Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Under Construction

For those of you who have been following, I want to apologize for not posting in an entire month! I will be moving and revamping the site shortly and hope you all come back to join the next site whenever it is up and running, more details will be posted here.

Thank you very much for reading, and I look forward to your future input.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Necessity Fosters Innovation

This morning I was reminded of a great quote I heard this Summer.. "Necessity Fosters Innovation". This is saying, when you have to make adjustments, new ideas are sparked and innovation is abundant. Here are two examples:

Strength and Conditioning: When the size of a weight room is compromised, you have to make adjustments to your programming to compensate for the lack of space, height, etc. This may lead to a new idea about training or conditioning as a whole. I think this is how circuit training came to the forefront and is now a staple in most training facilities.

Ice Hockey: With increasing costs of ice in the United States, teams began using half a sheet of ice to split the costs. This was done because of financial strain, but then realized everything can be accomplished using only half a sheet and there was really nothing lacking. Today, you can go to many places and see half-ice practices being utilized regularly by youth teams.

The Lesson: If you feel restrictions are holding you back, think outside of the box and you may be creating something new for everyone. Thanks For reading and Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Precision Nutrition Recommendation: Hydration

Earlier this month (October 5th) I wrote a post about living healthy to, and through, age 10o. In that article, Dr. Ni recommends a few tips for us all to reach the elusive century mark. Of these recommendations, the one I was personally most surprised with was staying hydrated by maintaining a proper liquid balance in your body.

Then, just this week, I received my Precision Nutrition Tip of the week and it addressed this exact fact. Here is Dr. John Berardi's Tip #21:

Sedentary individuals should drink at least 2L of water (about 8 glasses) per day.

Athletes should drink at least 3L (about 12 glasses) per day.

Athletes in a hot climate should drink 4L (about 16 glasses) per day!

I think we have all heard the first recommendation, but how about the adjustments for atheltes and the considerations necessary when practicing in different climates? Not only does proper hydration help you live longer, but it can also assist fat loss. If you think you will have trouble adjusting to this new volume of water in your diet, here are some tips Dr. Berardi suggests to improve water intake:

1. Drink cold water- Cold water is more palatable improving mouth feel and ingestion.

2. Add a lemon- Lemon increases the urge to drink and kills bacteria.

3. Chuggables- Always carry some sort of container around with you to ensure you are drinking.

To learn more about Precision Nutrition and what you can do to improve your diet visit:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wednesday Review: Mike Boyle's Functional Strength Coach Volume 3

It has been a very long time since I have had a Wednesday review on here and I apologize to all the readers, but today I am reviewing a DVD set I had the unique opportunity to see filmed live and truly believe this is one of the BEST Strength and Conditioning products on the market. If you are a coach looking to improve a team's strength, fitness, flexibility, etc. you want to be a part of this product!

This DVD set includes 11 CDs and 1 training manual of information based on today's Strength and Conditioning practices by Mike Boyle who is often regarded as one of the most forward thinking and successful strength coaches in the industry all-time. Coach Boyle's resume speaks for itself as he has over 25 years of experience in the field and has become one of my dearest mentors. I can not speak anymore about this product, I want you to see it for yourself. You can check out Coach Boyle's Functional Strength Coach Volume 3 Here:

Monday, October 26, 2009

Train right, not necessarily heavy

Some of the atheltes I am working this year have been confused at times with the amount of weight they are lifting and seem to be operating under the traditional understanding that strength training is about lifting as much weight as possible when it really is not!

The old methods of "no pain, no gain" are long gone in my mind and I thought most people also believed this, but I suppose this notion of pain and heavy lifting are still present in some sport cultures. A more appropriate method of strength training would be to use periodization methods to adjust training volumes (therefore not training heavy at all times) and peak for certain times during the season. Also, including the correct exercises that stress muscles that will be used as prime movers during the sport activity.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Team Cohesion

A few different kinds or cohesion to think about within a team are as follows:

Social Cohesion- Involves bonds made between team members based on social aspects and personal beliefs. Members often enjoy each others company and may engage in activity outside of the sport setting. Commonly referred to as unity, balance, chemistry.

Task Cohesion- Team members are bonded by a strong desire to accomplish a common task or goal. Team members may not have a high affinity for each other outside the sporting arena.

Although both of these are important, I think a fully functional team will often have high doses of both, but can a coach develop both?
I think a coach may have some impact and influence in task cohesion is because I believe a coach can educate athletes and practice things relating to task cohesion such as teamwork, effective communication, and player roles. All of these improve your ability as a team to accomplishing a task and therefore task cohesion, so there can be some impact from a coach in this respect.
Like task cohesion, social cohesion can have a significant impact on any team's ability to perform and the level of enjoyment within an activity. However, in contrast to task cohesion, I do not think a coach plays much of a role in social cohesion. Unfortunately the social cohesion of a team lies primarily within it's team members and individual personalities. Social cohesion, like any group dynamic, will likely involve individuals, groups within the team, and the entire team as one. All of these different groups are important in the social cohesion of the team in general.
One of the most dangerous situations in sport and social cohesion is the formation of opposiing groups (clicks) within a team. This can ruin a team's social conhesion because opposing forces and ideas will erode any healthy energy. If a coach can do things to avoid clicks forming, this would be a huge success. The fact that coaches understand the importance of social cohesion is very good, but a coach's over interaction in the formation of positive social cohesion is not. Try and stay reserved when it comes to social cohesion and let the athletes come together primarily on their own.
Thank you for reading today, best of luck with your practice this week!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Self-Fulfulling Prophecies

After reading about self-fulfilling prophecies over the last couple of days, I decided to share some information in my text (Applied Sport Psychology: Sixth Edition by Williams, 2010). Of course we have all heard that first impressions last a lifetime, and Williams explains how a coach's initial expectations often become athletic reality in a sense that unwarranted judgement of athletic talent in an untimely or unskilled manner may result in success or lack thereof.

The self-fulfilling prophecy as it relates to coaching and athletics is this: a coach's preconceived expectations (positive or negative) will ultimately result in that behavior being exhibited by the athlete (positive or negative respectively). I believe all sports are plagued by some degree of politics, meaning coaches are berrated by the opinions of others telling them athlete A is good or bad and therefore creating a preconceived expectation of this athlete's ability. What this feeds into is a self-fulfilling prophecy between athlete A and the coach leading to unequal treatment of athlete A until they eventually become the star player as they were thought to be after the preferential treatment they have received over others on the team.

Williams describes four simple stages that occur sequentially to complete the self-fulfilling prophecy. The stages are summarized here:

Stage 1- The coach develops an expectation for each athlete predicting the level of skill, development, and potential possible for the upcoming year. This immediate expectation can start as early as team try-outs where a coach may see an athlete play one time and think they have a clear idea about an athlete's potential.

Stage 2- The coach's expectations influence treatment of the atheltes on an individual level. I think this is really the turning point in the entire process because this is the stage where thoughts (an internal process) become actions (external symptoms). This is the stage where individuals begin receiving preferential treatment and others are inadvertently being treated unfairly.

Stage 3- Here, the way the coach treats the athletes affects an athlete's thoughts, feelings, actions, rate of learning, development, and eventually performance. All athletes recognize the coach's variability and therefore understand the coach's feelings, leading them to create thoughts about their own ability.

Stage 4- The culmination occurs when the athlete's performance matches the coach's expectations as a result of the treatment they have received over the period of time.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Performing on Stage

Jeff Robbins, a local coach who I respect greatly, taught me last year that athletes are used to and often expected perform on a stage. This seemed pretty elementary to me, because I have been involved with sport for a while, but when he gave me a pointer to use this knowledge to my advantage when coaching I became very intrigued. What Coach Robbins does is work with athletes of all kinds (primarily pole vaulters) in getting them to recognize their body awareness and kinesthetic sense. Above is a picture of Coach Robins in his element at an inner city school in Boston.

One of Coach Robbin's favorite exercises is to break a large group into groups of 2, 3, 4, or sometimes more athletes to create a "project" using only their bodies. After parameters are set and a specified amount of time is reached, the groups come together and perform their routine in front of the entire group. This is his way of putting the athletes on stage to perform their best and it really is amazing. Often times groups undergo relatively difficult tasks that are not necessarily complete by the end of the time period, but once they are on display in front of their peers, a lot of things come together and they seem to complete, or in some cases improvise, their routine on the fly. A terrific way to learn a lot of things that transfer over to the playing field in sport.

As a coach, if you can find a way for the athletes to perform on a stage, desired outcomes could be reached quicker and learning outcomes may be achieved that otherwise would have been non-existent. I challenge you to find a way to incorporate something into practices that allows for competition on a stage. Thank you for reading and see you tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Speak Their Language

As a coach, one of the best ways to relate to an athelte is to "speak their language". Of course a coaching prerequisite would never be learning every language in the World to better prepare yourself to coach athletes of all backgrounds, but I would never despute that as being a bad thing.

More of what I am getting at here is understanding the athlete and speak in terms corresponding to what they are going to understand and become intrigued by. This will give them a better connection to what they are doing and why they are doing it which is very helpful in convincing the athlete that is not as internally driven to succeed.

For example, as a strength and conditioning coach, I want the BU tennis athletes to increase their vertical jump height. For this reason, we do a lot of plyometrics and various movement drills to stimulate this sort of development. However, when the BU tennis team is in the weight room, you may NEVER hear me say the word "vertical jump". This is because most of them could probably care less about a height they can jump because it does not seem important to them as tennis players (in fact, the women's team would probably leave the room if I ever did mention the term). Instead, I OFTEN say things like "this will increase your serve velocity" or "this exercise makes you faster on the courts, so you can return more balls". These types of phrases are things they want to hear! This is just one example, but I could come up with 1,000 more that are commonly used. Remember some of the guidelines of effective feedback: feedback should be relevant.

The atheltes could care less what jump height they can or should get, but they want the rationale behind increased performance. Try to speak their language more often and see if this makes a difference in the athletes attentiveness and motivation.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Static? Dynamic? Ballistic? PNF? The Whens and Hows of Proper Stretching

If you have ever wondered what type of stretching gives you the most benefit and when you should perform your stretching routine, this is the post for you. I will dissect every stretching method and provide you with the details of each, ok here we go:

Static Stretching: This involves holding a muscle-tendon unit past resting(normal) length for a period of time (30 seconds for greatest benefit). When holding the stretch, you should feel slight discomfort, but never pain. Static stretching can be done before or after a warm-up and some studies have shown that in fact the best long-term results are obtained from static stretching a cold muscle.

Dynamic Stretching: Dynamic stretching is stretching a muscle-tendon unit through it's full range of healthy motion. In contrast to static stretching, dynamic stretching should only be performed after a thorough and deliberate warm-up period. Dynamic stretching is important prior to quick or powerful movements which is why athletes of all sporting backgrounds use dynamic stretching before practice and competitions.

Ballistic Stretching: This type of stretching involves bouncing during a static stretch and in my opinion the risk of injury outweighs any perceived benefit that has been reported. Ballistic stretching should not be practiced in my opinion.

Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) Stretching: PNF stretching involves the stimulating of muscle spindles and Golgi Tendon Organs inside the muscle belly. By performing a stretch and contract pattern, PNF stretching often pulls the muscle-tendon unit past a position static or dynamic stretching is able, making it probably the most productive method of stretching. However, it must be done with the proper knowledge of how to stretch and relax the muscle or injury risk is very probable.

In conclusion, static and dynamic stretching are probably the most effective methods of stretching and both should be done as part of any strength and conditioning/fitness program to increase healthy range of motion in every joint in our bodies

Friday, October 9, 2009

Wallet Size and Biomechanical Implications

Since early this Summer, I have been focusing on more single leg work and have reached a conclusion that one leg is stronger than the other. Of course this should not be a big surprise and is in fact normal (called a dominant leg). Dominancy is one of the main reasons why today Strength and Conditioning coaches use single leg exercises.

However, when I was thinking about what causes one leg to be more dominant, a few ideas popped into my mind, one of these being the effect of a wallet and wallet size. Now, some of you may think this is absolutely ridiculous, but if you saw the width of my wallet you would wonder perhaps why I wasn't more imbalanced in my hips. I think that because my wallet is so big and I always put it in the same pocket I have been throwing off the balance in my hips and that could be effecting my single leg dominancy.

I have since been wearing my wallet in the opposite pocket and let me tell you it feels weird and is almost impossible to sit with good posture. I am convinced this was one of my biggest probelms. My experiment now will be to see if I can correct this imbalance. My plan of action is to keep my wallet in the opposite pocket for a few months and then to not keep a wallet in my pocket at all! perhaps there will be a follow-up to this post and I will let you know how the experiment ended up. Thank you for reading and have a great Columbus Day holiday tomorrow!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Age 100?

I'm not too sure about some of the things I read on, but this morning I found an article about healthy lifestyles and the possibility of living to age 100. Of course reaching the 100 year mark is quite a feat and this article gives you some tips from those who have done it!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

In-game Coaching

Everyone on Earth knows that a coach is an educator of the game during every practice, but what about during games? From my understanding, the traditional thought process about in-game coaching is similar to that of today: we teach during practice, and let athletes demonstrate their learning during the game (using their relative success/failure as a measurement) while a coach makes the decisions.

Although this seems to be the overwhelming style of coaching I would like to offer a different perspective: coaching within the game. I can not think of a better arena to educate than the game itself and for those coaches that turn into spectators during the game, (or more importantly, allow their reserve players to become spectators) I think they are missing a huge opportunity to coach. I saw a great example of in-game coaching this Saturday when Boston College was playing Florida State in football. Florida State (and other teams) have begun putting headsets on their backup quarterback to talk with the offensive coordinator and relay the play signals onto the field rather than a sideline coach. I think this is a genius idea because it allows for communication and learning to take place in the game instead of a coach making all the decisions and hearing all of the discussion while the atheltes simply watch. Chances are, the team will need that player one day, so why not use the hour long game as another hour to coach.

In most sports, you will see the reserve players aimlessly watching the game, checking out who is in the crowd, or in and out of consciousness thinking about a party last weekend- this is wasted time! If the athletes are all there at once, why no take advantage of that and teach your reserves? Every game has a lot to teach in a little time, but one way to add an extra couple hours of practice time a week is to coach during the game. Of course, everything relies on being efficient with your time.

Thank you for reading.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Ready, Aim, Fire!

In our biweekly meeting at BU this week, we spoke a bit about the way things are handled between a sport coach and a strength coach. This conversation was very helpful to me because I am of course bordering between the two as I try and decide my future in one or the other. One point that was brought up in the meeting was the ability of a coach to say: "Ready, Aim, Fire!" and NOT "Ready, Fire!, Aim".

This subtle difference can be the difference in many things, but definitely within coaching relationships. If you as a coach have an idea for the team or someone associated within the program and immediately implement these changes without first thinking about the consequences or perspectives of others, I think you are shooting yourself in the foot.

The definition of a team relies on the interplay between individuals and the inherent interconnectedness between team members. Therefore, it should be second nature for any coach to share their thoughts/decisions within the team before implementation. The head coach will ultimately make the decision in most cases, but this does not mean they have to blindside everyone on their support staff in the meantime. Communication within a staff is truly a diminishing art. Take into account the thoughts and feelings of others to please everyone.

Thank you for reading today and Happy October!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Importance of Spotting

You know what this blog will be about, yesterday, USC running back Stafon Johnson was nearly killed in the weight room after losing his grip during a bench press and the bar landing on his neck! Would this have even been a concern if a spotter was used?

It seems almost ironic that yesterday morning I noticed some BU athletes not using spotters (or spotting with poor technique) and raised the issue with them and later the entire S&C coaching staff in a meeting. Luckily for Johnson, it sounds like things were taken care of in an emergency surgery and hopefully he will recover. Luckily for athletes around the World, his story (and the rampant and immediate media coverage) could save many more from the same experience.

Spotting is the easiest precaution you can take when exercising. However, many coaches neglect teaching proper spotting techniques and I have no idea why. Here's a link to the unfortunate story of Johnson from and thank you for reading today:

Monday, September 28, 2009

Are Buffets Killing You?

Today I ate at the dining for the first time in a while and I realized that buffets are literally killing me and most likely others in our country for numerous reasons.

To start- The whole idea behind a buffet (and number 1 reaosn I like them) is to eat as much food as you want for the same price. Now, if this doesnt sound like a recipe for disasterous nutrition, I don't know what will. Portion control is one of the most impoartant considerations for good nutrition.

Secondly- The food quality in a buffet, especially a school dining hall (in my case) is often times fried food and is pretty much like eating at McDonalds or Burger King. A diet high in fat, like fried food, is proven to cause significant health problems.

Lastly- The mindset you bring to the table at a buffet can also negatively effect your nutrition because when you think about getting your money's worth and the effect of numerous foods sitting in front of you can profoundly affect your thoughts and actions at a buffet. The psychology of a buffet could probably be a whole different blog, but I will leave it there.

Thank you for reading and please come back tomorrow!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

S.M.A.R.T. Goal Setting

I'm sure most of you have heard this acronym for goal setting, but I know it will be helpful for those of you who haven't. This is a great acronym to remember when trying to set goals for yourself and when outlining team or individual goals with athletes or clients.

S- Specific: Goals must be specific. If you don't know exactly what you want to achieve, how will you know when you get there? Additionally, non-specific goal setting leaves room for excuses.

M- Measurable: Goals need to be in some way measurable, not necessarily quantifiable. If you are setting goals that are subjective, it will be much harder for you to measure your success.

A- Attainable: Goals should be set that are attainable. For instance, me setting a goal to win the Boston Marathon is probably not attainable. Goals that are not attainable will lead to more disappointment. Both long-term (1-3 years in advance) and short-term (weeks to months) are important to set.

R- Realistic: Similar to Attainable goals, you must set goals that are realistic. If I saw this afternoon that my goal is to be the strongest 8th grader in my class, that is just not realistic because I am already out of 8th grade.

T- Timely: Goals should be set with a time frame in mind that fits their level of commitment, etc. For example, nobody in their right mind would set a goal to lose 20 pounds in one week, this goal is just not timely.

I hope this helps you out next time you are setting goals for yourself or others.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hazing vs. Team Building Exercises

I'm not too sure if hazing is still a big deal in high school or college level sports, I certainly do not see much of it anymore at all at the college level, but I know it was a huge concern no more than 5 years ago in most areas of the country so I will share my thoughts here.

First of all, from a personal standpoint, I was always a player that did not believe freshman were obligated to do anything that any other team members did not have to do. My High School hockey team had a long tradition of cutting the hair of any Freshman that made the Varsity team (However, this was not like a buzz haircut, the returning team members were allowed to cut anything they wanted into your head) and the player had to wear this hairdo for one whole school day so everyone knew they were on the hockey team. Of course I had to go through this process and actually did not mind this tradition, but I know a lot of kids my age were being succumbed to much worse around the country at that time, which is unfortunate.

There were, however, other duties Freshman or rookies were expected to do on other teams that I did not feel as warm about. As little as picking up practice fields or filling water bottles, I just always felt like this should be the responsibility of the whole team, not just the Freshmen. I would try and voice my opinion, but was always out voted for silly reasons like "tradition" or "respect".

As a coach, I don't think I could ever believe in this sort of behavior as a team is a group of individuals working together to achieve a common goal.

Singling individuals or groups of people out by hazing them is not found in my definition of a team and therefore I do not think it has any place within a team structure. In contrast, I do believe highly in team building exercises and team cohesion. I think there are plenty of ways for a team to become closer through these types of exercises that get everyone involved and may lighten the mood. If a coach is creative, many different goals can be achieved through team building exercises including trust, confidence, teamwork, unity, etc. For a list of some team building exercises visit:

Thank you for reading today and see you tomorrow.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Coaching Styles/ Coaching Philosophy


I had this Steve Rosenbloom (courtesy of the Chicago Tribune) blog forwarded my direction and although the article is written fairly at best, it does bring up a great idea: differences in coaching styles. Although there are many different styles of coaching, the two ends of the spectrum are Authoritarian and Humanistic.

Authoritarian: Authoritarian coaches are the ones who makes all the team's decisions themselves. They often use a directive, demanding tone and run the team like a dictatorship.

Humanistic: A humanistic coach would be considered the opposite of an authoritarian coach. Humanistic coaches allow some leeway within team decisons and often times decisions are made like a democracy rather than a dictatorship. A humanistic coach also takes into account the feelings and well-being of the atheltes.

The above article tries to pit the two managers against each other and is asking the audience which style they would prefer, which was probably an effective method to get interaction on his blog. From a coaching standpoint, the most important thing to me is that you know your style and work to get better at whatever style that is. There is not necessarily a blanket style for any one team, sport, level, etc. Find something that works for you and develop that style. At times, it may be necessary to make minor adjustments to your style, but for the most part that's what Assistant coaches are for. Like a business, you want to surround yourself with different minds, different styles for maximum growth. Thank you for reading.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


The concept of flow is often preached by coach educators representing both the coaching realm of thought as well as sports psychology thought. Flow is a concept described simply as a time period when challenge meets, or slightly exceeds, athlete skill level. During flow, an athlete's skill set appropriately matches the challenge in front of them. If the challenge does not reach an athlete's skill set, they will be bored, but if the challenge is too hard, anxiety may set in. In either case, flow is lacking and the practice or game will be interrupted.

Why Flow?:
Coaches want to achieve flow within a practice so there is continued learning and skill development. Flow is also important to keep practice on schedule, keep everyone involved, and mimic game situations.

Sport psychologists study flow and want to recreate these flow experiences for atheltes because often times these flow states are when athletes are benefitting most from enjoyment of the game and likely to perform at their best. Therefore, if flow experiences can be created, more athletes will benefit more often from their experiences within sport.

Thinking about flow and trying to achieve maximum flow within practices is a serious consideration for all sport coaches. Design practice around what flows the best way, this will hopefully eliminate time setting things up and maximize your practice.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Michael Jordan

It was great to see Michael Jordan get inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame the other day and I have only heard exerpts of his acceptance speech, but from what I've heard it was a great one.

In one part of the speech, Jordan recalls playing a game where his team was losing by a considerable margin and he provided many of the points in the come from behind win while being a ball hog. After the game, his coach offered some constructive criticsm by saying:

"Michael, you know there is no I in team"

Jordan replied

"but there is an I in win"

I'm not sure how his coach responded, but Jordan's response reflects soemthing that is simply uncoachable at any level of sport: competitiveness. I think all successful atheltes, and even successful people, have an innate drive to win at all costs and that is something very unique about their personality.

This crossover between sport and life is one of many comparisons that can be made and a main reason I believe sport is good for all of our youth. Learning or developing (depending on your school of thought) some of these "life skills" within a sport context is truly remarkable and becomes a magnificant testiment to the power of sport.

On another note, as a coach within sport, one thing I think you can do is feed off this competitive nature. Make games in practice or tailor drills to make them competitive or incorporate a life lesson/skill. Any coach can make a drill where athlete 1 passes to athlete 2 for a shot, but it takes great skill to create something in practice that will teach technical or tactical parts of the game as well as life lessons. Thank you for reading and please come back tomorrow.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Competition vs Play

In the athletic realm, I think there are two ends of the spectrum when it comes to competition. One end would be considered competitive and would include things like professional sport. the other end to me would be recreational sports or even just play in a field or park. I think both of these types and everything in between are important for athletic development and time should be dedicated for all of these levels of competition.

It is very common for me to see a lot of competitive stuff in practices that mimic games, but I think sufficient time also needs to be alotted for athletes to play and "mess around" almost. From what I've seen, this part of sport is severely lacking from the past and I think the current trend is tedious and boring for the athelte which is one reason for burnout. During play time, atheltes are encouraged to try skills they normally wouldn't or play different positions and learn the game from another "angle". All of this is beneficial to me even though I used to be a "strickly business" kind of person as an athlete. Now that I coach, I can see the benefit of play time and the amount of learning this way is invaluable and hard to achieve in other areas of practice.

Thank you for reading and let's try to incorporate unorganized play time into our practices a lot more frequently.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Gender Tested Athlete

Listed are two articles about a current gender "scandal"/situation regarding a very talented 18 year old runner from South Africa. The first is an ESPN article posted about the situation some reactions from people close to her. The second was posted from yahoo sports and shows an ill effect of the situation- the runner's decision to not compete.,188930

From gently following this the past few days, I can honestly feel for this athlete because of the attention given to sexuality. Whether male, female, or "intersexual" the fact of the matter is, this person is a hell of a runner (World Record Holder) which is being severly overshadowed by all this legal stuff. I understand the importance of distinguishing a gender in this case for records and competition placement standards, but the media involvement especially directed towards her family is unnessesarily absurd and absolutely saddening.

Born with this type of disorder does raise the question: How are these athletes going to be treated by the IAAF and other international governing bodies? I'm not sure I can hypothesize the outcome in this case, so we'll have to wait and see ourselves...

Implications of this decision could be a turning point in sport. The decision could either maintain a strict boundary between male and female based on specific medical testing to determine secondary sexual characteristics and the concentration of hormone levels within the body, or could "open the flood gates" for more borderline athletes and increase the temptation for steroid use to obtain a competitive advantage. Thank you for reading this week, and thank you Paul for sending one of these articles over to me this morning for review!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Exercise Duration

With a lot of attention driven toward exercise selection, volume (sets x reps), and %weight to use, I realize exercise duration has been a bit overlooked. Exercise duration is a very important part of a workout because duration of activity affects hormone regulation, blood glucose levels, and many other important bodily functions.

I think that after about an hour long exercise session, your body is in a mostly catabolic state, meaning hormones made for breakdown are being released. Therefore, I don't really think you are getting much productive work done after about 60-75 minutes. Personally, I have never had a team in the weight room for more than 90 minutes including everything from warm-up to conditioning. In addition to hormone regulation, muscle glycogen levels are an easily exhaustable resource for quick, powerful movements directly embedded in the muscle. This energy is used for powerful actions or at the beginning of any exercise. This means, if we are exercising for over an hour, glycogen is depleted from the system and there is no longer any left for use in the muscle. To compensate for this, we use energy from other sources and are therefore less efficient.

The biggest mistake I am seeing is when teams hold a full practice session and then head into the weight room for a workout session. The team is not getting anything out of that workout and you are wasting their time. The message I want you all to have here is get your work done in the weight room or on the field and get out. Efficiency is the most important thing in an athletic practice. Set a couple goals for your practice sessions and adhere to the time frame you have laid out to accomplish these goals. In the weight room, you shouldn't be doing something if it takes more than an hour to complete, condense the program by asking questions about what is really important and what can be left out.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Guest Blog by Meli Mathis

Today's blog comes from Meli Mathis, a local rowing coach and blog follower. She gives an interesting perspective to "recruiting" in a somewhat non-traditional sport, but brings up some very good points, How do we get non motivated kids into sport? I was very excited to hear her thoughts and interest in writing a blog for me so here it is for all of you, enjoy:

The ultimate team sport is also the ultimate obscure sport. I coach rowing, which is not very popular, nor is it a very accessible sport for most. The latter leads to the former. So the question becomes how do you get kids interested in a sport that they have likely never seen or heard of? Especially when rosters need walk-ons to be complete.

In my case, I had seen rowing boats on the Potomac River as I was driven to school each day from kindergarten to 8th grade. I have always been a water person: I was on swim team and am now a lifeguard, so it was another water sport to try. For some kids that is an intimidation factor: there's a swim test to join rowing teams. But I disagree. The real question is how to get kids even interested to take that swim test, and join a sport that practices off campus with little visibility. My high school and collegiate teams used several methods. The first few were the usual suspects of all the clubs: hanging posters, flyers, and trying to recruit friends' younger siblings. The other techniques were a little more aggressive.

Every spring in high school, the varsity rowers would take two rowing machines (ergs) to the feeder middle school for two days during lunch. We would challenge the 8th graders to row 100m races against each other (those take less than a minute to complete). We stirred excitement for our sport and their impending move to high school. One of the out of the box tactics was wearing our uniforms to school in early September. Most sports have jerseys, rowers wear spandex unisuits . Needless to say, we stood out among our fellow students dressed in jeans and t-shirts. While the older students were used to this, the freshman were not. So again, we piqued their interest and reminded them of the previous Spring when we had taken over their lunch hours. These tactics combined with letters sent to every freshman's parents made for good turn outs at the crew informational meeting. Collegiate recruitment is even more aggressive, at least at my alma mater. Once freshman receive their IDs, they are ushered from one building to another, where their parents are waiting. Enroute, the varsity rowing teams have several boats in slings with oars in the rigging creating a slight maze. The older rowers attempt to talk to every student who looks like a good candidate for becoming a walk on, as many of the older rowers were walk-ons themselves they give personal testimony. This gets the idea of rowing into the freshmen minds from their first minute on campus, but there's more. My former school requires a swim test in order to graduate. Since you must take swimming classes if you cannot pass, the test is administered the day after move-in to allow those who need to enroll in Introductory Swimming to do so. The rowing coaches run the swim tests and hand informational cards to freshman who look particularly athletic. Those cards would lead to nearly 300 freshman attending a meeting about the sport and team where some myths were confirmed and others dispelled: yes, there are morning practices; no, you will not fall overboard - this sport happens on the water not in it; yes, you will be able to eat as much as you want in the dining hall and still lose weight if you commit to the training regimine.

Based on my experiences, I have to wonder if there are any other sports that require such aggressive marketing tactics to attract potential new athletes, and if so, what techniques do those coaches use? Are there any I can steal now that I'm a coach and want to recruit the best possible new athletes?

Sunday, September 6, 2009


In my experience, and after hearing some opinions of other coaches more experienced than myself, I have come to the conclusion that coaching comes down to execution. By this I mean, it is more important and you will be more effective coaching a bad idea/concept correctly than you would be when poorly coaching a great idea/concept. In short: Good coaching (bad ideas) > Bad coaching (good ideas)

When you are making programs for the team or athletes you coach, remember your effectiveness always comes down to your coaching!

Friday, September 4, 2009

All Models are False, Some Models Are Useful

School has started....again! I always love this time of year for many many reasons (college football, beautiful weather), but one of the many things I like is everyone back on campus for another year of learning and overall growth. One of the classes I am taking this semester is Theories of Human Development: Prenatal until Early Adolescence. In this class we basically discuss everything that happens through maturation in these stages of development. Wednesday was my first class meeting for the semester and therefore became my first learning experience.

After a briefing on the course syllabus and other general expectations, we spoke about the theories we would be using and such. Prefacing these theories was a quote by G.E. Box that said "All models are false, some models are useful". What this quote is saying is that in our society we are always trying to organize things in a model to fit all, but in reality there are not many ways to do this. For example, we discussed the calendar year as one model that was completely made up and false. In this model, there can be an argument for a day's worth of time(sun up and down), but all other time constructs are made-up! Who's to say an hour is 60 minutes and a year is 12 months? All of this was made up by our predecessors, but has become something we live and in some cases swear by.

In development and coaching there are a lot of models that are telling us an athlete should be doing something or should be a certain height, but there is really no model that fits all. Therefore, it is up to us to determine individual differences that are present and changes that can be made (the art of coaching). My professor gave a unique analogy that a restaurant menu is like a model and each meal on the menu was the terrain held within the model for you to practice. He said: "Don't eat the menu!" Meaning do not live by the model... When athletes are put into a system and expected to behave, grow, or develop in a certain way and they do not exactly match the model there is no need to criticize them, they are just "choosing" a different meal. Take the model for what it's worth and harness their individual differences within the model.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Growth Through Struggle

I have never been a fan of tatoos, and personally would probably never get one (maybe in a midlife crisis situation or something like that). Yesterday I was riding the train and I saw a guy with a tatoo that read "Growth Through Struggle". As a coach that believes in constant growth, this tatoo struck me. Also, from being a coach I realize that sometimes nothing is easy and many times we are struggling to make any kind of progress. So "Growth Through Struggle" will now be a nice little thing I think about in the upcoming year when things seem to be going nowhere.

If you are ever in a situation this year where you feel like you are progressing slowly or not at all, remember "Growth Through Struggle". Sometimes athletes will take longer to learn something than you originally think and some may struggle to learn more than others. I encourage you to push forward and be patient. One day you will show up to practice and these athletes will amaze you because everything will fall in place and they have been learning the entire time (just at a slower pace)!

Monday, August 31, 2009

This is a great article revealing some of the misconceptions around collegiate athletics. I recently found out some "big name" college athletic programs are their own businesses, meaning they own, and take home, all the profits associated with the athletic programs and then give money back to the school.

To me it is sad how money can turn a game into something a lot more. I believe it to be a huge privilege to play a college sport and something that I was never able to do as an athlete. With that being said, these athletes are still college students! They should be given time to relax, socialize, make some mistakes, and so on.... College to me is a time of your life where freedom and responsibility collide and the harsh realities of "real" life are met head on. Athletes are no different and their time spent playing a sport should be enjoyable, not a full-time job. I wish some of these stories were being exaggerated, but working at a college I know they are not.,185938

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Effects of Obestiy

A new article I saw on last week discusses the relationship between obesity and brain health. According to the doctors involved with the study, obesity has many negative effects on brain tissue degeneration and could be a leading cause in some disease such as Alzheimer's. Check it out and never overlook your diet. I am trying to get much better about what I eat because of studies like this one- there really is no substitute for a good diet.

Nutrition Article

For anyone who wants to know more about some supplements or general food nutrition Check out what Dr. Johnny Bowden has to say in this article that was frowarded to me from a friend of mine (thanks Paul!). The article really brings up some interesting points for consideration.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Little League World Series

Around this time every Summer I am confronted with a dilemma that is, the Little League World Series. The conflict I have with the event is that it is a great way to showcase the accomplishments these kids have had all year long and some of the incredible talent they have amassed throughout the year and even their careers. The fact that these kids are some of the best ball players internationally at this age is undeniable, and their desire to perform inevitable. However, at times you have to question the amount of media coverage that gets thrown these kids way. I mean all of these games are televised now (a lot of them on ESPN- The WORLDWIDE leader in sports) and the athletes are being interviewed after games almost the same way Albert Pujols, a grown man, is interviewed, but they are 12 and 13 year olds (I think). This part of the tournament is ridiculous to me and something I wish was different. Plenty of research has shown that athletes at this age are no where near peak ability or skill acquisition.

The picture above depicts some of the negative effects that can accompany increased pressure on a young athlete in this type of tournament. Of course for every one of these, I think there are about 5 happy moments for other kids, but that's not the point. I think we should strive for youth athletics to satisfy all participants by praising social and personal development, skill improvement, physical activity participation, and enjoyment. Not so much the outcome of the event. Tournaments like this increase the pressure on the athletes in a negative way in my opinion and are built for someone to receive a personal financial benefit in most cases rather than for the sake of the athletes involved and that is sad.

To help eliminate this, USA Hockey is implementing a new American Development Model to help athletes develop and grow for the long term and for the benefit of the athletes, not the adults involved. More on the American Development Model later this week. Thank you for reading.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Coach as an Educator

When riding the train through downtown Boston yesterday I witnessed an interesting series of events through parenting that related very closely to coaching, as many situations do. I thought I would share what I saw with you all here:

A young girl (3 years old) was on the train with her parents and acting a bit squeemish in her mother's arms when she was scolded to calm down and be quiet. After another mini outburst, the young girl was immediately put in "time out", where from what I gathered meant she could not speak for a given time period (in this case 2 minutes).

After seeing this situation, it struck me that her parents were using a Classical Conditioning method towards their parenting. By this I mean, they wanted their child to learn that this kind of behavior was unacceptable on the train through simple trial and error by adding a punishment (time out). In this situation, the parent was "teaching" her daughter how to act the right way, but there was no direct method of teaching, which leads me to believe that there was also a lack of learning. I would be very interested to see how many times this behavior would be repeated by the young girl when compared to other, more directive, methods of teaching.

What I saw is closely related to coaching because as coaches we are educators, and of the many titles we assume from time to time, I personally think this is one of our most important. However, I would not like to ever teach an athelte using this method because I think the learning curve is too slow and therefore inefficient. Sure, after about 20 "time outs" the little girl on the train will realize that she shouldn't act like that for her best interest, but do you as a coach have this kind of time? I know I don't.

In contrast, I prefer to actively teach athletes how to do things by using conventional teaching methods and keeping in mind all learning styles. This would include breaking down behaviors and analyzing them for better understanding. In the above example, I would rather explain the behaviors that I did not like, the effects it has on her and others, and the consequences associated with following these behaviors. If the behavior continued extensively, then I may add a punishment, but not before I had outlined the cause for action.

This may seem like a lot, especially for a 3 year old, but I think in the long run, this is a much more efficient way to teach and should be used when coaching athletes of all levels. I prefer a more interactive method of coaching and will continue to teach in this manner. I advise you to try this method of teaching if you think if would work in your situation. Ultimately, efficiency is about doing what works for you and your system. Thank you for reading.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Tribute to Good Coaching

A few weeks ago when the National Football Hall of Fame inductions were enshirned into the Hall of Fame, one member of the class of 2009,(Randall McDaniel) had his High School football coach there with him at the ceremony. He paid a special tribute to his former coach and explained how much of an impact the coach had on him. When I saw this, I thought it was truly very special and I think there are many situations like this except the coach does not receive this kind of credit.

When asked who the most influential person in your sports career was, I have heard many top level athletes describe a youth or High School level coach which is really special and a great tribute to what all coaches are doing out there day in and day out. Keep working hard at what you're doing and let's continue to make impressions on athlete's lives.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Professionalism in Coaching makes Professional Coaches

One of the biggest things thats annoys me about youth sport coaches is the entitlement they think they deserve from holding the title of coach. I have witnessed coaches showing up for practice 5 minutes beforehand and wearing sweatpants with holes in them. Then, they get mad at the lack of respect the parents, athletes, or even other coaches have for them. This has to be the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard, and I have no mercy for these kind of coaches.

I would like to share something with you all that a professor of mine brought to my attention and has stuck with me ever since. What he said was: if we as coaches want our profession to be recognized as a professional, full-time position, that gets respect proportional to the amount of hours we spend in preparation and the magnitude of impact many of us have on youth athletes, we need to act professional first. Bottom line is that if we don't treat our position professionally, we should not expect others to view us as "professionals".

With that being said I'm sure many sport coaches are very happy helping out on a volunteer basis while they continue to work other jobs and live a happy live. Everyone appreciates the hard work volunteer coaches put in and we could never succeed without them, but I think in some cases they need to act more professionally in order to gain the recognition they deserve.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wednesday Review: TRX Straps

TRX straps are something I have started to use extensively this Summer when designing strength training programs and after about 4 months of use, I believe they are the best product in strength and conditioning. I will stand behind my opinion because of their extreme versatility in the weight room and easy adaptability to any athlete. I really can not describe any other piece of equipment that is easier to use and does more except for maybe a dumbbell set (which is also more expensive).

This product sells for less than $200 I think and what you get for this price is truly amazing. For those that think TRX Straps are a one-trick pony for inverted rows have a look:

All of these exercises can be easily adapted to any athlete size by adjusting the straps and any skill level by adjusting foot positioning. Compared to other pieces of equipment, especially large cumbersome machines (hopefully you are not still using machines at all...) you can not get a better bang for your buck. Give it a try, it will be the best money you've ever spent for your gym or home.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Make Parents Your Allies Not Adversaries

The USA Hockey Coaches Symposium this past week in Minnesota was an absolute blast and I had a great time while meeting a lot of coaches and learning many novel ideas. One idea I took from a speaker that pertained to youth sport coaches was the idea of including parents and getting them behind your back.

How many times in youth sport do you hear more about the parents than the atheltes? For the most part the comments I hear about parents are negative and they are in some way preventing you to coach, being obnoxious, or not embracing others on the team. One way to try and prevent this collapse from happening mid season and corroding all of the work you've done, I think there are some ways to combat this problem.

First, at the team's first meeting, there needs to be some kind of parent metting for you to establish what you want from the parents. Be honest, draw the lines for them loud and clear and if there are any objections to your style/intentions they need to be addressed or they can not be on the team. Risking negative parental involvement during the course of a season is something I do not want to even think about, but if you don't tell them what you expect you can't get upset later.

The parents can also be given some way to interact with the team in a positive way if you have any ideas for them (stats, helping out in practice, team gatherings, dinners after games, etc.). Again in this case, every parent must know their role. I think a lot of problems can generate simply because the parents do not feel like they have any control over the team, so assigning a task should give them something to do and keep them out of your hair.

If there are EVER any problems with playing time or conflicts, I always want the athelte coming to me first hand rather than hearing these things from a parent. This issue can sometimes be restricted with younger atheltes but after about 5th grade I think the athelte needs to be able to talk with their coach about these issues.

I hope this helps for some of you who have had issues in the past, remember the key lies in making them feel accepted and convincing them to get on board with your coaching because it is in the best long term interest for the athelte.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Character in Coaching

For those of you who know me personally you know I am currently in St. Paul, Minnesota at the USA Hockey Level 5 coaching symposium and have the great opportunity to learn from some of the best coaches in the country and associated with USA hockey. Today I sat in on a presentation by University of Wisconsin Head women's ice hockey coach, Mark Johnson. Coach Johnson is a very intelligent coach and extremely knowledgeable about the profession. One of the most lasting concepts he spoke about this morning was a coach's character.

There were several moments he described where coaches need to be professional and practice what they preach because the atheltes always notice what you are doing. If a coach is not practicing what they preach or breaking promises to the team or breaking team rules, athletes will notice and lose trust. As a coach, your athlete's trust may be the most single handedly important aspect of coaching. Without the faith of your team, you will be climbing an uphill battle all year long.

Remember to practice what you preach and be accountable for what you are teaching. Look in the mirror everyday and if you aren't exhibiting the values you are teaching (good character, honesty, etc.) you are not practicing the values of respectful coaching and you have room for improvement. Let's work to egt better everyday.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


When I think about building an athlete's self-confidence and coaches speaking about making athletes more confident, I remember something I was taught from a professor's dissertation on self-efficacy. What he stated, was that self-efficacy is derived from demonstrated ability. This does not come from a magical formula or a professional coaching book, but what this is screaming at coaches is clear and important: when an athlete succeeds, they will feel more confident and become more self-efficacious toward that given task. What coaches should take from this information is that we need to put athletes in positions to succeed, not fail.

I have often times seen a practice or drill that puts an athlete at an extreme disadvantage to complete a task successfully. Sometimes we play 1 v 1 and pit the biggest and strongest kid against one of the weaker ones(maybe not on purpose). What do you think will be the outcome? In addition, what are the feelings associated toward these atheltes following the outcome? I'm not advocating that coaches need to think about each individual's feelings when designing a practice plan because that would be quite overwhelming, but I think on a whole we need to be more conscious about the situations we are presenting atheltes. Try and become more creative in planning practices to include situations where success is likely. Athletes will respond by gaining self-efficacy for the given task and continue to develop that task until mastery.

Remember self-efficacy is also task-specific, meaning an athlete may express high self-efficacy making a breakout pass, but not necessarily a pass from the point etc.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Coaching Tip of the Day

One thing I have noticed during my coaching and the feedback I give to athletes is that often times I give feedback too quickly. If I am in the weight room and there is something I want to critique, I often say something like "Bend your knees when you catch that bar Mike". Now, when speaking in a weight room full of sometimes up to 15 people, how does an athlete deep in concentration performing a set of exercises know I am talking to them?

What's wrong with this method of feedback? I didn't address it to anyone until I was done giving the feedback. One day a long while ago I caught myself for the first time doing this and have tried to consciously change this ever since. The better option would go something like this " Mike, Bend your knees when you catch that bar". After addressing the athlete directly, you can wait for them to acknowledge you and then give the feedback knowing you have their attention rather than telling the whole World what you wanted one athlete to hear.

Just a thought to become more efficient, thank you for reading today. Tomorrow I am off to St. Paul, Minnesota for the USA Hockey Level 5 Coaching Symposium so I will be anxious to learn some new things to share with everyone.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Preseason Length

On August 2nd I posted about NFL preseason camps starting with fundamental being addressed before any hard hitting or super intense workouts. Today on ESPN they were showing some of the major universities and reporting from their camps across the country as they prepare for the upcoming season. i was wondering what people thought about the length of time necessary to prepare for the season. I would say around 3 weeks would be ideal for me, maybe 2 weeks and a preseason or exhibition game with another week following before the season starts.

I know games are important for an athlete because competition is what they prepare for and more than 3 weeks of training before any games would seem to get boring and mundane to them. Of course it would depend on the sport and skill level, but I am interested to hear everyone's thoughts. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Respect the Game

Earlier today I made a trip to Harvard University to watch a few games in the Junior World Cup (Under 21) Field Hockey tournament. I admittedly do not know anything about the sport, but I am very fond of international tournaments and competitions so I decided to head over for the day (the worst thing I was going to get was a nice tan during a beautiful day in Boston).

Anyway, I ended up staying for about 2 hours and was very impressed by the amount of skill amongst the players on all the teams and the class that was displayed during the event. It has been my experience, and maybe you all can testify against me, but in most international competitions the respect for officials and players from the coaches is tremendous. Starting with the Olympics and remembering all of the events I have watched I'm not sure if I can recall any incidence of a coach yelling at an official. Again was the case today, there are a fair amount of whistles in field hockey and I saw a couple protests from athletes, but never from a coach.

I think this is an indication that yelling and screaming is unnecessary in sport and coaches at this level already understand this fact. This highly contrasts the highlights I watch daily on SportsCenter of MLB managers getting in umpires faces about calls or NBA coaches storming onto the court. I think something can be said for the actions of coaches at this level of competition and we should all strive to coach like national level coaches.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Games Approach to Coaching

Of course every coach wants to make practice more game-like. The simulation of game-like skills in practice is sometimes easier for athletes to grasp when they are really in the game and the smoother transition makes coaches using these methods look like geniuses. The "revolution" is known as the games-approach to coaching and is based on the concept that you can teach kids things better in games rather than drills because games are more stimulating. I have often used the games approach and had great success using it. I encourage you to incorporate some games into your practices asap. If you want more information on the games approach, here is an article explaining it:

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Healthy Hips= A Great Life and Excellent Athletic Performance

OK, so those who know me personally may know that I have been having problems with my groin/hip flexor for a couple of weeks now. This coupled with a slew of other friends made me want to write what I have learned thus far in the rehab/prehab of groin injuries. A phone call from a good friend of mine last night tipped the pot and made me realize I need to get something out there. So here's how it goes:

The hip is obviously a very important region in your body because it is in the middle of everything and can generate force throughout your body. Think about the importance of a good centerpiece for your Thanksgiving dinner. There are also many many muscles involved around the pelvis and that alone makes a lot of things very interesting. The hips can also be the source of a lot of dysfunction and the source of a lot of problems if not taken care of. Lastly, any groin pulls that are ignored can certainly and sneakily become hernias which will require surgery to the affected area.

"The Groin" is just a blanket term used to describe a set of adductor muscles shown here:

Now a "groin" pull or strain can be any of these muscles, so to say you have a "groin" pull is often times not very helpful because it is unfortunately not specific enough. If you can pinpoint the exact muscle I think you have a better chance for treatment. I would rest your injury, foam roll, and stretch (in that order). These injuries all come down to tissue quality and if you're an athlete that has more or less ignored stretching and tissue work (like me) you better believe you do not have good tissue quality. In order to prevent and treat these types of injuries you need to use a foam roller religiously in this fashion:

If you notice in the picture, there are muscles that are shorter in nature (attach higher on the thigh) and ones that are longer (attach closer to your knee). Here are two stretches(one with a short arc length and one with a long arc length) to help your tissue quality and can be performed after you roll the affected area.

1.) Stand next to a table and place your knee on the table keeping your other leg straight. Stand up tall and lean towards the table.

2.) Stand with your foot flat on the table and leg straight. Squat down slightly until you feel your groin stretch.

Ok, if you are feeling your "groin" injury high up into your pelvis, you may not in fact have a "groin" injury, but perhaps have a hip flexor injury. Because these two muscle groups attach in very similar places around the hip one will undoubtedly affect the other and vise versa. Therefore, it is important for us to also keep healthy hip flexors. So, when we roll our hip flexors we can use a foam roller, or even better a softball or lacrosse ball. The smaller the better almost because the area we are rolling at the hip is very bony and there isn't much room to get into those tight areas.

After rolling we will perform the stretches. Here are a couple that I find to be helpful:

A Little More Dynamic:

Of course the best way to improve is to go and get a massage or soft tissue work from a qualified massage therapist. I had this done and it worked wonders, I am now getting one once a week as well as performing self-massage. Thanks for reading and see you tomorrow.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Strange (Or Smart) Start to the NFL Season

I got this article from today regarding what the NFL's Oakland Raiders are doing in their preseason camp. Apparently, the coach has decided to fore go any padded practices for the first week and work more on basic fundamentals. Although certainly not commonplace within the professional realm of sports, I think this is a very good idea given the fact that the Raiders have been one of the worst teams in football this decade, not only on the field, but also within management and ownership. I'm not sure if your could convince coaches to take this mindset, (especially in football because of the "tough guy" attitude) but I think this is a very good approach for a struggling team and it goes to show that EVERYONE needs to master the basics.

Friday, July 31, 2009

I have a great article to end the week with that was brought to my attention and holds some great information for those of us around sports and especially youth sport. The article is from USA Hockey and it asks how a parent would address a coach with a bad reputation. The article can be found here:

If you didn't believe in a coach's philosophy or methods, but they coached the "best" team within an organization, would you let your child play for them? My favorite part about this article is the idea of discussing youth sport goals with parents, athletes, and coaches alike and see if these are lining up correctly. If everyone is not on the same page and working toward a common goal I think there will be some severe complications. Of course we all know the saying... Assume something and you are making and ass out of you and me.

Have a great weekend and thanks for reading.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Strength in Numbers

Today's topic relates to practice planning and management. Often times when I plan a practice session, one of the first things I ask myself is: how many atheltes will I be working with? This seems like a vary easy question, but for any youth sport coach you know that the number of athletes you expect is not always the amount who show up. As can be the case at just about any level.

The reason I want to know how many atheltes I will be working with is because that number has an influence on the drills I will be running and the set-up I will be using. There have even been times when I had to modify a practice because an unexpected amount of athletes (either more or less) arrived at the practice session. On a few ocassions, I have even unexpectedly lost an athelte mid-session, and consequently had to change a practice session.

What this is all boiling down to is efficiency. By using the amount of atheltes in a session to my advantage, I can plan a more efficient practice session. For example, I was recently observing a coach who lined up nine athletes on a line to run some warm-up drills that varied in skill level. All the warm-up exercises were performed within a 10 minute time frame and the group moved on. After the session, I asked the coach how many atheltes he thought he could give personal and direct feedback to at one time and he told me about 2 or 3. Then I said, well with the way your warm-up was structured, you were ignoring 6 or 7 athletes! The coach couldn't believe what I was saying and I said next time organize three lines of 3 atheltes in each line and I think you will be able to concentrate more on each athlete giving them the attention they deserve because only three will be going at a time. I think this coach liked the change in organization and to me, he became a more effective coach because of it.

These sorts of managerial decisions can be made at any level to help a coach more effectively run efficient practices. Obviously, I encourage all coaches to look at your practice set-up and think about ways you could be more efficient or make things run smoother.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wednesday Review: Elliptical Trainers

Here's what I think about elliptical trainers: they really have no place in a Strength and Conditioning facility, fitness center, etc. Ok, so I don't want to be overly harsh on the elliptical trainer at least it has a hip name...

The reality is I can not find a good reason to use an elliptical trainer for a healthy individual. Treadmills and stationary bikes work perfectly fine to accomplish every goal in the book in my mind. Now, if your argument is low impact training I would say use the bike or walk on a treadmill to accomplish the same thing. If you or your client doesn't like the bike, then swim. If you want a low impact exercise, but the client has some kind of limitation or dysfunction in the hips and they need to be in an upright position I think they will still benefit greatly from swimming. If this dysfunctional client is hydrophobic, then you may need to use an elliptical.

Here's the point- Elliptical trainers really aren't doing anything special and I think too many people have become overly obsessed with the elliptical phenomenon. There may only be a rare population that actually "needs" to use an elliptical trainer, otherwise they are obsolete. IF YOU ARE A HEALTHY FEMALE DO NOT USE AN ELLIPTICAL! (especially those under age 30) You need to benefit from weight bearing exercises to stimulate bone development and increase bone mineral density to help reduce your risk for osteoporosis later in life. It's like planting a good health seed in your garden, you may not see any benefits now, but the seed will bloom and blossom in the future. Osteoporosis is already a problem among aging women and I suspect it will continue to haunt those who are inactive or do not perform weight bearing activities in their lifetime.

If I ever own or build a facility, I am looking forward to buying maybe one elliptical training machine and using the money I saved on others toward more effective tools in the weight room. I am interested to hear your thoughts or opinions...

Also, you may always feel free to e-mail me at, Thank you.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Static Stretching

Over the last few years there has unfortunately been a bad cloud sitting over static stretching and I think our ignorance as coaches is directly hurting atheltes. There was some research done regarding static stretching and power output I'm not sure how long ago, but basically the series of studies showed that power output in a vertical jump (or other maximal power related activity) was decreased after static stretching was performed. This is a classic example of a fad because at the time, Strength and Conditioning coaches looked at this research and decided static stretching was a thing of the past and should be scrapped because it was decreasing athlete's power output. As a result came the invention of a dynamic warm-up which became the new and improved method of stretching a muscle through it's entire range of motion.

Now, dynamic stretching is very important in preventing injury in power related activities and don't get me wrong, a dynamic warm-up needs to be performed, but a lot of experts in the field are now looking back at this old research and sadly living with the effects of our over-reaction away from static stretching- atheltes with increasingly tight muscles. There is plenty of evidence showing that tissue length is improved more significantly and for a longer duration when held at least 30 seconds. This is static stretching!

Our lack of emphasis on static stretching over the years has most likely caused plenty of imbalances within the body and resulted in a lot of injured athletes for the simple fact that research was published (with unrealistic methods) with results showing the dynamic method of stretching was better for creating power in these specific activities. In order to prepare our clients or atheltes for lifelong success and reduced incidence of injury, we need to incorporate static stretching.

In the grand scheme of things, static stretching would most likely come before a dynamic warm-up and after foam rolling. Yes, thats right, you will static stretch a cold muscle. This is also done to promote long term tissue elasticity. When a muscle is warm of course it will stretch, so you will not be getting the same benefits as stretching a cold muscle. Lastly, you need to stretch all muscle groups equally, this means stretches that feel good for you and ones that don't.

Thank you for reading and please come back tomorrow

The Effect of Static Stretch and Warm-up Exercise on hamstring length Over the Course of 24 Hours , Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy Vol 33, Number 12, Dec 2003. P 727-733

Sunday, July 26, 2009

U.S. Obesity

So I've been tyring to go to the grocery store more often rather than eating out so much so I can start practicing what I preach on the nutrition side of things. Today, when I went to the grocery store I was looking for some potatoes in the frozen foods section so I could cook something up quickly later tonight. Yes, I know potatoes are not the best food you can eat in this world and they are starchy and blah blah, but I haven't had them in a while and so I felt like cooking some up.

Naturally, I checked by the vegetable label first. I saw some carrots (picked those up), beans, corn, etc. but no potatoes (perhaps because we could probably better classify potatoes under the carbohydrate family, but thats a whole different discussion). Anyhow, I looked farther down the isle and what did I see? A whole label for potatoes! That seemed very convient for me and I was very excited, I would have my last item in my cart and be ready to go home- what I saw in that freezer was astonishing...

The entire "Potato" section was different kinds of french fries! Different brands, different styles, different seasonings. I could not believe there was no where in the freezer section I could buy some seasoned potatoes, but french fries made up and entire two freezer food doors. I decided I was content with my purchases walked toward the register. With many thoughts going through my head at this point, I passed the "soda isle" (which is one isle all by itself). Now, I obviously don't want to be rude or offend anybody, but the soda isle was the busiest isle I saw today, and it was full of overweight customers. What I witnessed today during my grocery store extravaganza was an extreme lack of nutrition and at least two of Dr. Bohn Berardi's 7 Habits of Effective Nutrition (May 31st Post) being blatantly broken:

#5- About Fat Consumption- Fried foods are not a good choice when trying to control your fat consumption.

#6- Drink Non-caloric beverages- The soda isle was the most crowded in the store! See something wrong here???

Ok, thats enough ranting, I love grocery stores and I hope everyone had a great weekend. Thank you for reading and please check back tomorrow ( I promise there will be a post).

Monday, July 20, 2009

Imbalance= Injury

For a quick anatomy lesson, it is understood that everything in the body is connected, meaning muscles connect to bones where other muscles are also connected from head to toe. Given this knowledge, the above statement would seem pretty logical. When muscles increase in size and tightness, they have an increased ability to pull force. This force being pulled against the bone can cause imbalances within the overall system and directly influence injury.

When designing programs, we need to take into account this balance and work muscle groups equally to decrease the risk of injury. I think this concept is pretty self-explanatory, but I still see programs that are actually promoting injury in my opinion. Too many similar movements are increasing the risk for injury and can be problematic. In my opinion, a variety of different movements and training different muscle groups simultaneously during a workout will give you the best results while also contributing to the balance of your musculoskeletal system.

The one exception in athletics is when playing a sport directly contributes to muscle imbalance. For example, baseball players throwing arms are obviously more likely to become injured, because of the extreme repetition through the course of a season or career. In a case like this, I would write a program that specifically targets the opposite muscles involved in throwing to create a more balanced arm and hopefully reduce the risk for injury. On paper, this program would look unbalanced, but that would be very deliberate. As coaches, lets work to building balanced athletes for better performance and reduced risk of injury.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Psychology Always Beats Physiology

I was very fortunate to sit in as part of a live audience for Mike Boyle's 3rd DVD, "Functional Strength Coach Volume 3", today and needless to say it was a great experience. About 30 great coaches came in to watch the filming and take part, talk shop, etc. about what is going on and it was basically a day long conference about what Coach Boyle has been doing with training since last Summer (when Volume 2 came out).

Of course I can not give away all the details, but one thing that definitely stuck out to me was a quote I think he got from Alwyn Cosgrove that states "Psychology Always Beats Physiology", or in short, the mind is stronger than the body. Of course we've all heard this before, but let's put it into real World practice. I think the best example of this occurrence in the weight room is on testing days. Coach Boyle stated that team testing really boils down to order of testing. For example, if one of the strongest athletes tests first, they will set the bar higher for their teammates to reach. For example, if the first athlete squats 200 lbs, the next athelte who normally tests at 185 may be more inclined to try 200 as well.

Although this may seem like a recipe for disaster, I think the mental side of testing and using competition to your advantage can also be beneficial in reaching new heights in the weight room and other areas of sport as long as safety isn't compromised. There are so many ways to incorporate competition into our workouts to increase motivation. Implementing a different mindset elicits different results. You may be amazed when you see the effort you get from athletes trying to be the best in part of a competition rather than just practicing a skill as part of a practice.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wednesday Review: Standing Bench Press

For this week's review I will write a little something about an exercise I have begun to use as a replacement to the standard bench press. I have personally had success with this exercise and one of my clients, David, has particularly liked this variation as part of his workout. 

The standing bench press is performed using a cable column with standard handles for grips. The motion performed is exactly the same as a standard flat bench press, the only difference is you are standing in a vertical position the entire time. Maintain an upright posture, and a split stance before beginning the exercise. The benefits of this exercise over a standard bench press are the ability to engage the core muscles in a vertical position while executing a strength-oriented movement with your limbs. I think one commonality we understand as Strength Coaches is that core muscles fail before major muscle movers such as the quadriceps and in this case, the pectorals. 

The solution to this problem for athletes then is to simultaneously train both groups by moving in a more functional movement pattern like upright rather than lying on a bench. For example, I may not be as concerned with how much weight a football lineman can bench press if they can only push a marginal amount of weight in an upright position because their core is underdeveloped. In their sport they need to push while standing upright, not lying down (unless they are being knocked over frequently).

On the flip side, when personal training the general population, it is almost surprising how many people can not do 10 body weight pushups with correct form. If someone can not successfully move their own body weight, there is almost no sense in putting them under a loaded bar or with two dumbbells in hand. I think you are undoubtedly going to cause more harm than good over time. Throw in a phase of standing bench press and try it for yourself.

If you are unfamiliar with the exercise here is a video:

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Developing Power

If anyone watched the MLB Home Run Derby last night, you witnessed a great display of power in athletics. For an athlete to contact a ball at such speeds and make it travel far enough to leave the playing field, obviously a lot of power needs to be produced. I'm sure all coaches know that power is the key to most athletic success.
The question is how do we develop this power?
Power= Force/Time

The NSCA's Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (Baechle, 2000) says that the most important method to develop power in the weight room is by using a medium-heavy load somewhere in the repetition range of 3-6 reps. This is derived from the Force-Velocity Curve which measures the amount of force a muscle can create at different speeds of contraction. The 3-6 repetition range is the range typically involving the most power production. Basically, if you can move 50 pounds at 10 mph and a week later at 12 mph through the same range of motion, you have become stronger.

Charles Polliquin, a well respected Canadian Strength and Conditioning coach, has theorized that to become more powerful, you in fact want to work the entire length of the Force-Velocity curve. Therefore, you would have some days of moving light weight with a lot of speed, some days moving a lot of weight slowly, and other days spent anywhere in between. I think this premise is based on developing both muscle tension potential (amount of force potential) as well as contractile speed (time for muscle contraction). The resultant of these two phenomenon is a more powerful curve overall, and thus a more powerful athlete.

The next question you may ask yourself is: What is the appropriate time of year to strength train for increases in Power?

I think you can work on power development in the weight room at many times during the year, but the most appropriate time would be during the preseason. This seems like a good time to decrease the overall load slightly (who cares about maximum strength), and concentrate on moving with speed in preparation for competition. with that being said, if you are a coach trying to develop Power, I certainly hope you are also devoting time to overall strength, strength maintenance, hypertrophy, and recovery during you're athletic season. In addition, a periodized plan needs to be implemented for each of these phases.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sample Workout and Post Revisited

I wanted to give everyone a sample workout I have used with clients for personal training purposes and get some feedback as your thoughts, and I know you're all curious as to my methods, so here we go:

A. Power exercise- Jumps, KB Swings, etc.
A. Core exercise

B. 2-leg exercise- Squats, Deadlifts, etc.
B. Horizontal Press- Bench press or any variation
B. Vertical Pull- LAT Pulldown, chinups, pullups, etc.

C. 1-leg exercise- Lunges, Step-ups, etc.
C. Horizontal pull- Rowing variations
C. Accessory- core, or something else needed
C. Accessory- core, or something else needed

D. Cardio- Bike, treadmill, etc.

E. Stretch/ Foam Roll

This is usually what I use for my base format for workouts, so on most days it's basically 3 mini-circuits. I can always add more exercises if needed (one in the A circuit and one in the B circuit), and this usually allows for some variation in volume (set X rep scheme).

The circuit format allows us to move fairly quickly (about 30 minutes) and provides some cardiovascular benefit at the same time. The time devoted to the cardio session itself is usually around 20 minutes and therefore allows 5 minutes at the beginning and the end for stretching as part of a warm-up and cool-down. Total workout time is around 60 minutes although we frequently go 65 minutes in duration. I hope you enjoy!

Post Re-visited:

On June 11th I posted about training the core in a vertical position as opposed to laying on the floor such as when performing crunches. The three exercises I explained were the Belly Press, Landmines, and Stability Bar press. Here are the videos for each*:

Belly Press:


Stability Bar Press: Looked for 15 minutes and couldn't find one...

One extra video for this post- Push-Pull: I would perform this exercise kneeling before standing.

* I do not endorse any of the trainers, coaches, companies, or websites shown in these videos.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wednesday Review: Medicine Balls

For our Wednesday review this week, we will discuss the use of Medicine Balls in the weight room. I am a huge advocate of medicine balls in the weight room because of their versatility. I use medicine balls the most for power development in athletes, but I have also used them for personal training to add some resistance to all kinds of movements and I find that sometimes clients and athletes alike can handle the medicine ball easier and are able to complete a wider variety of exercises.

For Power: One example of a medicine ball exercise that can be used to enhance athletic performance is a simple medicine ball throw, shown here:
This exercise is essentially an Olympic lift, such as a clean or snatch, but does not require the same amount of skill to teach or perform. I would highly recommend this exercise for athletes especially if you as a coach are not comfortable (or unqualified) teaching the Olympic lifts. The only difference here is that I would limit lumbar hyperextension by instructing the athlete to throw the ball forward or focus on height above not distance behind. We never want the lower back to extend past 180 degrees.

Anther advantage of using medicine balls for power development is that we can train athletes in any range of motion with a medicine ball to develop poser in sport specific movement patterns. This is a huge limitation when using free weights and is nearly impossible using machines.

For General Strength: Medicine balls can be used to supplement free weight exercises or even in place of them in some cases. This video shows some examples of things you can do with a medicine ball: Get creative with your movements and use a medicine ball in place of dumbbells to switch up your normal routine.

Thank you for reading and please come back tomorrow!

* I have no idea who is performing the exercises in these videos and do not endorse everything they do, I just thought the videos would give you some ideas.