Archive for “lessons” Tag

Lessons From the “Greats”

They Do it Again and Again…Lessons from the “Greats”

There are a lot of lessons that High School Strength & Conditioning Professionals can learn from the “greats” in sports. Names like Bolt, Walsh and Phelps likely resonate with you in some way.

They are great athletes, but not only that…they repeat greatness on a daily basis.

What if you could help your athletes become “their” great?! 🙂

Making a positive impact on youth through great coaching can help your athletes live up to their potential. They all have the abilities to do something great. How will you help them?

In this video, Dr. Haley Perlus talks about what makes Bolt, Walsh and Phelps so spectacular. The best thing is you can teach your high school athletes these skills as well. That’s right, skills like having fun, being “real”, having the mindset to compete and focusing on the little things.

These are just a few things that Dr. Perlus talks about in this 6 minute video. Watch the video above now.

Want to Help Your Athletes with the Mental Side of Their Game?

Want to Enable Them to Succeed Again and Again? Here is a FREE RESOURCE FOR YOU to get started!



NFL Pro’s Journey Through Injuries – A Message for Your Athletes

NFL Pro’s Journey Through Injuries

Along the path to the NFL, I confronted many different forms of adversity. My journey was like many others who dare to achieve something rare. One form of adversity that I frequently faced was dealing with serious injuries. When I say serious injuries, I mean injuries that take at least six months of recovery.

Although serious injuries are physically and emotionally painful, it is important to remind your athletes that they can be excellent teachers.

My First Injury

My laundry list of serious injuries started in high school when I severely tore my left hamstring. It happened while doing jump squats. The hamstring gave way during the last set as I landed with 205 lbs on my back. My left hamstring immediately grabbed.

Instead of seeking medical attention, I fought through the sharp pain for months. The injury only worsened. Not until my explosiveness had diminished drastically did I finally see a doctor. It took me two years to fully recover from that hamstring injury. Imagine if I would have addressed it right when it happened. The recovery time would have been exponentially less.

My Second Injury

patch-510168_640My second severe injury took place months before fulfilling my childhood dream of playing college football. After finishing a rep of power cleans, I lowered the barbell loaded with 265 lbs to the ground instead of just dropping it. Poor choice and form. I felt a pop in my lower back.

For the next few days, my only symptom was back soreness. All of a sudden, about a week after the incident, my left leg went numb. I was diagnosed with a herniated disc. Improper Olympic lifting form took me on a 6-month detour from prepping for my first year of college football.

My Third and Fourth Injuries

My third and fourth severe injuries were ACL reconstructions. The first one occurred in the fourth quarter, in week thirteen during my first start as a rookie in the NFL. The fatigue of over-training had caught up to me. As I was running down on a kickoff, I attempted to stop and redirect. Unfortunately, my overworked and fatigued leg muscles gave way when my left knee twisted awkwardly rupturing my ACL.

My second ACL reconstruction was somewhat of a mystery. While doing a minor operation on my left knee, the ortho observed that my ACL was a ticking time bomb barely attached by a small strand. We opted to do a full reconstruction to ensure the stability of the knee. Pushing it too hard led to 2 ACL reconstructions and 18 months of rehab.

Thanks to modern medicine and training, I fully recovered from all of my injuries—turning potentially devastating injuries into positive learning experiences.

Lessons I Learned

Lesson #1: Listen to the body.

The body has ways of communicating. If your athletes feel an ache here or pain there, the body is indicating that “something isn’t right”. I’m not saying that any small ache or pain justifies sitting out. But learning “the why” leads to learning “the how” in recovery and preventing future problems.

For example, after having recovered from my first ACL, I began to have achilles tendonitis in that same leg from over using my calf muscle when I ran. I was taught that I needed to activate and strengthen my “glutes” in that leg to alleviate the stress off of that calf muscle. After making glute activation and strengthening a daily routine, my achilles tendonitis subsided. Properly troubleshooting aches and pains with the athlete goes a long way in fully recovering from and preventing injuries.

Lesson #2: If injured, physical abilities count for nothing.

Availability is the most important ability. That means when performance training, health is priority number one. Your athletes will need to feel good in order to play good. It’s not about how much weight your athletes lift, but how they lift that weight that counts.

For instance, performance training has become synonymous with Olympic lifting. The sport of Olympic lifting is extremely technical. Most athletes who are not Olympic lifters will naturally prioritize learning the skills of their sport over Olympic lifting—increasing the likelihood of poor technique and risking unnecessary injury. Why train for a sport with another sport?

Train your athletes like they compete while minimizing potential injury and stress on the body. There are a number of different alternatives to Olympic lifting that are more effective in developing sport specific skills and that are easier to learn, while minimizing wear and tear on the athlete.

Lesson #3: Rest is as equally important as work.

Resting for those who are strong workers can be challenging. But it is essential for optimal performance. A good night’s sleep is necessary in regenerating and re-energizing the body, mind and spirit. Tapering during the season, as I learned, is crucial. Counting a game as a high intensity workout can help in balancing the scale of rest versus work.

Wrapping it Up

Injuries are a part of athletics. Not all injuries are preventable. They are a form of adversity that, if managed correctly, can work as springboards. It all comes down to empowering your athletes to learn from the injuries. That is key.

Brady Poppinga

About the Author: Brady Poppinga

Brady PoppingaBrady Poppinga played in the NFL for eight seasons (2005 to 2010 Green Bay Packers, 2011 St. Louis Rams and 2012 Dallas Cowboys). Brady is a member of the 2010 Green Bay Packers Super Bowl championship team. After retiring from the NFL over three years ago Brady has reinvented himself as an inventor of the worlds first Omni directional smith machine.

Brady is also an entrepreneur starting up a company called Ultraflex Fitness LLC (www.myultraflex.com). He’s also a nationally recognized broadcaster (Fox Sports, Fox Deportes and Westwood 1 radio) and author of the book True Spirit of Competition.

Being bilingual, Brady made history by calling Super Bowl 48 in a purely Spanish production for the first time ever. Drawing from the training principles that he learned while playing football at the highest level, Brady has designed his own 20 to 30 minute high-intensity training program.


5 Lessons to Teach Young Athletes

Lessons to Teach Young Athletes

By Mike Robertson


The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind, as I’ve been on the floor a bunch and coaching some really fun athletes.

As a result, I’ve been reflecting on some of the lessons I’ve tried to teach my young athletes along the way. Each and every kid is a little bit different and has unique things they need to address to become the kind of athlete (or human being) we know they’re capable of.

Here are five lessons that I feel we as coaches should teach every young athlete we come in contact with.

Lesson #1: Recovery Is Critical

Think back to when you were a teenager.

Chances are you stayed up too late, did dumb things with your friends, and weren’t quite the upstanding individual you are now.

And that’s OK—that’s how we all learn and grow.

But as tough as we all had it, I would argue that today’s kids have it worse in a handful of ways than we did.

Sure, there are a lot of similarities such as school, athletics, and extracurricular activities, but I would argue there’s one big difference between then and now:

Kids today carry a tremendous burden when it comes to social pressures and expectations.

Yes we played sports, went to school, and did other stuff, but there’s never been the amount of pressure on our youth as there is today.

As such, we need to teach them the value of rest and recovery.

Instead of 5 or 6 hours of sleep per night, they should be getting at minimum 7 or 8.

We need to teach them that it’s OK to relax and unwind. Turn the cell phone, iPad, and laptop off for a while and just chill out. (I’m always shocked at how much more laid back and relaxed I am when I just unplug for a while).

And of course, eating to fuel your training is critical (more on this below).

The bottom line is that recovery is critical. If we’re going to be asked to perform at a high level in the classroom, on the field, and in everyday life, that’s fine, but there has to be a balance between performance and recovery.

Lesson #2: Nutrition Is Fuel

This goes hand in hand with my previous point, as nutrition is a huge component of recovery.

And I can’t give you a better example than a kid I used to work with called “Juice.”

Juice played basketball at the high school I worked at. He had a ton of energy and was always fun to be around, so it wasn’t uncommon for me to spend quite a bit of time chatting him up and joking around.

One day I show up to train the team at 3 pm, and Juice is telling me how tired he is.

Me: “What did you eat today?”

Juice: “Nothing, but I just had a Mountain Dew, so I’m cranked and ready for practice coach!”

Me: “No, seriously, what did you have for breakfast and lunch?”

Juice: “Nothing. I was late for school so I skipped breakfast, and then I had homework to do during lunch so I forgot to eat something.”

I wish this was a joke, but it wasn’t. This kid was going to lift weights and go to basketball practice, having only had a 20-ounce Mountain Dew the entire day.

Athletes can be all over the board with their nutrition, so it’s always a tightrope when getting them focused and dialed in. Some can eat anything and everything and get away with it, while others are far more focused on their body and physique than how food will fuel their performance.

Female athletes need even more time, attention, and care.

There are all kinds of social pressures and stresses when it comes to females and food, so if I have an inkling that a female athlete may have food issues, I’m quick to punt that situation to the appropriate professional.

Suffice it to say, though, we need to give our young athletes a basic understanding of why eating properly is important.

The best avenue I’ve always found was to remind your athletes that food is fuel. What you put into your body every meal is going to determine how well you play on the court or field.

Do you really think that Twinkie, candy bar, or Pop Tart is really going to improve your performance?

And rather than focusing on portion sizes and giving out “diets” (which is where you should lean on the expertise of a dietitian or similar professional), I like to discuss some of the nutritional basics with my athletes:

  • Get some lean protein at every meal.
  • Get a vegetable and/or fruit at every meal.
  • Carbs aren’t the devil, but they’re easy to over consume.
  • Ditto on fats, and we need goods fats in our diet.
  • Hydration is critical, so shoot for 1/2 ounce per pound of body weight daily.

If we can get our athletes following the basic nutritional tenets I’ve provided above, they’ll be in vastly superior shape compared to many of their peers.

Lesson #3: You Need a Strong Foundation

As strength coaches, this may be the greatest thing we can give our athletes.
If you work with middle school and high school age kids, this is arguably the single best time to come in contact with a kid. They’re incredibly malleable, whether we’re talking about mobility, stability, strength, etc.

But perhaps more importantly, they’re much more open-minded or “mentally malleable” than some of the older clients we come in contact with. They don’t have preconceived notions as to how much range of motion they should have, how strong they should be, etc., so there’s far less resistance when we introduce them to an exercise program.

At this age, we can give them an amazing movement foundation, and I would argue this should be the single biggest focus of our training.

It starts by having them play as many sports as possible while growing up. The proper term for this is long-term athletic development (LTAD), and it’s something we preach to our kids.

Stop it with the year-round sports, travel league teams, and all the other garbage that just makes people feel superior or awesome.

Nobody remembers when they’re in their 30s or 40s that they played on the U-7 travel team. But I guarantee they’ll remember if they ended up having a Tommy John surgery as a result!

In the gym, teach them the basics of movement. Teach them how to squat, lunge, hinge, push-up, row, chin, and enjoy the amazing body they were given.

In the beginning, it’s not even about load or performance; it’s about exploration and allowing them to feel what their body can do.

In fact if you follow the teachings of Professor Zatsiorsky, he’s a huge proponent of the three year rule:

No external loading for the first three years of an athlete’s development.

If nothing else, teach these kids to move really well, and then teach them to move weights, or to move for an extended period of time.

Remember, this is the body they will live in the rest of their lives. Our goal should be to give them a rock-solid foundation that will last them a lifetime.

Lesson #4: Learn How to Breathe

One of the big things we assess at IFAST is how a client breathes.

Not surprisingly, a lot of people these days breathe horribly. The only two places they can draw in air is by “pushing” it into their belly or “pulling” it into their neck by using accessory muscles like the scalenes and SCM.

Not only does this lead to performance issues on the field/court, but it can drive physiological issues off the field. Whether it’s increased anxiety and stress, trouble falling asleep, or issues staying asleep, breathing is something we need to address.

If you follow the R7 approach that we do here at IFAST, we put a premium on quality breathing. Not only will clients get to work on this during their warmup, but perhaps even more importantly, they will also work on it at the conclusion of their workout.

Even if you’ve never done this, have your athletes lie on their back at the end of a session with their knees bent and feet flat on the floor.

Tell them to breathe in through their nose, take approximately 5 seconds to get the air in.

Follow that up with a complete exhale through the mouth, which should take about 10 seconds.

Finish by holding that fully exhaled position for 3-5 seconds, and then repeat for 8-10 breaths.

It doesn’t sound like a lot, but teaching a young athlete to breathe is just as foundational as good movement. Not only can they see performance improvements on the field, but chances are they’ll be less stressed out and anxious off it as well.

Lesson #5: The Weight Room Is a Classroom

The final thing I love to teach my young athletes is that the weight room (and especially my weight room) is a classroom.

At the risk of sounding hokey, it’s a classroom, and the class I’m teaching is L-I-F-E.

If you are serious and committed to improve your body and your performance, just think about all the lessons you can learn about:

Work ethic.



Goal setting.


The list of positive traits goes on and on.

And when an athlete comes into my weight room, I always have two things in the back of my mind.

Firstly, I always want the kids who train with me to have fun. This shouldn’t be another thing they have to do; I want this to be something that want to do.

Secondly, I always want the kids I train to look at me as a role model, or someone they can look up to and trust. I don’t consider myself to be perfect or beyond reproach, but I’m always thinking about carrying myself with a high level of character and self-respect.

Chances are if you’re reading this, you’re a pretty upstanding and legit person. Kudos to you.

But when I look around, not all the kids we come in contact with have a stable social foundation.

These kids need strong and stable individuals who they can look up to and trust, so that they can in turn become better people.

It frustrates me to no end when people talk poorly about young people. Sure, there are always going to be some bad seeds. Growing up, I know I had some bad appples around me.

But throwing this generation as a whole under the bus is a massive cop out.

Rather than simply saying, “These kids don’t get it,” or bitching about how entitled today’s youth is, I think it’s far more beneficial to take a long, hard look in the mirror and consider what we can do to help these kids become the kind of young adults we know they can be.

Take the time to nurture your young athletes both physically and psychologically.

Put them in a positive environment, give them solid footing, and allow them to have some success.

And don’t forget to show them how powerful the weight room can be. I can tell you without a doubt I wouldn’t be the husband, father, business owner or athlete I am today without the lessons I’ve learned in the weight room.


I consider myself to be incredibly lucky. Over the years, I’ve gotten to work with thousands of athletes, and I hope that I’ve successfully passed on some of the knowledge that I’ve picked up along the way.

If you work with young athletes, or if you have young athletes in your home, take this post to heart. Maybe pass it along to someone else you think could benefit from my message.

And most importantly, remember how powerful we are in the lives of today’s youth. Every single day we can make a difference, so do your best to make it a positive one.

All the best,

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3 Lessons From The NFL Combine

By Jim Herrick

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

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

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

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


3 Lessons From The NFL Combine

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

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

How should young athletes begin working on speed?

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


LESSON 3 – Elite Athletes Come In All Shapes And Sizes

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

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

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

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


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