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Grieving the Loss of Free Play

By Phil Loomis 

Do you recall the days of your childhood when you would meet your friends outside in the morning and play all day long? You made up teams and played tag, baseball, and dodge ball, capture the flag whatever you felt like that day. It was unstructured and while there may have been rules you and your friends made them up to suit your particular situation. Many “experts” are lamenting the lack of free play in current society.

“Remarkably, over the last 50 years, opportunities for children to play freely have declined continuously and dramatically in the United States and other developed nations; and that decline continues, with serious negative consequences for children’s physical, mental, and social development,” Peter Gray, a research professor of psychology at Boston College.

Gray has presented research showing a correlation between the decline of free play in developed nations and the rise of depression, suicide, feelings of helplessness, and narcissism in children, teens, and young adults.

Gray also notes that the modern segregation of kids into same-age groups, common in today’s classrooms and schoolyards, may not be optimal for child development. He says that during age-mixed play, older, more skilled participants “provide scaffolds that raise the level of the younger participants’ play” and stretch their abilities to higher levels. He cites other studies in which older children were observed exposing younger children to more complex concepts of literacy, math, and sociability. By interacting with younger children, older students develop increased capacities to nurture, lead, and learn by teaching. [1]

Free Play

On Professor Gray’s last point I agree wholeheartedly! When I was a kid I always had to bring my brother along whenever I would play with my friends, he was 5 years younger than me. We didn’t take it easy on him and he learned how to compete and “survive” against more mature stronger kids. But he was better for the experience; he endeared himself to my friends because he always dusted himself off and got back in the ring. He also developed an enthusiastic group of supporters. It was fairly common to attract half dozen or more teenagers to his little league games. Not only did he earn respect and how to interact with older kids he also developed into quite an athlete. By the time he was in 7th grade I would always pick him first to be on my team and he would run circles around the stunned older kids.

In my 10-14 youth classes I occasionally make allowances for younger siblings (age 9) to make the scheduling easier for the parents. And inevitably the older sibling will “look out” for the younger by giving them a few coaching tips. It’s also very common that non-related older children will take the younger kids “under their wing” by providing a pat on the back or other subtle but powerful boosts to their confidence. This all occurs without any prodding from me I just watch it happen and make a mental note of it, and it’s a beautiful thing for a coach to see!

And therein lies the power of free play the kids take ownership and learn how to create their own culture. As coaches we need to provide a general outline for kids while still allowing and encouraging them to create and find their own unique way of doing things. What I mean by that is there is no one-way or even right way to throw a football, kick a soccer ball, or evade a defender. Kids if given the opportunity will find the way that works best for them and that type of instinctive and reflexive execution of skill is a key element of advanced athletic talent.

Think about the great athletes of all time do you think they honed those skills by playing nearly year round in adult organized leagues? I believe the skill and drive to excel was born at an early age on the playgrounds with friends and neighborhood kids. Once that passion and raw talent is in place then it can be harnessed by coaches and directed by parents. The current youth sport culture compels parents to get their kids involved in leagues and travel teams at a very early age. The idea, though flawed, is that if they don’t start their sport “clock” early their more advanced peers will leave them behind with no hope of catching up. That line of thinking is actually backward but that is a story for another day.

All kids are grieving the loss of free play! Back to my 10-14 class, I was wrapping up a session with the group and while we do all of the necessary speed, agility, core, mobility, and strength training (by the way you can still make this type of training fun) I still like to reward them with free play at the end of the class and they always look forward to it. One of the girls as she was leaving saw two brothers in the next class pulling all kinds of equipment to the middle of the floor. She curiously asked me what they were doing? I said they are building a fort for an active game that we play. She responded with an incredulous look on her face, as if to say, “hey, you’ve been holding out on us!” Yes, even the athletic kids like and crave unstructured creative play.

There is a time for more dedicated focus for young athletes in a single sport/endeavor but only when the time is right (late to-mid teens…), and even then there should be a plan in place to counteract those demands (off-field training and more free play). Until that time free play with as little structure as is necessary should dominate their physical culture.

 

Phil Loomis 
Youth Fitness/Nutrition Specialist

 

Reference: 

[1]http://www.stonehearthnewsletters.com/kids-lack-of-free-play-harmful-journal/human-behavior/

FMS and Kids

By Jared Woolever of Smart Group Training

Does the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) work with kids?

Both Steve and I were lucky enough to attend the IYCA Summit (International Youth and Conditioning Association) recently. We have been to the past three now, and we are pleased with the direction this organization is heading. This year, however, we were lucky enough to have a booth set up. We were able to talk and interact with all the coaches, trainers, and educators. The question we heard the most has to be about the FMS and its application to children. Does it actually work with kids?

The answer is YES! The FMS works incredibly well with kids. We use the FMS with a heavy majority of the kids coming in to train with us. The information you can get is extremely important and guides you in finding their strengths and weaknesses.

The cool thing about using the FMS with children is the corrective strategies. After identifying a dysfunction, applying the corrective strategy tends to clean up the issue, and FAST.

The majority of the time, when working with our youth athletes, we are able to clear up movement issues relatively quickly. Since they are younger and haven’t been dealing with dysfunction and compensation for years and years, youth athletes tend to clear patterns very quickly. We still take the same approach we always do to fix patterns, but the adaptations tend to happen a little quicker when dealing with youth instead of adults. Here is a rundown of what we do from start to finish in developing each program:

1. Screen each athlete and get medical history - We only work with middle school and up, so as long as they are mature enough, we will run them though a functional movement screen. We also want to use the medical history to find out if they have asthma, previous injuries or surgeries, etc…Feel free to add in some performance based measures if you like as well. Strength, power, body awareness, balance, and coordination are also key factors we’re looking for in our youth athletes.

2. Analyze Screen - After taking the time to run the screen, use it with your programming. The screening process should have given you insight to what the athlete’s limitations are. Now base your program around correcting those weaknesses or dysfunctions.

FMS

3. Apply Red Lights - This simply means we eliminate all exercises that can potentially cause harm. If we know the athlete cannot perform a certain task, we will take out any exercises that will only set them up for failure. We want to empower our athletes with a sense of accomplishment, so using the screen to restrict certain things is a vital part to the programming. If they can’t squat, DON’T SQUAT.

4. Apply Correctives - Like I just said, if they can’t squat, DON’T SQUAT. Applying the red light means we take it out. No need to train a pattern that is dysfunctional, so taking it out is the first step. Now, in this portion, we’re going to apply a corrective strategy. Without getting into too much detail about the hierarchy of what we fix first, we find the appropriate corrective strategy to build the athlete and get them to squat. The corrective portion is where we are going to work the limitations found and begin to improve overall movement and build a solid foundation to work from.

5. Strength/Power/Endurance - Does the athlete lack strength, power, or endurance? After identifying the weakness, exploit it. I’m going to train an overpowered athlete different than an underpowered athlete. The strength and stability demands are going to be different athlete by athlete, so base your program around what they need to address most. Again, this all comes back to proper screening and testing.

6. Rest/Recovery - This portion is often overlooked. The kids nowadays are overworked and lead stressful lives. I want to address this in my programming. It’s beneficial to know if your athletes are working off of little sleep, getting slammed for midterms, or taking multiple honors classes. These little things can lead to a buildup of stress. These little stresses can indirectly effect what we see in the movement screen, so we need to address this. We work them hard, so ensure you focus on rest and recovery as well.

The FMS is extremely useful in youth populations. We use it with great success and will continue to use it while designing our programs. This simple screen allows us to gather a deeper look into who we’re working with and what we can do to help them get better. The screen is a great tool from young to old. After all, it’s just movement we’re looking at. The screen was designed off fundamental patterns we learned as we developed, so the principles are the same. We need to push, crawl, reach, squat, lunge, etc… So essentially, FMS is good for just about anyone…young to old.

Identify the Goal of a Training Program

By Wil Fleming

 

Know the goal of your program

Knowing the starting point of a training program is only part of the equation. A clear goal of a training program you are designing must be laid out. If we go back to our marathon metaphor, the finish line must be clearly marked. If no finish line is marked you may not run the entire distance, or you and your athlete might cruise right by the finish line without ever stopping to look at your time and results.

Defining the goal of a training program means that you now have something to work towards. Many athletes step into your facility with a clear goal in mind:

“Play college football” 

“Get a Division I softball scholarship”

“Start for the varsity volleyball team” 

“Make the travel basketball team”

Goal of a training program

It is your job to take this information and turn it into a quantifiable training goal.

Would improving speed in a 40 yard dash help that athlete “play college football?” Would gaining lean muscle mass help the young athlete “make the travel basketball team?” If the answer is yes then you have a clear training goal in front of you.

It is important to help your athletes set “point B” goals. While their goals are often clear as day to them, these goals can sometimes be “point Z” goals.

A prime example is an athlete that I have been working with recently. Jeremy is an outstanding young soccer player, by far the best on his local travel team. Jeremy is only 14 years old but his singular goal is to make the United States men’s national team, a team that rarely ever selects athletes under the age of 20 for their roster and most athletes on the team do not see a lot of action until their mid-20′s. For Jeremy this is a simple point B goal, but in reality this is a point Z goal. There will be too many steps along the way for this goal to happen quickly. With young Jeremy it has become important to set point B goals.

His first point B goal was to move up from the best local travel team, to the best travel team in the state. We decided that improving upon his speed and quickness was a great way to take him to this level. Once this was accomplished his next point B goal was to get invited to youth national team tryouts, to accomplish this his training point B became increasing his lean muscle mass to compete with larger players in the midfield. For this athlete the ability to help set point B goals have allowed him to make consistent progress towards a goal.

Once an accurate starting point is assessed determine the goal of the program, and remember that sometimes it is your job as a coach to help the athlete find where their point B is on the way to point Z.

Do You Have All The Answers?

By Phil Hueston, NASM-PES; IYCA-YFS

Phil Hueston

“And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” – Matthew 19:24

Usually when a writer begins a piece with a Bible quote, the eyes of his readers roll and the “here we go” mutterings begin.

Stop it. Stop it now.

There is deep wisdom to be found in the writings of the Bible, whether you are a believer or not.

After all, the Golden Rule we all teach our kids is straight out of the Bible, isn’t it?

So why would I begin my writing here with that quote? Because I am using it to make a point about learning.

So you’re a “Youth Fitness Pro.” You “know” your stuff: youth fitness, sports performance training and how to make athletes better. The “X’s and O’s,” so to speak.

You’ve read the books. You’ve acquired the certifications (you have the cool letters after your name to prove it!) You’ve attended the seminars where you’ve passed snide remarks about the presenters’ knowledge, evidence and even their speaking style to anyone who would listen.

You’ve found or created a “system” for successful training of youth athletes – you even act as if it sprang from you organically. You communicate it as if this be-all, end-all “magic bullet” is something that didn’t come from the work of the thousands of researchers, trainers and coaches who came before them.

Who knows, maybe the answers formed in your alphabet cereal one morning as the sun beamed through a stained-glass window to give you the “sign.”

You feel really, really smart. You carry a sort of “my way is best” attitude that is the spitting image of the smug, “better than thou” attitude of the prototypical Biblical rich man.

How do I know this? I was nearly one of “those” coaches.

I’d experienced just enough success very early in my work with youth athletes to inflate my ego and walk around with the “I got this” attitude. I started to dismiss the work of others and lean on what I thought was enough knowledge and experience to make me the “go to” trainer in youth sports and performance.

I was becoming an egotistical jerk who thought he knew all the answers.

Then I started actually spending time around some of the people whose knowledge and experience I took for granted. I discovered something that changed my perspective forever.

These successful trainers, coaches and presenters genuinely cared more about their clients and the people they served than they could ever care about being RIGHT. They were humble, they were available to those they serve and they genuinely cared about whether I was getting better.

And man, were these people ever smart! Whip-crack, “holy cow” kind of.

I found myself looking more and more to what they knew for answers to challenging questions and less and less to what I “knew.” Their knowledge base became my knowledge base. Their experience expanded and multiplied my own.

An amazing thing happened…I got smarter and I started serving my “tribe” more effectively. I also started connecting in deeper and better ways with my clients.

I started asking better questions, doing better research and delivering better results than I’d ever imagined! I developed an appreciation for the massive body of knowledge that was still to be explored – by all of us – in this field.

That is the difference between being the camel and getting stuck in the eye of the needle and finding your way to the “promised land.”

Our “promised land” lies in the direction of being connected to a world of people, knowledge, resources and wisdom that can help us fulfill our purpose at its deepest and most meaningful level: help kids and youth athletes (and everyone else we work with) become the best they can be while helping them love the journey – while we become financially secure and successful in doing so.

In the scripture quote above, it’s not necessarily the wealth of the rich man that will keep him from the Promised Land; it is the attitude of superiority, sense of entitlement and the dismissal of those around him that sets him up for failure. It is the deadly sin of hubris - “overbearing pride, presumption or arrogance.”

The same holds true for you, and for me.

When we develop an attitude of superiority, that feeling that “I’m right and that’s it,” we set ourselves up to be shown to be lacking. Suddenly, a situation arises for which you have no ready answer. Instead of having the humility to say “I don’t know,” you dismiss the importance of a clients’ question or concern or, worse, reflexively give an incomplete or incorrect response. Fail.

And who suffers? Our clients.

This air of superiority creates a very narrow circle of advisors and causes others to refrain from offering opinions or correcting us when we are in error. It leads to failures in critical thinking and allows us to settle for poor research and half-solutions. Fail…again.

A sense of entitlement may be the most dangerous of the traits of the “rich man.” This attitude prevents you from being grateful for the people who want to help you succeed and leads to a kind of isolation from the people who are likely to be your strongest allies, if you would simply allow them to do so. Fail waiting to happen.

Dismissing those around us is a by-product of the air of superiority and the sense of entitlement. It’s impossible to be grateful for those for whom you hold no regard.

So how do we reach the “Promised Land” of having the knowledge, resources and support to help our clients succeed and become financially successful at the same time?

Here are 6 ways to get started:

1. Know your strengths - This is not an excuse to pat yourself on the back. Knowing your strengths means knowing how you can begin to serve others while working to get better. If your background is in Olympic lifts, start there. Do you have a deep love and knowledge of mobility? There is your strength…and how you can serve right now.

2. Love your weaknesses - That’s right. LOVE your weaknesses. Years ago, I was really good at strength development and power training. Speed and agility? Have you ever seen me? Let’s just say that I’m no gazelle. My body was built to throw heavy stuff around. My athletes needed SAQ development as well. I chose to love the fact that I needed more knowledge in that area. I looked for every opportunity, every resource on the subject I could get. As a result, my weakness became a strength for me, and my athletes got better.

3. Steal good stuff - Yes, steal ideas that work. Ok, steal might be a bit off. Take great ideas that make you a better coach. Incorporate them into your toolbox. Then show the humility to give credit and praise to the person or people from whom you stole them. Let your clients know how much you respect the person you got an idea from by acknowledging that it’s good and how much you agree with it.

4. Challenge the status quo - Don’t be afraid to ask “why.” A lot. In the fitness and performance world, what we “know” changes quite frequently. Step aerobics, Shake Weights, body part isolation for athletes…trends and ideas change fast.

Real knowledge changes fast in our world, too. Much of what we believed as Gospel 10 or even 5 years ago has been challenged and sometimes disproven by science. Anyone remember “Heart Rate Zone Training?”

5. Challenge the presenters and the knowledge-bringers - Just because someone is on stage doesn’t mean they have finished learning. Just the opposite. It also doesn’t mean the learning is a one-way street. Challenge their claims, their research and the things they claim as truth. Challenge them if you think they are off or wrong. Challenge them if you want them to bring a deeper explanation of their subject matter. Challenge them if you want to understand them better. But check your ego at the door. Challenge them out of respect and a sense of communal improvement and development. I have learned some of my best stuff (stolen, by the way) from presenters and writers whom I’ve challenged.

“As iron sharpens iron, so does a man sharpen another man.” – Proverbs 27:17

6. Follow the Kaizen Path - Get just a little better each day. If you set your ego aside and accept that you cannot possibly know and understand all that is necessary to be great and serve your clients well, you will realize that others are there to help you. Listen to their ideas, challenge them and come up with some ideas of your own for them to challenge. In that way, we all get a little better each day, and the people we serve are the ones who benefit.

1% improvement a day or even each week leads to massive and continuing improvement over time.

The truth is that great coaches earn great success. Coaches who think they know it all or don’t need any help or are somehow “entitled” to success rarely find success. Unfortunately, the clients of those coaches rarely find success, either.

If you can avoid the deadly traits of the “rich man” trainer or coach, you might just be the camel who passes through the eye of the needle into the “promised land” of happy and successful clients and the kind of success that is earned by helping them reach that state.

Phil Hueston is the co-owner of All-Star Sports Academy and Co-Head Coach at Athletic Revolution – Toms River, NJ. He has been, and continues to be, a sought after Sports Performance Trainer and Consultant to teams and athletes at the Youth Sports, high school, collegiate and professional levels.

Since his entrance into the fitness industry in 1998, he has questioned the status quo, challenged the conventional wisdom of the fitness industry and used the answers to make his clients better, bigger, faster and stronger.

Not just another pretty trainer, Phil has been called a “master motivator and trainer of high school athletes” and a “key player in the Youth Fitness industry.”

He works with athletes, “mathletes” and “non-letes” from 6 to 18, helping them all reach their performance potential and maximize their “fun quotient.”

Phil recognized early on that the ONLY task of Sports Fitness Professionals is the improvement of their clients’ sports performance and their enjoyment of the process! He has worked with 1000′s of athletes, assisting them on their journeys to collegiate sports, Division 1 scholarships, pro and semi-pro sports careers and even the first round of the NHL Draft.

Recently, Phil was named IYCA Member of the Year for 2012-2013. He has also co-authored 2 books, The Definitive Guide to Youth Athletic Strength, Conditioning and Performance, which reached #1 Best- Seller status in two separate literary categories, and The IYCA Big Book of Programs.

Coach Phil can be reached through his company’s website,
www.allstarsportsacademynj.com 

Know What’s In Their Backpack

By Joseph Hartigan, CSCS, YFS

We as coaches have a bigger responsibility to our athletes than to simply deliver a great training session. We are in a unique profession that gives us a platform to influence children for a lifetime and not only groom athletes but build great character.

One of the easiest ways to have an influence over these impressionable minds is to coach with empathy or what we call know what’s in their backpack. Now I’m sure that plenty of your athletes drag their backpacks from school into your facility but that’s not what we’re talking about. What you want to do every time your athletes walk in the door is take a mental inventory of their body language, check their facial expressions, talk to them and check their tone. Are they as engaged and excited as usual or are they withdrawn?

The fact is we as coaches only see our athletes for maybe 3 hours a week and we have no idea what is going on for the other 165 hours. Kids these days have jam packed schedules and they are expected to excel in every aspect of their life with extreme pressure from parents and year round travel teams/coaches. A typical kid may have to wake up at 6:30 a.m. go to school get straight A’s, come train at your facility and expect to perform at the highest level possible, go to travel team practice and be a star for 2 hours, go home and study and do homework for 3 hours so they can get A’s then go to bed at 11:00 and do it all over again the next day. Couple the performance requirements from parents, teachers, and coaches with peer pressure and the ever present bullying epidemic and you can empathize with how stressed kids are these days.

athletes backpack

Picture courtesy of o5com

Knowing what’s in your athletes backpack will allow you to connect with a child and make him or her feel cared about. It is your job as a coach to realize the daily state of your athlete and tailor your coaching style to his/her present need. We must realize that the IYCA’s athlete profile can change on a daily basis both in motivation levels and skill levels, the constant stress and pressure may change the athlete’s daily readiness. So don’t generalize athletes into each category take a daily inventory and coach them as needed.

One of my athletes recently walked into the facility with a scowl on his face at 8:30 p.m. When I and another coach greeted him at the door he just walked past us completely ignoring us. We tried to greet him again and he screamed back at us “What do YOU want! In front of other clients in the lobby.” Now we as coaches had a choice as to how to react. Many coaches would be embarrassed by this and, motivated by their own pride, scream back at the kid and exert their authority position. We just started the other clients as normal ignoring the outburst. During the warm up I pulled the athlete aside and talked to him in a private room. The sophomore broke down into tears, voicing the stress of competitive high school academics, 3 hour long baseball practices, and pressure from his parents. The ensuing talk made this athlete feel cared about, someone empathized with his problems and did not simply pass them off as over dramatic teenage drama. He had the best workout of his life and at the end of the session shook my hand with a smile and looked me right in the eyes and said, “Thank You for your help.”

This athlete was in emotional distress. What would have happened if I screamed back or crushed him in a workout to avenge his attack on my pride? How would this athlete have left my training session? It certainly wouldn’t be a positive experience, he would probably label me as a terrible coach and person, and he might not show up for the next few workouts. Instead the athlete left feeling better than when he came in, he felt cared about, and he felt that no matter how stressed he is or if he can’t perform well on a given day he still has inherent value as a person.

Greet and talk to each athlete as they enter the door. Observe their body language and tone. Realize that their problems are real problems. Don’t bypass a B on a test as not a huge deal, or missing last night’s soccer goal as a non-issue. Again you have no idea how the child’s parents or coaches or teachers react to those situation’s, if the child is upset about it he has most likely already been berated and belittled or preparing him/herself for the coming storm. Know the social pressures of school, the constant and ever present bullying, the exploration of relationships, and the effect it has on these children. Do you remember your first breakup? It is not up to us as coaches to determine what is and isn’t a big deal. Empathize with your athlete, offer some advice if it is wanted, let them know you’re there to help if they need it, then direct your coaching style toward their daily need. Knowing what’s in your athletes backpack will allow you to utilize the platform you have as a coach, build and maintain quality relationships with your athletes and their parents, and help you influence the character of a generation to come.

Joe Hartigan (CSCS, IYCA) is Director of athletic performance and fitness training at Gabriele Fitness and Performance in Berkeley Heights, NJ. Joe has developed his training philosophy through years of practice training athletes ranging from 4th grade to D1 and blended it with his personal experiences while playing high school and Division 1 sports. Joe is currently writing his thesis for an MS in exercise physiology. Contact Joe at joe@gabrielefitness.com

3 Lessons From The NFL Combine

By Jim Herrick

This upcoming weekend, most of the nation’s top pro football prospects will gather in Indianapolis for the 2013 NFL Combine. It is what the league refers to as a ’4 day job interview’, where participants are subjected to a battery of physcial tests, position drills, interviews, and aptitude tests to determine how likely they are to succeed in the league.

Millions of dollars can be earned by top performers, and jobs are on the line for the team’s talent evaluators. Everyone has a huge stake in making sure this event truly measures what it takes to be successful.

And these days, you’ll find combine events for college and pro prospects in just about every other sport, as well.

There are some critical lessons we, as youth coaches and parents, can all take away from these high-stakes events. As you watch the incredible athletic feats demonstrated this weekend, remember that what you see is a product of the thousands of hours these college kids put in since they were very young. And remember too that there is a correct path to reaching the heights of athletic development. When followed correctly, it can add up to serious success in the long run.

 

3 Lessons From The NFL Combine

LESSON 1 – Do Everything You Can To Build Speed & Agility

3 of the 6 main physical tests (40 yd dash, 5-10-5 shuttle and 3 cone drill) measure pure speed and cutting ability. Why? Athletes who can get from Point A to Point B in the least amount of time – whether in a straight line or with some stops along the way – make more plays. This is not exclusive to football, it is true for almost all sports.

How should young athletes begin working on speed?

As early in possible as life, encourage your kids to move and move often. It doesn’t have to be a formal event or practice, in fact that may be detrimental in earlier years, so have some fun with them. Their nervous system will figure things out far better than our coaching cues anyways.

Put them in a coordination and balance rich environment often. Create engaging but challenging activities that enhance their ability to move better while building an early base of stability, which will help even further.

Develop healthy eating habits early on, as well. A large part of being fast involves maximizing your strength while minimizing your body mass. Poor eating habits will not only drain your energy but will also hamper your ability to stay both lean and strong simultaneously.

Get strong, and keep getting stronger at an age appropriate level. In your earlier years jumping, running and other basic bodyweight activities will do plenty. As time goes on resistance will need to increase. Band and free weight exercises, along with advanced bodyweight strength will achieve great results when implemented properly.

Refine speed and agility technique once your kids are mature enough where they can internalize specific coaching. In my experience I’ve seen kids as young as 9 years old learn and improve from specific technique tips, but this is rare. Usually it’s not until 12 years old or later, but the earlier the better as poor habits will be easier to break. Coaches will need to be a commanding force when technique drills are covered, since so much of speed development is about repeating and perfecting movements. Balance the seriousness of technique work with some game-based drills where kids can be kids and have some fun, but be sure to make clear your expectations for focus and effort when you transition back to skill work.

 

LESSON 2 – If Speed is the #1 Most Coveted Physical Ability, Explosive Power Is Clearly #1A

The NFL also has 2 separate explosive power tests, the vertical jump and broad jump. With the understanding that speed is a byproduct of power output, then 5 of the 6 performance tests this weekend will measure power in one form or another.

Power is highly sport-specific. The NFL uses the vertical jump and broad jump because the evaluate a prospect’s ability to tackle and block well. A soccer combine may be more concerned with kicking power, hockey combines may measure slap shot power, and all other sports may have their own variations of power tests too.

For youth performance coaches and parents looking to build sport-speicifc power, you should be focusing on two skills that form the foundation of almost all power movements – hip hinging and hip rotation.
By learning to hinge at the hip joint correctly, you can maximize power output while jumping, skating and sprinting. Young athletes sometimes incorporate too much knee or even lower back flexion and avoid using the more powerful hip muscles. Re-teaching this pattern will unlock their true power potential, and allow them to further improve their explosiveness by properly executing advanced exercises like Olympic lifting and plyometrics as they get older.

Hip rotation is critical to power output in sports like baseball, softball, ice hockey, field hockey, tennis, golf, and lacrosse. Done properly, you will be able to explode through the entire trail side of your movement, from the foot all the way through the shoulders. Being able to maximize total-body rotational power will once again unlock your current potential and make better use of development exercises using tools like medicine balls and functional training machines.

 

LESSON 3 – Elite Athletes Come In All Shapes And Sizes

This weekend you will see both 5’8″, 170 lb and 6’8″, 350 lb prospects, along with many others at just about every size in between. Extended beyond pro football, there is a much wider range of male and female athletic frames, skill sets and abilities.

The lesson? Kids should never focus on what they cannot become, and instead seek inspiration in all the things they can become some day with dedication, effort, and perseverance. No matter what your current size or skill level may be, there are doors of opportunity somewhere for you if you truly want to achieve excellence.

To increase a young athlete’s chances of success, the younger years should be dedicated to taking part in a wide range of activities, and developing basic physcial skills. Pigeonholing them into one sport or activity too early will make it much harder to create the large ‘toolbox’ of athleticism needed to excel later on.

The undersized and lightning quick 8 year old may grow to be the tallest person in his or her 9th grade class. Younger kids whose parents may see as being too stocky could find an active sport they love and completely transform themselves in their teenage years. Not knowing where a child will actually end up, by focusing on variety and foundational skills over a sport-specific track you will maximize their chance of long-term success.

 

If you do watch any of the testing this weekend keep in mind that it took a lot of hard work for each of them to get where they are right now. And also remember that although every kid will not become a professional athlete some day, there are certain traits that all elite athletes need to reach the top that are trainable and can be greatly enhanced over time.

Scoring Your Athletes

By Ryan Ketchum

Let’s face it, parents and coaches want to see athletes tested and measured against other athletes. There is a sense of competition, rightfully so, in training this competition drives athletes to get better and become the best athletes possible.

Not every athlete you see will become a superstar, but each athlete can reach his or her own full potential. To find that potential we must test and measure our athletes. I will leave the testing to the professionals; I am too far removed from being in the trenches to suggest what might constitute a testing protocol. I can however tell you what we have done at Athletic Revolution Bloomington and Force Fitness.

We work with hundreds of athletes in a given month. Some are in our long-term development programs and others are in and out via clinics and academies. The one thing that I can promise you of all of them is that they want to be tested and measured against the best.

There are obviously restrictions to your testing protocols due to space and equipment limitation but you can still perform a few that will also help you generate more interest in your programs and have parents knocking down your door to get their athletes training with you.

The real gold in a testing system is not just in the ability to track the success of your training programs but also in its ability to generate leads. Every test has a leader or a top standard and most likely the athletes you are testing are not at or above that standard. This means that you have a reason to recommend your training programs to them to help them succeed.

Scoring your athletes

The first step in utilizing testing as a lead generator and client magnet is creating your testing system. Basic movements screens such as the FMS or the AR Big 5 can be used to test the athlete’s preparedness to perform other tests and resist injury. After you incorporate this type of testing you can include other tests for power and athleticism such as verticals, standing long jumps, 5-10-5, 20/40 yard dash, MB throws, beep tests or any of the other dozens of tests to measure athletic success.

While you and I know that these aren’t the only indicators for being a great athlete and that any type of training is likely to produce improvements and positive results in the tests the parents and coaches are highly motivated by the results of these tests. There is no need to fight the system; it is simply easier to make it work for you and to your advantage. The athletes will be testing and training with someone, I would prefer that it if it was with a highly qualified athletic development professional rather than a former high school football turned meat head that thinks the best way to improve your vertical jump is wearing those funny shoes and running around for miles at a time.

So, now what? You have the testing protocol lined up now it is time to find the standards. There are tons of online resources for the standards for performance tests or you can create your own based off athlete scores in your program. Either will work because the magic isn’t in the standards it is in the process of the follow up.

Setting up your performance testing days should be relatively easy. The first option is to run your own testing days in house. If you have a facility you can dedicate a Saturday or Sunday to testing days and invite all of your current athletes, parents, coaches in your networks and their athletes. The more new athletes the better. The second option is to leverage your network to contact coaches or league organizers to test their individual teams. Most coaches and parents are eager to get their athletes tested so it should be an easy sell.

Now that you have set up your chance to be in contact with dozens or possibly hundreds of athletes, their parents and coaches you have the chance to introduce them to your programs. During the testing each athlete should be given a testing card. On this card you will have all of the tests, a place to record their results and a place to make recommendations for improvement. After each athlete completes their testing you take their card from them so that you can write your recommendation in on the card for improvements. Depending on the set up of the testing and number of athletes you are testing you can either send this home with them or email it to them later.

On your recommendation you will let the parents know how you can help their athlete improve. Highlight their strong areas but also emphasize their weak points and list what is needed to improve these weak areas. Once you have identified the weak areas and the solution to improve them make the parents and offer to being training with you. If you are presenting this info to the coach you can offer an academy to improve the teams weaknesses.

This is a simple lead generator that will set you apart from every other performance coach in your area and have parents and coaches knocking down your door and calling non stop to get their athletes in your programs. Once you deliver the results and re-test the athletes they will be sold!

Don’t overlook the obvious ways to score more athletes with performance testing.

Plyo Boxes, Agility Discs and Push Ups with Young Athletes

Young Athletes Programs Using Plyo Boxes, Agility Discs and Push Ups

By Dave Gleason

In this video IYCA Board of Experts Member Dave Gleason discusses how to utilize agility discs and plyo boxes to teach push ups to young athletes. In this short 4 minute clip coach Dave talks about everything from the set up to how to make is as much fun as humanly possible.

Resistance Bands and Olympic Lifting

 


Olympic Lifting and Resistance Bands


By Dave Schmitz

 

On September 10th, Wil Fleming wrote a very powerful article on “Olympic Lifting” that I found very thought provoking.

 

I agree with Wil that when you begin to discuss Olympic lifting with coaches, red flags immediately goes up about concerns for proper teaching, concerns for safety, and the stigma that Olympic lifting is only for the highly skilled or older athletes. For those coaches I understand their opinion and will not argue those points. Instead I will pose the question, is there a way to achieve some of the benefits of Olympic lifting without struggling with the teaching challenges or putting athletes at risk for injury.

 

As I read Wil’s article I continued to see a strong correlation between the benefits of resistance band training and Olympic lift training. Therefore as a follow up to Wil’s outstanding article, I wanted to touch on all 5 of Wil’s key points and relate them back to how resistance bands could assist young athletes and coaches with “improving” Olympic Lifting skill sets.

 

Please note that I am not suggesting you replicate Olympic lifting with bands but rather that you can get some of the neuromuscular benefits of Olympic Lifting by training with resistance bands.

I also feel that performing certain movement with resistance bands will carry over to helping young athletes become better Olympic Lifting candidates.

 

Type II Muscle Development

 

Elastic resistance is an ascending resistance that increases as the range of motion increases. As a result a young athlete quickly learns that in order to complete the movement using a resistance band they must accelerate out of their loaded posture. This mind set of acceleration is what not only recruits Type II muscle fibers, as Wil noted, but neuromuscular also teaches young athletes how to accelerate a force which is a key skill set necessary with Olympic Lifts.

 

Improved Coordination

 

Resistance band training incorporates the use of compound multi-joint movements like squat to press, hip hinge to high pull, and squat to row. All these compound movements require neuromuscular coordination to effectively complete the movement. Teaching young athletes these compound movements initially using resistance bands will provide them the neuromuscular training to learn how to coordinate movements similar to those required in Olympic Lifting.

 

 

Improved Power characteristics

 

Attaching a band around the hips to create a horizontal or vertical force vector will proprioceptively teach young athletes how to perform full hip and knee extension. Applying the hip attached set-up with bands while performing a dead-weight swing or board jump will reflexively teach the skill set of full hip extension and knee extension with an upper extremity arm swing. Using the band belt system will proprioceptively create a more vertical load while performing some of the band exercises shown in the previous video. In both cases it will allow young athletes to train the Olympic lifting skill of getting full hip extension and knee extension with an upper extremity driver.

 

View Band Belt System

 

Band Belt combo training

 

Improved Force Absorption

 

Absorbing the force of the bar when receiving it overhead or at the chest requires the core to reactively stabilize in order for the body to maintain its center of gravity over its base of support and avoid excessive lumbar extension which can often be the case with Olympic lifts. This same reactive stabilization is seen when doing any type of horizontal vector upper body band exercise with the individual facing away from the band attachment site. For instance a simple horizontal chest press or overhead tricep press requires the core to reactive stabilize to avoid excessive lumber extension during the initiation of the concentric phase of the movement. Using bands to teach young athletes how to dynamic engage their core while performing an explosive upper body exercise with bands will neuromuscular replicate the core reaction needed with Olympic lifting.

 

Success Elsewhere

 

Bands are rarely seen in a high school weight room being used to augment or help train movement skills. Instead they are used to simulate machine based movements or assist with body weight exercises like pull ups. One of the greatest benefits of resistance band training is its impact in proprioceptively teaching young athletes how to feel movement, train movement and ultimately store it into the body’s muscle memory bank. Once permanently embedded into the muscle memory, these movement skills will easily transfer into any other lift or activity that requires that particular movement skill like with Olympic lifting or more field specific foot agility training.

 

Foot Agility Training Video

 

Resistance Bands are by no means a replacement for Olympic Lifts. However, incorporating them into a strength and conditioning program will not only allow coaches more training options but will also teach young athletes a skill set that could bring them closer to incorporating many of the movement skills needed to successfully implementing Olympic Lifts into their training program.

 

Special Thank You needs to go out to Wil Fleming for creating the original article on Olympic Lifting. ~ Dave Schmitz

 

Throw Out Your Scale and Enjoy The Ride

 

Youth Fitness: Throw Out Your Scale and Enjoy The Ride

 

By Kyle Brown
 

Imagine yourself out in the park, with a basketball in hand, playing an impromptu game with friends. You’re laughing, smiling, and having a good time–not a care in the world. It’s like a form of Tai Chi, meditation in motion.
 

When do the best athletes in nearly every sport have their best performances? When they’re completely in the moment, acting like a kid, pressure-free, enjoying the process. They are not focusing on the mechanics or the pressure of the game. They’re having fun and everything simply gels. They’re laughing, they’re smiling–they’re remembering why they starting playing the youth sports in the first place.
 

This philosophy applies to youth fitness and anyone trying to live a healthy and fit lifestyle. Just like when you are on a road trip with your family, you need to enjoy the ride instead of whining, “Are we there yet?” Every aspect of your training and nutrition should feel this way. You eat healthy because it makes you feel good. The food tastes delicious, and when you are done eating you feel full and satisfied, your energy renewed. You’re excited to walk into the gym and lift weights because it makes you feel strong. You’re amped to go to practice because it makes you better at the game you love. You drink water because you feel healthy and energized.
 

They key is to get to the why.
 

When you were a really young kid, “Why?” was most likely your favorite question. I’m sure you constantly asked your friends and family why something was the way it was and “Because I said so” was never a good enough answer. The answer to “why” is your purpose. It’s the reason behind your actions, your effort, and your sacrifice.
 

It’s the reason you do what you do. And your “why” may be different from my “why” or from your friends’ or family’s “why.” One of the big mistakes your athletes make is that their initial “why” gets replaced by the fantasy of becoming rich and famous. Those are potential side benefits of achieving your goals but should not be the reason you’re striving for them in the first place.
 

Your “why” should be based around improving your quality of life.
 

You need to throw out your scale and focus on enjoying the ride. A healthy lifestyle needs to become part of your personal culture and who you are at the core. Not approaching your goals in this manner is the problem of nearly every adult. They know what they do and focus on learning how to do what they do, but they forget their purpose. For example, I have seen many young athletes do whatever it takes to become a professional athlete. Yet of these select few who actually make it, the overwhelming majority crash and burn once they get there. This phenomenon happens partially because they don’t set goals for what they’re going to do once they become a professional, but mostly because their “why” has become tainted in the process. They’ve lost their love for the game and stopped striving for greatness. The goal is to be happy but not content. You should always strive to be the best you can be.
 

And it’s not just young athletes and in youth fitness.

I’ve also seen this happen with people who are trying to lose weight or gain muscle. They focus all their energy on trying to reach a particular number on their scale and follow an approach based solely on temporary sacrifice. As soon as they reach their scale weight goal, they typically start eating poorly again and stop exercising as frequently. It’s disastrous!
 

For many others, after a week of dieting struggle and sacrifice, they step onto the magic box known as a scale and say, “Oh magic box. Please tell me that I am beautiful, that I am loved, that my program is succeeding.” And if the number that pops up is lower than the last time they checked, the answer to these questions is yes. If not, they’re an epic failure and it is time to find a new diet. Weight loss has little to do with willpower. It’s about developing a mindset and enriching yourself with proper information.
 

Many people trying to get fit put forth a ton of effort but are misguided by poor information. Instead, you need a game plan that helps create healthy habits and daily rituals that will get you to the top and keep you on top. And the process needs to be fun rather than a miserable sacrifice. Quick fixes are not acceptable, as they are inconsistent with long-term change. Thinking “the diet starts tomorrow” is setting yourself up for failure.
 

Instead, use my motto: “The healthy lifestyle starts now.” Do this for your own reasons, your own “why” for wanting to improve your quality of life today. And always remember: enjoy the ride, as it will make you emotionally fit and psychology.
 

 

Speed and Agility Drills Defined

Learn How To Select The Perfect Speed and Agility Drills For Your Athletes

How do you go about selecting speed and agility drills for your athletes daily use and instruction? If you were like me you would choose the ones that you like, equal parts lateral and linear and then write them in the program. You would probably use some progressions from simple to complex.

Well that is what I used to do.

Recently our speed and agility programming has become systemized in a similar way as our strength training. This has helped our athletes to become much better at the skill of speed and agility. We are able to determine where each athlete is struggling and design the program to improve in that area.

Speed and Agility 1

Is the young athlete struggling in recognition?

Is their technique lacking?

Are they not powerful enough to explode out cuts?

To actually break up speed and agility programming into the parts we need to focus on, it is important to understand what it is that can improve through speed and agility drills.

In terms of linear speed there are 2 primary areas in which we can see improvement.

The first of those is in the technique of the movement. By improving technique we are truly working to improve the athletes ability to achieve biomechanically advantageous positions. We look to improve the athletes overall body position in the acceleration phase of linear sprinting, the position of foot contact, and the use of the arms during acceleration

Secondly we look to improve power production or maximal explosive strength in the early phases of acceleration. Training for power, in speed events can effect maximum strength, as well as bring about neuromuscular changes.

When it comes to lateral speed there are again 2 primary areas in which we can look to cause improvement.

Again we will look to see improvement in the athletes technique of movement. Of greatest concern to us is the athletes overall and specific foot position and the hip height during the change of direction maneuver.

speed and agility

The second area and often overlooked area of change of direction that we will seek to improve is mental cognition. The speed of change of direction movements is often determined by the athlete’s ability to recognize and process the information being presented to them, and their ability to react to the given stimulus.

Using these 4 categories where we can effect the most change we have devised a “4 puzzle piece” speed and agility training program for athletes.

Puzzle Piece 1: Linear Speed Training Technique

Piece 1 focuses on creating the foundations upon which we can build power and speed. All the power in the world will be for nothing if the athlete cannot get in, and maintain the correct positions.

speed and agility

A variety of drills can be used for training linear speed, but being that it is the “skill of speed” we are trying to improve, each needs to be coaching intensive. Simple 10 yd sprints from a split stance can allow you to get athletes in the correct starting position, with hands and weight distribution just as you would like to see them.

Puzzle Piece 2: Linear Power

Improving linear power is greatly dependent upon an athlete’s strength and explosive strength training, that being said the cyclic nature of sprinting requires that time be devoted in the training process to cyclic power development.

To improve cyclic power resisted sprints of a short distance with long rest periods are the most appropriate training method. Prowler push sprints, sled drag sprints, and band resisted sprints all fit this mode. While the actual technique of sprinting may be altered slightly, the focus is on the rapid and repeated development of power.

Puzzle Piece 3: Lateral Speed Training Technique

Piece 3 gets us to the basics of lateral change of direction. Many athletes lack the necessary tools to cut and change direction effectively to start with: developing the proper foot position in relation to the body, the proper foot position in relation to the ground and the proper hip height are the areas of focus.

Short distance single plane movements start this progression e.g. 1 shuffle step to a cut. We progress our athletes to greater distances and then add new directions of movement out of the cut or new types of movement into the cut e.g. crossover 10 yards to sprint.

Puzzle Piece 4: Complex, Recognition Lateral Speed Training

Speed and Agility 2

The last piece of the puzzle is using cognitive skills to more closely replicate the conditions of game play. The speed of lateral movement is determined by an athlete’s ability to recognize and react to the stimulus on the field.

A great drill for this is our “5 Cone Drill.” With 5 different colored cones spaced evenly in a line the coach should use verbal or visual cues to let the athlete know what cone they must move towards. The type of movment (shuffle, crossover, sprint) should be determined beforehand, and the athlete will move to the cone using that movement pattern.

Using these 4 pieces to design your speed and agility training will allow you to see where your athletes are lacking ability and improve in just that area. Your athletes and your program will benefit from taking a new approach to speed and agility.

 

3 Movements For Young Athletes

 

Preparing Young Athletes

 

young athletes weight training

 

By Wil Fleming

 

Can you recall walking into a weightroom for the first time?

 

I still can, it was my high school weightroom and I was maybe 14 years old. Men, four years older than me were lifting much more than I could imagine, grunting, cursing, and straining their way to be better at their sport. I was told what the workout was and went to it.

 

I remember that first workout. Three sets of 10 on the bench press, back squat, and incline bench press, and five sets of five on the power clean. I remember that my squats were three inches too high (no one back squats well the first day), my power cleans looked like reverse curls, and my bench press was 15 pounds too heavy for my strength levels.

 

This happens all the time, young athletes are thrown into programs about which they know nothing, for which they are completely unprepared, and from which they are likely to get injured.

 

It doesn’t have to be that way though.

 

The squat, the clean, and the bench press are the staples of programs for high school athletes in their school. There are three exercises that they can be taught beforehand that can set them up for ultimate success.

 

3 Exercises that every young athlete should be taught

 

Goblet Squat
We’ve all seen the picture of the baby in the perfect squat position. You know which one that I am talking about. The neutral spine and neck, the hips below the knees, the feet flat on the ground. So we all know that humans can squat…at some point. So at what point did people lose the ability to squat well? I can’t tell you for sure but typically it is before they hit the weightroom for the first time.

 

The first key that makes the goblet squat the best tool for re-teaching athletes is the un-weighted goblet squat or prayer squat. Have the athlete take a prayer type position with hands together and elbows down squat to the bottom. At their lowest point let their elbows push their knees out . This is the first lesson that the Goblet squat can teach us. We must create space to squat to. We do not need to bend over to squat, because you will run out of room. Squatting must happen between the legs with a vertical torso.

 

Move on to using the dumbbell or kettlebell and try the same thing. Squeeze the top of the dumbbell or kettlebell this time and see that your lats are turned on and because of this your entire torso is straighter. This is the second lesson of goblet squatting that other squats do not teach: The torso is just as actively a part of the squat as the lower body.

 

KB Swing
We all know that I love the Olympic lifts but before I even get to teach athletes to Olympic lift the swing is very often my first chance to teach explosive movement. The benefit of the swing is that it is also one of the first times that I get to teach the athlete to hip hinge.

 

Before getting to the swing begin by teaching the hip hinge pattern. The easiest way to do so is to grasp the kettlebell in a handcuffed position behind your back. This handcuffed position will start to teach the shoulders back, superhero chest position that will be important in the swing and in the Olympic lifts. The bell will be slightly below the glutes at this point. The athlete should unlock their knees and drive their glutes into the bell . There will be a tactile sense when this happens correctly. If the athlete gets into a back bend pattern the bell will remain below their glutes and make contact with their hamstrings throughout the movment. Actually moving the hips backwards in space will bring the bell up higher and in contact with the glutes through the movement.

 

Do this movement slowly at first and then teach them to forcefully drive their hips to stand up. You have begun to teach the athlete to swing, and given them a hip hinge pattern to base much of their movement on.

 

Next teach the swing and the snap that comes along with it. The swing is an excellent first explosive exercise to teach because it does not reward poor positioning. A relaxed core will lead to the athlete being pulled forward on their toes. The swing teaches athletes to make “something” move with their hip hinge and hip extension rather than with their arms, which will come in handy in the Olympic lifts later on.

 

Plank
The big 3 at the high school level are squat, power clean and bench press so why aren’t we using this space for a push up? Quite simply many young athletes are not ready for the push up. For this reason we choose to teach directed stability in the plank to prepare the athlete for the push up.

 

Most athletes that we encounter for the first time lack total body stability. Trying to place them in positions that require strength before they have stability will only build on top of deficiency.

 

The goal of the plank should be to find stability throughout the body. Have the athletes lock the lats low, and forcefully contract the glutes and the quads. The core will be locked in without many cues at that point.

 

With these three movements athletes will develop important patterns that can assist them in learning to do more advanced or more heavily emphasized lifts in the high school weightroom. Equipping athletes with these patterns can lead to fewer injuries and more success for the young athletes we coach down the road.

 

 

Youth Sports Revolution From Over Zealous Parents and Coaches

 

Athletic Revolution at Full Throttle Athletics: A Revolution From Over Zealous Parents and Coaches In Youth Sports

 

youth sports coaching

By Robert D. Blackford

 

There are certain times in your life that give you pause to stop and say: WOW…..ALL I CAN SAY IS WOW!

 

You aren’t sure if you should be mad, embarrassed or ashamed…this is one of those times.

 

Read this article on youth sports from ESPN:

 

http://espn.go.com

 

In short, it’s the misdirected rant, spit, grit and drill sergeant-esq pep talk of a football coach…directed at (WAIT FOR IT, WAIT FOR IT) 8 year olds in Frisco, TX. Ugh.

 

As a 10 year resident of Frisco this article surprised me but wasn’t entirely shocking. Our family has participated in organized team youth sports, playing coaching and supporting from ages 4 on for our two children.

 

Are we passionate?

 

Yes.

 

Do we offer cheers, advice and criticism at practice and games?

 

Absolutely.

 

Is it as important to participate, learn, grow, and both lose and win? All equally. But there is a level where it’s beyond too far. The article above is evidence.

 

A world apart from the ridiculous behavior referenced in the ESPN article is the weekly program our age 10 and 6 children participate in: Athletic Revolution Frisco (AR). Agility, health, strength, fitness, coordination, and flexibility are the byproducts of what the kids think is nothing more than…well FUN.

 

We joined what appeared to be this professional yet simple, no frills gym at Full Throttle Athletics in Frisco/ Little Elm in 2010-2011. We learned about flexibility, nutrition, strength and endurance. Then we eagerly signed up the kids when the gym launched Athletic Revolution, their youth sports program.

 

After personally observing the interaction with the AR coaches, I can say it’s a revolution from the rant above. Positive reinforcement, actual hands-on coaching and mentoring are the fundamentals taught to AR Champions.

 

Results: faster, stronger and smarter to form the foundation of some lifelong habits. Their progressive nature and sound methodology coupled with everyday sporting fun makes for a great combination. Now the kids look at it like a trip to the park!

 

Want a youth sports revolution from the norm, checkout AR at Full Throttle. You won’t be disappointed.

 

- Robert D. Blackford

 

 

Top 4 Alternatives for Olympic Lifts When Training Young Athletes

Training Young Athletes Using Olympic Lift Alternatives

 

Youth Fitness Expert Wil fFeming on Training Young Athletes

 

As a coach and professional I know that I love the Olympic lifts when training young athletes. For good or bad I think that there is no EQUAL to getting athletes more explosive than the Olympic lifts.

 

Being married to a lift or movement places too many limitations on the program you are able to design and in particular limits the improvements that each individual athlete can make.

 

For the athletes that are exclusively training with me and are physically capable the Olympic lifts are the king of my gym. There is no BETTER way to get explosive.

 

As my training business has grown, however, more and more athletes find out and are recruited to train with me, the necessity is not to place my training on them, but to discover the best training methods for them.

 

This means that the athlete that are concurrently training in their high school and doing Olympic lifts 2-3 times a week need alternative methods to train explosively with me. My beliefs are not something that can supersede the needs, time or ability of the athlete.

 

training young athletes

 

This being the case when we are training young athletes, the Olympic lifts have been replaced with alternatives that replicate the explosive nature of these lifts.

 

Using Medicine Balls To Train Young Athletes

 

training young athletes with medicine balls

 

The broad category of medicine ball throws can be used for nearly every athlete to produce explosive strength. These throws provide a low impact to the athlete but a maximal force production.

 

Throws in the rotational plane can be used to develop a vital linkage of the upper body to the lower body through the core musculature. Correctly performed throws originate in the lower body and leave through the hands, a kink in the core armor will be very apparent if a delay occurs from initiation to delivery.

 

Regardless of whether athletes can do Olympic lifts or not, medicine ball throws are a vital part of athletic programs, nothing develops the all important power in the transverse plane quite like rotational medicine ball throws.

 

KB Swings To Train Young Athletes

 

training young athletes

 

Much has been written on the kettlebell and benefits of using it to develop explosive strength. The addition of elastic resistance can take this movement to an entirely different level.

 

The swing itself is an excellent tool to develop an explosive hip hinge pattern. Most athletes lack in the ability to feel the explosive hinge and the swing is the best movement that I have found to break knee dominant athletes of using the knee bend to initiate explosive motion in the lower body.

 

The end range of hip extension is one of the best ways for athletes to truly feel the maximum contraction of the glutes. The voluntary muscle contraction that most athletes have difficulty attaining through other movements is a must for athletes to achieve a total hip extension.

 

The addition of elastic resistance allows accomplishes 2 main objectives:

 

1) It spares you of having to buy an unlimited number of kettlebells. Our biggest kettlebell is 32 kg. Many of our high school athletes can toy around with this weight with little to no difficulty for 10-15 swings. By adding even a small band to the kettlebell, 10-15 swings becomes a much greater challenge.

 

2) The majority of resistance occurs at the top end, where athletic movements occur. The maximal contraction should occur at the top end of the swing movement. With just the dead weight resistance supplied by the kettlebell athletes are sometimes apt to use the top extension as a point of relaxation. The addition of band resistance increases the load as it travels away from the floor. This top “high resistance” position is also the position in which most athletic movements occur.

 

In general swings simulate overall athletic movement. A correct swing should have the athlete relax momentarily at the top of the swing after reaching full hip extension but before returning to contraction at the top. This contract, relax, contract pattern allows for greater recruitment on the next upward swing.

 

Prowler Sprints To Train Young Athletes

 

training young athletes with prowler sprints

 

The goals of Olympic lifting are varied. They can go from becoming a better competitor, across the spectrum to improving speed (I first noticed that I had become a much more powerful athlete due to Olympic lifting when my 40 yard dash time dropped .5 seconds in just 6 months) For the latter a great substitution is to do resisted sprinting with the prowler.

 

The idea of special strength training was popularized by USSR coaches, and in particular those coaches in track and field. My first exposures to it were as a hammer thrower, to us special strength training was literally training the specific event in which I competed with a heavier implement (can’t get much more special than that!). Prowler sprints are the perfect special strength tool for athletes looking to improve acceleration.

 

The sets are typically 8 seconds or less, and the athlete gets adequate rest. This timing both mimics the boughts typically seen in athletic competition, the length of time for typical Olympic lifts, and helps increase the alactic power an athlete is able to produce.

 

An increase in stride length will be seen for athletes training with resisted sprinting techniques. This increased stride length will be due to an increase in the athletes’ ability to produce more power.

 

Submaximal Front Squats or Deadlifts to Train Young Athletes

training young athletes with deadlifts

This is something that I have been toying with recently that has really improved the maximum power output that we are seeing from our athletes.

 

Loads of 40-50% 1RM on the bar and band resistance of less than 100lbs should be used. Athletes should be instructed to lift the weight with maximal force on the concentric portion of the movement.

 

Recently Bret Contreras wrote an excellent article on similar movements In it he describes recent research showing that maximal force produced during 40% of 1RM in the Hex Bar Deadlift is surprisingly similar to that produced in the Olympic lifts. (4800 Watts Hex Bar vs. ~4900 Watts in O lifts). While research has shown that maximal power production measured in watts can be achieved in the split jerk at nearly 6000 watts, this is very close when it comes to the big 2 Olympic lifts (snatch/clean).

 

Adding bands to the puzzle has not yet been studied but anecdotally my athletes have seen a large improvement in the ability to produce power top end hip extension. The greatest load is encountered at this point in which the athlete has the greatest mechanical advantage.

 

The bands pull the athlete down at a faster rate in the eccentric phase of the lift. To resist this greater speed the posterior chain must contract with a greater force. This is similar to the eccentric portion of plyometric action. Higher rate of contraction in the muscle spindles will lead to a greater force of contraction on the concentric portion of the lift.

 

Check these moves out next time your training young athletes and let me know what you think.

 

Learn how to become a Certfied High School Strength and Conditioning Coach by Clicking Here.

HSSC

Misuse Of Speed And Agility Training

 

Speed and Agility Training With Young Athletes

Speed and Agility Training

 

A lot of people in this field call themselves Strength & Conditioning Coaches. I don’t have a problem with the “Strength” part of the title, but the “Conditioning” part could use a little work.

 

As a former college S & C Coach, I fully understand the time constraints of the collegiate or high school environment. Running a private facility for athletes, I also understand the limitations of this situation. In both cases, it is very difficult to give every athlete the time and instruction they need. Still, there is one area of our profession that I feel is in desperate need of some attention. That area is what I call Movement Training.

Speed and Agility Training

Recently, I was asked by a college coach what mistakes I have made in the past and what I would do differently if I could re-live the past 6-10 years of my career. At first, like many coaches, my ego didn’t want to admit to any mistakes, especially to another coach. But, after some thought, I realized that the area in which I have the greatest impact on athletes today, I simply did not understand when I was younger.

 

A few years ago, I thought the best S & C Coach was the one who most fully brutalized his/her athletes. I thought I was supposed to lift my athletes until they puked and condition them until they couldn’t see straight. Don’t get me wrong, I still think that stuff has its place. I love putting athletes through brutally hard workouts, and I think that kind of hard work can have amazing benefits (it also has terrific entertainment value). But, through time, I have gained a better understanding of how to maximize the “Conditioning” or “Speed and Agility Training” part of my job title.

 

To a lot of coaches, conditioning means creating running programs that enhance the physiological processes involved in aerobic or anaerobic metabolism. You may not think of it this way, but that is essentially what many conditioning programs are designed to do. I have no problem with this. Conditioning sport-specific energy systems is a vital part of athletic success.

Speed and Agility Training

Many coaches also implement speed, agility, and plyometric routines into their programs, and I think it’s great to see coaches making an effort to improve the physical abilities of their athletes. Unfortunately, I see way too many mistakes being made in this area, and I think many coaches are doing their athletes an injustice.

 

Over the years, we have read articles by some great coaches about specificity, but the full message of these wise men is often lost in an effort to use their message to support our own views. I’m sure you’ve done it. You’ve read an article, and thought to yourself “That’s what I’m talkin’ about. That’s why I do what I do. I’m going to use this article to support my speed and agility training philosophy.”

 

The articles have been great. They have helped a generation of S & C Coaches formulate their strength training philosophies….strength training philosophies. Why didn’t we see that the same information we’ve applied to strength training can also be used to develop effective speed and agility programs?

 

In my opinion, a lot of S & C Coaches approach speed and agility training the same way they approach strength training.

 

They find out what other coaches are doing (through reading summer manuals, watching workouts, etc.), and duplicate it in their environments. This has worked out pretty well for strength training because there are a lot of good Strength and Conditioning Coaches to learn from.

 

Unfortunately, there are a few problems with learning about speed and agility training this way.

 

First, there are not nearly as many quality speed and agility coaches to learn from.

 

Second, most of us didn’t learn anything about effective movement patterns in school.

 

Third, proper coaching of speed and agility training for young athletes is highly dependent on coaching prowess, movement analysis, and the ability to understand proper movement patterns. It is more like teaching a sport skill; instructor knowledge is vital, and you can’t just apply a cookie-cutter approach like many coaches do with strength training. Nonetheless, we’ve learned our speed and agility drills from Strength Coaches not Speed and Agility coaches.

 

The best case scenario for many of us was to learn a few drills from a track coach or catch an article outlining a couple of exercises. This kind of coaching just doesn’t cut it. I believe that movement training falls under the “Conditioning” part of our job title, and it’s time we take full responsibility for this important part of our jobs.

 

I like to call speed and agility training “movement training” because the goal is to train athletes how to move more efficiently. The problem with most movement training is the assumption that if we put some cones or hurdles out in a cool design and have our athletes run through them, we are making an impact on their movement patterns.

speed and agility training

The truth is, we’re not. All we’re doing is helping them reinforce whatever movement patterns they are using to get through the drill. Take a few minutes to re-read some of those specificity articles, and I think you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.

 

I have had the good fortune of working with, observing, and learning from a lot of good sport coaches and instructors. I have never seen a good basketball coach allow players to take hundreds of jump shots with poor shooting technique, and I have never seen a good baseball coach let players pitch and hit with poor mechanics. Unfortunately, I have seen a lot of Strength Coaches allow athletes to perform hours of agility drills using horrible technique.

 

A lot of coaches assume that if the athletes are going through the drills, their athleticism will improve. But, the benefits of performing speed and agility drills are dramatically reduced if the athletes are not executing them with sound mechanics and learning proper technique. If the coach is unable to analyze the movement and give corrective feedback, what good is he/she doing for the athletes?

 

There are still a lot of questions about speed and agility training and movement training especially with young athletes, but there are certainly some answers and a lot of room for us to improve. I look forward to examining this misunderstood aspect of our profession in more detail with you in the future.

 

Learn how to develop speed and agility programs by picking up a copy of Ulimate Speed Drills..

Speed and Agility Training

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Developing Speed and Agility for Athletes: The Short-to-Long Approach

Renowned speed expert Latif Thomas explains his short-to-long methodology to developing speed and agility for athletes

Latif Thomas

People say all the time that speed and agility for athletes is just like talent: It can’t be taught.

I’m here to show you how that belief is flat-out wrong. Speed is a skill.

The ability to take advantage of the potential of one’s body, and to do so consistently, is a highly technical skill. As coaches and athletes, we often allude to this concept when talking about speed development, but rarely do we discuss how important this statement is and what effects it has on training and performance.

When watching skilled athletes run at full speed, there is commonality in the power and fluidity that these athletes display. They run smoothly and effortlessly. And they run the same way, every time. It is this consistency in the patterning of their movements, the skill of running fast, that creates that “Wow” factor when you see them in action.

Depending on your level of experience in speed development, you may or may not know instantly what these athletes are doing that engenders such awe, but you know it is there. Even though we can’t bring every athlete to elite levels, we can teach them the skill of running fast, where they can apply it to their own particular sport in the context of their own particular level of inherent ability.

Anyone who has learned the skill of running fast knows exactly what it feels like when you reach the point where you’re no longer “trying” to run fast but are seemingly floating over the ground. But there is a progression of development required to consistently reach this point of ease in running. My goal is to explain how to progress an athlete toward the consistent application of the skill of running fast.

Speed and agility for athletes

To begin, let us establish the foundation of this progression. I believe it to be simply a matter of common sense, i.e., another area in athletic development where we have made something complicated that is, in fact, somewhat simple. In an individual’s speed development, one cannot expect to be able to run fast consistently over 100 meters if they first have not developed the ability to run fast consistently over 80 meters. One cannot expect to run fast consistently over 80 meters if they have not developed the ability to run fast consistently over 60 meters, etc. Therefore, with prescribing a methodology for youth speed training and developing an athlete’s ability to run fast, we must apply a “short to long” approach.

With a short to long approach, we develop an athlete’s proficiency over short distances and progress to longer distances once that athlete has shown that he/she can perform a given distance to the satisfaction of the coach administering the program. Therefore, the onus is on the coach to know what to look for in terms of strengths and weaknesses, how to cue an athlete to effectively perform certain movement patterns, and how to fix mechanical inefficiencies. This is the case regardless of the sport; where the emphasis, time or effort is spent will be contingent on the particular demands of the sport and the particular strengths and weaknesses of the athlete. Thus, for youth speed training, not every athlete will necessarily need to spend equal time developing every component/skill that will be discussed here.

Training Speed and Agility for Athletes: Three Major Categories

For our purposes, we will divide youth speed training “speed development” into three major categories:

Acceleration – the ability to quickly and efficiently get to full speed

Maximum Velocity (VMax) – the ability to maintain top and near top speeds

Speed Endurance – the ability to maintain efficient coordination of the limbs in order to slow the rate of deceleration

NOTE: When it comes to training speed and agility for athletes, there will certainly be a temptation to rush to other areas, progress to longer distances, and run workouts that are more exciting. I must stress that in training inexperienced athletes, we must look at long-term development. I know this can be difficult when we only have athletes for a 12-week season or an 8-week program at a facility. While radical improvements can and will be made over the short term, if your true goal is to maximize the potential of your athletes, then you will not rush them into skills and movements they are not prepared to effectively execute.

Keep in mind that the purpose of this post is to discuss how to progress using a “short to long” program. Certain assumptions must be made, such as the assumption that while implementing a short to long approach to speed development, you are also developing the other four biomotor abilities (strength, coordination, flexibility, endurance), which will allow athletes to progress at the fastest reasonable rate. Thus, the remainder of this post will not go into the biomotor abilities or how to train them but will focus instead on speed progressions. In addition, it is assumed that you understand the basic cues and demands of speed development, basic body angles, rest periods, etc., in that the confines of this post do not allow for intimate discussion of these issues.

Acceleration Development

Acceleration development should be the primary focus of linear speed development for any athlete in any speed- and power-based sport. Success in any sport requiring running is going to be contingent on the athlete’s ability to accelerate to top speed with little wasted motion or energy (i.e., efficiently). So the foundation of any speed development program must spend the appropriate amount of time focusing on developing this skill.

Before we do any running, we must put athletes in a good acceleration position. An athlete cannot expect to perform a skill if they have not experienced the context in which it must be performed. So before beginning acceleration work, I teach the wall/fence drill. This will allow athletes to feel, both statically and dynamically, the ideal position for acceleration. While they will not be able to hold or maintain this position at full speed, they will at least understand experientially what it should feel like. And this serves as a great starting point for teaching athletes self-assessment, a critical tool for maximal development.

Speed and agility for athletes 1

Wall/Fence Drill – Have athletes stand with their hands against a wall with their arms parallel to the ground. The feet should be behind the hips and the athlete should be at, approximately, a 45-degree angle to the ground. The torso should be erect, hips forward, and stomach and lower back tight so that one could draw a straight (45-degree) line from the head through the hips to the ankles.

This is the ideal body position that an athlete would be in at the outset of acceleration, particularly when accelerating from the ground, out of a 3- or 4-point stance, starting blocks, etc.

From this position, we implement a marching action. Have the athlete raise the right leg so that the ankle is beneath the hips, toe dorsiflexed. On your command, the athlete will march, alternating legs, for a given number of repetitions. They will finish with their leg in the original starting position.

You will see immediate breakdowns in technique:

  • Athletes will break at the hips while performing the march, so that the butt sticks out. The straight line from head to ankle is broken. Cue them to keep their hips forward (squeeze the cheeks).
  • They will not keep their heels underneath the hips. Instead the ankle will pump straight up and down, piston like, so that the foot is out past the center of mass. Cue athletes to pull the heel under their butts.
  • They will not drive down and back so that each foot strike takes place in the original starting position, behind the hips.

Since athletes cannot perform this basic drill in a confined setting, they certainly cannot be expected to possess the skills required for smooth, powerful, and efficient acceleration to top speed. At the outset of acceleration development, I will have athletes perform this drill before each training session. Additionally, of course, we are teaching traditional speed drills.

So what next?

Speed and agility for athletes 2

I like to start with short hill runs. And by short I mean 10-15 meters, max. I put athletes on a fairly steep hill, and we begin with accelerations up this hill. As we learned with the wall march, holding acceleration angles is difficult at this point. With a hill, we can bring the angle to the athlete, putting them in the position we want them to be in. With short hills it is paramount that athletes drive down and back, applying force to the ground. If they don’t, they will immediately feel that their center of mass is behind them and they will not be able to get up the hill with any reasonable speed or power.

Because force application, and the strength demands that come with it, is such an integral part of running fast, we can teach this skill with short hills as well as help athletes experience how much easier and more effective it is when they can activate and fire the glutes so that power is transferred appropriately. At the beginning, athletes will often try to bound up the hill, with the swing leg landing too far in front. This overcompensation is another opportunity to cue the importance of driving down. Like in traditional sprinting, when the foot gets out in front of the hips at foot strike, athletes must spend longer on the ground, which limits force output and slows them down.

Generally, I’ll start with around 10 repetitions with 1-2 minutes rest for teenaged athletes. At this point, I’m not going to get overly technical with the volume. I always err on the side of caution. The more critical element to teach here is self-assessment. And this goes for all phases of speed development. Once you’ve established some of the fundamental skills that athletes should be trying to learn with a particular workout or series of workouts, they must begin to identify positives and negatives on their own. I constantly ask them, “How did that feel?” “What did you feel?” “What were your arms doing?” etc.

Ask questions that get them to analyze their performance. If you are giving them good feedback with each interval, they will begin to come back and tell you how they felt, what felt right, what felt wrong, what they were thinking, etc.

This is an incredibly important component of training speed and agility for athletes and should not be overlooked. But to make it happen, you must be able to give appropriate comments that facilitate their learning.

Once athletes have become proficient at the short hill runs extending out to 20m, I will take them to the track or to a turf field. I do not advise doing speed work on grass as it is an invitation to injury. From here we will start out at 20m, starting from a variety of positions on the ground, a crouch, a 3-point stance, etc. I’m looking for the same aggressiveness that was required to accelerate up the hill to now be transferred to a flat surface. Once I see that, with the mechanical elements in place, we’ll extend out to 30 meters, then to 40. Again, the progression is logical. What you should be looking for in graduating your athletes to longer runs is consistency in their movement patterns, proper running mechanics, and an improved ability to tell you what they did right and what they did wrong without you having to tell them first. The best way to assess consistency is to time the athletes’ intervals. When they are consistently running the same times within .1-.2 seconds, it is likely that they are doing the same things each time. At these shorter distances, there is less room for error, but developing these skills early will pay great dividends at longer, more challenging distances.

Now that we are out to the 30-40 meter range, athletes are no longer accelerating. In fact, the vast majority of athletes will be at full speed by 30 meters, so this is the time where we will begin adding Maximum Velocity components to training. If an athlete is not reaching full speed until after 30 meters, they are likely holding back or have mechanical problems that are limiting proper acceleration. These athletes are not ready for longer sprint work.

Maximum Velocity (VMax)

Speed and agility for athletes 3

Even elite sprinters can only maintain top speed for around 2 seconds before beginning to decelerate. Thus, VMax work is geared more toward maintaining near top speeds for longer distances (reducing the rate of deceleration) than running at full speed because the time spent at full speed is quite short. Again, this post is not a discussion of this type of training but rather guidelines for how to implement it.

I am a big fan of fly runs. This is where you will have a buildup zone, a fly zone, and a deceleration zone. With our acceleration work, we’ve been practicing in the 30-40m range, so we will now add a fly to our work at these distances.

Our initial runs will be “fly 15′s.” Set up a cone at the start, at 20m, at 35m and at 60m. The breakdown is this: 0-20m is the acceleration zone, 20-35m is the fly zone, and 35-60m is the deceleration zone. The final 20 meters should be a slow deceleration to a full stop. Since we’ve been focusing on acceleration development thus far, athletes should be quite proficient through 20m. Our new focus is on what they should be doing while at full speed.

Cue athletes to run hips tall and with a foot strike beneath the hips, not behind or far in front. It is important for young athletes especially to focus not on straining to run faster but rather on executing a consistent pace. Our goal here is maximum speed, minimum effort. Again, we can assess consistency here by timing athletes through the zones. If their time to the first cone is inconsistent, it will likely lead to inconsistencies in the fly portion. Because we’re breaking the run into sections, we can identify where things are going wrong (and right) and give appropriate solutions. I strongly recommend videotaping these runs and breaking down the film with your athletes.

As athletes become consistent and proficient at fly 15′s we can simply extend the distance with time. Generally, for athletes who require extended sprints in their training, our meat and potatoes workouts are fly 30′s and fly 40′s. Volume is dependent on the particular athletes. When times fall off, the workout is over. As a general rule, with teenage athletes, we look at a total volume in the range of 250-300 meters before fatigue begins to adversely affect the quality of the workout. But again, this is a generality and you must prescribe distances appropriate for your athletes—thus, the art of coaching.

Because we are implementing a short to long progression, even with VMax work, you are still working on acceleration development. Athletes must accelerate properly to reach true to top speeds. So, where I was previously doing acceleration work twice per week as we made our way to the 30-40m range, I will now do one day of acceleration work and one day of VMax work. When you think about it, we’re getting more bang for our buck because we’re still getting two days of acceleration work in, but we’re also developing our ability to maintain at top speed. Since acceleration work is paramount in almost every sport, we can maintain constant focus on that skill because we’ve mastered it. Consistent acceleration paves the way for maximal development at longer distances.

We also use another type of workout for VMax development. It goes by many names, but we call it “Sprint-Float-Sprints.” This is simply a more advanced progression of the fly XX. Here the goal is to teach athletes to relax once they reach top speed, but without slowing down. This is one of the hardest things for coaches to teach and athletes to learn. Athletes simply must experience this in order to understand it. I’ve never been able to come up with a universally understood cue that got athletes to do this right. The important thing to convey is this: Once an athlete reaches top speed, continuing to try to accelerate will only slow the athlete down.

When timing experienced athletes in this type of workout, they run faster in the float—or relaxation portion—than when they are pushing to run faster. To most athletes, this doesn’t make sense at first, but there is a reason that you see elite athletes with relaxed faces, shoulders, hands, etc. at the end of a race. They know that they must stay within a certain confine to run faster. If they begin to press, they will break down mechanically and slow down. So, when doing Sprint-Float-Sprints with your athletes, you must get them to understand this. One very clear way to tell if athletes are slowing down in the float zone vs. relaxing is by watching their torso. If the shoulders drop back behind the hips (foot strike will also take place in front of the hips), then you know the athlete is doing it wrong.

Here is how to set up the workout. Set up a cone at 20m, 30m, 40m, 50m, and 70m. From 0-20m athletes accelerate normally, 20-30m athletes will sprint aggressively, 30- 40m athletes go into a float, 40-50m back into an aggressive sprint, 50-70m athletes should slowly come to a stop.

Generally, I stick to this distance throughout the season. If an athlete excels, I may bring the zones from 10m to 15m. Because this workout is quite taxing, both physically and mentally, we don’t do a large number of them in a workout. We may do a max of 4 or 5 total. As with fly runs, getting this on tape is an incredibly valuable tool. With so much going on from zone to zone, it really is difficult to assess an athlete live and time their zones. You really have to pick one or the other.

With this workout, it would be the alternative to running, say, fly 40′s. Depending on the sport and time of year, it is unlikely that I will get away from pure acceleration work entirely, but there are exceptions to every rule. Now that athletes have become proficient in acceleration patterns and maintaining top/near top speeds, we can add a new element to training:

Speed Endurance (SE)

Speed and agility for athletes 4

With speed endurance, we want to be specific to the demands of the sport. For our discussion, there are two types of speed endurance: Alactic speed endurance and Glycolytic speed endurance. Without turning this into a lecture on energy systems, alactic SE is for runs of 30-80m with rests periods of 1-3 minutes between reps and 5-10 minutes between sets. Glycolytic SE is for runs of 80-150m, with rest periods of 5-6 minutes between reps and 6-10 minutes between sets.

At this point, you should have a clear understanding of how progressing distances works. Fundamentally it’s going to be the same here, but again, sport specificity comes into play. There is little need to focus on glycolytic SE if your athletes are never going to have to sprint for longer than 60-70m on a fairly regular basis, i.e., almost every sport outside of track and field. Instead, I would focus on alactic SE. Athletes are going to be competing in a state of fatigue for a good portion of their games, so short sprints with relatively short rest periods are going to prepare them better for the demands of their sport. Because you’ve taught them proper acceleration mechanics and developed the skill of high speed maintenance, they will be able to run faster and longer while tired. If you had not done this progression in this way, once they got tired (in a workout or competition) they would immediately regress from a mechanical and technical standpoint, which of course makes them less competitive athletically and at increased risk of sustaining an injury. But because they have learned the skill of sprinting, as well as self-assessment, they can focus and fall back on the previously learned and repeated movement patterns that lead to running faster and winning more.

With track and field sprinters, the need for longer speed endurance runs is obvious. It is important, however, that we adhere to these rest protocols. I find that many track coaches can’t overcome the urge to reduce rest periods, believing them to be too long to be effective. They are not.

So how is it all put together?

Putting Together Acceleration, VMax, and SE in the Context of a Season

If you have a true preseason or offseason, that is where I would put in the short hill accelerations or even flat surface acceleration work. But if you’re working on limited time frames of a typical season, here is how I would structure the progression, assuming you are working on speed twice per week.

This, of course, is a general guide. Look at it in terms of progressing in distance. As far as volume, these are estimates. Some athletes are workhorses; others are not. There is no magic formula for determining the perfect volume for a workout or workout period, and there are many other variables to consider in prescribing speed sessions. It should vary by athlete based on training age, experience, skill, etc.

M: 8-10 x10m hills

Th: 8-10 x 15m hills

Once athletes have begun to improve:

M: 8-10 x 20m hills

Th: 8-10 x 20-30m acceleration development on flat surface

Once proficiency is shown:

M: 8-10 x 30m

Th: 4x30m, 3-4 x 40m

Once athletes have developed consistency in their acceleration development:

M: 10 x 30m

Th: 6-8 x fly 15′s with a 20m buildup

Choices from here vary by sport. Non-track coaches will likely stick with a format along these lines. Remember, you don’t always have to move up in distance; you can do repeat 10′s, 20′s, etc. Make it specific to your sport. In fact, you should move around in volume, distance, and intensity so that athletes do not adapt and become stagnant in their training.

If athletes aren’t going to maintain an all-out sprint for more than 15-20m, spend the bulk of time on various components of acceleration development, speed endurance, and some VMax work:

M: (Acceleration work) 5x10m, 5x20m, 5x30m (full recovery)

Th: (SE) 2 sets of 6x25m with 1 min rest between reps, 5 min between sets

Do a VMax workout every 3 or 4 workouts.

With track and field, you have to consider meets as part of your program design. So if an athlete is running the 100 and 200 in a meet plus field events, acceleration work and VMax work may be part of that week’s training, generally speaking. Of course, you must consider the above factors, time of year, etc.

For a 100/200m runner who has progressed through the requisite acceleration and VMax skills:

M: 5x30m out of blocks on the straight, 3 x 60m out of blocks on the turn (float at 40m)

Th: 4x fly 30′s with a 20m buildup, 1 x 120m

The meet will involve speed endurance elements so we don’t have to go heavy on that during the week. And both the Monday and Thursday workout cover some degree of speed endurance work as well.

Keep in mind that when doing VMax work, you’re still doing acceleration development. You have to accelerate to get to top speed. When you’re doing (Glycolytic) Speed Endurance, you’re doing both acceleration work and VMax work. To get the most out of a longer run, an athlete must be capable of effectively performing a shorter run. It is for this reason that the short to long approach to youth speed training and development is the optimal method for developing the fastest athletes.

Youth speed training certification

 

If you understand that speed and agility are the most coveted skills your athletes and clients need you to teach them and you want to stay on the cutting edge of what is being taught by the most effective speed coaches in the field, then you’ll want to invest in the IYCA Youth Speed Specialist Level I Certification. This is, without question, the most comprehensive and up to date linear and multidirectional speed and agility for athletes training course on the market. Learn more on youth speed training here…

 

 

Evaluating Yourself As A Coach

 

Become The Best Coach You Can Be

youth coach evaluation

By Wil Fleming

 

There are a lot of great coaches in the world, and this newsletter reaches plenty of them. To become an even better coach evaluation is really important.

I think that coaching breaks down into four categories and seeing where you are an expert or could need some work is a helpful tool to become a better a coach.

 

  1. Anatomy and Kinesiology 

    This category is first as it is likely the first thing we learned in school that actually pertained to our development as coaches. For coaches that changed careers or don’t have a classic background in this area, this is typically the weakest. Coaches that are strong in this area, can do wonders in assessment, analyzing movements, and innovating new ideas.

     

    This is by far my weakest area and something that I strive to get better in everyday. Brushing up on anatomy, kinesiology, and biomechanics through reading is my primary way to get better in this area.

     

  2. Program design 

    Designing great programs can really make your athletes better. Putting the wrong exercises in the program can make your athletes unprepared for their competitions, or even get them injured. Incorrect rep schemes and volume can leave your athletes under or over trained. The right program can give each athlete a chance at giving their best effort when it counts.

     

    I think that I am fairly strong in this area, but could definitely use improvement. The easiest way to improve in this area is to observe and interact with coaches that are preparing athletes on a daily basis and glean what you can from their programming secrets.

     

  3. Practical Coaching 

    Practical coaching is what I have named the actual coaching on the floor. Seeing movements and cleaning them up to get the best patterns possible. Being a problem solver on the floor coaching the technique at every step.

     

    In my perspective, this is where I am strongest. I am able to identify issues in movements and make the modifications on the floor or to the technique that are necessary. Again watching good coaches in action is a great way to improve in this area, as is completing the movements yourself. Working through your own technical problems is a great way to get a feel for what you need to coach.

     

  4. Impact 

    Impact is all of the non-programming stuff. Are you making the environment fun? Are you setting the athletes up for life-long success by associating positive emotions with training?

     

    Also one of my strong suits, but probably the area in which I worry about the most. I want to make sure that the athletes love the experience and are excited to train. To improve in this area there are no secrets, it is always making sure that your energy is higher than the athletes’ energy and focusing on bringing them up with you through their training session.

     

Don’t be afraid to evaluate, and don’t be afraid to focus in on your weak points. You as a coach and your athletes will get better because of it.

 

Change Lives,

 

Wil

 

 

Your Youth Fitness Business Operating System

 

Youth Fitness Business Systems

youth fitness business operating systems

 

By Pat Rigsby
 

To run a youth fitness business that functions at a very high level you need the following Business Operating System components in place:
 

An Overall Business Growth Plan – Most fitness businesses approach growth very arbitrarily. They randomly try to do things and don’t really have a plan. It’s very much like the difference between designing a program based on a client’s assessment and goals versus just giving them random workouts.
 

It might work out ok – but the odds of it doing as well as the planned approach aren’t very good.
 

This plan should include:
Knowing who you want to serve
How you intend to reach those people and get them to become clients
A Marketing Calendar to put this into action
 

Specific Business Targets - You need to have targets for the number of leads that you need each month, the closing percentage for those leads actually becoming clients, specific revenue targets and specific profit targets at minimum. There are any number of other target metrics that you can (and should) track, but those are the basics.
 

Trackable Lead Generation System - For you to grow a successful and sustainable business you need to have several lead generation strategies that you can consistently execute and track for effectiveness. You need to be able to know that:
You’re getting enough quality leads per month.
Where those leads are coming from.
The cost of getting those leads, both from a money perspective and a time perspective
This way you can focus on what’s working and improve or replace what is not.
 

Trackable Lead Conversion System – You must know how effective you are at turning prospects into clients. You should know which prospects are higher quality (convert better and stay longer) and which aren’t.
 

Client Value Maximization System - You can call this what you want, but you must have a systematic way to:
Retain clients
Maximize their value to your business
Provide them the most complete solution for their goals possible
Most fitness professionals do not have this System in place and leave up to half of their potential revenue on the table.
 

Business Operations Systems - The systems for what go on ‘behind the scenes’ in your business, from how you answer the phone or respond to emails to how you clean your facility. A business might get away without these when it’s a one person operation, but they’re critical if you have a staff or want to.
 

Finance Systems - You must have systems to address:
Automated billing
Bookkeeping
Accounting
Taxes & Payroll (if you have staff)
Financial systems routinely either get overlooked by fitness business owners or are handled in a way that eventually costs the business a lot of revenue. Remember, it’s not what you make, it’s what you keep.
 

Hiring & Staff Training Systems - Almost every business owner aspires to have staff, whether it’s adding more trainers or coaches or it’s hiring someone to handle some of the administrative tasks that go into running the business.
 

If your going to have staff, then you need to have systems in place to hire the right people and develop them to do the job that you need done at the highest level possible.
 

Hopefully this gives you some more clear insight into the components of the Business Operating System you need to have in place to run your business at the highest possible level.
 

Obviously, there is far more to it than what I can address in an email, but these components should be present in your Youth Fitness Business. If not, you should immediately start working to build each of these systems.
 

They’re that important.
 

If you’d like to discuss how we can help you with your Business Operating System and in providing you all of those components, click on the link below and let me know. That’s exactly what Athletic Revolution was built to do:
 

Help great coaches build great businesses.
 

You can learn more about Athletic Revolution here:
 

Youth Fitness Business http://www.myathleticrevolution.com/more/
 

Also – with Athletic Revolution you can maintain your own brand while leveraging the best business systems in the industry. A true WIN/ WIN.
 

http://www.myathleticrevolution.com/more/
 

One Shell At A Time

 

Coaching Young Athletes: One Shell At A Time

 

young athletes

 

By Dave Gleason

 

When we are educating prospective parent members about the value of long term athletic development we often use very poignant and effective analogies. This is paramount in guiding parents to a better understanding and, at times, a paradigm shift as to the optimal way to train their child(ren).

 

Once more, it is imperative that our parents as well as our athletes comprehend the inherent risk of early specialization in sport… and the 6 week “bigger, stronger, faster” quick fix.

 

A common analogy that has proved advantageous to these efforts is that of our educational system.

 

We can quickly draw a parallel between the progressive and cumulative effect of our school systems while explaining that learning physical skill sets is no different. We speak to building a solid foundation before specializing in any one subject. We offer the example of not excluding other subject matter because a child has an affinity or increased aptitude in one particular subject.

 

“If Trevor was brilliant in the subject of math in 1st grade we certainly would not skip to 7th grade algebra”.

 

As coaches we need to take heed as to how we observe our young athletes from a standpoint of skill acquisition and movement economy. More importantly we must pay close attention to each athletes well being from a humanistic perspective.

 

I offer this analogy to think about how you may become a better coach and mentor to the young athletes in your program.

 

One shell at a time.

 

When walking the beaches of the south shore in Massachusetts I have often collected sea shells. Far too easy to pick up the shell that catches my eye because of its outstanding shape, size or varied colors. The thousands of shells I have walked passed without a second thought.

 

Half buried.

 

Pale in color compared to the shells.

 

Jagged and unpleasing to look at.

 

How many shells were bypassed that were in fact the most unique and wonderful shells on the beach?

 

What have I missed as an observer and collector of shells?

 

What have we missed as coaches?

 

What kids have we looked past to see the athlete who is the “better” athlete?

 

What child needed to be picked up so we could see the true value of them?

 

As Athletic Revolution franchisees we are all on a greater mission to change the way young athletes are coached.

 

This is why we will continue to set ourselves apart from from others in our industry. THIS is why will we change lives…one athlete at a time.

 

Keep up the great work!

 

 

Coaching in the Weight Room

 

Coaching High School Athletes in the Weight Room

 

By Jim Kielbaso
 

Just about every sport coach now recognizes the fact that a strength program can help their athletes optimize performance, reduce the risk of injury, and improve overall health and self-esteem. Some coaches are very comfortable in the weight room, while others feel totally out of their element. Either way, there are a few easy steps to follow to maximize your effectiveness in this environment.
 

Many coaches get overwhelmed in the weight room and never really give their best instruction or encouragement. But, many high school athletes need you there to show proper technique, get through the routine quickly, keep traffic flowing, give safe and effective spotting, and maximize effort.
 

In addition to reducing the risk of injury and enhancing performance, the weight room is also an excellent place to develop relationships and create team unity. Unfortunately, many coaches miss out on this because they are sitting in the corner or absent from the room altogether. Never underestimate the long-term benefits of polishing your weight room coaching skills.
 

Here are a few easy steps you can take to optimize your coaching effectiveness and help your athletes get the most out of their training time:

 

1. Educate Yourself. If you haven’t implemented a program because you don’t feel knowledgeable enough, put that excuse to rest. You don’t have to be an expert to help your team reap the benefits of strength training, and there are plenty of books that can give you a decent understanding of technique, program design, and how to spot different exercises. Go to your local bookstore or at the very least get online to find something to fit your needs. There is plenty of mis-information online, so just be sure to read with a critical mind. Always check the source before you completely buy into something that sounds too good to be true.
 

Avoid the trap of feeling like your athletes need an incredibly specialized training routine. It’s best to keep it simple with high school athletes. They will benefit from a basic, well-rounded program, so just get them started and feeling comfortable in the weight room by introducing a few basic exercises that you can easily teach. Remember, you can always add more later on.
 

2. Teaching Sessions. Before you turn your athletes loose in the weight room, spend a couple of days teaching them how to perform all of the exercises and how to safely spot each other. Take your time up front to save a lot of time and energy down the road.
 

3. Record Keeping. Once you’ve created the training routine, give it to your athletes on a piece of paper or card-stock so they can record the amount of weight lifted and number of repetitions performed on each set. This serves a few important purposes. For the athlete, it tells them exactly what they should be doing on every exercise and gives them a goal each day. This will help them make progress and eliminates guess-work.
 

For the coach, a workout card quickly gives you a lot of information and tracks attendance. You are going to be bouncing around from athlete to athlete, spotting as many athletes as possible; you want to spot each athlete on at least one exercise each day so you have a little contact with everyone. As soon as you’re done spotting one athlete, look around the room, see who is ready to lift, and get there quickly.
Having the workout card available allows you to easily see the weight and repetition goal for each set before you begin spotting. You can assess progress and effort on each exercise by taking a quick look at the chart. This is a great way to increase accountability and improve your ability to coach multiple athletes in the weight room.
 

4. Exercise Selection. In an effort to keep your training sessions time-efficient, it is recommended to select exercises that utilize a large amount of musculature rather than focusing on isolation exercises. For example, squats, leg presses, lunges, bench presses, dips, pull-downs, rows, and military presses all use multiple joints and recruit several muscle groups. These exercises should be the foundation of your program.
 

Curls, wrist extensions, and triceps pushdowns are examples of isolation exercises that can eat up a lot of valuable time.
 

It is also highly recommend that you select exercises that are relatively easy to teach, learn and execute. Lifts like the power clean and snatch are very technique intensive, require a great deal of coaching expertise, and are often performed incorrectly, which can be dangerous. There is absolutely no need to include exercises that are problematic for your situation. Whether you don’t feel comfortable teaching an exercise or the athletes just aren’t getting it, drop any exercise that is causing problems.
 

5. Traffic Flow. I often see traffic jams in high school weight rooms. This makes for an inefficient, frustrating experience that can be avoided. Rather than performing several sets of each exercise, have your athletes perform one set of 2-4 different exercises for the same body part to keep traffic moving.
 

For example, instead of performing three sets of bench press, try doing one set of bench press, one set of incline press, and one set of push-ups. Not only will this keep everyone moving, it also allows the musculature to be trained at several different angles and is equally effective in developing strength. This eliminates a lot of standing around that ultimately creates distractions and decreases training intensity.
 

You can also create different versions of a workout. Change the order of exercises for some athletes so the equipment is being used at different times. This small change will allow more athletes to workout simultaneously without traffic jams.
 

The weight room can be the motivational hub of your program if you create the right environment, and these simple tips can increase your effectiveness as a coach. They will allow you to maximize your coaching skills and give your athletes what they deserve – your attention.