball.  I do admit that for true sport specificity, a tennis ball may not be the best thing.  If you are training a football player, you should use a football.  However, I do have my reasons for using tennis balls:

  • Tennis balls are fairly harmless so if the athlete doesn’t catch it, there isn’t any danger.
  • Tennis balls are cheap.
  • Tennis balls are easy to keep with you.
One additional bonus is that working a ball into a drill tends to make it more interesting and challenging for your athletes.  Sometimes a simple addition like that to a drill will liven things up and break the monotony.  Give it a try!!!
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Mark
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Go Speed Racer

Speedy
Is speed important?

The old saying is “Strength thrills, speed kills.  If he’s even, he’s leavin’ “. How true is that saying?  Is speed the most important skill for an athlete? It probably depends on the sport, but for most athletes, speed plays a huge role in how competitive they are.  Isn’t speed largely genetic?  Can you really make someone faster with training?  Yes!!!

Every year, potential draftees for the NFL, NBA, and other sports leagues spend lots of money to work with sports performance experts prior to the draft.  Their goal is to improve their strength, speed, and other measurable factors so that they can get drafted higher.  While some of these athletes have track backgrounds that have helped them out, many of them have gotten by on genetic speed ability alone.  Once they focus on speed training for 4-6 weeks, it isn’t uncommon for some of them to shave .2 of a second off of their 40 yard times.  Keep in mind that these are some of the best amateur athletes in the world.  They have been training hard for years and they are still able to make major improvements in their speed when they receive focused training on their form.

How does this apply to other athletes?  Try this for starters – the next time you go watch a youth sporting event, pay attention to how many times a kid gets beaten by two steps or less.  In soccer, how many times does a kid get beaten to a free ball?  In baseball, how many baserunners get thrown out by a step or two?  In football, how many times does a player need an extra step or two to get by (or catch) another player?  From watching all of the sporting events that I have in my life, I can say that it happens A LOT!! One or two steps often makes all of the difference.

So, is speed the most important skill for an athlete to have?  It is more important in some sports than others, but in most sports the fastest athletes have a distinct advantage.  When you compete don’t you want to have that extra step or two?  I’d bet that you do.  Keep this in mind when you train.

Mark

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5 Reasons Genetic Testing Of Athletes Is Wrong

Track athlete

"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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. Telling Kids Something Else They Can’t Do – It seems like in our modern society, we’ve become the ultimate people organizers.  We want to label everyone!  The world has turned into a place that has provided an excuse for everyone and whatever they do.  Do we really need to put more labels on kids?  Why can’t we just let them be kids?  Why do we have to tell them that they won’t be good at something else?  For many kids sports is a temporary escape from “life”.  Maybe we should keep it that way.
  5. 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.

Mark

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Hot Stuff

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.

Let me know what you think.

Mark

 

 

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Does It Matter?

Pic of Gears
Do you have any missing gears?

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.

 

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