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Power Development for Athletes

In this article we are discussing power development for athletes.

What is power?

How can you increase power output?

How can you test for power?

What is Power Development:

The equation for power is Power= Force x Distance/Time or Power=Force x Velocity.

Power Development can be described as the development in the ability to exert force in the shortest period of time leading to the ability to produce higher velocities against a given load.

The ability to exert large amounts of force in various directions, within a shorter time period, is a vital skill for athletes to develop.

How to Increase Power:

  1. Increase the amount of force athletes can produce. This can be done through traditional strength training methods.
    • Examples: squats, lunges, presses, pulls.
  2. Elicit neurological adaptations like faster firing frequency of neurons and stronger activation threshold of motor units through training methods with higher velocities.
  3. Use of higher and lower loads from 25%-80% in all planes of motion to provide varying stimuli.

How to Measure/Test Power:

The use of technology like force plates, Velocity based technology, and Keiser equipment provides true power numbers for a variety of movements in the measurement of Watts.

For the many that don’t have access to this kind of equipment, distance measurements for power will be effective ways to track and measure development.

Distance measurements include:

  1. Vertical Jumps
  2. Broad Jump
  3. Rotational Broad Jump
  4. Med-Ball Over Head & Rotational Tosses

If athletes can increase the total distance they can cover within the same test, then this is an indicator that they have increased their total power output.

Author: Lucas Mayo, MS, CSCS

Lucas Mayo is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Brighton High School for Impact Sports Performance. Lucas is certified through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

Lucas earned his Master’s degree in Sport Coaching and Leadership with a concentration in Strength and Conditioning.

Using methods based on research and experience, his mission is to aid in the positive mental and physical development of the athlete or individual over the course of their lifespan.

Power Development for Athletes is essential. Check out how this Free Resource on how to develop speed and power like the pros

Every Sports Coach Needs to Know These

Every sports coach wears a number of different hats, and it’s important to know how these three components measure up, if you hope to improve your young athletes!

Every sports coach should know these three components and in this video, IYCA CEO, Jim Kielbaso shares them:

Once you review the videos, we would love to hear from you! What sport do you coach and what component do you feel you need to pay more attention to?

We look forward to hearing from you!

 

Jim Kielbaso IYCAJim Kielbaso is the President of the IYCA and Owner of Impact Sports Performance in Novi, MI. He has authored multiple books, articles and training products and has spoken at events around the world. He holds a BS in Exercise Science, an MS in Kinesiology and has gone through multiple certifications through the IYCA, NSCA, NASM and more. Jim is a former college strength & conditioning coach and has trained thousands of athletes at every level of competition. He runs a successful NFL Combine training program in Michigan and has been hired as a consultant for major sports programs like the University of Michigan Football Program and the University of Kentucky Basketball Program.

Check out this FREE Training Video on Developing Athletes from Start to Finish, from IYCA CEO, Jim Kielbaso: Get your FREE TRAINING TODAY!

Strength and Conditioning strategies for Large Groups

As High School Strength and Conditioning coaches we often deal with larger group sizes, with only a sport coach or two to assist implementing our programs.

With this in mind, it is critical to put time into planning every aspect of your program to ensure that workouts flow efficiently and are effective at the same time.

Challenges with larger groups include lack of understanding from the athletes, lack of space, lack of equipment, athletes waiting for an exercise, and inability to coach every athlete individually.

Here are 4 strategies for addressing these Challenges:

Ensure Athletes have an understanding of each exercise and it’s goal

During the first weeks of training a large group, extensively cover each exercise and the purpose it has. When the athletes are informed of purpose and intent, it helps to maximize individual motivation.

It is also important to teach athletes the terminology and how to read/follow the workouts.

Make large groups, smaller

Plan to counteract lack of space/equipment with the planning of stations, where athletes will pair up in groups of 3-4.

Instead of having 60 kids perform the same movement within a space, you can have 3 groups of 20 with different exercises to create additional space.

This could include a group being in the hallway with Medicine balls, one group at the squat racks, and one group at the dumbbell rack.

Set a timer for each station to ensure athletes are staying on track.

Use Superset Exercises

A tactics to combat athletes standing around is the use of superset exercises. Often athletes are in our program 2-3 times a week, so we are completing full body workouts.

In the superset we will include an upper/lower exercise, a main compound lift with a mobility exercise, a push/pull movement, or contrast sets with a heavy lift with a high velocity jump.

Keep athletes moving with purpose through the station. There can be one athlete lifting, one athlete spotting, and another executing the other exercise.

Leverage “Partner-Coaching”

When there are numbers greater than 20 athletes it can be quite difficult to effectively coach up each athlete within the session.

To offset this, create athletes that partner coach the entire lift. This ties into point 1 where athletes need to be well informed on the lifts and their purpose.

If athletes pay attention to the cues that are used, they can repeat those same points to their partners to help coach them up.

Author: Lucas Mayo, MS, CSCS

Lucas Mayo is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Brighton High School for Impact Sports Performance. Lucas is certified through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

Lucas earned his Master’s degree in Sport Coaching and Leadership with a concentration in Strength and Conditioning.

Using methods based on research and experience, his mission is to aid in the positive mental and physical development of the athlete or individual over the course of their lifespan.

 

Join an Elite Group of Performance Coaches as Certified High School Strength & Conditioning Specialists

Part 1: Principles of Soccer Speed

In soccer, speed is a multidimensional skill that goes beyond mere running speed.

It is an essential element that has the power to separate players at different skill levels and have a big effect on how well they perform on the field.

As a seasoned strength and conditioning coach with a focus on youth soccer fitness, I am aware of how critical it is for young athletes to develop their speed.

This article, the first of four, will examine the many types of speed needed for best performance as it delves into the principles of soccer speed.

The Different Types of Speed in Soccer

Pure Speed

Pure speed refers to the raw, unadulterated ability to get from point A to point B in the least amount of time. It is the most fundamental type of speed and is frequently associated with quick players.

In soccer, pure speed is essential for breakaways, chasing down an opponent, and making runs to create or close gaps.

Technical Speed

Technical speed refers to the ability to perform soccer-specific abilities swiftly and efficiently. It entails controlling and manipulating the ball at high speeds, maintaining possession under pressure, and making rapid passes and shoots.

This level of speed is required for players to perform well under pressure and sustain a fast tempo of play.

Reaction Speed

Reaction speed is the ability to respond quickly to inputs such as an opponent’s movement or a ball’s change of direction. It refers to the quickness with which a player can digest information, make a decision, and then act on it.

Goalkeepers, for example, rely heavily on reaction time to make saves, whereas outfield players use it to intercept passes or avoid tackles.

Mental Speed

The speed of mind is a factor that is sometimes underestimated. It refers to how rapidly a player can understand the game, predict the next move, and make sound decisions. 

Mental quickness enables athletes to stay one step ahead, positioning themselves efficiently and capitalizing on openings that slower-thinking opponents may overlook.

Practical Applications for Youth Soccer Training

To develop this type of quickness in young soccer players, trainers and coaches must use a range of training approaches that address each facet. Here are some practical applications of each type.

  • Pure Speed: Use sprint drills (iyca.org/store) that focus on acceleration and maximum velocity. Incorporate resistance training to improve leg strength and power.
  • Technical Speed: Implement ball control drills that require quick footwork and fast decision-making under pressure.
  • Reaction Speed: Utilize reaction drills that challenge players to quickly adapt to changing scenarios, such as random ball ejections from a machine or coach-led visual cues.
  • Mental Speed: Encourage small-sided games that force players to think quickly and make rapid decisions in tight spaces.

Soccer speed development is more than simply physical conditioning; it is also about producing well-rounded athletes who can think, react, and move swiftly.

Understanding and practicing the various forms of speed allows youth soccer players to improve their performance and obtain a competitive advantage on the field.

Stay tuned for the following piece in this series, where we will explore the science behind speed development and provide evidence-based training methods to improve soccer speed.

This article is guided by the principles of the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA) and supported by scientific research and practical experience in the field of youth soccer conditioning. It aims to be educational, engaging, and practical, providing coaches and players with the knowledge and tools to develop speed in soccer effectively.

Author: Beni Brannigan

Beni is an IYCA Ambassador, Entrepreneur and CEO. He’s earned UEFA coaching badges and a BA in Physical Fitness & Sports Conditioning. He has professional experience across soccer, golf, and rugby, expanding programs in Texas and Ireland. He has founded GameLikeSoccerCoaching and BBsports Fitness and Nutrition.
His coaching ethos revolves around instilling core values in young athletes, emphasizing the importance of practice, play, and the pursuit of perfection.

Want to learn more about SPEED Development and/or Mechanics?

VISIT iyca.org/store today and GET 15% off ALL of the IYCA RESOURCES by using code: BBRANNIGAN15

 

References:

(1) Validity and reliability of speed tests used in soccer: A … – PLOS. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0220982.

(2) Enhanced sprint performance analysis in soccer: New insights … – PLOS. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0217782.

(3) Speed and Agility Training in Female Soccer Players – A Systematic Review. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/c8f9/7f5e7644418dd472c5c343fdb3aba62077b3.pdf.

(4) Validity and reliability of speed tests used in soccer … – ResearchGate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/335186596_Validity_and_reliability_of_speed_tests_used_in_soccer_A_systematic_review/fulltext/5d556127a6fdccb7dc3d0b70/Validity-and-reliability-of-speed-tests-used-in-soccer-A-systematic-review.pdf.

(5) How to improve your speed, stamina and strength | Soccer training drill | Nike Academy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEUAlipS298.

(6) Acceleration Training For Footballers/Soccer Players | Reach Top Speed Faster | Individual Drills. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Dt2DbjAKbo.

(7) 🎯Speed – Agility – Quickness Training Soccer (SAQ). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Asi1EgzvgA.

(8) Speed training in football (soccer): How to develop this game-changer. https://www.scienceforsport.com/speed-training-in-soccer-how-to-develop-it/.

(9) Speed Drills for Soccer: Full Training Guide – Overtime Athletes Blog. https://blog.overtimeathletes.com/speed-training-soccer/.

(10) Soccer Speed Spectrum: Exploring the 4 Types. https://www.discoversoccer.info/speed/4-types-of-soccer-speed.

(11) Soccer speed drills – 8 tips on how to get faster for soccer. https://www.blazepod.com/blogs/all/soccer-speed-drills-8-tips-on-how-to-get-faster-for-soccer.

(12) Fitness & Conditioning for young soccer players – Soccer summer camps …. https://www.ertheo.com/blog/en/fitness-conditioning-young-soccer-players/.

(13) Gym Workout for Soccer Players: Enhancing Field Performance with …. https://soccercoachtheory.com/gym-workout-for-soccer-players/.

(14) 6 Steps to Building a High Performance and Soccer Specific Training Program. https://blog.bridgeathletic.com/6-steps-building-a-high-performance-soccer-specific-training-program.

(15) Strength Training for Young Soccer Players — FC Game Changer. https://www.fcgamechanger.com/blog/strength-training-for-young-soccer-players.

(16) Best Drills For Youth Soccer | Soccercrate. https://soccercrate.co/blogs/news/best-drills-for-youth-soccer.

(17) undefined. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0220982.

(18) undefined. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0217782.

The Power of Play: A Guide for Play Every Day

Did you know that PLAY in and of itself has incredible health an cognitive benefits?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “research demonstrates that developmentally appropriate play with parents/caregivers and peers is a singular opportunity to promote the social-emotional, cognitive, language, and self-regulation skills that build executive function and a prosocial brain. Furthermore, play supports the formation of the safe, stable, and nurturing relationships with all caregivers that children need to thrive.”

Play is not frivolous!! It’s essential to development and even as adults, we need it!

Below you will find easy ‘printable’ concepts and tips to keep handy that represent the different kinds of play and the ‘ways to play’ within them!

Gameplay

Game Play is a mix of Movement play and Cooperative play, It helps children hone social skills as they figure out how to navigate group & family dynamics. It helps them learn how to collaborate and compromise with others, recognize and respond to others’ feelings, share, show affection, resolve conflicts, and adhere to the rules.

It can also help to strengthen the body and develop gross motor skills by offering opportunities in adaptability, flexibility, and resistance. Games can support advancements in physical developmental milestones, including coordination, stability, muscle development, body awareness, hand-eye coordination/control, balance, and fine and gross motor skills. 

Ways to (Game)play (Pick something different each day!)

  • Old School Games-Tag, Hopscotch, 4-Square, Wall Ball, Hide and Seek, Charades, Balloon Tennis, Bowling
  • Relay Game/races (with friends or family) using different moves, like running, skipping, shuffling, backpedaling, hopping, carrying items, object-fill-a-container, dress up/out, building)
  • Side-Walk Chalk Obstacle Course (draw a ‘course’ to ‘run, crawl, skip, hop, leap, etc’ through. Add ‘stations’ with different activities for everyone to do (like jumping jacks, crazy dances, pushups, etc)
  • Indoor Obstacle Courses (crawl, run, jump, skip, stairs, bed-jumping, cushion-forts…they all count!)
  • Sports Games (all count- but NOT structured- keep it agile and inventive)
  • Body imitation games (simon says/copycat)
  • Listening Games (redlight-greenlight/simon says)
  • Board & Card Games
  • Video Games (but you must play WITH them!)

*Modifications can connect us more fully with our player by finding the “Just-Right-Challenge” between being a bit of challenge, yet keep interest, but achievable (even with some support.)

There is so much to be gained if the focus is on the process, not the outcome!  Therefore, allow for some time to “fail-safely”, refigure a plan and try again!

Free Play

Free play is when children have full freedom to play in whatever way they wish. “They can choose everything – they have the freedom to select their play materials, interest area and even the plot”. During free play time, children can express themselves in the way that they choose depending on the day, time and situation they are in. Free play, is just that…FREE, not to mention…FUN!

Ways to (free)play: Do daily!

  • Do it YOUR way! There is no right or wrong here, get creative, let kids create their own ways to play and spend time connecting with their creations! If you need some ideas, browse the other ‘ways to play’, This is a great day to incorporate all the fundamental movement patterns that are so important at every age. They are, rudimentary locomotor (e.g., running, jumping, hopping, leaping) and object manipulation/control (e.g., throwing, catching, striking, kicking)
  • The key to this type of play is to encourage their thought process, NOT provide them the ANSWER. This means, if they are building a fort, and you can see it is going to fall or not achieve what they are hoping, we can try it their way and help them “wonder” why it didn’t work the way they thought. “WONDERING” is the greatest skill here, and walking through the plan – whether it is about the rules or making mud a certain consistency, or getting a ball through a tunnel, or making an obstacle course- walk through the process WITH them, and help them refigure a new plan to met the goal.

THE FUN IS FINDING OUT WHAT WORKS WELL and LAUGHING WHEN IT DOESN’T – TOGETHER!!

  • How to make this successful: Offer a variety of items to play with.

This can include access to things like; bikes, swings, sand boxes, water/sensory tables, couch cushions, blankets, chairs, pillows, empty large boxes, buckets, measuring cups/shifters, painters tape, pool noodles, jump ropes, frisbees/plastic plates/cups, chalk, pipe cleaners, markers, and natural things, dirt, leaves, rocks, sticks, water. These can allow for endless types of imaginative play themes. 

*Oftentimes, play emulates real life. If you are stuck on a theme, use roles or experiences that have already been experienced- restaurant, school, occupations/bakers/police/dog catcher/builder. In this way the player gets to try on these roles and can be as silly or as serious as they write the script. 

Nature Play

Nature play gives children the opportunity to explore and understand nature. From watching worms in the soil to balancing on a log, nature play is child-initiated and child-directed. Research shows that children benefit greatly from daily connections with nature. 

The use of nature-based products in our play environments allow children to learn and develop responsibility as they care for plants and experience the natural world. Just like a classroom is carefully prepared by a teacher for learning, an outdoor play environment is carefully designed, beckoning the child’s innate desire to learn and explore.

Research indicates that, when children play and learn in nature, they do so with more vigor, engagement, imagination, and cooperation than in wholly artificial environments, and that symptoms of attention deficit and depression are reduced. Experts agree that children need access to nature the same way they need good nutrition and adequate sleep.

Ways to (Nature) play: Get outside daily

  • Ponds, lakes, playgrounds, dirt, mud, water, logs, boulders, trees…explore the world today! 
  • Check out this AMAZING RESOURCE from the NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION!
  • Hiking
  • Exploring new territories  
  • Walking new trails and parks
  • Identifying different animals & plants
  • A nature scavenger hunt
  • Recycled nature/natural product crafts

*If engaging in the environment presents some challenges, modifications can be made to present the material in smaller, more controlled ways. Consider providing items in small bins, for shorter periods of time, or provide a preferred item alongside the new items. Sometimes, providing a concrete goal, like “How many brown things can we find? 3 – Let’s do it”, can give purpose to the play as well as a firm ending to the new hard thing. Providing them some type of control and connection with us, makes the next time easier. 

Constructive Play

Constructive play is a type of play that is designed to help children learn new skills, advance their development, and develop social skills. It can be achieved with other children or adults and can last anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. 

When playing with others, this kind of play helps children learn about social relationships and the importance of cooperation. It also promotes problem-solving skills, abilities and strategies as well as communication.

Ways to (constructive) Play: Incorporate a couple times a week

  • Putting together a toy train track
  • Building a blanket or couch cushion fort or in nature with sticks, logs and rocks 
  • Creating box constructions with recycled materials
  • A pull apart activity table
  • Building sand castles
  • Digging dams and rivers in mud
  • Creating with playdough
  • Exploring loose materials
  • Woodworking
  • Sewing / Looms / Latch-HooK / Knitting
  • Painting / Paint by Number / Fingerpaint / Shaving Cream/Pudding/Puffy Paint
  • Building a marble run
  • Create your own board games/Build a board game
  • Lego building
  • Recycled material building (Cardboard, cartons, bottles, cans)
  • Crafts- Paper mosaics / Beadwork / sensory bottles / Leaf Rubbing Art

Creative Play

While “playing pretend” may seem like an insignificant form of play, it is an essential part of a child’s daily curriculum. Creative play, also may be called Dramatic play, provides children with the opportunity to work through emotions, develop and learn important social skills, and develop expressive language. The effects are seen in the classroom as research shows there’s a correlation between creative play and better literacy and reading skills.

Art and music play enhance play environments by expanding the ways children can learn and explore their creativity in the world. Research shows the arts are critical in helping children develop self-expression and creativity. Art and music play also help to improve memory and brain power. Additionally, children develop a wider vocabulary as they express their ideas behind the art they create.

Ways to (Creative) Play: Incorporate a few times a week

  • Dancing
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Playing Pretend/Imagining
  • Dress Up
  • Puppets
  • Plays or Productions
  • Art
    • Painting
    • Crafting
    • Molding with clays/playdough
    • Bead-work
    • Drawing
    • Story-writing
    • Chalk-Play
    • Yarn Play
    • Sewing/Loom

*These can build on each other. Create the story, make the puppets or gather/make the costumes, and perform. Even video and create a production Billfold. There are endless ideas and endless combinations, which makes endless roles for everyone to take part in the best way they are able.

Social Play

Children learn best when they can work together. This is why playing with others is so important in playgrounds, on sports teams, etc. When children are playing together, they have more fun and can learn new things more easily. 

They also learn how to work together as a team and stay safe.

Ways to (social) play: Incorporate a couple times per week

  • Playground Play with family members/friends
  • Playdates at different locations from nature trails to sports fields/tracks
  • Spontaneous sports play (bring a bunch of balls to a playdate) with Friends/Family Members
  • Scavenger Hunts with Friends/Family Members
  • Sports Team Practice or Games
  • Board Games with family/friends
  • Card Games with family/friends
  • Invite friends over to play all the different ways with their favorite games

*This type of play is for everyone, even those who socialize using a variety of ways to communicate. Again, it is a great way to be invested in the process, and work through helping everyone express themselves and have their ideas heard. This relies on taking time in the process and not the product, and creating connections at just the right pace and understanding with each player. 

*Consider the use of visuals, either printed pictures or the items themselves, in your play. 

Overall, visuals in play help support everyone’s understanding of the object of play. Visual can provide clarity of thoughts and creates a quick way to make choices. When people feel part of the conversation and are valued in making choices in play, it most importantly, strengthens the connection between players.

Sensory Play

Children develop the 7 important sensory abilities including sight, smell, touch, hearing, taste, vestibular and proprioception as they play.

Sensory play helps children improve self/body awareness and improve interaction with and make sense of the world that surrounds them. Sensory play can include all the tastes, smells, textures and so much more! 

Ways to (sensory) play: Incorporate a couple times per week

  • texture scavenger hunts
  • cooking & baking
  • taste test game- sweet, salty, sour, savory,
  • ‘feely” boxes- guessing games with cooked spaghetti, cotton balls, rocks, buttons, pipe cleaners, etc 
  • “feely” match games- soft, hard, gritty, silky, shaggy, corduroy, metal, sticky, bumpy, smooth, etc
  • science experiments
  • Potions- mixing textures, hard, soft, crunchy, sandy, liquid, slimy, 
  • exploring positions in space (ie. swing/upside down, bouncing, pushing/pulling, rolling, riding, spinning)
  • Use of seated or standing scooters, saucers, bikes, trampolines, tunnels, slides, merry-go-rounds, obstacle courses, climbers, see-saws, climbing walls, rolling/unrolling in a blanket, pulled on a blanket, sled, summersaults, cartwheels, ball pits, etc.

PLAY is powerful and I think we all can agree that kids are getting less and less of it in this digital age. Exploration & discovery are some of the greatest teachers when it comes to developing athletes and great students.

I hope that this guide serves you to remove some of the guesswork of ‘how to play more’ but more than anything, I hope it encourages you to get out there and have fun!

Julie Hatfield-Still

Julie Hatfield-Still

Brand Executive for the IYCA.

Julie is an Entrepreneur, CEO, Coach and Author.

She is founder of the Impact More Method for entrepreneurs and the Inner Game Framework for Athletes.

 

If you are a new coach or parent who wants more ideas about ways to play to develop athletic ability! Check our these 4 free games for performance from IYCA CEO Jim Kielbaso!

Acceleration Drills for Athletes

Acceleration can be defined as the rate of change of velocity in a movement. In coaching terms, it is how quickly an athlete can increase speed over a short distance (5-10 yds). So how do we get our athletes to be able to develop improved acceleration?

We look at 3 major aspects to broadly focus on and then make smaller more specific changes as we work with athletes.

Angle of the shin/torso

A main component of acceleration is the angle at which you are driving out to accelerate. The optimal angle to be at is around 45 degrees with the shin/torso staying in a straight line.

Often athletes will be too tall during acceleration or have their shin driving too vertically into the ground, as opposed to driving backward.

Hip Projection

Hip projection is key to getting angles of acceleration to be correct. If the hips stay back too far athletes have a difficult time getting full flexion and extension during the drive acceleration phase.

Fast Twitch Ability

The athletes ability to exert force in a short period of time is a neurological adaptation that can be developed over time. By choosing exercises and periodization of training, we can target developing type 2 muscle fibers that are more conducive to powerful quick movements.

To develop these qualities there are multiple acceleration drills that can be implemented in training.

Wall Drill- VIDEO

Wall drill is a great starting point to teach acceleration mechanics. The athlete will lean against a wall with their arms out straight and feet back to achieve a 45 degree angle.

Once set at the proper angles the athlete will work on rapidly driving their knee towards the wall while maintaining the proper posture.

In this drill we can cue proper shin angles, hip projection, hip flexion/extension, proper torso posture, as well as dorsiflexion of the ankle.

Sled March/Sprint- VIDEO

Taking the techniques used during wall drill, sled march is about maintaining proper angles while driving through a given load.

Banded or Resisted Acceleration- VIDEO

With resistance from some sort of implement, whether it is a band or acceleration device with a belt/strap, the athlete will accelerate through resistance over a shorter distance.

The main goal is to get the feeling of the hips driving through the band to accentuate hip projection, as well as to maintain a 45 degree lean as they accelerate.

Partner Chase Acceleration- VIDEO

Partner chase drills are great to drive intent of acceleration by having one athlete start 2-3 yards behind another athlete, with the goal of chasing them down over the course of 10 yards.

This increases motivation to not be caught as well as increases the use of fast twitch muscle fibers in order to get off of the line faster.

Looking for more drills?

We have a whole arsenal of drills in our resources at iyca.org/store – but to properly program and apply the drills we highly recommend our Ultimate Speed Mechanics/Drills or the Certified Speed & Agility Specialist Course.

 

Jim Kielbaso is the President of the IYCA and Owner of Impact Sports Performance in Novi, MI.  He has authored multiple books, articles and training products and has spoken at events around the world.

He holds a BS in Exercise Science, an MS in Kinesiology and has gone through multiple certifications through the IYCA, NSCA, NASM and more.

Jim is a former college strength & conditioning coach and has trained thousands of athletes at every level of competition.  He runs a successful NFL Combine training program in Michigan and has been hired as a consultant for major sports programs like the University of Michigan Football Program and the University of Kentucky Basketball Program.

Youth Sports-A game of Continual Improvements or Immediate Performance?

Many youth sports coaches mistakenly embrace the notion that the pressures to succeed in the present and the immediate future overshadow what is likely best for the athlete.

Winning today’s game or this weekend’s tournament becomes paramount, regardless of the actual importance of the event or its positioning in light of the Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) model. In this case, coaching styles are very much reflective of the need to win. 

Performance and perfectionist-based philosophies are employed during practice and game settings. When performance is not reflective of the level of skill or perfection that the coach desires, yelling, belittling, and negative criticism often follow.

Perhaps even more devastating to the developing athlete, many parents ascribe to the same errant thought process. Demonstrating advanced skills and achieving success at all developmental levels are conceived as the most important factors for participating in youth sports.

Some parents offer negative feedback, harsh criticisms, or inappropriate comments during the game. The message sent to the young athlete is clear: success now is most important. 

What is more, continued success is the only defense from negative feedback that can undermine confidence, self-esteem, and ultimately the perception of self-worth (1-Rowley S. Psychological effects of intensive training in young athletes).

Trainers and training centers dedicated to working with young athletes may fall within this category, as well. However, the efforts of the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA) and like-minded organizations and professionals have started to turn the tide against such notions.

Conversely, young athletes functioning under the coach who ascribes to the LTAD model are taught to search for continual improvement rather than immediate performance as the principal marker of athletic success. This mentality encourages the young athlete to develop a far more useful and powerful approach to success and personal improvement— both athletic and otherwise—that may be utilized across the lifespan.

With this approach firmly developed and well-entrenched, the individual is motivated to improve rather than motivated to perform. While subtle, the influence in thinking of such a difference is profound. Reasoning and creativity are enhanced. Problem-solving skills are better developed.

Perhaps most importantly, self-worth is preserved because “success” is an ability demonstrated over time rather than an instantaneous or momentary expression of skill linked directly to any one specific performance.

Also encouraging is that enhanced reasoning and creative abilities enable the young athlete to solve new and more challenging sport-related tasks over time, thereby further increasing ability.

Because such athletes associate success with improvement rather than performance, burnout and dropout issues that currently plague youth sports culture may be averted.

Ultimately, such an approach can teach the young athlete to love physical activity simply because refining movement skills and developing physically is intrinsically linked to holistic self-improvement and may be viewed as a series of steps toward success rather than the more typical model of physical activity as a measure in determining aptitude.

Youth sports and training for youth sports have largely become exercises of pressure and fear.

Repercussions for poor performance or lack of aptitude or skill are oftentimes severe. Many young athletes today have lost the joy and innocence of what sport and fitness participation truly is, and the stark reality is that they never fully develop a lifelong love for movement.

So, the question becomes- do you believe this needs to change?

If YES, then this article can be a step in the journey to provide extraordinary experiences to your athlete(s), by learning both the science and the practice of youth conditioning and fitness. The next step would be to get further education around Long Term Athlete Development and the Craft of Coaching Youth. 

We invite every person with the desire to positively impact the field of youth fitness and athletic development to join our cause and become part of the worldwide revolution. It’s as simple as our 3 E’s.

Step 1: Educate Yourself with science-backed, tried & true methods that stand the test of time.

Step 2: Elevate Athletes by applying LTAD and always working at becoming better at ‘meeting kids where they are at’.

Step 3: Expand the mission into your communities with programs, classes, and educational opportunities in your hometown.

Ready to join the mission?

Get started with one of our Top Credentials- the IYCA Certified Athlete Development Specialist. 

Not ready to get Certified, then our Long Term Athlete Development Resource is the perfect next step.

Let’s make the most positive Impact we can make today!

We are right there with you,

– The International Youth Conditioning Association

 

References:

1- Rowley S. Psychological effects of intensive training in young athletes. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines. 1987;28(3):371-377.

2-Toby Brooks, Ph.D., David Stodden, Ph.D., Jim Kielbaso, MS. Essentials of Youth Conditioning and Fitness. 2020, 21-23.

Utilize M.O.L.D for Programming Youth

In developing programming for youth, it is important to utilize the IYCA’s four-part programming guideline, easily recalled by the acronym “MOLD.”

Under this guideline, movement must dominate, the coach must be open to communication variances and learning style variances, and should avoid training and instead teach.  Let’s break these down.

M-Movement Must Dominate:

Young athletes are dynamic and ever-changing creatures. Development and optimization of motor control requires both depth and breadth of movement experiences. Specific skill instruction must take a back seat to general movement skills, particularly during the more foundational years of development.

Far too often, coaches attempt to integrate far too technical aspects of instruction into programming at the expense of activity that is more focused on the acquisition and refinement of general motor skill.

O-Open to Communication Variances:

Just as instruction can oftentimes be inappropriately geared toward specific skill acquisition, the manner in which coaching cues and non-verbal coaching feedback is delivered can tend to be nonspecific in nature. Young athletes are unique individuals with broad-ranging variability with respect to preferred communication styles. 

Coaches can sometimes assume that an athlete who does not respond favorably to their coaching is lazy or unmotivated. However, a reflective practitioner is committed to exploring potential barriers to instruction, which in many instances may be directly linked to differences in the athlete’s preferred communication style. 

L-Learning Style Variances:

Young athletes do not vary only with respect to communication styles. Learning styles vary considerably from person to person. Unfortunately, in cases in which a teacher’s instructional style is not compatible with a student’s preferred learning style, the student will experience a significantly more difficult time in acquiring the intended information.

Developing a broad-based instructional style and being attuned to individual differences is the best way that a coach or teacher can optimize athlete learning. 

D-Don’t Train; Teach:

Too often, conditioning programs for youth are geared toward eliciting the “best” performance improvement by applying adult based exercise prescriptions with only slightly decreased volume and/or intensity. However, programming for youth should be fundamentally different. At the same time, the most basic goal of programming for youth should not be to train the body to peak physical performance. 

Instead, the goal should be to teach the young athlete both how to move most efficiently and effectively and to develop a fundamental love for physical activity. Unfortunately, programming that is too heavily focused on training, introduced early in development, can lead to physical injury and/or psychological fatigue. 

If you want to learn more about the development & programming of athletes through the ages and what to consider as a coach/trainer check out this free Video- where IYCA CEO and LTAD Expert Jim Kielbaso breaks down Training athletes from Start to Finish 

Source: Essentials of Youth Fitness & Conditioning Text by Toby Brooks, PhD, David Stodden, PhD & Jim Kielbaso, MS

High School Strength and Conditioning: How to Get Started – Jim Kielbaso

Because the IYCA has the only certification designed specifically for high school strength and conditioning – the IYCA HSSCS – I get a lohigh school strength and conditioningt of questions about how to get your foot in the door or how to become a high school strength and conditioning coach.  I also happen to work in several high schools, I post a lot of content from weight rooms, and I love working in high school strength and conditioning, so it makes sense that people ask those questions.  But, is this job really right for you?

Through the years, I’ve answered these questions individually, and this video breaks down just about all of the advice I’ve given and everything you need to know to get your foot in the door or get started in high school strength and conditioning.

Keep in mind that this article/video is not covering how to be a great coach or any of the science and training methods needed to do the job.  This video is about understanding the job and how to get started.  I also explain how different each job can be depending on the situation at the school.  Some schools are very well funded, have great facilities, and have supportive coaches and parents.  Other situations are the complete opposite where just about everything is a struggle. You need to fully understand each situation and know which ones fit you the best.

The two most important things to understand are:

  1. There are both tremendous challenges and opportunities in high school strength and conditioning.  Funding, schedules, facilities, group size, skill level, motivation level, demands from coaches, safety, and constantly changing coaches and athletes are all part of the job.  But, being able to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of young people is an amazing opportunity.  Before you jump into this demanding job, make sure you understand the pros and cons and decide if this is the right position for you.
  2. You have to be a really good coach, teacher, and role model to be an effective high school strength and conditioning coach.  Just because you like to lift weights or were a good athlete does not qualify you to be a great S & C coach.  This is a demanding job and kids deserve to have a great coach working with them.  The mission of the IYCA is to help educate coaches in an effort to create exceptional training experiences for athletes, and we feel that this is very important.  That means that the days of unqualified and sub-par coaches in high schools should come to an end.  You need to have great knowledge, great energy, great coaching skills, and a passion for developing athletes at all levels and in all sports.

In the video, I discuss:

  • Is this the right job/situation for you?
  • Qualifications
  • Funding
  • Challenges & opportunities
  • Relationships
  • Creating a job vs. being hired

There is obviously a lot to understand before you get started in high school strength and conditioning, but this should help you understand what is necessary and give you a sense of what you can do to make things happen.

 

Jim Kielbaso IYCAJim Kielbaso is the President of the IYCA and Owner of Impact Sports Performance in Novi, MI.  He has authored multiple books, articles and training products and has spoken at events around the world.  He holds a BS in Exercise Science, an MS in Kinesiology and has gone through multiple certifications through the IYCA, NSCA, NASM and more.  Jim is a former college strength & conditioning coach and has trained thousands of athletes at every level of competition.  He runs a successful NFL Combine training program in Michigan and has been hired as a consultant for major sports programs like the University of Michigan Football Program and the University of Kentucky Basketball Program.

 

The IYCA High School Strength & Conditioning Specialist is the only certification created specifically for coaches training high school athletes, and it has recently been updated!.  The course includes several hours of video instruction (including a complete Olympic lifting instructor course) and two textbooks with contributions from some of the top strength and conditioning coaches in America.  Click on the image below to learn more about how to become a certified high school strength & conditioning coach.

Effective Communication: Starting the Conversation – Jill Kochanek

Effective communication is based on the needs of each player and team. When coaches give players voice, we can more fully understand what our athletes need to feel optimally supported. This post offers coaches useful activities for addressing what effective communication means for their team and athletes. Though just a starting point, this session is an example of how coaches can start a conversation with players to glean valuable information about their needs and co-create team standards for effective communication.

As many of us finish up the winter season, I want to bring up a topic, which comes up a lot in my work with athlete and coaches: effective communication. This entry explores what effective communication means for your team and athletes. To do so, I offer a recap of a session on effective communication that I’ve facilitated with my high school student-athletes. You might consider integrating any, or all, of these activities as an off-the-field preseason session. These activities are meant to draw on team knowledge and co-create communication standards with your athletes. Reflection and discussion centers on several questions: What type of communication does an athlete/teammate need and when? What constitutes effective communication on our team? What does effective communication look like in action? Feel free to use, leave out, or adapt any aspect of this session to best fit you as a coach, your context, and athletes.

Before I overview the session, let me give some background on what led me to the “communication” drawing board. Last year, communication became a point of emphasis for my high school girls’ team. We started the season with a young squad, only one senior, a sizable freshmen class, and several returning players who had only joined us the year prior. Some might call this a “rebuilding year.” I cringe when I hear that statement because it can shift a coach’s focus from improving based on where athletes are at to a preoccupation with proving oneself (as a coach or team). When coaches adopt this mentality, doing so can come at the expense of athlete development. Optimally challenging (and raising the bar for) players becomes a more difficult task when we safeguard against defeat and lower expectations before our players even step onto the field. As coaches, let’s not fall into this trap!

Young teams might lack the foundational skills that you wish they possessed, but these groups present a unique opportunity for coaches as culture creator to establish—and reinforce—good habits. If coaches plant these seeds with athletes early on, they are more likely to internalize those behavior patterns and model them for new and future players.

As a younger group, we not only lacked on-field communication but also clear standards for what effective communication meant on our team. The mix of inexperience and diverse player personalities led to instances of ineffective communication: younger players feeling as though older players were bossing them around, and older players feeling as though younger players were not listening or committed. After a few conflicts between players, our coaching staff decided that the group would benefit from more an explicit conversation on effective communication.

Here is a breakdown of the session—keeping this caveat in mind: as with technical/tactical skill building, culture building and behavior change are on-going processes. One session on effective communication will not be a complete cure-all. Consistent reinforcement is essential for players, and coaches, to internalize desired values and actions. As coaches, we not only need to model these behaviors. And, we need to encourage players when they effectively communicate and own our mistakes when we fall short of doing so.

Effective Communication Session Synopsis

Activity I: Effective communication on our team
I started by asking the girls to think of a recent moment in which a teammate effectively communicated to them (e.g., encouragement, instruction, suggestion, or criticism). They wrote down who that teammate was, what happened, and why the communication was effective for them. This was meant to guide athletes to self-reflect on their needs, but also gave them a chance to recognize their teammates.

Debrief: As a group, we discussed their responses. I did not have each girl share their who-what-why, but took notice of which players spoke up (or did not) and who was actively listening. Several girls offered their responses, and I probed players to consider commonalities and differences across examples. We distilled these anecdotes down to key characteristics of effective communication on our team, which were honest, direct, & positive. With this definition, I emphasized to players that it’s not just what we say that is impactful, but how we communicate—that communication needs to be honest and selfless. Praise that is not earnest can undermine our legitimacy as the communicator and backfire. At the same time, our communication should aim to help teammates be successful—to build each other up—not break us down. When players know that teammates mean well, and are genuinely trying to support our success, they will be more open to receiving corrective instruction (or constructive criticism) and less likely to take feedback personally.

The first reflective activity helped our group established what effective communication means for our team. While we might define communication that is honest, direct, and positive as our team standard, I asked players to consider if, and how, effective communication might depend on the individual and context. Though we might defer to honest, direct, and positive feedback in most teammate interactions and team situations, how we communicate may depend on who we are working with and how they show up on that day.

Activity II: Effective communication as individual and context specific
I asked each girl to write down what kind of communication they need from their teammates (or coaches) when they are having a good day versus bad day. I clarified that the good-bad day scenario could be for a host of reasons, including but not limited to sport-related events. I invited each player to share her perspective with the group in this second activity. In this case, I wanted to give each person the opportunity to speak to her needs, and likewise teammates (and myself) the chance to listen and gain insight into how to best support each player. Here were some of common responses from our group:

“I am motivated by the little things. It’s a huge boost when you catch me, and let me know, that I doing the little things well.”

“I want limited feedback on my bad days.”
“Hold me accountable when things aren’t going my way.”
“I just want you to tell me what to do!”

“I need positive reinforcement no matter what kind of day I am having. I had a bad coach when I was younger. He would always scream at us, and it’s still hard for me to shake that.”

Debrief: Once players shared what they need in terms of communication, I identified some of the common themes and differences across our responses. Then, I circled back to our team captains and asked what they thought were key take-home messages from our activities for us, as a team, to take away from the session and how we put that information into action. Give them the space and agency to communicate to their teammates, establish expectations, and define actions. After they spoke, I validated their responses and asked if anyone else from the group has something to add.

Conclusion
This session is one example of how to start a conversation with your players to glean valuable information about their needs and co-create team standards for effective communication. Effective communication is individual and context specific—based on the needs of each player and team. When coaches give players voice, we can more fully understand what our young people need to feel optimally supported. At the end of the day, it’s not about us – it’s about them.

Facilitating a session on effective communication, however, is not a quick fix—it’s a starting point. Consistent reinforcement of effective communication when coaches catch players doing so is necessary for all team members to internalize those behaviors. Along with praiseworthy actions, coaches need to attend to “challenge moments”: when players (or coaches themselves) fall short of effectively communicating based on team standards. Coaches can use “challenge moments” as opportunities to reinforce desired behaviors (or acknowledge their own mistakes) and encourage athletes to see mistakes as a part of the learning and culture-building process.

Helping Your Kids Cope With the COVID-19 Pandemic – Phil Hueston

The novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 which causes COVID-19 has taken over the news. For adults, the news is frightening. For children, it can be terrifying and may leave real scars. Parents can ease kids’ fears and help them cope with this pandemic, if they have the tools.

How can we, as parents and caregivers, help children understand this pandemic without living in constant fear of it? How can we support their developmental needs while helping them understand the COVID-19 coronavirus and the news surrounding it?

How can we share the hope of a bright future when the present seems so dark and scary?

Some very smart people have been thinking about these questions. I’ve been thinking about them, too.

I’m around children ages 6 and up in my facility daily. They see the world differently than adults and can often get overwhelmed by the onslaught of news, information and disinformation they are exposed to daily.

Here are some thoughts on how to help them through this challenging time.

Clear up the terminonlogy

Some of the terminology thrown around by the news media sounds terrifying, if you don’t understand it. Spend some time with your kids and ask them what they think some of those terms mean. Try questions like these. “What do you think COVID-19 is?” “What do you think the word ‘quarantine’ means?” “Do you know what ‘social distancing’ means?” The answers will help you understand what your child knows, what they don’t know and how they think about the disease.

Jennifer Rodemeyer, manager of the Child Life Program at Mayo Clinic, suggests clearly defining the terminology around COVID-19 coronavirus. There are key phrases and terms that, when clearly defined, will help your children cope better with what they are hearing.

COVID-19 – Your kids should know that this is a virus that can make them sick and cause them to feel sick. The symptoms include a cough, fever, chills and body aches. While they should know that these aren’t exclusive to COVID-19, it is important to tell you if they feel them, especially during this pandemic.

COVID-19 is so tiny that children can’t see it and won’t know it’s on their hands or on surfaces they touch. Since it can enter the body when we touch something that it’s on and then touch our faces, mouths or eyes, hand washing is really important. Keeping surfaces clean is also very important. Both of these practices are simple ways to give your children a measure, and a sense, of control over something that might hurt them.

COVID-19 can also enter the body through tiny droplets expelled when we cough or sneeze. So by covering their sneezes and coughs with a tissue or by coughing or sneezing into their elbow (called the “Vampire sneeze,”) they can help to limit the spread of the virus. Again, offering a technique for gaining control over a scary thing offers a sense of power they otherwise don’t have.

Explain that the reason this virus is everywhere in the news and on social media is because it’s new, or “novel.” Everyone on earth, including doctors, nurses and other health and medical professionals, are learning about it together. As they learn more, we’ll have more ways to limit its’ spread and how to treat it. Let your kids know that some of the smartest experts around the world are working as hard as they can to learn about the virus and keep us all safe.

Social Distancing – This is a fairly new term that is being talked about everywhere. Medical and public health professionals are asking people to practice this in an effort to slow or stop the spread of the virus. It means avoiding close contact with other people when outside the home. It doesn’t mean avoiding contact with family members inside the home, unless they are ill. 

Rodemeyer suggests telling children to use the imaginary length of a bicycle as a means of understanding how far to stay from others in public. Instead of high fives, fist bumps or hugs, a simple wave may be better. What we also want our kids to know is that if the six-foot rule of social distancing is accidentally “violated,” they shouldn’t panic. It’s a guideline, not an iron-clad rule whose violation is cause for punishment or self-loathing.

Quarantine – This is just a scary word for anyone, but especially kids. Sub-conscious fears of isolation and abandonment go hand-in-hand with this one. Explain to your kids that quarantine may be as simple as staying in your house for a period of time up to 14 days. Let them know that only if they come in contact with someone who definitely has COVID-19 would they possibly need to be concerned about this. They also need to know it doesn’t mean they’d be separated from their family.

Build some new home routines to support your kids.

Giving kids the ability to predict what’s next gives them a sense of control and direction over the unknown. Post your family schedules and what, if any, different rules or guidelines need to be followed. If staying in the house is called for, make that clear, along with a clear explanation of why. Same thing for social distancing.

Help your kids feel accomplished by identifying clear expectations and acknowledging them when they meet those expectations. Include all important aspects of your children’s lives when establishing a schedule. What time is bedtime? When do they wake? Include meal times, household chores and responsibilities, outdoor play and exercise times, other play times and anything else that impacts their lives.

Stuck at home more? Play a little, or a lot!

Play is a great tool for teaching. It’s also a great tool for stress management and improving cognitive ability. Play will give your child the tools to help understand the nature of the COVID-19 situation and what they can expect for themselves. It will also give you time to interact with your kids and communicate with them in a low-pressure atmosphere. You may learn quite a bit about how they’re feeling!

Reading together, playing games, doing puzzles, exercising together, listening and playing music together and working on projects together will all provide great bonding and relaxation opportunities for the whole family. Try creating some theme nights like movie night, karaoke night, game night or indoor camping night. You have an opportunity to create some positive memories in the midst of a difficult time.

Use technology to connect with friends and loved ones

Your kids are most likely more tech-savvy than any other generation, maybe even more tech-savvy than you. Use that to help them connect and talk with grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles and friends. Include the people they normally interact with, too. Using connectivity apps will allow your kids to keep and build relationships and avoid feeling isolated by talking to loved ones and people who matter to them.

Social games can also help. Many games and game systems have the capacity for children to play together even when they are far apart. Virtual play dates are a possibility. There are a myriad of ways that virtual connections can support your kids’ social development.

Cut off the constant stream of news 

While we want our children to understand the COVID-19 virus and what it means for them, they don’t need 24/7 access to every news source. Explain to them that you are going to help them understand the realities of the virus by helping them find a small number of reliable news sources and then helping them absorb and understand what is being reported by them. The Centers for Disease Control, the Mayo Clinic, state and federal health agencies, Johns Hopkins University and a handful of others are examples of reliable, evidence-based news sources for the COVID-19 outbreak.

Cover the basics – and handle the unexpected

Teach your kids how to wash their hands. Give them fun tools to make sure they wash long enough. Singing the “ABC’s” or “Happy Birthday” twice while soaping up will ensure about 20 seconds worth of scrubbing.

Hang signs in your home that say things like “Welcome home! Don’t forget to wash your hands first thing!” Tell them the times they should wash their hands: before meals, after using the toilet, after blowing their nose, coughing or sneezing and after being out of the house.

When an event your child was to attend gets cancelled, take the time to explain how that unhappy event will help stem the spread of COVID-19. Children will tend to see and appreciate an event from their own perspective. Letting them understand that this is a temporary way to help others will give them a fresh way to look at it. Let them know that when the COVID-19 virus is under control, those events will be safe to attend once again.

Who’s the boss?

Let your children know that when they are in someone else’s care, they should listen to that person. When a teacher, grandparent, caregiver, day care provider, etc. asks them to wash their hands or gives other hygiene instructions those instructions should be followed.

If the virus strikes, reassure them

If your child gets sick, remind them that they are being cared for by someone to whom they are infinitely important. Let them know you will be watching them and caring for them until they have recovered and that the best doctors are also caring for them.

If a friend or loved one gets sick, let your kids know that they are getting medical advice and care and are getting the best instructions on how to beat the virus and get better. Encourage your kids to send the afflicted person a note in the mail. Explain that receiving such a note will let the person know that others care for and are thinking about them and looking forward to when all of them can be together again.

Don’t lie

Parents often feel that a “little white lie” is okay when the truth my hurt or frighten your child, especially a younger child. While this may be true in some cases, be honest with your children about COVID-19. Letting your kids know that you’ll be honest with them and that being honest is important to you will build their trust. While your honesty may cause some worry or anxiety, the same truth-telling will make it easier to allay those fears or anxieties.

Have daily conversations with your kids about this. Let them know you’ll keep them up to date on changes regarding the virus. Let them know that you are the one to come to for new information and that they can ask you anything about the COVID-19 virus.

Share your own feelings about all that’s happening. Let them know that you have questions about COVID-19 and the situation. Share those questions with them, if appropriate. Let them know you are following the advice of some of the smartest medical and public health experts in the world and that their advice is going to help us all stay safe.

You are the authority in your children’s lives. In uncertain times, your kids need certainty, love, strength and a sense of control. I hope these ideas help you deliver those things for your children. I hope that you all stay safe, healthy and happy.

Keep the faith and keep after it!

Bio: Coach Phil Hueston is not just another pretty trainer. With over 18 years of in-the-trenches experience with athletes ages 6 to 60, he brings a unique skill-set to the improvement of his athletes. The author of the Amazon best-seller “Alchemy; Where the Art and Science Collide in Youth Fitness,” his client list includes professional athletes, collegiate athletes as well as thousands of youth athletes. Phil has been the co-owner of All-Star Sports Academy in Toms River, NJ, one of the largest and most successful youth and family fitness centers in New Jersey since 2008. He was named “Coach of the Year” by the IYCA for 2012-2013.  A contributor to IYCA.org and coach to other coaches, Phil provides unique insights and ideas that can help other coaches accelerate their clients’ progress and performance. Phil is married to the woman responsible for his entry into the fitness profession, MaryJo. Between them they have 2 grown children, Nate and Andrew, and 99 problems.  Phil’s personal website is coachphilhueston.com, and he can be contacted at phil.hueston@hotmail.com

 

The IYCA High School Strength & Conditioning Specialist is the only certification created specifically for coaches training high school athletes, and it was recently updated to include even more information than ever.  The course includes several hours of video instruction and two textbooks with contributions from some of the top strength and conditioning coaches in America.  Click on the image below to learn more about how to become a certified high school strength & conditioning coach.

T-Spine Mobility – Jordan Tingman

Incorporating a small amount of mobility each day will eventually turn into great gains over time.

Mobility can be easily thrown into a complete warm-up, within the workout or at the end of a workout. It is much more important to do a little of something, than doing nothing at all.

The upper back/thoracic spine is made up of a lot of different musculature. The muscles surrounding the thoracic spine tend to tighten up, and often get neglected when working on mobility. When ignoring working on mobilizing these areas, the upper back can get tight, limiting overhead exercises and movements.

When thoracic spine mobility is compromised, athletes will unconsciously compensate by creating excess movement in other joints.  This typically means that the lower back has to create excess movement or stability because the T-spine is not functioning adequately.  It’s not uncommon for low back pain to be the result of issues in the T-spine/scapula, so taking a pro-active approach by spending a little time on this area can pay dividends you may never even know about because the athlete will be healthy.  While we’ll never get credit for it, that should ultimately be the goal of all performance coaches.

t-spine mobility

There are various reasons why we need to work on t-spine mobility:

-Overhead and throwing movements can be limited due to tightness

-Tightness can affect posture in the various squat patterns

-Mobilizing any especially tight areas can lead to injury reduction

To warm up for t-spine mobilization, foam rolling the entire upper body can be very helpful in warming up and stretching the muscle belly.

:30 seconds of each area

  • UPPER BACK-Starting with an upper back roll, crossing the arms in front of the chest
  • LATS-Roll out the lats, by keeping the hand palm up, arm by the ear, rolling all the way from the armpit to the mid rib cage area
  • PEC/SHOULDER- roll out the pec/shoulder area using either a foam roller or even better a lacrosse ball to really dig into the troubled areas
  • T-SPINE PEANUT- utilizing a mobility peanut, roll out the erectors or focus on t-spine extension using the peanut.

There are a variety of exercises that can be used to mobilize the t-spine in extension and rotation. You can use everything from foam rollers and kettlebells to bars and bodyweight exercises.

Here are a variety of exercises that can be used for t-spine extension:

Here are some exercises that can be used for t-spine rotation:

These exercises can also be used as an assessment. When you find an athlete who struggles with these exercises, you can spend additional time with them to address the issue.  If you never perform these exercises, you may never know it’s an issue.

Hopefully, this gives you several options to include in your programming.  It’s not necessary to perform all of these exercises in every session, but inserting them into an overall plan will help you address these issues in a pro-active way.

Jordan Tingman – CSCS*, USAW L1, ACE CPT, CFL1 is a graduate of Washington State University with a B.S. in Sports Science with a Minor in Strength and Conditioning. She completed internships with the strength & conditioning programs at both Washington State University and Ohio State University, and is currently a Graduate Assistant S & C Coach at Eastern Washington University.

 

 

The IYCA High School Strength & Conditioning Specialist is the only certification created specifically for coaches training high school athletes.  The course includes several hours of video instruction (including a complete Olympic lifting instructor course) and two textbooks with contributions from some of the top strength and conditioning coaches in America.  Click on the image below to learn more about how to become a certified high school strength & conditioning coach.

PNF Stretching – Joe Powell

PNF Stretching is one of the most effective, yet often overlooked, training techniques that coaches can employ to enhance flexibility.

For being recognized as an essential pillar of strength and conditioning, flexibility seems to lack the same attention and interest generated by other physical qualities that are developed through training. For example, look no further than the world PNF Stretchingof strength and conditioning on social media. You’ll be much more inclined to find strength coaches showcasing impressive feats of strength, power, speed or even balance.  How often do you see coaches talking about amazing flexibility routines?

It isn’t the fact that coaches don’t see value in increasing an athlete’s flexibility, it’s more to the effect that there are so many other athletic qualities that garner the spotlight, and thus have a higher emphasis within a training program. Luckily for us there are ways to improve flexibility that happen almost organically. Static stretching is universally known by athletes of all ages, and is typically found in some regard in any warm-up or cool down. A well-rounded strength training program featuring exercises performed throughout a full range of motion will even increase joint flexibility. However with flexibility, as well as other training effects like strength, power, speed, etc, in order to improve and display lasting effects, there needs to be a direct training stimulus occurring regularly.

So how can a coach utilize their allotted time with an athlete effectively and work to improve flexibility beyond simply static stretching at the end of a workout? Three letters: PNF.

What is PNF and how does it work?
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation, or PNF, is a stretching technique that is used to improve muscle elasticity, and thus increase flexibility. For years PNF primarily existed in clinical settings, utilized by therapists to restore or increase joint range of motion in patients who were going through rehabilitation. Currently it has gained a lot of traction and is practiced within athletic and even therapeutic settings. The reason why it has gained popularity and should be included in a coach’s repertoire? It works. Research supports its effectiveness in increasing joint ROM.

While research has been conducted on PNF and its possible effectiveness for decades, it is still ongoing to determine what the exact mechanisms behind this form of stretching are. Four theoretical physiological mechanisms for increasing range of motion exist. They are: autogenic inhibition, reciprocal inhibition, stress relaxation, and the gate control theory. These four mechanisms are reflexes that occur when the golgi tendon organs in the tendons of the agonist or antagonist muscle detect harmful stimuli. Between them, these four theoretical mechanisms likely define why increases in joint range of motion are seen when using PNF.

There are two methods of PNF that are typically the focal points of any research on the topic. These two methods are also most commonly practiced in the athletic, clinical and therapeutic realms. They are known as the “contract-relax method” (CR) and the “contract-relax-agonist-contract method” (CRAC).

Contract-Relax Method (CR):
1. The target muscle is stretched and held passively
2. An isometric contraction of the target muscle is subsequently held for an allotted time
3. The target muscle relaxes and is re-stretched passively.

Contract-Relax-Antagonist-Contract Method (CRAC):
1. The target muscle is stretched and held passively
2. An isometric contraction of the target muscle is subsequently held for an allotted time
3. The antagonist of the target muscle is subsequently contracted while the target muscle is passively stretched

When performed regularly, PNF has been shown to have a positive effect on active and passive range of motions. This occurs by increasing the length of the muscle while also increasing neuromuscular efficiency. These results can be seen in healthy individuals, but also in those going through a rehab program to regain strength and ROM after sustaining soft tissue damage.

PNF Guidelines
The manner in which PNF is performed greatly dictates the results yielded. Just like any training program or exercise prescription, there are guidelines to follow that will enhance results and prevent any decrements in performance.

When to Perform PNF
Studies have shown that in order to increase muscular performance, PNF needs to be performed after exercise, or without exercise. However, when completed prior to exercise, doing a bout of PNF stretching will actually decrease performance in maximal effort exercises. Therefore, PNF is best utilized when placed directly after a lifting/conditioning session, post practice, during an athlete’s downtime (ie. Before bed) or on a true rest day. The research states that it is in the athlete and coach’s best interest to avoid using PNF in any capacity before a game, practice, lift, or conditioning session. When performed before any of these events, there is evidence of decreased performance in anything where maximal muscular effort is required, such as during sprinting, plyometrics, weight lifting, etc.

How to Perform PNF
Just like resistance training, results from PNF stretching can differ depending upon how it’s administered. While the passive stretch will differ depending upon the flexibility levels of each individual, it is important to give guidance on how much of an isometric contraction is given, as well as the duration of each stretch and contraction. The isometric contraction given by the individual being stretched can be 100% maximal, however if this is the case the athlete must be aware that muscles soreness and a potential contraction induced injury is possible. Giving a high, yet sub-maximal effort is recommended. In a healthy individual around 80-90% effort will suffice, and with an injured individual the contraction needs to be more individualized based upon nature of the injury as well as pain tolerance.

The typical time spent passively stretching an athlete when using PNF will range from about 6-10 seconds, where as the muscle contraction can produce effects when held anywhere from 3-10 seconds. The literature states that 6 seconds is preferred and will yield the appropriate response. Consistency and simplicity with athletes is crucial, so whatever time frame parameters are chosen need to be kept and utilized. As far as how many repetitions or bouts of PNF per muscle group are recommended will depend upon the individual, yet three seems to be an effective and appropriate number. After three repetitions, the ROM that is “unlocked” decreases significantly and the athlete has reached their so called finish. This ROM can improve but each rep seems to access around 15-20% increases in ROM and those increases just simply cannot keep occurring after each rep.

There will be varied affects when performing PNF, and while many stem from controllable variables such as the intensity and timing of the contractions and stretches, some changes in ROM will also depend on biological age, training age, and gender. The best results will come from a properly administered protocol that occurs several times a week.

Where to Perform PNF
PNF can be used on many muscle groups, however some remain easier to administer than others. As mentioned simplicity is key and it’s crucial to remember that majority of strength and conditioning professionals are not therapists. Majority of the following don’t require additional set-up, however if access to a massage/therapy table or anything to elevate the athlete off of the ground may make some muscle groups, like the hip flexors, more accessible.

Common Muscle Groups
• Hamstrings
• Quadriceps
• Hip Flexors
• Hip External Rotators
• Hip Internal Rotators
• Calf muscles
• Shoulder External Rotators
• Shoulder Internal Rotators
• Lat/Upper Back
• Chest Muscles

Joe Powell is an Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach at Utah State University.  He formerly held a similar position at Central Michigan University where he also taught classes in the Department of Health and Human Performance.  Joe is a regular contributor to the IYCA Insiders program and has been a huge part of bringing the Behind the Science series to the IYCA.  He is also the author of the IYCA Guide to Manual Resistance Strength Training.  Get more of Joe’s contributions in the IYCA Insiders membership.

Competence: Building Relationships & Buy-In – Jared Markiewicz

In the first installment of this mini-series surrounding the Self Determination theory, we discussed using relatedness to better motivate your staff, athletes you coach and structuring a system so you can teach your staff how to better motivate athletes.  It’s highly recommended to go over Part 1 first, so take a few minutes to review that if you haven’t already.  

The second part of this mini-series focuses on competency and using it in the same way to drive motivation. So let’s dive in!

Competence: Coach to Staff

Motivating your staff to continually improve can be challenging at times. They may seek out education on a regular basis,  but the question is: How do they actually take what they learned and apply it?

Our solution for a few years now has been a weekly “Trainer Talk”

It occurs every Thursday and all coaches are expected to attend or have a damn good reason why they can’t be there. At the beginning of every quarter, each coach chooses one week in which they will present on a topic of their choice.

Having a set date early in the quarter allows the coach the ability to discuss:

  1. Key topics in our training systems or the industry
  2. Key takeaways from clinics/workshops recently attended
  3. Specific topics of interest that can evolve our training programs 

Once they get comfortable, it allows them an opportunity to teach everyone on staff, head coach included.  As a result, when a coach who has largely been in the student role is given the teacher role, motivation skyrockets!

Additionally, it gives our coaches the ability to seek out training philosophies that excite them and then collectively think tank on how we could implement pieces into what we already do.

Action Step: Implement a version of “Trainer Talk” with your staff at least 1x/month that involves your entire coaching staff.  

Initially, it might be difficult to get volunteers to step into the teaching role so I suggest starting with a mini TED talk day where you and a few other coaches present short education pieces. 

Goal: Bring to light the vast competencies on your staff to foster growth and development of professional knowledge.

Competence: Coach to Athlete

What would your answer be if someone asked you what your biggest strength is athletically? Harder yet, your biggest weakness?

Tough questions, right? 

Self-awareness is such an important part of any athlete’s ability to achieve the best they are capable of. 

Asking difficult questions like this during the initial conversation with an athlete provides 3 advantages:

  1. Create a framework of process vs. outcome based goal setting
  2. Recognize who they are as an athlete and develop a continuous improvement mentality in ALL facets of athleticism and sport skill
  3. Help them understand what they excel at, while recognizing other teammates likely excel at something different, catalyzing high level teamwork

As a coach, understanding their answers can provide a foundation to build an individual’s motivation while training.

During training, we can coach an athlete up on how a particular program or movement will help them overcome their weaknesses. Make sure when you reference this, it’s about them getting better, not matching those that already excel. 

More importantly, when they are performing something they excel at, empower them to be a leader. They have the competence, so acknowledge it and encourage them to help teammates and lead by example. 

Action Step: Implement a question or series of questions early on in the process with a young athlete. The big key here is to keep revisiting it. Part of self-awareness for a young athlete is the coach reinforcing competencies. 

Goal: Improve self-awareness for your athletes

**If you coach in a team setting, asking these questions will provide you the knowledge to position athletes in a role they will be comfortable with. Then you have set them up to thrive individually and collectively!

Competence: Staff to Athlete

Martial arts has this down to a science: if you achieve a set series of skills and can demonstrate them repeatedly, you will earn the next belt. 

Why is this such a motivator?

  1. It’s cool as heck to progress to the next level, developing a sense of PRIDE
  2. Athletes want to keep growing and learning by continuing their progress to the coveted Black belt!

At FIT, we use colored rubber bands in a similar fashion.

Our athletes need to demonstrate competency and proficiency of the core lifts: bench, squat, press, deadlift and clean, to earn the next band.

Testing week is exciting and motivating because if they have put the work in, there is a good to great chance they will level up in the band they have. 

Consistency builds competence, building performance enhancement!

HOWEVER, not all athletes are motivated by this. Many are, but almost every group will have one outlier, maybe more. 

That’s the human element we as coaches have to ALWAYS take into account.

So engage and ask those athletes how they are motivated. And then follow through on that during testing periods. (Just don’t let them tell you they are motivated by money, I only fell for that once!)

Ultimately, it’s about the athlete visualizing a path to “level up” and working to achieve that. Athletes will buy into a good training program over time, but it’s helpful early on to give them opportunities to achieve success, via bands or belts or whatever. We have found this significantly helps motivation when they plateau slightly or even lose some strength during a sport season.

Action Step:  Enlist the help of your staff to identify what structure already exists and figure out where there is the potential for levels or progressions to be created. It’s highly likely you already do something where you have pre-requisite steps that must be completed to get access to doing a movement. For example, to power clean, an athlete must demonstrate the ability to deadlift well and show the ability to get into a good front squat rack position and do a balanced front squat.

Then display it prominently to your athletes and give them SOMETHING as recognition of leveling up. It can be really simple until you get great buy in from them and your coaches.

Goal: Improve ADHERENCE to the training and therefore the speed of skill development by formally recognizing an athlete’s ongoing mastery.

 

jared markiewiczJared Markiewicz is the founder and CEO of Functional Integrated Training, in Madison, WI.  Jared has worked with a wide array of athletes including middle schoolers, collegiate and professional athletes, as well as adults – all looking to find the best version of themselves.  He sits on the IYCA Advisory Board, has gone through many IYCA certifications, and is a regular contributor and speaker for the IYCA.

Jared holds a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise and Movement Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He’s also a Certified Personal Trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM-CPT), an Advanced Sport Performance Coach through USA Weightlifting, a Level 2 Functional Movement Screen Specialist, a Precision Nutrition Level 1 Coach (PN1) and a golf fitness instructor through Titleist Performance Institute.

 

If you want to be better at coaching young athletes, the IYCA Youth Fitness Specialist certification is the industry gold-standard for youth fitness and sports performance.  Click on the image below to learn more about the YFS1 certification program.

Overlooked Keys to a Great Push Up – Greg Schaible

The push up is one of those exercises that everyone loves to do, but few athletes or clients do them exceptionally well….

This video goes over three of the most important technical aspects of the movement: 

Most people understand the first point. The elbows should be at 45 degree angle or slightly under. Not too in close to the body or flared out really wide either.

Scapula thoracic positioning is a high priority during a push up. Rib cage retracted at the top of the push up with scapula sitting flush on the thorax. 

An important part of the serratus is to protract the scapula but also retraction of the rib cage. At the top of the push up, you should not see a medial border prominence of the scapula. At the bottom position of push up the scapula retracts. push up

Ensuring the athlete is avoiding hyper extension at the low back and anterior pelvic tilt will go a long ways to help this. The body should move as a unit up and down from the ground. A common analogy I use is “imagine your body as an elevator moving up and down together.” Keeping the position of the torso sturdy with the ribcage stacked over the pelvis helps locks in the mid-section, making it easier to move as a cohesive unit.

A final and often overlooked aspect of a push up is a slight forward lean when dropping down toward the ground so the chest is in line with the hands. Then pushing slightly backwards while pressing back up to the top position so the hands are directly underneath the shoulders. This angle of pressing is very similar to the bar path you should use while doing a bench press.

Pressing back is also an important component that helps the serratus become more active as you are pushing up towards 90 degrees even slightly above at top position of push up. Those who struggle with getting the medial inferior border flush on the thorax tend to benefit greatly from this aspect. As the shoulder moves to 90 degrees of flexion and slightly past the serratus becomes most active. So if you imagine pushing up and back, the shoulder starts moving through more flexion which often results in better usage of the serratus with the exercise.

Most people understand the first point. The elbows should be at 45 degree angle or slightly under. Not too in close to the body or flared out really wide either.

Scapula thoracic positioning is a high priority during a push up. Rib cage retracted at the top of the push up with scapula sitting flush on the thorax. 

An important part of the serratus is to protract the scapula but also retraction of the rib cage. At the top of the push up, you should not see a medial border prominence of the scapula. At the bottom position of pushup the scapula retracts. 

Ensuring the athlete is avoiding hyper extension at the low back and anterior pelvic tilt will go a long ways to help this. The body should move a unit up and down from the ground. A common analogy I use is “imagine your body as an elevator moving up and down together.” Keeping the position of the torso sturdy with the ribcage stacked over the pelvis helps locks in the mid-section, making it easier to move as a cohesive unit.

A final and often overlooked aspect of a push up is a slight forward lean when dropping down toward the ground so the chest is in line with the hands. Then pushing slightly backwards while pressing back up to the top position so the hands are directly underneath the shoulders. This angle of pressing is very similar to the bar path you should use while doing a bench press.

Pressing back is also an important component that helps the serratus become more active as you are pushing up towards 90 degrees even slightly above at top position of push up. Those who struggle with getting the medial inferior border flush on the thorax tend to benefit greatly from this aspect. As the shoulder moves to 90 degrees of flexion and slightly past the serratus becomes most active. So if you imagine pushing up and back, the shoulder starts moving through more flexion which often results in better usage of the serratus with the exercise.

Dr. Greg Schaible is a physical therapist and strength coach specializing in athletic performance and a regular contributor the the IYCA. Greg is the owner of On Track Physiotherapy and owner of the popular online education resource Sports Rehab Expert. Greg works with athletes and active individuals of all ages. As a former athlete himself, he attended The University of Findlay and competed in both Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field where he earned honors as a 5x Division II All-American and a 6x Division II Academic All-American.

 

Dr. Schaible was instrumental in putting together the completely updated version of the Youth Athletic Assessment Specialist 2.0 course that covers a wide range of screens, performance assessments, and advanced assessment techniques.  Learn more about the YAAS 2.0 by clicking the image below.

Relatedness: Building Relationships & Buy-In – Jared Markiewicz

Setting the Foundation for Motivating Athletes

I want to walk you through a situation that happens to me often in the gym:

I see my athlete, Drake, and his heels are coming off the floor as he transitions from the eccentric to the concentric portion of the squat.

So I cue him: “drive down through the floor to stand up.”

Now I walk away to coach someone else since his set is done. 

A few minutes later, I am watching from a distance and I see after his second rep, his heels come off the floor. But then rep 3, 4 and 5, he adjusts and plants that foot hard into the floor, not only coming up more balanced, but faster!

I’m PUMPED!!!!

So after the set I go over, give him a big high five and ask, “Man Drake, did you feel that? You came up so fast and stable, that was great!”

And he goes, “Um yeah I guess I felt that…”

Ever happen to you?

Here’s the thing, almost no one we train is going to get as excited about squatting or a perfectly executed wall drill as we are.

But motivation, or “buy-in” as it’s been termed, is CRITICAL if we want our athletes to excel and stick with us for the long haul.

And if we want to improve “buy-in,” with ANYONE, we need to satisfy three components on a regular basis: relatedness, competency and autonomy.

  • Relatedness: our ability to connect with the individual’s interests, desired outcomes and pain points
  • Competency: providing the structure to develop knowledge and skill sets beyond their current baseline, ideally with carryover to performance and resiliency
  • Autonomy: establishing guidelines and boundaries so the individual can take ownership in achieving the desired outcome

These basic needs were recognized by Dr. Edward Deci and Dr. Richard Ryan, as important factors for increasing motivation levels in individuals and necessary for optimal growth and function. (see Self-Determination Theory)

For the typical coach, you are going to have three scenarios where it is your job to make sure motivation levels are consistently improving i.e. “increasing buy-in”:

  • Coach to Staff
  • Coach to Athlete
  • Staff to Athlete

This short video will help explain these concepts and scenarios, and set up a series on how to implement this information.

In the following video,s and the upcoming series on this topic, I will walk you through some simple action steps and the goals associated to create better buy-in.  We will explore the differences between how you will approach each of the scenarios (coach-staff, coach-athlete, staff-athlete) for the three components (relatedness, competency, autonomy) so that you can slowly apply these techniques for each situation.

By taking and applying these concepts, you will develop stronger, long-lasting relationships with both your athletes and staff – the key to making a big impact on our industry!

Let’s begin with the concept of Relatedness.

Relatedness: Coach to Staff

When creating “buy in” from your staff, it’s important for them to understand your past: where have you been, what have you done and what have you learned.

You want them to know you can relate to them. More importantly, you want to shorten the learning curve.

You have career capital to call upon, both good and bad. Give them a jump start by emulating your good experiences and applying the lessons behind the bad ones. As the Golden Rule states, “do unto others as you would have done unto you.”

And since we are talking the Golden Rule, listening and learning is a two-way street! EVERYONE loves to tell their story. So ask where they came from, what they have done and what they have learned. You will go further faster than ever before.

Action Step: Consistent conversations with your team or staff. Schedule them if necessary. We call ours “Huddles”

Goal: Learn and apply the knowledge you have gained to strengthen the common ground you all stand on TOGETHER!

Relatedness: Coach to Athlete

Scenario #1:

Coach – “Hey, how was school today Camryn?”

Camryn – “Good” –without ever looking up from her phone…

Scenario #2:

Coach – “Hey Camryn, I see you are on your phone, who is your favorite person to follow on Instagram?

Camryn – “Huh? You really want to know? Um, well it’s this hockey player but you don’t probably know her”

Coach – “Probably, but if you like her, I’m curious why. What makes her interesting to follow?”

Pretty easy to see which series of questions is going to stimulate a conversation and develop a level of relatedness not often achieved between adult and teenager.

When conversing with your athletes, you have to meet them where they are. We are NOT working with mini adults, despite what they might want you to believe!

Asking questions relevant to things they care about may take some work on your part. But aren’t the greatest teachers and parents making that kind of effort everyday? Why wouldn’t you, if you are a great coach?

Additionally, technology interrupts every social setting a teenager encounters. So when you do get an answer from them, give your undivided attention and ask follow up questions. You will be amazed how effective this can be!

Action Step: Have five go-to questions to create a conversation (adjust and replace as needed)

Goal: Achieve a response that leads to a brief conversation (at least) from all of your athletes in a reasonable amount of time. If possible, jot down some notes to study and recall later.

For some coaches with only a few athletes, the goal above might mean you need to get creative and you should have a conversation like this multiple times a week. For other coaches, who are in charge of 200 athletes across various sports, this may take some time.

Know your situation and adapt to it!

Relatedness: Staff to Athlete

“Oh man, Coach Jared is training us today! Where’s Coach Max, he’s way more fun!”

Music to my ears ☺

As you transition off the training floor, you don’t need to go out of your way to be an a$$hole coach. Let’s face it, there are plenty of a$$holes in this world already.

Instead, if you empower your staff to develop stronger relationships with your athletes, the above scenario will become more and more common over time.

So how do we get through the double whammy of getting coaches to “buy in” to the idea of getting our athletes “bought in?”

My answer: coCompetition and prizes!

Action Step: Create a challenge where the staff member is expected to get and recall responses from Athletes. To get started, you need three things

What your staff values for prizes
Parameters set: time, amount of touches/recalls, information expected
Opportunity to test and measure it!

For Example:

Performance coaching staff loves burritos (wait what coaches DON’T love burritos!) So the prize is a $25 gift card to Chipotle
Parameters:
Duration: Month of June
Info: Favorite pet/Favorite show/Favorite food
Goal: Ask 75% of their athletes (you calculate the number for them) and expect them to recall five of them at the end of the month.
Give them a spreadsheet to write these down but tell them they can track the info however they like
Test it: Any coach that gets all 75% and recalls the five randomly selected athletes gets a gift card to Chipotle

Goal: Increase trust level between athletes and staff without your involvement.

These videos and descriptions should give you a fairly thorough understanding of how to integrate the concept of Relatedness to multiple situations.  Stay tuned for the rest of this series when we address Competence and Autonomy.

 

jared markiewiczJared Markiewicz is the founder and CEO of Functional Integrated Training, in Madison, WI.  Jared has worked with a wide array of athletes including middle schoolers, collegiate and professional athletes, as well as adults – all looking to find the best version of themselves.  He sits on the IYCA Advisory Board, has gone through many IYCA certifications, and is a regular contributor and speaker for the IYCA.

Jared holds a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise and Movement Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He’s also a Certified Personal Trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM-CPT), an Advanced Sport Performance Coach through USA Weightlifting, a Level 2 Functional Movement Screen Specialist, a Precision Nutrition Level 1 Coach (PN1) and a golf fitness instructor through Titleist Performance Institute.

 

If you want to be better at coaching young athletes, the IYCA Youth Fitness Specialist certification is the industry gold-standard for youth fitness and sports performance.  Click on the image below to learn more about the YFS1 certification program.

Is Olympic Lifting a MUST? – Jim Kielbaso

Power/explosiveness is one of the most important attributes a strength & conditioning professional (SCP) can develop in an athlete. One of the most important decisions the SCP can make is how power development will be accomplished in his/her program. For years, coaches have debated over the need for Olympic lifting to develop power.

Proponents of Olympic lifting cited huge power outputs and the importance of power being generated with high force production, or against high external loads. Loading the triple extension in an “athletic” movement like an O-lift was a staple of many programs.

On the flip side, other coaches cited the huge power outputs generated from plyometric exercises and saw no need to teach their athletes “another sport” as part of their training. These coaches discussed the difficulties of teaching such complex movements to young athletes or large groups, and felt like unrestricted movements (like jumping, sprinting, etc.) were much more “athletic” than O-lifts.

For a long time, SCP’s dug their heels in and defended their positions.

Fortunately, the debate may be over. Both coaches and researchers have found that, while Olympic lifting produces huge power outputs, there are alternatives that produce just as much power and are easier to teach. We’ve also found that bodyweight movements are a critical piece of the puzzle for many athletes.

It seems that a combination of methods is the key to developing a complete power production profile in athletes.

Several years ago, researchers found that the mid-thigh clean pull (without a catch), produced the highest power outputs of any Olympic lifting variation (Comfort et al 2011). This sparked more investigation and others found that both the hex power pull and weighted squat jump (weight held at the side or with weighted vests) also produced power outputs higher than full cleans or snatches (Swinton 2011), and allowed athletes to develop power against higher loads than just plyometrics.

Here is a video of a high pull from the floor. The mid-thigh clean pull would simply start from the hang position instead of from the floor.

Here is an example of a hex bar (or Trap Bar) high pull:

The research certainly did not show that Olympic lifts were bad or unhelpful. Not even close. In fact, the mid-thigh clean had very high power outputs as well, showing that it is a very viable method of generating power. While the full clean from the floor had lower power outputs than other variations, it still generated A LOT of power and is a good alternative for certain athletes and coaches.

At the same time, the research has found that unloaded exercises develop a slightly different kind of power needed for athletes who don’t have to produce power against an external resistance, i.e. sports that require athletes to move other athletes.

British researcher Paul Comfort recently started showing that different power alternatives should be used for different parts of the power continuum (light/unloaded up to very heavy/loaded movements) and has suggested that using combinations of light, medium and heavy movements may create the most complete “power profile.” (Comfort 2017) He has also suggested that coaches remember the principle of specificity, and use loads that most closely resemble the requirements of the sport. For example, a track athlete may not have much of a need for high external loads, while a football lineman has a much higher need for these variations.

For the coach who considers Olympic lifting dangerous or isn’t skilled at the intricacies of teaching them, the weighted squat jump, mid-thigh clean pull, power shrug and hex bar pulls offer excellent alternatives to full O-lifts. These exercises are typically much easier to teach athletes because they do not require the catch phase of the lifts.

For Olympic lifting aficionados, it appears as though adding some bodyweight plyometrics and moderately resisted (about 50% of a clean 1RM) exercises may help round out their athlete’s power profile. These coaches may also want to use the mid-thigh clean pull or hex bar pulls for their heavy work because weights above the clean 1RM can be used, and they offer less risk if a heavy attempt is “missed.”

The bottom line is that we need to open our minds to everything that’s available and have a thorough understanding of how to develop athletes. Whether you choose to use Olympic lifts or not, you must understand the needs of each athlete and address them in the most appropriate way possible. After all, training isn’t about US, it’s about doing what’s right for the athlete’s you have the honor of working with.

 

Jim Kielbaso is the President of the IYCA and Director of the Total Performance Training Center in Wixom, MI.  He has authored multiple books, articles and training products and has spoken at events around the world.  He holds a BS in Exercise Science, an MS in Kinesiology and has gone through multiple certifications through the IYCA, NSCA, NASM and more.  Jim is a former college strength & conditioning coach and has trained thousands of athletes at every level of competition.  He runs a successful NFL Combine training program in Michigan and has been hired as a consultant for major sports programs like the University of Michigan Football Program and the University of Kentucky Basketball Program.

 

The IYCA High School Strength & Conditioning Specialist is the only certification created specifically for coaches training high school athletes.  The course includes several hours of video instruction and two textbooks with contributions from some of the top strength and conditioning coaches in America.  Click on the image below to learn more about how to become a certified high school strength & conditioning coach.

Narrow Your Niche, Increase Your Impact – Brett Klika

We’ve all heard the old adage “A Jack of all trades is a master of none”.

This holds true to nearly every aspect of life, including the role many of us have assumed as a youth strength and conditioning coach.

In becoming a youth coach, we’ve definitely narrowed down our focus of mastery. However, within “youth” there are now more varied needs than Youth Fitness Coachever. Sport coaches, classroom teachers, and parents are now looking for specific solutions to the specific needs of niche populations within youth.

These niche populations may not be served effectively under the “come all” strength and conditioning program model many offer within their facilities and institutions.  Strength and conditioning coaches willing to be in tune with, and master, solutions to specific needs within their community have an opportunity to change the message of their program from “We can help A child” to “We can help YOUR child”.

As you can see, the latter is a much stronger message and mission if I’m a parent or organization selecting a program for my young athlete(s).  This makes your program not merely “A” program available. It makes it “THE” program available for a specific demographic. The result is an ever-growing, long-term, successful program with a uniquely positive impact on the community.

Consider the 4 youth niches below that may represent underserved needs within your community.

5-8 Year Old Athletes

Despite the ages of 6-12 representing some of the most critical years for motor development, few quality development programs are available for the youngest cohort in this age range. There was a time that physical education took care of these kids, but statistics suggest that is no longer the case.

Many professionals shy away from working with young children due to inexperience, lack of patience with short attention spans, and children’s largely unfocused, endless energy. With proper training, resources, and experience however, this energy can fuel a fun and engaging program for this demographic of kids who need it the most.

While many shy away, tremendous opportunities exist for those who are knowledgeable, passionate, and focused on helping grade school age children.

Female Athletes

Fortunately, sports are not the “boys club” they once were. Sports participation amongst young women and girls is at an all-time high.  Despite this increase, young women’s access to quality strength and conditioning programs is often limited compared to their young male counterparts. Due to an inaccurate cultural convention, misinformed coaches, and a variety of other factors, strength training has not traditionally been embraced as part of young female athlete culture.

Coaches that create exclusive opportunities to educate young female athletes and their communities about the importance of strength training for performance and injury prevention have the opportunity to stand out in a crowded market.

Athletes with Special Needs

A growing number of youngsters are being diagnosed as “special needs” due to behavioral or developmental pathology. These kids benefit greatly from exercise programs, however, few coaches have experience or expertise with this demographic.

A variety of courses, certifications, and other educational opportunities are becoming available for those looking to help these kids.  Programs that specialize in working with athletes with autism, ADHD, and other special needs offer a much-needed service to an underserved population.

Homeschooled Children

Nearly 2 million children are homeschooled in the United States. These kids have standard academic requirements that include physical education. They also participate in sports. Parents of homeschooled children often struggle when it comes to creating a physical education curriculum for one child.

Additionally, homeschool parents are challenged with finding opportunities for their kids to socialize with other kids during school hours.

Coaches and facilities that are in tune with the needs of homeschooled kids and parents have an opportunity to offer a needed service with little to no market competition. Additionally, these kids are not bound by the hours of the typical academic day. Groups and classes can be run during the typically “slow” hours in the morning or early afternoon.  

Serving these special niches requires more than merely adding a class to your schedule. Parents, coaches and communities value experts. An expert will prompt a parent to overcome the barriers of money, transportation, and time to bring their child to a program.

If you are looking to grow your programs by becoming an expert that serves a niche, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What are the specific aspirations/fears of the parents/athletes associated with this niche?
  2. What education/experience is necessary to serve this niche?
  3. Why are you passionate and committed to serving this specific population?
  4. What are the needs outside of exercise that could be addressed with these kids/parents?
  5. What key organizations could you create a relationship with that could act as a referral or endorsement for your program?
  6. Who are others that have created programs for this specific demographic?

The answers to these questions can help you and your business increase your success and positive impact within your community.

 

Brett Klika is a youth performance expert and a regular contributor to the IYCA who is passionate about coaching young athletes.  He is the creator of the SPIDERfit Kids youth training program and has run successful youth fitness programs all over the country.  Brett is an international speaker whose passion for youth fitness has helped thousands of people learn how to create exceptional training experiences for young athletes.

 

If you want to be better at coaching young athletes, the IYCA Youth Fitness Specialist certification is the industry gold-standard for youth fitness and sports performance.  Click on the image below to learn more about the YFS1 certification program.

Empathy in Coaching – Jim Kielbaso

Many coaches pride themselves on having high expectations and holding athletes to them. Setting standards and holding athletes accountable is a great way to raise their levels of performance and maturity. But, as the concept of emotional intelligence (EQ) grows in the coaching world, we’re finding it more and more important to understand what’s underneath the way athletes act rather than always taking the “my way or the highway” approach.  While a balanced approach is optimal for most situations, it’s important to understand how EQ can positively contribute to many coaching situations.  

In Daniel Goleman’s book Working With Emotional Intelligence, he determined that there are five fundamental features of EQ, each with their own benefits:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-regulation
  3. Empathy
  4. Motivation
  5. Social skills

While all of these are important, empathy may be the most difficult for coaches to utilize. To be empathetic means you are able to identify and understand others’ emotions i.e. imagining yourself in someone else’s position.  It does not mean you have to take on their feelings or change your expectations.  

Coaches often have a difficult time with this because we are focused on processes, strategies, solutions, and outcomes. Anything that might get in the way of progress is to be demolished so the goal can be accomplished. Having empathy seems like it’s going to slow everything down which often makes coaches feel like they’re lowering their standards. That’s a misapplication of empathy, and usually suggests a lack of understanding.

Let’s take a look at the benefits Goleman laid out and some ways he suggests for developing empathy (these have been altered slightly for coaches):

Benefits of empathy:

  • Provides you with an understanding of how an individual feels and why they behave in a certain way. As a result, your compassion and your ability to help someone increases because you respond genuinely to concerns.
  • Especially helpful when delivering constructive feedback.
  • Being empathetic shows your team that you care. For example, if a coach reacts angrily after finding out that an athlete has been arriving late because a family member is unwell, the team is likely to react negatively towards the coach. It would be more favorable for the coach to be understanding and agree on a plan of action with the athlete.
  • Athletes will respect you more and subsequently, performance, unity, and cohesiveness will improve.

How to develop empathy:

  • Imagine yourself in someone else’s position. Even if you have not experienced a similar situation, remember a situation where you have felt the same emotion an athlete is experiencing.
  • Practice listening without interrupting. This can be very difficult when you are angry, so self-control must be practiced.
  • Observe the athlete and try to gauge how they’re feeling.
  • Never ignore an athlete’s emotions, for example, if an athlete looks upset don’t disregard this – address it.
  • Try to understand first, rather than form a judgment immediately. For example, you may initially feel annoyed by an athlete who seems cold or disinterested. However, after discovering they suffer from social anxiety you may feel more sympathetic, which can help you communicate more effectively with that person.
  • To communicate your empathy, keep your body language open and regulate your voice to show your sincerity. This does not mean you take on the feelings; you simply understand them.

Because empathy seems “soft” to many coaches, it can feel like you’re giving up a lot of control and lowering expectations. Coaches often (incorrectly) assume that they have to take on the burden of an athlete’s emotions. This is not the case at all.

Understanding feelings and taking them on are two very different things. Coaches should strive to understand, but you rarely want to take on the emotions of others. That’s not only unhealthy, it will cloud judgement and your ability to lead and make decisions.

While you’re understanding one athlete, you also have to be aware that the rest of the group still needs you, so you have to learn how to address emotions without disrupting everything else around you. Sometimes you’ll need to wait until there is a natural break in activity. Other times, you can pull an athlete aside while the others are completing a task that doesn’t require as much direct supervision.

Coaches also make the incorrect assumption that they have to fix everyone’s problems if they listen to them. Again, this is not the case. Understanding emotions does not mean you are responsible for fixing whatever created them. This can be difficult because coaches love to solve problems, but that is not usually recommended.  In fact, it is often appropriate to explain to an athlete that you are not there to “solve” their problem.  Instead, you may be able to adjust your approach based on the knowledge you have about what they are dealing with.  

Having empathy may be most important with younger athletes who have yet to experience true “ignition.”  Ignition is essentially a potent experience that causes a person to fall in love with their passion.  For athletes, that can be experiencing success, having fun, or meeting someone impactful.  Daniel Coyle wrote about ignition in his book The Talent Code, and wrote an excellent essay called Rules of Ignition that is a highly recommended quick-read if you’re not familiar with the concept.  

Once a child falls in love with a sport, he/she will go to great lengths to participate and improve their skills.  This is what drove Wayne Gretzky to practice shooting hour after hour or Magic Johnson to dribble and play from sun-up to sun-down.  Unfortunately, most young athletes never experience this.  Without a passion for a sport, it makes it very difficult for kids to fully enjoy practicing and makes it nearly impossible for them to spend the energy necessary to achieve great success.  

When we recognize that an athlete has not experienced this kind of ignition, we may be able to take a slightly different approach than we would if the athlete was 100% bought-in.  Because we know how important passion is to athletic success, we may even try to be the catalyst that creates that passion.  Simply knowing that an 11 year old athlete had a bad experience with a sport may be enough for us to realize how important it is to create an exceptional experience in order to get the “train back on the tracks.”  A properly timed word of encouragement, an honest compliment, or a little extra time spent 

On the other hand, knowing that a 15 year old athlete is fully engaged and motivated may prompt us to turn up the intensity and raise the demands in order to accelerate progress. 

Other times, a good coach can use EQ to actually motivate an athlete.  By putting yourself in the athlete’s shoes, you’ll have a better understanding of what might motivate them.  You’ll know what to say, how to say it, and when to say it.  Rather than using generic motivational statements, you’ll be able to personalize the message because you’ll see each athlete as more than a science experiment. 

Seeing the whole person through EQ allows a coach to use a much wider range of coaching, teaching, and motivational tools.  It will help strengthen relationships and open up more opportunities to make a positive impact.  Taking the time to develop empathy and EQ can pay off in ways that other coaches will never experience, and should be seen as being just as important as technical skills.  Practice the tips above, and over time, you’ll notice positive changes in both yourself and your athletes.  

6 Reasons Your Athletes Shouldn’t Deadlift – Phil Hueston

Deadlifts are the worst. Let’s face it, everyone hates them. They’re not fun. They’re not cool. They’re hard. Doing them is just a grind.

I think your athletes should skip the deadlifts. Find something better, easier and cooler to do in their place like some fancy, new piece of equipment or the sexy new exercise variation you just saw on Instagram.

Just don’t include the deadlift in your athlete’s training plans. Here’s the reasons why your athletes shouldn’t deadlift.

1. Everyone loves an anterior pelvic tilt – The glute and hamstring activation stimulated by the deadlift helps correct anterior pelvic tilt. But why would we want that? The resulting lumbar lordosis from an anterior pelvic tilt places your athlete at greater risk of low back strain or injury. Of course, anterior pelvic tilt also results in tight hip flexors and dominant quads. Those will help prevent the glutes from doing their job and allow your athlete to enjoy some knee pain and maybe even a serious knee injury.

2. Why prevent injuries? – While we’re on the subject of injuries, I think we can all agree that athletes love to spend time on the trainer’s table or the sidelines. And what athlete doesn’t love doctor visits, MRI’s, surgery and long stints in rehab?

Deadlifts strengthen the core. We know that. But they also assist in strengthening anti-rotation by activating the obligues, deep abdominal stabilizers and quadratus lumborum. Add to that the improved strength of the spinal erectors and multifidi that comes from the increased requirement for spinal stacking support and the deadlift has real potential to prevent back injuries.

Deadlifts improve glute strength, leading directly to improved knee stability and fewer injuries in that joint. But they also reduce the likelihood of injuries in the shoulder girdle as a result of the high degree of shoulder traction needed to manage the weight. The increased grip strength and activation of the thoracic spine also aids in the improvement of shoulder health and injury prevention. Why would we want any of this?

3. Who needs a foundation for other lifts and movements? – Skip the deadlift and move directly to snatches and power cleans. No hinge improvement necessary. The athlete will figure it out on their own eventually.

Conversely, if you teach proper hinge technique and improve pull strength from the floor, when your athlete does move to Olympic lifts, he or she will make everyone else feel bad about their anemic training weights and spastic looking lift technique. And we don’t want to make anyone feel bad, now do we? Trigger alert!

4. We don’t need a true measure of total body strength – We can just guesstimate how strong your athletes are overall. After all, nothing shows off total body strength like a single leg dumbbell curl, right?

5. We don’t want athletic skills to improve too rapidly – After all, rapid gains in vertical leap, broad jumps, acceleration or deceleration/direction change just make it look like your athlete is either showing off or cheating.

While we’re on the subject, I think your athletes can live without large-scale improvements in sports skills like throwing, shooting, tackling and checking, too.

6. We don’t need any one exercise to own the title “best and most versatile exercise” – I mean seriously, do your athletes really need one exercise that trains just about every joint and every major muscle group?

Deadlifts are highly effective at improving posterior chain strength and activation. Not only would this level up your athlete’s deceleration and acceleration skills, it would help them rehab and correct a whole collection of imbalances, kinetic chain dysfunctions and deficiencies.

Since they have lower compressive stress on the knees than squats and no negative impact on other joints when done correctly, you’d be much better off choosing the cooler looking exercises instead. After all, your athletes need to post all their training on “the ‘gram,” don’t they?

Your athletes certainly don’t need an exercise that can be adapted to virtually any body type and adjusted in intensity and volume to meet a variety of training goals.

So it should be clear by now that your athletes really don’t need to deadlift. Besides, we’ve all heard that deadlifts are dangerous, yada, yada.

You may also have noticed that I’ve been arguing that your athletes don’t need to and shouldn’t deadlift. Because despite my arguments about your athletes and deadlifts, my athletes will continue to do them. They’ll also continue to outperform athletes who don’t, as well as stay healthier than those who don’t.

If you heed my really terrible advice in this piece, my athletes will have less to worry about if they ever meet your athletes in competition. Let’s hope, for the sake of your athletes, that you ignore my advice and let your athletes deadlift. Frequently.

Keep the faith and keep after it!

Bio: Coach Phil Hueston is not just another pretty trainer. With over 18 years of in-the-trenches experience with athletes ages 6 to 60, he brings a unique skill-set to the improvement of his athletes. The author of the Amazon best-seller “Alchemy; Where the Art and Science Collide in Youth Fitness,” his client list includes professional athletes, collegiate athletes as well as thousands of youth athletes. Phil has been the co-owner of All-Star Sports Academy in Toms River, NJ, one of the largest and most successful youth and family fitness centers in New Jersey since 2008. He was named “Coach of the Year” by the IYCA for 2012-2013.  A contributor to IYCA.org and coach to other coaches, Phil provides unique insights and ideas that can help other coaches accelerate their clients’ progress and performance. Phil is married to the woman responsible for his entry into the fitness profession, MaryJo. Between them they have 2 grown children, Nate and Andrew, and 99 problems.  Phil’s personal website is coachphilhueston.com, and he can be contacted at phil.hueston@hotmail.com

 

The IYCA High School Strength & Conditioning Specialist is the only certification created specifically for coaches training high school athletes.  The course includes several hours of video instruction and two textbooks with contributions from some of the top strength and conditioning coaches in America.  Click on the image below to learn more about how to become a certified high school strength & conditioning coach.