Archive for “Athlete Development” Tag

Athlete Development Model – Jim Kielbaso

Athlete Development ModelLong term athlete development has been discussed for years, but the concept is still incredibly confusing for practitioners.  Part of the reason for this confusion is that the models are missing details and coordination of efforts between coaches, trainers and parents.

At the 2018 IYCA Summit, Jim Kielbaso offered a new way of thinking about athlete development and offered a solution for how we move forward.  He spoke about where we’ve been, what has been done and outlined a model that will add to the already existing LTAD models.

While most of the theoretical models have great thoughts and rationale behind them, we still find that professionals hide inside their own “silos” without coordinating their efforts with the other important parties involved.  If a S & C Coach can’t coordinate with the sport coach, the athlete is ultimately going to suffer and results will not be optimal.

Youth sports has become a business that is often more about the adults involved than the kids.  Because of this, early specialization gets shoved down everyone’s throats, and complete athlete development is ignored.  Numerous articles, books and videos have been produced describing the problems associated with the current sports industry.  But, instead of making changes, we seem to be stuck in a rut of complaining.

We also know that most athletes don’t start a formal performance training program until they have already shown some athletic promise or strong interest in improving.  Instead of waiting, what can we do as a profession to help enhance the opportunities and experiences of all young athletes?

We may not love the systems that are in place, but we need to be pro-active and work towards changing youth sports systems from the inside instead of complaining that things “aren’t the way they should be.”

The video above is meant to get coaches to think about how we can begin working together to create exceptional experiences for athletes and help them reach their true potential.  Most coaches have great intentions but get stuck in their own silo because there is so much to be done in their area of expertise.  It’s time to make a change.  Watch the video and leave your comments below on how we can make this happen.

 

The old “windows of opportunity” Long Term Athlete Development model doesn’t explain what to actually do at each stage of development.  Learn the truth about long term athlete development and how to approach athletes at every level in the IYCA’s LTAD Roadmap.  This is the most comprehensive approach to long term athlete development available.  Click on the image below to learn more.

Also visit http://LongTermAthleteDevelopment.com for more information on Long Term Athlete Development.

Rethinking Long Term Athlete Development – Jim Kielbaso

The concept of long term athlete development (LTAD) has been around for several years, but it has more recently become a hot topic amongst youth sports and training organizations.  It seems that everyone now needs a formula for how to develop great athletes so they can represent their countries and succeed as professionals.  Several academicians have taken the lead on reviewing the relevant literature and have written articles and books about the topic.  They have used this literature to create several different models for developing athletes.  While these models were a great start, their oversimplification of athlete development seems to be steering coaches, trainers and parents in the wrong direction.    

To begin, the entire premise of LTAD theory needs to be examined.  When it originated in the late 1990’s, academician Istvan Balyi identified some very important issues in many countries and sporting organizations, so he created a 3-stage model that emphasized long term athlete development over winning competitions.  This premise challenged the approach of many coaches and got a lot of people to open their eyes to the problems in youth sports.   

Balyi’s original model included three phases – Training to Train, Training to Compete and Training to Win.  A few years later, he realized that a fourth stage – FUNdamentals – should be added to address the fundamental motor skills that should be developed early in a child’s life.  

Sporting organizations latched on to this theory and quickly started talking about it as a formula that would create great athletes.  As these theories picked up steam, other academicians decided to jump on the train and create their own models.  They included talent identification, more in-depth discussion on early childhood, and there was a strong emphasis on taking advantage of hypothetical “windows” of opportunity where different training methods would supposedly have a greater impact. The models told coaches when to emphasize strength training, speed training, endurance training and when to emphasize competition vs. training.  

Eventually, some groups realized that an LTAD approach may also give children great sporting experiences that would lead to lifelong enjoyment of physical activity.  Because of the childhood obesity and physical illiteracy epidemics, this idea seemed very attractive.  

A few organizations came out with their own versions of LTAD that included 7-9 stages of development, and they felt good about adopting this approach because they believed it was the “right thing to do for kids,” even though it was nothing more than words on paper for most groups.  These organizations would hire an expert to put together a model, but they didn’t seem to put much effort into the actual implementation.  Education and coordination of efforts were left out of the models.

Eventually, the stages looked like this:

  • Stage 1 – Active Start (0-6 years old)
  • Stage 2 – FUNdamentals (girls 6-8, boys 6-9)
  • Stage 3 – Learn to Train (girls 8-11, boys 9-12)
  • Stage 4 – Train to Train (girls 11-15, boys 12-16) 
  • Stage 5 – Train to Compete (girls 15-21, boys 16-23)
  • Stage 6 – Train to Win (girls 18+, boys 19+)
  • Stage 7 – Active for Life (any age)

More in-depth models described when each training method would elicit the best results.  USA Hockey did a much better job with their American Developmental Model that looked like this:

Still, a lot was left out, especially any details on implementation.  For the most part, LTAD has remained theoretical, and implementation has largely been missing.  

To be clear, the models aren’t necessarily “wrong” as much as they are incomplete and misleading.  Most of them give the reader the impression that they have been thoroughly tested and proven, and that they contain a formula for success.  This may not have been their original intent, but that’s how it has been taking by the sporting world.

The strength & conditioning/sports performance profession has taken notice more than just about any group because a lot of these models talk about “training” and “movement.”  The term “athlete development” resonates with these professionals, so this is where many of the thoughts have become popularized.  

These professionals have tried to implement these already-flawed, theoretical models by attempting to use different training methods at certain times to take advantage of the “windows of opportunity” outlined by academicians without coordinating their efforts with other important players in this process.  This is one of the biggest mistakes made today, and the lack of integration with other groups has stymied progress and severely limited outcomes.  

While the theory of long term athlete development is well-intentioned, the models have yet to produce exceptional athletes in real life.  In fact, even the researchers admit that there was no real data to support any of the models.  In a great review of some of the relevant literature, Guy Razi and Kieran Foy showed that the data does not support these models.  It was all a great idea, but these models were nothing more than theoretical. To this day, no athlete has gone through the entire model the way it was originally laid out, and achieved a high level of success.

The models are also not very realistic in many situations.  For example, the models include a lot of talk about peak height velocity (PHV) as the optimal time for the adaptation of certain traits.  What is not addressed is how coaches are supposed to know when an athlete is experiencing PHV.  In most sporting situations, kids’ height is not constantly monitored by coaches, and most of the training decisions described in the literature are related more to strength & conditioning than sports skills.  Sports coaches might have contact with kids year-round, but most kids are not engaged in year-round strength & conditioning at an early age (this can be because of money, availability, beliefs, time restrictions, etc.).  So, how would the strength coach know when PHV is occurring?  It may not even matter since most performance coaches only see young athletes in limited spurts.  Typically, parents come to a performance coach after PHV when they recognize altered movement.  

If every child was in a “sporting academy” situation from a young age where they were constantly coached, trained and monitored, this may be possible, but it’s not realistic in most cases.  An argument could be made that we should move toward these type of year-round academies so that everything can be monitored, but that’s beyond the scope of this article and it carries as many negatives as positives.  

The most popular LTAD models propose “windows of opportunity” in which certain athletic traits may respond better to specific kinds of training.  For example, it has been theorized that speed is best trained just before PHV, and that strength is best trained directly after PHV.  These models lead many coaches to believe that worthwhile adaptation only occurs during these periods, and that is absolutely not true.  Young athletes are always open to adaptation and can always enjoy the benefits of proper training no matter where they are in their maturation.  

Every physical attribute can be trained at any time.  Most practitioners just need to understand how to best address each attribute during maturation to achieve the best long-term and sustainable outcomes.  

So, “missing” a window of opportunity does not mean progress in certain traits cannot be made.  On the contrary, long term athlete development is much more individualized than these contrived models suggest.  

Even more concerning is the fact that long-term implementation has not been thoroughly studied, which is ironic given the name of the theory and the fact that academicians created it.  It is typically written/spoken about by people who do not coach athletes, have not successfully developed great athletes, and many don’t even have children of their own in which they’ve tested their theories or developed athletes into champions.  

There are far too many factors involved in creating a great athlete to boil the process down to a few simple steps, and several key ingredients have been missing from the recipe.  Developing athletes is highly individualized, and included many factors beyond those that are described in the current literature.  These missing factors include:

  • The child’s interest/passion for sport
  • The psychological approach used with each athlete
  • Parental support and their role in the process
  • Environmental/societal influences
  • Access to the coaching/training at the right time
  • Genetic factors & talent identification
  • Coordination of development with all parties (parents, coaches, trainers, etc.)
  • Having the “right coach at the right time” or at least the right approach at the right time

Some of these factors cannot be easily controlled by coaches, rendering them “too messy” for academics to even attempt to address.  Yet, these factors will determine the long-term outcome to a much greater extent than any theoretical model of when to train each physical component.  

Kids are not robots, and developing athletes is not a science experiment.  long term athlete development

We don’t need models – we need coaches….great coaches.

If we’re truly interested in developing great athletes and/or adults who enjoy physical activity, we cannot do it alone as strength & conditioning professionals.  We must look at the entire picture, address physical, psychological/emotional and social aspects and include everyone involved in the development of the athlete – coaches, trainers and parents.

Much has already been addressed regarding the physical training of young athletes.  The materials available through the IYCA and others are exceptional and give in-depth information on strength development, speed & agility training, flexibility/mobility, conditioning and even skill development.  Rather than summarizing these methods, let’s explore the missing factors listed above and how each may be addressed.

Before we do that, two things need to be made clear:

  1. The term “youth” refers to anyone 18 and under.  When people are first introduced to the International Youth Conditioning Association, they often assume we are focused on very young children.  The process of athlete development begins at a very young age and continues until at least 18 years old, so it’s important for us to understand how to properly address each stage of maturation. Of course, athletes continue to develop past 18, but the process changes dramatically at that time.  
  2. Great training and coaching are absolutely essential to the process of athletic development.  This should be obvious, but it needs to be stated since it will not be addressed here. Training and coaching are addressed in many other IYCA materials and this is well beyond the scope of this article.  Athletes need physical development, so speed, strength, sports skills, etc. are critically important.  These topics are what most LTAD models focus on exclusively, and they should not be ignored.  

Now, let’s examine the aspects of long term athletic development that are NOT included in most models, but must be understood if we are truly interested in overall development:

Passion

Enjoyment of sport is one of the most important underlying factors in long-term athletic success.  If a young athlete does not find joy in a sport, the likelihood of him/her giving the long-term effort to excel is very small.  He/she may go through the motions and experience some level of success, but it is very difficult for a young person to stay motivated to excel in a sport if passion is not part of the equation.  

Without passion, the entire LTAD model comes to a grinding halt, so this cannot be ignored.

At some point, a child has to be willing to pursue a dream for themselves, not simply because he/she is talented or others want the success.  In most cases, there needs to be a burning desire within a person if high levels of success are going to be achieved.  Even more importantly, that passion needs to be fueled in order to sustain it long enough to achieve any real success.  Playing for the wrong coach, not getting enough playing time, having poor teammates, lack of parental support and year-round play are some the reasons the flame burns out for many athletes. If the sport is no longer fun for a young athlete, it’s almost impossible to expect continued progress.  

In his book The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle refers to a concept he calls “Ignition.”  Essentially, this is what creates a deep passion for sport in an athlete.  It might be exposure to a particular person, participation in an event, watching a sport, family involvement or something else.  It will be different for every person, which is why this isn’t a formula.  But, that ignition needs to exist if long-term success is the goal.

Parents, family and friends typically play the largest role in establishing a love for sport.  Exposure to sports (live or on TV) and attitudes toward sports often start in early childhood.  They can establish emotional feelings before they ever participate in a sport.  There’s no right way for parents to approach sports with their children, but positive exposure to a variety of sports seems to be optimal.  

As stated earlier, children are not robots, so there is no single formula for producing passion about a particular sport.   Intense parental feelings about sports have the potential to influence children in both positive and negative ways.  Some parents actually push kids away from sport because they are so passionate about it, while others create a healthy feeling of excitement.

Coaches and trainers often don’t even meet an athlete until some amount of exposure to a sport has been made, so feelings have often been established to some degree before a child’s first practice.  Youth coaches, however, play an enormous role in whether or not that passion continues.  

A child’s early exposure to sports and coaching often influences their desire to continue participating.  Early coaching needs to be both positive and effective.  Coaches need to balance making practices/games fun and improving athletically so the child develops feelings of self-efficacy associated with the sport.  Few things are more motivating to children that the feeling of proficiency – when a child thinks he/she is good at a sport, they enjoy it more.  

This can be a very delicate balancing act, and factors like stature, enjoyment and fundamental movement skills (FMS) play large roles in developing feelings of proficiency.  Typically, athletes who have good FMS’s excel early on, and have greater early enjoyment of sports.  Parents can greatly assist this process by working on FMS early in a child’s life and providing positive exposure to sport.  

Coaches can recognize the importance of establishing passion by making sports enjoyable and productive.  Possibly the most important goal of a youth sports coach should be to make each season so positive that the kids want to play another season.  This keeps them in the “system” and allows them to progress.  

Coaching

Having great coaches should be the first thing mentioned in any long term athlete development model.  Unfortunately, it is not. Great coaches trump theoretical models every time and should be discussed before anything else in this process.  

The approach used with each child may have more to do with long-term athletic success than any physical training method.  Yes, the right training methods will elicit positive physiological responses, but the wrong coaching approach can make the athlete lose interest, confidence, and enjoyment of the sport.  

Getting this wrong will render LTAD models useless, so having the right coach at the right time is essential to the process of athlete development.  The right coach will be different at each stage of maturation and for each athlete, so there is no single solution.

The right approach, however, has the potential to increase self-efficacy and passion, and can establish positive traits such as work ethic, perseverance, coachability, and a healthy outlook toward sports.  These positive traits and feelings may be the keys to sticking with a sport through tough training and the ups & downs associated with sports later in their development.  

Great coaching should be used by both sport coaches and strength & conditioning professionals (SCP) alike.  A SCP has the ability to balance out a poor coach and vice versa. Optimally, all coaches will be positive influences and contribute to the success of an athlete by teaching skills and making the process enjoyable enough to keep the passion burning.  

The importance of having the “right coach at the right time” cannot be overstated in the development of an athlete.  The right coach at 8 years old probably won’t be the right coach at 18, and the right coach for one athlete may not be the right coach for all athletes.  

Typically, young athletes and parents don’t even know which coach is the right fit or if that person is even available.  More often, we realize the negative experience when it’s too late and the damage has been done.  For example, a young soccer player can be on a terrific path of development from age 8 to 14 until a poor coach absolutely ruins soccer for her.  This can occur when athletes change clubs, move to a different age group, or have a coach who is simply a bad fit. This has the potential to make athletes lose passion/interest, decrease confidence or quit the sport altogether.  Anyone who has been involved in sports for any length of time has seen this over and over again.

Coaches who value winning above development too early in an athlete’s career can stifle the developmental process and get athletes to focus on things that limit long-term success.  These coaches often play favorites with young athletes and push certain athletes to excel (often their own child) while relegating others to less-important roles on the team.  While this may work for some athletes, it can also have a negative effect on overall development.  The “favorite” child may have false confidence in their early success and he/she may not learn how to work hard for that success.  Other children may feel decreased confidence and end up quitting because the sport just isn’t fun anymore.  

Unfortunately, high-quality coaches often feel compelled to work with older, more developed athletes because that’s what society deems as “better.”  To be sure, some coaches are simply better-suited to work with older athletes, but a great youth coach has the potential to be one of the most influential figures in a child’s life.  A year, early in life, with a bad coach could have easily derailed the careers of great athletes like Wayne Gretzky, Magic Johnson or Lionel Messi.  

If we’re truly looking to develop great athletes through a long-term process, we must encourage great coaches to spend time with young athletes.  This means that quality coaches may need to volunteer their time to work with young athletes, knowing that the payoff may not occur for many years.  

It also means that SCP’s need to be aware of how each child is being coached and approach them with what they need.  A child who has a negative sport coach may need a more positive approach from the SCP. Conversely, a talented child who has been coddled his whole life may need a hard-nosed influence to push him to be great.  

Social/Environmental

It is impossible to ignore the fact that a child’s surroundings influence his/her sporting experiences, but this is also ignored by every LTAD model available.  Spending time with friends is very important to most children.  Sometimes, kids may be better off playing a sport with their friends than on a travel team comprised of kids who don’t know each other.

Geographic location will also influence long term athlete development.  For example, a young child with a passion for lacrosse, but who lives in an

Members Of Female High School Soccer Team

area with limited coaching/competition, will probably not have the opportunity to reach his potential like he would if he grew up in Maryland.  A young gymnast may be identified as a potentially great diver in middle/high school.  If she doesn’t like the coach or the other athletes on the diving team, she may never even give it a chance, and a potential Olympian may never try a sport.  How many exceptional rugby players, fencers or team handball players have been born in America and were simply not exposed to these sports?

Access to quality experiences and identification of talent plays a huge role in the long-term success of an athlete.  

Strength coaches may not have much control over this, but it’s certainly something we need to consider if the goal is to develop great athletes and achieve long-term success.  Even if the goal is to create enjoyable experiences, the fact that opportunities are often limited should not be ignored.  

An experienced coach may be able to suggest sports and/or coaches to families when talent is identified.  While there is no guarantee that these suggestions will be acted upon, we should always think about what we can do rather than complain about a problem after the fact.  

Parental Support

Parents have more of an influence than anyone in the process of long-term athlete development, and both sports coaches and SCP’s may need to step in to help guide them when appropriate.  Some parents push too hard, while others expect too little. This is a delicate balancing act that must be considered as part of any long term plan.

Simply providing transportation to great coaching/training may be the difference needed to keep the flame burning in a young athlete.  Conversely, negative conversations after a game may poison the well and create negative emotions related to a sport.

Sports satisfaction surveys reveal that “having fun” is the main reason that most children like to participate in sports; however, the parents’ perception of why their children like to play sports is to “win.”

SCP’s and sport coaches can help create balance when support is not present.  By making practice/training an enjoyable, positive experience, a child’s “emotional bank account” can be built up.  Coaches may also need to have hard conversations with parents sometimes or at least talk to the athlete about how to communicate with the parent.  

Coordination

With all of these factors in mind, it appears as though long term athlete development is much more complex than just the training methods used at different points in the maturation process or how many games to play each year.  Of course, great training and sport coaching are necessary. That should be painfully obvious by now. But, besides great training and coaching, it also appears that many critical factors need to come together in a coordinated effort if we are truly looking for optimal development and great sporting experiences.

We have created “silos” that don’t have enough interaction with each other.  Parents, sports coaches, and strength & conditioning specialists each have their silos where they do their work independently.  This approach creates a lack of continuity for the young athlete. Sports coaches don’t know what kind of training is occurring outside of their practices.  SCP’s have no input on the number or duration of practices, and parents often don’t know what’s best for their child, so they simply drop them off with a coach and hope he/she is doing the right thing.  

Unfortunately, many adults seem to think that “their way” is the best approach, so there is little coordination between parents, coaches, and trainers.  

It also goes without saying that the entire youth sports system is broken and has become more about the adults than the kids.  Many books and articles have been written on this topic. Web sites have been created and Ted Talks were given. Even the US Olympic Committee is now supporting pediatric sports psychologists to help young athletes deal with the stresses of youth sports and to help parents and coaches deal with the challenges.

The problems are obvious, and rehashing them here seems pointless.  

We are not going to fix this problem by complaining about it or attempting to tear it down.  

In order to fix this broken system, a much more coordinated approach needs to be taken.  Someone must intervene and change the system from the inside.

Most parents simply don’t know how to handle this overall development, so guidance is needed.  Sport coaches usually have great knowledge of a sport, but lack knowledge in the area of complete athlete development.  Many strength coaches are aware of the needs, but don’t have enough influence over the process, aren’t involved until later in an athlete’s career or simply want to stand on the outside and complain about it.  

It is time for strength & conditioning professionals to step up and become coordinators of athletic development.  

The SCP is armed with the knowledge to coordinate long term athlete development.  It is up to this group to take a more active role in the education of parents and coaches.  We need highly-qualified professionals who can effectively communicate and coordinate the “silos” in an effort to create positive experiences.  

complete athlete development

The SCP can teach coaches and parents how each aspect of athleticism is linked, and plans can be put in place to create well-rounded athletes.  

This shift will require the SCP to get out of his/her comfort zone and think about athlete development as more than just lifting weights.  The SCP will need to work within the structure of youth sports by educating parents and coaches, and taking their own egos out of the equation.  We need to spend time teaching parents and coaches about fundamental motor skills, skill acquisition, strength and speed development, and all-around athletic development rather than specialization.  With overuse injuries ranging from 37% to 68% depending on the sport, we can help reverse this trend.

This education will not put us out of jobs.  On the contrary, educating coaches and parents about how to properly integrate strength & conditioning into a long term athlete development plan will secure our places in every organization.  More coaches and parents will understand the need for training which will increase the demand for our specialized services. More trust will be placed in our hands because we will be viewed as allies rather than adversaries.  

Without this coordination, the important people in this process will remain in their silos.  But, a collective approach will yield far better results for everyone involved.

As you can see, long term athlete development cannot be distilled down to contrived models.  The process is more complicated and many factors need to be addressed.

We have a great opportunity to influence a broken system from within, and make the changes that are needed for long term success.  We need great coaches and coordinators to help develop athletes. It’s time to stop complaining and take action.

Jim Kielbaso is the President of the IYCA and Director of the Total Performance Training Center in Wixom, MI.  He is a former college strength & conditioning coach and the author of Ultimate Speed & Agility as well as dozens of articles published in various publications.  Jim is also the father of three boys and has helped coach all of them in different sports, so long term athlete development is very important to him.

The old “windows of opportunity” Long Term Athlete Development model is a thing of the past.  Learn the truth about LTAD and how to approach athletes at every level in the IYCA’s LTAD Roadmap.  This is the most comprehensive approach to athlete development available.  Click on the image below to learn more.

Monitoring Part 2- Monitoring Tools That Every Coach Needs

In Part 1 of this blog I discussed why we monitor and considerations for monitoring your athletes.  Part 2 is going to deal with how we monitor at the high school level.

Monitoring can be an expensive venture, but there are also less expensive ways that can be implemented by virtually anyone at any level.

This blog will detail two practical and inexpensive ways in which, monitoring can be implemented to help you make decisions, allowing you to meet your athletes where they are at on any given day.

#1 Surveys

Having your athletes take quick daily surveys can help create awareness regarding their habits.  These surveys can be simple  and ask as few or as many questions as you would like. Keeping it simple is best. Here is an example of some of the questions to ask:

  • How many hours did you sleep?
  • Did you eat breakfast?
  • How many bottles of water did you drink?
  • How tough was practice yesterday on a 1-5 scale with 5 being the hardest?
  • How tough was your workout yesterday on a 1-5 scale with 5 being the hardest?
  • How do you feel overall 1-5 scale with 5 being the hardest?

You could make a survey through excel pretty quickly and log your information there to keep track of long term trends with your athletes. There are a couple of ways in which this can be beneficial for you.

  1. Make educated adjustments to your plan dependent upon feedback from the athlete
  2. Identify, where you feel they are at from a readiness standpoint that day.
  3. Look at long-term trends both individually and globally to make better decisions in programming for your athletes.

Individually, you may find that your athletes do not get enough sleep on Monday nights due to practice and academic obligations. Globally, you may find that the football team’s toughest day is on Tuesday every week. Knowing that your athletes average 6 hours of sleep on Monday nights and also have their toughest day on Tuesday allows you to adjust and make the best decision for your athletes that day.

It is very important that you use the data that you collect!

Pro Tip: Collecting data for the sake of collecting data is counter-productive. The adjustments you make off of the data collections is what is of real significance.

You can also up the ante and implement technology to take surveys. There are programs that exist where athletes can enter survey information into their phones, and it collects and organizes the data. This is a real time saver for busy trainers.

Here is an example of a survey:

Monitoring Part 2 Image- Fred Eaves

#2 Autoregulation (APRE-RPE Scales)

A second cost-effective way to monitor your athletes is by using an APRE/RPE scale in their strength training programming. APRE is defined by Dr. Bryan Mann as Autoregulatory Progressive Resistance Exercise.  APRE is a method that takes the daily readiness of the athlete into account through adjustment protocols that dictate working sets.  

There are two warm up sets, and then the third set is a set to failure at a prescribed rep max (RM). The results of the third set dictate the weight used on the fourth and final set.

As a coach, this can be used to help the athlete train to the highest level possible for that specific training session according to the physical state of the athlete.

We do not use strict percentages in our program but rather we use them as a guide.

Use this auto-regulation method to dictate our training loads for the day.

Pro Example:

I always use the example of the athlete who slept 3 hours the night before a hard training session that is under tremendous personal and academic stress when describing the need for this type of training. This athlete may have a prescription to hit 2 reps at 95% that day, but due to his physiological state that 95% is really more like 105% that day. This is why autoregulation can play such a key factor in the development of your athletes.

Dr. Mann from the University of Missouri has done a tremendous amount of work in this area, and has written an E-book specifically on APRE methods. 1

Mann’s Example:  

Here is what typical APRE protocol according would look like:

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SET 4 ADJUSTMENTS- REFER to this chart after set 3

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An RPE scale in conjunction with APRE methods is another effective manner in which to implement RPE. RPE  stand for rate of perceived exertion.  Athletes use this rating scale to rank the difficulty of a set in training.

Pro Example: Sample RPE rating scale

2016-02-29_1607

Pro Example:

An example would be an athlete does 155lbs. for 10 reps. When he finishes this set on set three, he rates whether or not he had one rep, two reps, or multiple reps left in the tank. Then picks an appropriate weight to finish his fourth set, using the adjustment chart below.

Here is an example of what this looks like:

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SET 4 ADJUSTMENTS- REFER To This Chart after set 3

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Look at long term trends when recording their numbers to make sure there is consistent progress.  Do not worry about disp as this is common due to the variable nature of the high school athlete.

Conclusion

Two simple and cost-effective measures in which to monitor and adjust for your athletes have been outlined.  Use these tools to tremendously impact your athletes in way that is both feasible and practical.

 


Are your athletes prepared to perform?

Download our free PDF and Overview video on the long term athletic development model.

WFIYCA


About the Author: Fred Eaves

Fred Eaves, Ed.S, M.Ed, CSCS, RSCC, IYCA, USAW, USATF, BIOFORCE Conditioning Coach Certified,  2015 NSCA H.S. Strength Coach of the Year, 2013 Samson Equipment & AFM H.S. Strength Coach of The Year
References

  1. Mann, B. (2011). THE APRE: The scientifically proven fastest way to get strong.

 

Monitoring Readiness in Athletes: Part 1

Athlete monitoring has risen to the forefront of the physical preparation industry over the last several years. Monitoring and readiness is part of a continued evolution in a field that is never static. Athlete monitoring is a way in which sport scientists and coaches are using information gathered from the athlete to gauge how physiologically, psychologically, and emotionally ready their athletes are for training and competition.

Sport scientists and coaches are relying more and more heavily on both objective and subjective measures to help adjust and determine training protocol for both athletes and clients. There has been a steep rise in the implementation of monitoring technology in physical preparation from the professional all the way to the high school level. GPS units, heart rate variability monitors, velocity based measurement, and multiple phone apps have become an integral part of physical preparation programs across the United States. We are going to take a look at monitoring in three distinct parts:

  1. Why we monitor and considerations for monitoring
  2. How we monitor at the high school level
  3. What difference can monitoring make in the development of your athletes?

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Part 1 of this blog is going to focus on why we monitor and considerations for monitoring. The “why” is the most
critical component of any method that you may choose to implement in your program. If there is not a clear understanding of why something is being implemented into your program, then I would advise you to immediately pause and determine what that “why” is for you.

I am going to be giving a high school perspective as to why we believe that monitoring has become extremely important with our athletes. The “why” for why we began to monitor became very clear for us before we began to implement any monitoring strategies at Battle Ground Academy.

The demands on today’s high school athlete are tremendous. Many of these athletes are participating in rigorous academic programs, highly competitive high school and club athletic programs, as well as consistent physical preparation training. It has been my observation that this athlete’s readiness levels are some of the most variable a coach will experience. These athletes rarely experience true off-seasons due to multiple sport participation, private skills training, and club participation. This leaves this athlete under a tremendous amount of stress on a routine basis, and it puts the physical preparation professional into the role of a stress manager.

My concern for my athletes ultimately came from growing to understand the intense physiological, psychological, and emotional demands that not only came from their sports, but the chronological and developmental age of the athlete. An athlete’s high school years can be some of the most stressful and challenging of their lives. Once again, they are experiencing rapid changes physically, mentally, and emotionally that can make the demands placed on them through athletics participation a daunting task. Expectations, realistic or unrealistic, have also become a major stressor for these athletes. Our society has set the bar high in term of expectations both academically and athletically during these formative years.

Through the data tracking of our athletes, we would see a great amount of variability in the strength levels on a regular basis. All of our long term trends would be very solid, but we could see that at times there could be as much as a 17% fluctuation either positive or negative in a core lift from one week to the next in what we measured from an athlete!

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This was not the standard fluctuation of course, but it was not unusual to see significant weekly fluctuations in strength levels. Looking at this data ignited the “light bulb” moment for me. Most of us who have been in the profession for a while most likely came out of programs with a strict percentage based mentality that did not really take the daily readiness of the athlete into account. We programmed volume and intensity into the program, and hopefully it lined up with where our athletes were that day.

Throughout this process the “why” for us became this: we want to meet our athletes as close to where they are as possible from a readiness standpoint on a daily basis. We want to do what is best for our athletes, and also what will help them achieve their goals in the safest and most efficient manner possible. I typically find that this is the goal of any coach who wants to implement a monitoring program with his or her athletes. The next step was to discern how we were going to implement a monitoring program that can be executed in an efficient manner. We first needed to consider what some challenges or limiting factors may be at the high school/youth level.

The most obvious challenges for most are going to be financial cost, time expenditure, and athlete compliance. All of these can be difficult because they are outside of your control for the most part. Finances are usually set at a certain point by a multitude of different factors dependent upon the situation. Time can be limited by access in an educational and private setting for different reasons as well. Finances and time are usually very scarce commodities in the world of physical preparation, and it must be taken into account to understand what type of monitoring program is right for your situation. Athlete compliance is the third area that is very important. Monitoring and measurement can be useless if the athlete’s in non-compliant. Non-compliance can be a lack of reporting or dishonest reporting by your athletes. There has to be athlete buy in to make all of this work!

Another factor to consider is making sure that data collection is in line with the amount of data that you can manage successfully. Collecting data for the sake of storing data in your computer is a futile exercise at best. There needs to be a plan in place to both collect and use the data.

It is important to implement any change in your program in stages, and implementing a monitoring program is no different.

It is important to implement any change in your program in stages.

It will be an adjustment for strength coaches, sport coaches, and athletes.

It is important not to place excessive demands on all involved in the early stages of building your monitoring program.

It is also important to help your athletes correctly understand the information you are asking for as well as explain the relevance of the information being collected.

It is vital that you repeat this process with everyone who is going to be involved in the process to ensure its success. This includes sport coaches, administrators, as well as parents.

Part two of this three-part series will look at methods from technology to programming that can be implemented at the high school level to monitor, evaluate, and adjust to help your athletes achieve optimal results.


 

Check out our Youth Athlete Assessment Certification to begin evaluating and monitoring your athletes.

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About the Author: Fred Eaves
Ed.S, M.Ed, CSCS, RSCC, IYCA, USAW, USATF, BIOFORCE Conditioning Coach Certified, 2015 NSCA H.S. Strength Coach of the Year, 2013 Samson Equipment & AFM H.S. Strength Coach of The Year

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What Coaches Must Be, Have, & Do to Make a Difference

There are many reasons to become a sport performance coach. Whether it is an undeniable passion for working with kids, a need to fulfill a void that you never had during your athletic years, an experience with a great coach, or even an experience with a bad coach….

…whatever the reason, the kids in your community need a strong, confident leader and an educated leader. It is the “educated leader” that I think we miss the most. It concerns me. Does it concern you?

Unfortunately, the uneducated performance coaches aren’t likely reading this blog, so my question is…what can we do to educate more coaches, more trainers, more parents and more athletes so that we can have a bigger impact, reduce injury and create strong, healthy athletes?

What Coaches Must Be

Education begins with an individual: an open mind to evolve, grow, forego past assumptions and adopt new ways (or improve upon old ways). Leading by example is a surefire way to educate those that you come in contact with.

Providing informational sessions, newsletters and a strong culture, based in the concepts that you can find in the IYCA Youth Fitness Specialist Credential, will give you the confidence and courage to program & teach all athletes.

What Coaches Must Have

It is really easy to get side-tracked and pulled into multiple directions. The best performance coaches know their vision, and it’s a compelling and powerful one!  When you have a compelling vision, others will believe in you and ultimately follow you, not the other way around.

The best performance coaches know their vision

When we look at the latest trends and fads, one thing stands true—they are all temporary. Build a vision that can last. Invest yourself in your vision. Live it. Love it. Learn to say NO to the paths that do not lead your in the direction of your vision.

What Coaches Must Do

Knowledge is power…right?  So why do we so often keep it to ourselves? One of the biggest challenges that you may face, is educating others who may/may not be open to it.

That high school coach who has been doing the same routine for 30 years, or that volunteer parent who played Division I athletics and trains the kids like mini-adults, they may need a voice of reason when it comes to coaching youth.  

Share your knowledge, but do it gently. In order to educate, sometimes it’s more important to listen. Find a common cause or purpose that we all can rally behind.

Here at IYCA, we love the saying, “A high tide raises all ships.” Take that approach to coaching. Do your part to raise the tide and make the industry better, and our athletes better.

With a common purpose at the forefront, work on gently integrating your techniques, thoughts and vision. It isn’t about trying to be “right” or the “best” coach for the job. Don’t try to compete, work along-side them, and watch the tables turn.

You will win some over…but then again, there will be some that you won’t. Let that go.

And…Never Quit Learning.

It is easy to throw your hands in the air and stop trying to educate others. Understand that not everyone will be receptive to the concepts that we teach here at the IYCA, and that you teach in your programs.

Remember, for every one coach/trainer that you get to impact, there are potentially hundreds of kids that they may coach in a lifetime, so keep educating yourself and others, the kids need you, we need you.


Want to get started on your path to Youth Fitness today?

Check out the IYCA Youth Fitness Specialist Credential and take action!

Learn More


Author: Julie Hatfield

Julie Hatfield (1)Julie is the Executive Director of the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA). She grew up as an athlete and played collegiate softball at Juniata College. She currently owns and operates her own youth fitness business pouring into young athletes. Her areas of expertise are youth sport performance, youth fitness business and softball training/instruction. Julie grew up on a dairy farm and can challenge the best of the best in a cow-milking contest. 😉

5 Easy-to-Remember Aspects of Program Design

The best youth coaches are always looking for ideas, tips and tricks to improve their program development. Maybe it’s because they are the “never settle for anything less than perfection” type personalities, or just because they are getting bored with their current programming.

Either way, we have found some great techniques for how to approach program development, that will help you improve your programming, mix up the mundane, and continue to get great results with your athletes.

Pro Tip: When developing a program or improving an existing program, think of the acronym P.L.A.C.E. to make sure that you are delivering an extraordinary experience.

Plan & Prepare

Every program needs a good amount of planning and preparing. It is no secret that the best performance coaches in the industry have a tried & true system when it comes to planning and prepping their sessions.

What is your plan? How do you prepare?

Quality planning and preparation will take your training to the next level


Learn how to prepare your athletes to perform and to design programs that fit within a model of long term athlete development.

Watch Video


Lifelong Lessons

You have an amazing opportunity to simulate and help athletes overcome many barriers and obstacles. Find ways to relate training back to life and make it a part of each program.

Overcoming barriers, fears, weakness and obstacles can easily be brought into a training program in a non-threatening, manageable way. It is a great moment for you to impact that athlete for life.

On a similar note, when you program from the long term athlete development model and principles, not only do you get to spend many years with a single athlete, you also get to implement a rock-solid foundation in movement that will change their life.

Never lose site of the bigger picture: lifelong health & happiness.

Application to sport

It is an unfortunate reality that many athletes are defined by the sports that they play. Educating them on the need to be well-rounded, foundationally sound and the concepts of long term athlete development is essential.

But the reality is still there. That is why “application to sport” is still an important part of your program. Don’t over-emphasize this topic, but give your sport-athletes as much as they they need when it comes to relating components of your program to their sport.

Confidence Building

Confidence building should be an integral part of each and every session when working with athletes. Providing a platform for confidence building will allow your athletes to achieve goals and perform at a higher level.

How will you help your athlete(s) mentally? Whether it’s in the confidence that you have in them, or the way that you play to their strengths and build their weaknesses.

There are many ways to instill confidence as a coach, so make it a priority.

Evaluate

There are two pieces to the evaluation part of your program:

  1. Evaluate the athletes
  2. Evaluated by the athletes

Every time you see an athlete, there should be a constant evaluation process that takes place. How are they feeling, how is school, how busy are they, how do they look when they move?  

Much of this evaluation should occur in your warm ups and before they start working.

Secondly, they evaluate you. At the end of each session, you can ask for feedback. How did they rank the session? How did they rank their performance? (I use a # system, 1-10)

Summary:

The good news is that the acronym PLACE is easy to remember, and will help you think through the basics of what to include in your program design.

What others tips, tricks and recommendations do you use? We’d love to hear!


Want to help make sure your athletes are prepared to perform for the long-run and not just for next week’s big game?

Download our FREE Prepared to Perform Video to hear youth coaching expert Wil Fleming break down critical aspects of the long-term athlete model.

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Author: Julie Hatfield

Julie Hatfield (1)Julie is the Executive Director of the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA). She grew up as an athlete and played collegiate softball at Juniata College. She currently owns and operates her own youth fitness business pouring into young athletes. Her areas of expertise are youth sport performance, youth fitness business and softball training/instruction. Julie grew up on a dairy farm and can challenge the best of the best in a cow-milking contest. 😉

Pushing Power in Athletics

Power in Athletics

When it comes to developing the ability to push someone around, a skill necessary for almost every team-based sport, there isn’t a better training tool than the push up.

I’m sure there are plenty of 5/3/1, Bigger Stronger Faster, or other weight room guys that will argue a big bench trumps someone who can crank out a bunch of push ups any day.

That’s when I refer to the great Earl Campbell and Herschel Walker, two incredibly successful and punishing running backs in the NFL, who reportedly were body weight training guys. They swore by push ups and body weight exercises and clearly had no problem pushing around the best in the world over and over.

Additionally, you have to look at the population of athletes in front of you. We have mostly late middle school or high school age kids who have a low training age and lack the ability to activate their entire body. The push up and its progressions give us an opportunity to teach that skill to our athletes.

More importantly, a girl that can crank out 10 full push ups and a boy that can knock out 25, in our experience, has a body well-prepared for sport and the contact typical of most team sports.

Finally, from a biomechanical standpoint, I look at the push up and see the direct correlation to pushing necessary for sport. The body stabilizes on the ground with four contact points, but the majority of the body MUST be active when pushing away from the ground. Otherwise, we might as well be doing the worm.

That pattern very closely resembles an athlete pushing someone on a field or court, with two legs on the ground and the entire body activated.

Conversely, when assessing the mechanics of a bench press, the back, glutes, and (sometimes) thighs are in contact with a stable surface. I don’t know of a situation in team sports where that much of the body comes in contact with a surface while pushing. The exception, of course, is being on the bottom of a pile of players after a tackle and pushing someone off you, which is not ideal for high performing athletes.

So let’s take a look at our progressions to get a young athlete crushing push ups on a regular basis!

Progressions:

Plank on elbows/hands

When doing a plank on the elbows or hands we are looking for rigidity of the entire body and will use various cues to teach each body part how to activate optimally:

  1. Active legs (straight as an arrow)
  2. Glutes (squeeze a quarter between the cheeks)
  3. Trunk (brace like someone is going to punch your gut)
  4. Shoulders (envision a towel between the elbows or hands and try to rip it apart)

The plank requires a lot of focus and should be difficult to hold for a long time. Therefore, we find it much more beneficial to teach athletes a plank by having them fire everything for brief periods (10-20 seconds) rather than hanging out in a plank for a minute with just enough activation to make it look good.


Mountain Climbers

Mountain Climbers, in our world, don’t differ greatly from a plank. The only difference here is that the athlete now must learn to stabilize in a dynamic setting.

By only moving one leg at a time, they get the chance to maintain full body bracing, like the plank, while actively driving the knee towards the trunk.  Here, the athlete must be on his or her hands. Thus we implement a new cue, “push the ground away.”

By using that cue, the athlete now aggressively pushes his or her body away from the ground, giving the leg more room to move and activate the scapular stabilizers that are generally very weak and assist in poor posture with young athletes.

We also ask athletes to “torque the ground” with the intent of turning the hands away from each other. The hands shouldn’t move, but when torquing occurs, the arms become more active and better prepared for a push up later on in the progressions.

Once an athlete shows quality movement with the mountain climber, we will have him or her start to move the leg with aggression while stopping it at 90 degrees to the body. The exercise then turns into an excellent front leg drive drill for acceleration training.


Assisted Push Ups

We use two main variations of the standard push up to help young athletes progress towards completing a push up that is repeatable and consistent through fatigue.

Our first and most common assisted push up is completed via the use of a resistance band attached to the athlete’s body and a point well above the athlete’s body (typically 7-9 feet high on a rig or hook).

There are some significant benefits to this variation. First, the movement is quite similar to an unassisted push up from the ground. Second, the athlete can torque the ground with his or her hands and arms like we cue during an actual push up.

Once an athlete has developed sufficient assisted pushup strength and can perform the movement without the band, there is almost no adjustment necessary for a body weight push up.

There are, of course, limitations to any assisted pattern.

First, the core is supported during the assisted pushup and for many of our athletes who are stuck in anterior tilt, core strength is the limiting factor and sometimes allows them to continue doing the worm instead of a push up once the band is removed.

Second, we often miss full range of motion (ROM) with our younger athletes, particularly boys. They want to crank out 20 push ups because, “that’s what I did when I tested for football!” However, the only way their chest would touch the ground with their “testing push ups” would be if they had a 60-inch chest. And I have yet to see a 16-year-old that looks like Lou Ferrigno.

**We started using bean bags (like the ones used for bean bag toss) to force full ROM. Our athletes need to touch their chest to two bean bags stacked on top of each other and then progress to one bag before we take the band away and have them train the full push up. **

The other variation we use is an elevated barbell on a rack.

Again, there are both positives and negatives to this assisted push up variation.

First, it is great for younger female athletes who truly lack upper body strength. They can see gradual improvements in strength since the holes on our rack are 1-inch apart. They can make small gains, sometimes within a singular training session, and certainly over a 6-week training program.

Second, because of the height, those athletes who lack upper body strength can start to make significant gains in chest, shoulder, and arm strength since they don’t have to struggle through the pattern and can truly focus on form, positioning, and muscle tension.

But this variation also leads to some potential issues of which coaches need to be aware.

First, due to the angle the athlete is at, the shoulders tend to elevate once the chest and arms have fatigued. So you either need to stop the set before that point or cue the athlete’s “shoulders away from their ears.”

Second, since the hands are on the bar, not on the ground, torquing is nearly impossible. I am not going to lie to you and say I haven’t seen it done, but generally those just learning a push up can’t start pulling apart a bar plus do all the other things they need to do correctly.

Remember, this isn’t our end all, be all. Instead, it is a stepping stone from a mountain climber to a full push up from the floor.


Push Ups

The push up is our end all, be all. I fully believe an athlete does not need to train bench press unless they are required to test for their sport. For the sports required to test the bench, like football, there is enough contact and pushing involved in practice and play that it justifies working the bench press into programming.

However, no matter how advanced our athlete is starting out, I want to PERSONALLY see them do ten perfect push ups before they put their face under a bar and start benching.  All too often we have athletes come in who bench and are stuck at a certain weight.

When they show me their push up, it’s evident they lack the full body activation necessary to do a push-up. Once we train the push up correctly, they go back to the bench and magically set a new personal best.

The things we coach in a quality push up stay consistent with everything taught in the previous movements, but we add additional cues to maximize pushing power.

  1. Create rigidity through the body (body is one long piece of solid oak)
  2. Torque the ground through the hands (rotate the hands away from one another)
  3. Pull the body to the floor (rip the ground apart to give the chest space)
  4. Push down as your body comes up (push the ground away)

Once an athlete shows the ability to accomplish this and get his or her chest to the ground for a reasonable amount of push ups, we may add resistance in the form of plates on the athletes back. We had some strong male athletes rep out ten push ups with 90+ pounds on their back, so if you don’t think you can overload the push up, you’re wrong!

By taking the proper steps in progressing a young athlete through the push up, you will create a powerful, stable athlete capable of pushing around anyone he or she chooses.

And when the athlete returns to his or her team and can crush all teammates in push ups, they walk a little taller. When we as coaches can create confidence like that, we win!

ADAPT and Conquer,
Coach Jared


About the Author: Jared Markiewicz

JarredJared is founder of Functional Integrated Training (F.I.T.). F.I.T. is a performance-based training facility located in Madison, WI. They specialize in training athletes of all levels: everyday adults, competitive adults and youth ages 5-20+.

The long-term vision for F.I.T. is recognition as the training facility for those desiring to compete at the collegiate level in the state of Wisconsin. Alongside that, to also develop a platform to educate those in our industry looking to make strides towards improving the future for our young athletes.

Find out more about Jared’s gym by visiting F.I.T.

Career Highlights

  • 2014 Fitness Entrepreneur of the Year – Fitness Business Insiders
  • 2014 IYCA Coach of the Year Finalist
  • Volunteer Strength Coach for West Madison Boys Hockey and Westside Boys Lacrosse
  • Helped develop dozens of scholarship athletes in 3 years of business
  • Instructed Kinesiology Lab at UW-Madison
  • Houses an internship program at F.I.T. that started in 2013
  • Member of Elite Mastermind Group of Nationwide Fitness Business Owners

Push Ups Help Develop Powerful Athletes:

Learn more power evolution techniques today.

IYCA-PowerEvolution-V1

 

Overworked and Underpaid

Overworked, Underpaid and…Exhausted?

If you are reading this, it’s fair to assume it is because you answered “yes” to at least one part of that question.

Let’s be honest here, most of us feel this way at some point or another, no matter what industry you’ve worked in.

Many sport performance coaches spend countless hours planning, preparing and delivering, only to fall short on financial performance and feel exhausted. After all, we wake up before the sun, and go to bed just before it rises again…right?   

tired-418902_640If you are like most performance coaches, passion got you started—persistence keeps you going—and pride keeps you from quitting when the going gets tough. If you are feeling that you are 

overworked, underpaid and exhausted…well, the going has gotten tough.

What to do?

Take a few steps back, and figure out how you can turn your youth fitness business into a lucrative and successful place…afterall…the world NEEDS you!

Here are 3 Ways to avoid burnout as a performance coach:

Take a 30,000 foot view, quarterly:

Sometimes we can’t see what is really going on inside our businesses until we remove ourselves.  It isn’t always physically possible, but what if you could look at your business from the outside…

… what would you see? Would you like it? What wouldn’t you like? Is it what you envisioned when you started? Would you come into your own gym as a client, and why?

These questions serve to spark your curiosity, knowing what your business is really about is probably the most important thing you can do when it comes to being lucrative.

If you lose sight of your vision, your dream and the reason you started in the first place, likely that passion will fade and so will your business.

Know your numbers, monthly:

Many youth fitness business owners hate showing their numbers.  Knowing your numbers is a sure-fire way to gain insight into your business.

Numbers you have to know:office-620822_640

  • Gross Revenue
  • Expenses
  • Profit Margin
  • Leads
  • Clients Lost

There are more than these, but this is a good start.   Do you know these answers? If you don’t, you need to. If you want to make money, you have to know what is coming in and going out.

Don’t have “time” to track them, then keep ignoring them and the result (likely not the one that you or I want for you) will come, or acknowledge them and have the power to create solutions and change the course…and WIN!

It is that simple. Numbers tell the story, get to know your business’s story!

Work ON the business, not IN the business, weekly:

Performance coaches are good at coaching…we are not always businessmen and businesswomen.  Overlooking critical aspects of our business, like sales/marketing, setting goals, our numbers, strategies and systems, etc. can destroy a business.

By working ON your business, you focus on the strategies and systems that optimize your performance.  Spend an hour or two every week (or a timeframe that works for you), focusing on your business.

What to think about?

  • Strategies
  • Systems
  • Priorities
  • What is working
  • What is not working

If you are only working IN the business, you have blinders on to most of these things. You may know them, but they get forgotten. Don’t let that happen…it’s a good way to burn out.

Written By:

IYCA-newsletter-julie sig-v1 (1)

 

 

IYCA– Executive Director
YFS, YNS, YSAS
Fitness Business Owner


Program design can require a lot of time.

Here is a free video and PDF resource for you to help save you some time (and energy) on program design for long-term athletic development.

IYCA-LTAD-LM-Blog AD-V1

Teaching Young Athletes the Kettlebell Snatch

 

Kettlebell Snatch For Young Athletes

 

by Jason C Brown (more…)

Alternative Methods for Training Explosive Strength To High School Athletes

 

 

High School Athletes Strength Training

 

 

high school athletes

By Wil Fleming

Nearly all high school athletes, with very few exceptions, need to
develop explosive strength.

 

 

The instances in which the skill of explosive strength are used in
sports are endless, but when used “explosiveness” is very apparent.

 

A linemen firing off from their stance.

 

A soccer player rising above his opponents to head a ball toward goal.

 

A volleyball player making a quick lateral move to reach for the dig.

 

Instances of explosive strength are very vivid when used and typically are a part of a game changing play.

 

Typically I would now talk about the importance of Olympic lifts, but in some instances using a barbell is not possible due to equipment limitations or even the readiness of the athlete. In those instances, the need for High School Athletes does not diminish, but the need for creativity does increase.

 

(more…)

Strength And Conditioning Coaches Misuse of Speed & Agility Training


Strength And Conditioning Coaches Often Overlook Movement

By Jim Kielbaso




A lot of people in this field call themselves Strength &
Conditioning Coaches.

I don’t have a problem with the “Strength” part of the title, but the
“Conditioning” part could use a little work.

 

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

 

That area is what I call Movement Training.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

In my opinion, a lot of S & C Coaches approach speed and agility
training the same way they approach strength training. They find out
what other coaches are doing (through reading summer manuals, watching
workouts, etc.), and duplicate it in their environments. This has
worked out pretty well for strength training because there are a lot of
good Strength and Conditioning Coaches

 

Unfortunately, there are a few problems with learning about speed and
agility this way. First, there are not nearly as many quality speed and
agility coaches to learn from. Second, most of us didn’t learn anything
about effective movement patterns in school. Third, proper coaching of
speed and agility is highly dependent on coaching prowess, movement
analysis, and the ability to understand proper movement patterns. It is
more like teaching a sport skill; instructor knowledge is vital, and
you can’t just apply a cookie-cutter approach like many coaches do with
strength training. Nonetheless, we’ve learned our speed and agility
drills from Strength Coaches not Speed and Agility coaches. The best
case scenario for many of us was to learn a few drills from a track
coach or catch an article outlining a couple of exercises.

 

This kind of coaching just doesn’t cut it. I believe that movement
training falls under the “Conditioning” part of our job title, and it’s
time we take full responsibility for this important part of our jobs.

 

I like to call speed and agility work “movement training” because the
goal is to train athletes how to move more efficiently. The problem
with most movement training is the assumption that if we put some cones
or hurdles out in a cool design and have our athletes run through them,
we are making an impact on their movement patterns. The truth is, we’re
not. All we’re doing is helping them reinforce whatever movement
patterns they are using to get through the drill. Take a few minutes to
re-read some of those specificity articles, and I think you’ll see
exactly what I’m talking about.

 

I have had the good fortune of working with, observing, and Strength And Conditioning Coaches
from a lot of good sport coaches and instructors. I have never seen a
good basketball coach allow players to take hundreds of jump shots with
poor shooting technique, and I have never seen a good baseball coach
let players pitch and hit with poor mechanics. Unfortunately, I have
seen a lot of Strength and conditioning Coaches
allow athletes to perform hours of agility drills using horrible technique.
A lot of coaches assume that if the athletes are going through the drills, their athleticism
will improve. But, the benefits of performing speed and agility drills are
dramatically reduced if the athletes are not executing them with sound
mechanics and learning proper technique. If the coach is unable to
analyze the movement and give corrective feedback, what good is he/she
doing for the athletes?

 

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


5 Steps To Getting In With Coaches

 

Coaches for high schools and teams need specialists…

coaches
by Ryan Ketchum
 
The biggest obstacle that arises with youth fitness and sports performance coaches and business owners seems to be figuring out a way to gain the approval and access to high school or team coaches. Honestly, 99% of you are probably doing it the wrong way. If you laid out your plan of attack (this is exactly how it will be taken by the coach) for working with the team or the coach’s athletes I would bet that for almost all of you it is being done the wrong way, ineffectively and you are running into a lot of dead ends and bruised relationships.
 
The problem with most of coaches and business owners is placing too large of an emphasis on getting the coach to let you work with the athletes right away or trying to get paid to train the team. I hate to break it to you but unless you are well known in your community for training high level and well respected athletes, have a pervious relationship with the coach or can sell a ketchup popsicle to a lady in a white dress you are not going to have any success in getting your foot in the door.

Here is your five step process to working with teams and getting coaches to give you your seal of approval:

Disclaimer: This is not a get paid quick or only work a few hours a day plan. This will require patience, effort and some ground work. If that isn’t something you are willing to do I encourage you to stop reading now as it will be a waste of your time.
 
Step 1: The first thing that you should do is look at your current athletes and your networking list. I know it seems obvious, but most people try to skip this step. Make a list of all the coaches that you already know, people that might know coaches you want to work with and a list of all your current athlete coaches.
 
The list of your current athlete coaches are the easiest to get in touch with, so start there!


Step 2: Set aside some time each day to make phone calls. Do not email, do not send letters and brochures, and certainly don’t send marketing material to the coaches.
 
One this phone call your main goal is to start building a relationship with the coach and get him or her to let their guard down a bit. The call to your current athletes’ coaches should be focused on finding out what the coach feels the individual athlete needs to improve on and what type of training they think will help the athlete succeed in their upcoming season or get better in the off season.
 
I know what you are thinking…. These coaches don’t know what they are talking about and probably will give me terrible training advice.
 
You are probably right! However you need to let them tell you what they think and start to build the relationship. If you ask them what they think they will feel as if they are giving advice and feel like the expert. This is important to get them to let you into the inner circle of coaches that you so desperately want to be involved in.
 
Step 3: Once you have the advice given by the coach you will ask if they have to meet so you can talk training and find out more about what they are doing and what trends they see in these athletes. Take them to coffee or lunch, invite to a training session, simply find a way to get in front of them.
 
During your conversations you will work hard to ask the right questions to find out what they are good at in their training and what they are lacking in providing to their athletes. The goal is to find an area that you have a lot of expertise in and that will add value to having you work with their athletes.
 
Step 4: After you have built up the relationship and you have found your “in” (the area that you are strong in and the coach is lacking) you will leverage your skill set!
 
Offer to come in during one of their workouts to help with a short 60-90 minute clinic on the area of you have the most traction in for their athletes.
 
This might be Olympic Lifting, Resistance Band Speed Training, Agility Training, or any other number of areas. Invite the other coaches to come to the training session so that you can help them with coaching cues and teach them how to get the most out of their athletes when you aren’t around.
 
You will do all of this for FREE!
 
The keys to this being successful are free, you will do all of this for FREE!
 
The keys to this being successful are free, you go to them, and finding an activity or skill set that you are very strong in and the coaches are weak in.
 
Step 5: Deliver an amazing clinic for the athletes and let the coach know right before you start that you would like to invite any of the players that would like to attend to a 6 week training program for the skill set you are teaching. Let them know it will be highly discounted and you just want to have the chance to help out the athletes further. You can also offer a trial or other program if you feel that is a better fit.
 
You must ask for the coach’s permission before doing this or you will burn the bridge you worked hard to build.
 
Once you get the kids in the door follow up with the coach let them know each athlete’s progress and keep them in the loop.
 
Bonus Step: If you really want to take your business to the next level you will call the coach 3 days after you perform the clinic and ask how the athletes and other coaches are doing with the new skills and coaching cues that they learned.
 
When you get a positive response you should ask the coach to put you in contact with other coaches in the same school or organization so that you can do the same thing. This will allow you to work through an entire school’s athletic department with relative ease and have access to hundreds of athletes.
 
This process will work with cold calling coaches as well, but the initial contact becomes a little tougher. Make it easy on yourself and go with low hanging fruit!
Give this system a try and let us know how it works.

‘Base Building’ for High School Athletes?


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High School Athletes coaching should focus on the five biomotor abilities. By Latif Thomas

When my mother attended her first ever Parent-Teacher Conference, she expected Mrs. Candlette to tell her how smart I was. Or how polite I was. Or to hear about some other facet of my considerable six year old intellect…

 

Instead, the first teacher to parent description to fall upon her ears was,

 

“Wow, Latif sure can run fast!”

 

What can I say? I owned Duck, Duck, Goose!

 

So, when I arrived at the University of Connecticut, track and field scholarship in hand, I thought I was well on my way to the Olympic Games.

 

You can imagine my horror when, a few weeks before the start of my first Indoor Track Season, my coach pulled me into his office. He told me, not so subtly, that I was being red shirted. He then told me, not so subtly, that he thought I was a fluke. That he had no idea, based on what he saw from me that fall, how I possibly ran 10.8 for 100m, 22.1 for 200m or 48.8 for 400m as a 16 year old. (That was pretty good for New England back in the mid ’90s.) He then reminded me that scholarships are year to year and that I was not on pace to have mine renewed!

 

I slowly shuffled back to my dorm in a state of panic and disbelief.

 

How did it get to this point? I work my butt off. And I set all types of records when I was a high school athletes.

 

Sure, I had lost the bulk of my senior year to a torn hamstring. But, how was I supposed to know to do a ‘dynamic warm up’ before a race? I didn’t know what that was. My hamstring was tight that day, so I static stretched it even harder. (more…)

Coaching Young Athletes : Use Feedback as Proprioception

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Brain Food for Coaching Young Athletes.

  by Phil Hueston, NASM-PES; IYCA-YFS

 

Your feedback and communication is brain food when it comes to coaching young athletes.

To develop correctly and effectively, young athlete’s brains need a steady flow of quality nutrients and stimuli. Neural development and conditioning is a process that never really ceases, at least not until brain function does. Since none of us train zombies, let’s focus on how we affect brain development, especially synaptic development, through communication, feedback and the impact of both on proprioception with our living clients.

 

While synaptic structural growth is activity-independent, that is it’s spontaneous, part of the normal physical development of the neuro-muscular system, synaptic performance and modification, delivery efficiency and transient synapse termination require neural activity. By extension, then, all synaptic impulses are affected by previous proprioception. Spatial and kinesthetic differentiation, spatial awareness, force development, stabilization, deceleration and force application are all impacted by the billions of proprioceptive signals processed by synapses.

 

It’s reasonable to state, then, that the development and performance of synapses is affected by the quality (and quantity) of feedback and communication received by the sensory organs. Emotional response to sensory organ proprioception creates new “sub-signals” if you will, that affect the processing of and response to proprioceptive input. That’s because part of the neural response to stimulus is conditioned (more…)

Training Young Athletes Where It All Begins

 

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Foot Strike: The most obvious but most overlooked component of training young athletes.

 

 

About eight years ago, one of my high school high jumpers, Danielle, came running down to me at a track meet to tell me the news. As the coach of the long, triple and high jumps I was making the rounds at a meet trying to miss as few competitive attempts as possible, in a facility that spread the jump areas out. Needless to say, I missed her high jumps attempts. She was about to fill me in.

 

Between spurts of laughter, Danielle, whose athleticism is best described as “she is a really nice girl”, managed to tell me that during her approach she fell, crashed into the standard, caused a ruckus but rather enjoyed the experience. She then bounded off.  Momentarily, I was relieved to have missed it. Days later I scrounged up the video to see what I expected. Poor foot placement in the latter steps of the approach and some other factors caused the wipeout.

 

Her problem was caused by the same part of athleticism that also led to many of the great performances that day: the” foot strike.”  “Foot strike,” refers to the foot contacting the ground while running. That instant is vital to the success or failure of nearly every sporting endeavor, yet it is rarely emphasized, coached, taught or even discussed. It definitely should be. Since then, the other co-head coach of the track team and I have focused many hours upon this very topic. Here are some things to think about:

 

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Injury Rates in Early Sport Specialization Athletes

Athlete Development vs Sport Specialization

Baby - Injury Rates in Early Sport Specialization AthletesCurrent and emerging research regarding early sport specialization versus long-term athletic development continues to support the IYCA’s stance that the long-term athletic development model, or LTAD, provides the greatest benefit to a developing athlete, in both physical and psychological aspects, over time.

Most recently, researchers at the Loyola University Health System located outside Chicago, Illinois presented the results of their study, "The risks of sports specialization and rapid growth in young athletes," at the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine annual meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Athlete DevelopmentThe results, while consistent with the IYCA’s message since inception, further illustrate the tangible risks young athletes are exposed to when their parents, caregivers, and/or coaches ascribe to the early specialization model.

 

Details About the Study

Athlete Development 1The study involved 154 participants (92 male, 62 female) with an average age of 13. All participants were scored using a six-point sport specialization score and other factors such as height and weight were recorded.

Athletes who had sustained injuries (85 athletes) completed another survey to further define their specific injury and their particular training habits. Results for injured athletes were compared to the uninjured control group (69 athletes).

The sport specialization score probed at several clues regarding the level of involvement a young athlete had in sports generally or in a specific sport. Questions included the following:

  • Whether athletes trained more than 75% of the time in one sport exclusively
  • Whether participation in other activities was discontinued in order to focus on one sport
  • Whether or not participation involved travel outside the state
  • Whether participation (practices, games, etc.) involved training for more than eight months in a given year
  • Whether the competition season exceeded six months per year in duration

Following data collection and analysis, researchers noted trends toward significance in two relationships:

  1. Injured athletes spent more hours per week playing sports (19.8 hours per week vs. 17 hours per week).
  2. Injured athletes spent more hours per week in organized sports (11 hours per week vs. 8.8 hours per week).

In addition, uninjured athletes average sport specialization score was 2.75. At the same time, injured athletes averaged a sport specialization score of 3.49.

Final Note

Note, the study, supported through funding from the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, is considered preliminary. Researchers are currently recruiting additional participants in order to improve statistical power.

The IYCA applauds such efforts to further define the inherent risks associated with early specialization and looks forward to future efforts to better understand both the injury and performance implications associated with this practice.

Toby Brooks, PhD, ATC, CSCS, PES, YFS3

Source: Jayanthi NA, Pinkham C, Luke A. The risks of sports specialization and rapid growth in young athletes. Presented at the 2011 Annual Meeting of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine. April 30-May 4. Salt Lake City, Utah.


About the Author: Toby Brooks

Athlete DevelopmentDr. Toby Brooks is currently an Assistant Professor in the Master of Athletic Training Program at the Texas Tech University Health Science Center in Lubbock. Dr. Brooks has worked with numerous youth, collegiate, and professional athletes and previously owned and operated a youth athletic development business. He is also Co-Founder and Creative Director of NiTROHype Creative in Lubbock.


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Youth Fitness Training

 

Top 5 Summer Training Tips


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Summer Youth Training 

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how to approach summer training.

 
You’ve got a number of options, so here’s my take on getting the most out of summer youth training for sprinters (or any athlete in any sport, for that matter):

 

1

Consider not training at all.

 

Summer competitions are more popular in some places than others. Where I live, it’s not incredibly popular. And quite frankly, I’m cool with that.

 

I generally don’t steer kids toward summer training and/or competitions unless the kid is hardcore and keeps asking about it or they’re a scholarship caliber athlete who needs the work in a low pressure environment.

 

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