Sunday, June 28, 2009

The 3 C's of Feedback

To avoid over coaching, keep in Mind the 3 C's of feedback:

1.) Clear- Pretty self-explanatory, tell the athlete what you want and be specific! Describe what you want the drill or lift to look like. A lot of times I think we can get lazy and start assuming athletes know more than they do. Being on top of your game and walking them through step by step will undoubtedly erase any confusion and lead to more success.

Bad: “Let’s complete lateral box jumps for 3 sets of 5 on each leg”

Better: “Let’s complete lateral box jumps starting with our right foot for 5 repetitions, then we will move to our left leg and then complete 2 more sets for a total of three rounds off each leg”

The lesson: Communicate exactly what you want, without any room for improvisation. communicate unambiguously.

2.) Concise- This may sound hypocritical to number 1, but there is a distinct difference. Basically, do not over coach athletes. Give them one or two things to focus on at a time, master these concepts before moving on. Simplicity will work in your favor; you will not have to address elementary mistakes over the long run.

Bad: “To squat properly I want you to grab the bar, take a step back to the middle of the rack, loosen your grip and keep your elbows high while you squat down pushing your butt backwards until your femur is positioned parallel to the ground and your knee is over your toes keeping your head and chest up and your core tight”

Better: “To squat properly, let’s keep your elbows high, and chest up to parallel depth”

The lesson: Avoid lengthy verbage that may cause confusion- direct and to the point will be a lot more useful.

3.) Consistent- There may be nothing worse than contradicting yourself or another coach in the weight room. Too much inconsistent coaching leads athletes to doubt your knowledge and distrust your advice. Eventually, your coach-athlete relationship may be lost and you will lose that athlete. Be certain your feedback is correct, and if something changes, explain the difference and make sure they understand why- provide proper evidence as to why the old way changed.

Bad: Monday “keep your elbows high”, Wednesday “elbows up”, Friday “I don’t care where your elbows are as long as you squat low enough”

Better: Monday “keep your elbows high”, Wednesday “keep your elbows high”, Friday “keep your elbows high”

The lesson: Obviously, be consistent about the coaching cues you are using.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

How much Coaching is Too Much?

I know I have said before that I believe many coaches try too hard when coaching and in the process are often over coach athletes. It is great to be eager and try to fix everything as soon as possible, but Rome was not built in one day. Although practice time is limited and we generally feel like we have too much to say in too little time, we should understand athletes are learning without us constantly coaching them. In fact, according to research on focus and attention there is only a certain level of stimulus a person can handle at one time. With this knowledge, we need to apply this research to our coaching and an athlete's needs. One or two things for an athlete to focus on will be plenty especially in a controlled environment such as practice, work on one thing at a time and then progress appropriately- you are in charge. In a game situation it may be a little harder because there is much more stimulus, but I think proper preparation for these moments in practice will teach the athletes how to control their focus.

I will share something with you that I heard in a book by Mike Krzyzewski, basketball coach at Duke University. He said that in the locker room before any game he coaches he will write one word on the chalkboard. This one word is the basis behind everything he preaches in the pregame speech. By giving the athletes one word, he ensures they will be more focused on that particular task and accountable for performing to the best of their abilities relating to the focus word. I think you know you are over coaching when an athlete's performance is no longer reflecting your coaching. For example, if you tell them 6 things and they can only handle and respond to 4 of those things, this may be evidence that you need to break it down further for them to understand. When a motivated athlete does not do something we say, we need to take a different approach to teaching them (it is our fault not theirs). In Coach Krzyzewski's case, one word is enough to focus on at one time.

Thank you for reading, more to come tomorrow....

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wednesday Review: Woodway SpeedBoard

Working at Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning, I get a unique opportunity to see and use some of the newest technology on the market (I'm not endorsing that newer technology is better than old school by any means, although obviously updates can be beneficial). This week, Mike Boyle got a Woodway SpeedBoard treadmill. This is something that is new to the market and combines a few new concepts to provide you with a different way to run on a treadmill. The curved shape of the treadmill minimizes heel to ground contact which on conventional treadmills can cause joint pain. In addition, the belt on the treadmill allows a runner to provide as much or little force they want to automatically adjust treadmill speed. The treadmill uses no electricity, so if you are looking for a "green" alternative- this may be your solution. I love the machine for performance and personally believe we will be seeing more of these in gyms around the country very soon. here's the lowdown:

Benefits*: Automatically adjustable speed so the runner determines their pace, easier to complete interval training because runners do not need to get on and off a moving treadmill, Does not use electricity- saving money, better running simulation by minimizing heel-contact time.

Restrictions*: Can not elevate to train on a grade, No pre-programmed workouts.

Benefits and restrictions are based on my personal opinion from what I've seen in other treadmill equipment and is only being compared to other treadmills, not all cardio machines.

For more information:

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Principles of Feedback

Perhaps the most crucial part of coaching is our delivery of feedback to athletes. If we can not effectively give feedback, we are of no value to an athelte in my opinion because at that point our knowledge and expertise is not useful- does not translate to the athlete. Here are 7 Principles of Feedback to remember when coaching:

Feedback is hard to receive- Athletes are not equally receptive to feedback, interject with caution and know the athlete's preferences for feedback and how they will receive your feedback on an individual basis.
NOTE: When feedback is inconsistent with one's own self-image, it's harder to receive.

Feedback isn't often internalized at the time it is received- There may be a certain lag time associated with the feedback you are giving. Athletes may not understand this feedback for days, months, or years even. Be patient, consistent, and hopefully they will come around.

Feedback is easier to receive from a trusted source- As a coach, make yourself an honest and knowledgeable person. Do not give ambiguous feedback or directions. For example, "I'm not sure if you go left or right during that drill", this statement makes you seem like you don't know what you are talking about and may unintentionally tell an athlete you don't know what you are doing.

Feedback is received easier when offered with a calm presence- In my opinion, always coaching with a fire under your ass and with an "in your face" style is not productive and will become very old. Try screaming everytime you give feedback and I'll time how long it takes the athletes to stop listening- 10 minutes, an hour, certainly no more than 2 practices and I wouldn't listen either.

Feedback is more effective when communicated clearly and specifically- This could almost sum up this whole post. If you do not tell an athelte specifically what to do, don't expect them to do it. Communicate clearly what you envision in the drill, play, etc. Remember to use aids to cater to all learning styles (June 15th post), such as visual aids, drawings, descriptions, etc.

Feedback can only be absorbed in small doses- Overcoaching really makes me mad, especially at the youth or developmental level. Focus on one thing and master it, then move on. I know most kids are on meds (misdiagnosed) for ADHD these days, but they should not be expected to receive paragraphs of information at one time.

Thanks for reading, see you tomorrow for our Wednesday Review!

Monday, June 22, 2009

The 5 Stages of Coaching

The 5 Stages of coaching from Dreyfus (1986) details the stages between a novice and an expert level coach and what it takes, in his opinion, to advance at each level. Here are the stages, and a brief snippet of the characteristics of each, what stage coach are you and what can you do better to move up to the next stage?

Novice: Often use one way as a gold standard and can not deviate well from a given, planned course of action. Novice coaches often do not know what knowledge they lack and have a hard time making educated decisions, especially in the moment.

Advanced Beginner: An advanced beginner has developed a limited ability to make situational decisions. The advanced beginner is good at recognizing patterns and it's a little more educated than a novice, but still lacks an overall picture of the situation.

Competent: Competent coaches are defined by an ability to combat specific, common problems to avoid extensive thought processes. Competent coaches have some sense of the big picture that includes simple priorities, but still lack some knowledge about the overall puzzle. Solving problems and making decisions is becoming more intuitive and experience based.

Proficient: Making decisions and problem-solving are nearly sub-conscious to a proficient coach. Thought processes are still being initiated when needed, but usually behind the scenes.

Expert: Coaches achieve expert level status when they are a student of their discipline. They often intuitively make every decision and things become second nature. Some experts report not knowing how they do things, they just do them much like we would explain walking or riding a bicycle.

For more information, the article is located at:

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sport Coaches Take Note:

A careful man I must always be,
a little fella follows me

I know I dare not go astray,
for fear he'll go the self same way

I can not once escape his eyes,
what error he sees me do he tries

Like me he says he going to be,
this little chap who follows me

He thinks that I am good and fine,
believes in every word of mine

The base in me he must not see,
this little chap who follows me

I must be careful as I go,
through Summer sun and Winter snow

because I am building for the years to be,
this little chap who follows me.

- John Wooden, the best of the best

This video and Coach John Wooden's favorite qoute inspired me and I hope it does the same to you. Happy Father's Day to all and remember you are always a role model.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Practice Makes Perfect?

The old quote coaches used toward athletes read "Practice Makes Perfect". This notion lead athletes to believe that all they had to do to become great was practice an activity. The missing piece of the puzzle, which to coaches is now quite obvious, was the quality of the practice session. Somewhere in the meantime this clarification became widespread and different quotes were derived. The next one I heard was "Perfect Practice, makes Perfect". This gives an athlete more direction as to the quality of the practice session, however, what exactly is perfect practice? In addition, how many times can we honestly say we've had a perfect practice? I think the best alternative I've heard to this day, which I heard this year was:

"Practice Makes Permanent"

The difference in the coach's delivery here does not contain ambiguity while still conveying the importance of practice to the athlete in a precise manner. I think we should all start (or continue) using this term over the other two.

From a scientific position, the third quote has also been proven by Ericsson et. al. (1993) in a study on deliberate practice and skill acquisition. I will provide more on the study another day, but the basis is that with 10,000 hours of deliberate practice, an individual can become an expert level performer in any given skill. The "expert level" status is the permanent part.

I would be very interested to hear any other quotes you've heard as coaches or use personally to convey this message to athletes. Thank you for reading.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Did You Know?

Ok, this may not be disturbing to anyone but me, but the way my mind works, I was totally disgusted by what I saw on yesterday regarding an advertisement for people struggling to make money in this current recession. What the article stated was "Need Money? 10 Part-Time Jobs That Pay" and the picture shown was a little league baseball coach with the caption "Teeball coaches make up to $14/hr."

I was floored by the fact that they were advertising for people to just sign up for coaching positions and it reminded me that this actually was possible in our country. I'm positive by this point you realize I am not a fan of people who coach without necessary training of any kind. Unfortunately, these untrained individuals are also usually coaching at the youngest levels of sport, a.k.a. the most tender time in an athelte's career. I think it only takes one negative experience at these ages to turn a kid away from the sport and maybe sports altogether which is very saddening.

Did You Know? More than half of children who participate in sport before age 12 do not continue after age 12.

I think this is a huge challenge we need to combat as youth sport advocates and I also believe paying unexperienced coaches is the answer. We need to establish/adopt a universal system proven to educate and evaluate sport coaches. The Canadian Coaching Association is much farther ahead in terms of coach education and uses a performance based approach to evaluate coaches, not a knowledge based approach that many associations in the United States are using. For example, you have to demonstrate effective coaching techniques to become certified, not just pass a written test that often times has nothing to do with coaching anyway.

I became a Level 3 Hockey coach by attending 3 seminars, for three days. Nobody with USA Hockey knows if I can actually teach or coach a group of hockey players, but I did sit and listen for a few hours and then pass the test.... I think the statistic above is proving that this is an ineffective system of coach education, we are the ones who can change things.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wednesday Review: Nike Shox

I was unaware these were still on the market, but I had a talk with an athlete about them today and was going to review a boring Strength and Conditioning article, so I changed my mind. Now, I owned Nike Shox for about a year (two pair of shoes), so I definately liked something about them enough to buy them twice. Although I knew nothing about purchasing shoes back then, I think they felt and looked cool, which must have swayed my decision away from some other shoe. The science behind performance shoes would probably lean away from the Nike Shox, at least in the department on lateral movement

I do not think the Nike Shox are a good shoe at all for any sport involving lateral movement. The shox Nike uses for these shoes elevate your foot to a level that is detrimental to any sort of cutting action- Like wearing high heels. Typically when performing these types of activities, you want a sole low to the ground, that will allow a more optimal foot plant and reduce the possibility of rolling over your ankle during a cut. Obviously injury is possible doing any kind of physical activity, but I suffered a sprained ankle in these shoes and have seen or heard of numerous occurrences that were similar. As far as running in a linear fashion, I think the Shox are great, however there aren't many sports that are naturally linear.

If you are involved in these activities I would recommend a shoe that is designed with a lower sole. There are plenty of these on the market and I have heard great things about them, but I have never owned a pair, so I can not speak from experience. I do know that your feet are an extremely important player in proper body alignment and can be a huge key in preventing future imbalances. With this information, do not underestimate the importance of your feet. Go get your stride analyzed and have a professional pick out a certain kind of shoe that matches your needs- you will appreciate the benefits.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Technical Failure vs. Failure

This topic pertains to the weight room, but here are the two definitions and you decide for yourself:

Technical Failure: When an athlete is unable to perform a repetition with perfect form successfully.

Failure: When an athlete is unable to perform a repetition successfully.

The difference: with perfect form

From working in great weight rooms over the years, I have learned that completing repetitions just to reach a certain number and not actually working on completing them with good form is not ok! However, just recently was I introduced to a name for this comparison courtesy of a Mike Boyle presentation. Exercises are meant to be performed a certain way and any deviation from the correct model is a technical failure to me and the exercise should be stopped and the weight dropped immediately (some of you think I'm kidding right now) for the remainder of the session to be re-evaluated in a future session. Please keep this in mind if you are controlling any weight training sessions for the team, do not risk injuries with those you are working with.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Learning Styles/Preferences

I think it is almost human nature (laziness) to assume that the only way to perform something or learn something is "your" way, but if you are a coach and assume athletes learn the same way as you, I think you are making a huge mistake. In all honesty, you are being shortsided to the atheltes you are working with and disadvantaging some if you continue to teach a single way and not fully accept and encompass all ways of learning. Now, I am unsure how many official learning styles have been hypothesized over the years, but for this post I will focus on the model described in The Manual of Learning Styles 3rd Edition (Honey and Mumford 1992).

According to Honey and Mumford, there are not only ways to perceive information- which we most commonly refer to as the learning styles- Auditory, Visual, Reading/Writing, and Kineasthetic. However, there are also ways we process information and then organize it. I think these are huge components of coaching and all components need to be evaluated and understood equally.

The Breakdown-

Methods of perception include: Auditory, Visual, Reading/Writing, and Kineasthetic. This literature says that learners use all senses when perceiving information, but some modes of transmission are more developed and reliable than others. This means that a "kineasthetic" learner will obviously hear and see the information (if presented in these formats), but not actually get a clear grasp on the information until they feel the information or exerpeience the information.

Methods of processing information as described in this literature include ways to grasp information, order information, and then engage with information. Methods of grasping the information involve ways of giving examples, and presenting concepts in an abstract or a generalized fashion. Ordering information is a very complex idea that looks at the sequence of receiving information and how that relates to processing. Information can be presented in chunks, individually, in a "whole picture" format, etc. Lastly, engaging with the information relies on the learners ability to do something with the information presented and reflect on it internally, or experiment with it externally.

The third part of this research involves organizing information. This involves your presentation of information with others around you. Information can travel on a spectrum from a holistic approach to a more detailed approach. In addition, words or pictures can be used to supplement the processing of information.

The Message-

As coaches, it is obvious that we need to understand athlete's needs. Determining athlete's learning styles is something that can not be taken for granted. On another level, when you do figure out an athlete's learning style, you need to use this knowledge to your advantage in your coaching. Just from the brief overview I've given you today you should be able to cater soemwhat to at least the 4 styles of perceiving information in every practice. Here's how I would do this: Draw every drill out on a board or paper and allow your Reading/Writing learners to reiterate the drills for the rest of the team, demonstrate every drill before putting it to use using your kineasthetic learners as a means to show the others. This is an easy way to get all modes of perception involved.

Using the other methods described will take a little more day-to-day planning, but i think it is worth it. Experiment with ways of presenting information that you are uncomfortable with and develop those skills, see how athletes respond to these changes. I believe one of the coach's biggest roles lies as an educator and taking into account different ways of learning information and catering to as many people as possible is a great way to improve your coaching immediately!

The Website-

For more information and the lowdown on this literature visit:

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Vertical Core

As sport coaches, I think we can unanimously agree that not many sport movement patterns involve a strict forward flexion (shoulders moving toward the waist). The only time I can think of at this moment is when athletes are tying their shoes, skates, etc. With this knowledge, it would seem that this motion is not something that needs to be trained repetitively. If we can all agree this is not an important action, why do we still see athletes train with their backs on the ground doing sit ups, crunches, etc? I'm not sure we can come up with a good answer as quickly. The truth is there are better ways to train the core musculature (involving a complex set of muscles not just the rectus abdominis). One of these ways is in the vertical, or standing, position. Here are three exercises that will load the "core" in a vertical positon rather than on the ground, not to mention save your lower back from excessive and unnecessary shearing force.

1.) Belly Press (Pallof Press)- Stand Perpendicular to a Cable Column and grip both hands around a conventional cable column handle at belly button height. Press the handle in a straight line away from your body and do not rotate through your hips or shoulders. Repeat for repetitions or hold for time.

2.) Landmines- There are a lot of variations to this exercise, but basically all you need to do is stand away from the bar holding the bar and allow the bar to move to one side while maintaining the same position with your shoulders and hips, so again not moving. When you feel your core working return to the middle and repeat on the other side. Complete repetitions.

3.) Stability Bar Press- In the same position as the Belly Press, but with a straight bar, pull the bar across your body and push straight out with the hand closest to the cable column, maintain proper posture throughout the exercise and repeat for repetitions.

Sorry there are not any videos for these exercises, I am still experimenting with the format, when I find out how I will post videos to go along with the explanations, all of these are on if you want to see them being performed. Thanks for reading today.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wednesday Review: Core X System

I attended a conference a month or so ago at Northeastern University that focused on hernias and Strength and Conditioning for Ice Hockey. At the conference I had the privilege of meeting Nico Berg, and watching him present on strengthening the core and rehabilitating athletes using the Core X System, a nifty little device invented by his professional partner Alex McKechnie. Let me preface this by saying these two men are geniuses. The presentation was so compelling I actually went home and bought the system for my own use. I have now used the system with a few athletes and gotten their feedback on the system.

Most people that I have introduced to the system conclude that it does challenge the core in a vertical position which has been shown to be a more functional way of training and developing the core musculature (which is a very broad term encompassing a lot, but more on that later). I have also incorporated the Core X System in some of my workouts and been a bit sore the next day. However, I would say the Core X System is best used as solely a rehabilitative tool for athletes with imbalances in the pelvis or generating from the hips (an argument can be made that all imbalances originate from the hips), and not a pure core strengthening tool. I have two reasons for this: 1.) It is hard to work with more than about 4 athletes at a time with the Core X System. 2.) The Core X System may not add enough resistance over time for an athlete and the resistance can not be adjusted over time.

I think the Core X System is a great tool for basic strength development in the core and I will continue to use the Core X System occasionally, but I will not recommend buying the Core X System because I think there are plenty of other exercises that can be incorporated into a workout to achieve the same results/benefits. For example, the Core X System can be made by crossing two elastic bands in a similar pattern to create the desired effect.

For more on Vertical Core training stop by tomorrow and I will have a whole list of core exercises. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Positive Coaching Alliance

Here is a great article from USA Hockey that was forwarded to me this week and gives some advice about coaching life lessons and coaching at times and in ways that may not be noticeable or recognized by outsiders' naked eye. Such coaching moments include during stretching/warm-up periods and seeing through the physical presence of an athlete and deeper into their psychological state- something I think expert levels coaches master early on.

The author of the article here comes from a great organization and one that I believe in wholeheartedly. The Positive Coaching Alliance is doing great things across the country with youth organizations to promote positive coaching.

Visit their website and check it out at:

Thanks for reading, and come back tomorrow for our weekly review.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Coaching Discourses

If you've been reading the blog, you may have noticed that at times my language toward athletes and the coach-athlete relationship is different from what you may normally have heard. As a coach, I believe the language we use in conversation every day is extremely important and says a lot about our philosophy and what we believe in.

Perhaps the biggest thing that I hear from coaches in their language is a sense of possession toward the athlete. This is something that really annoys me and I would like any of you to correct me if you ever hear me say or write "my" athlete or "your" athlete. Although a coach may be the most good-natured individual on the planet, and be completely oblivious to using words of possession, it will rub someone the wrong way and they will lose respect for that coach. When an athlete hears a coach speak about them in this way, I think it implies a sense of superiority and that is not the kind of relationship that will be successful in my opinion. In a functional relationship, I believe there is equal voice among all contributors, and this has to be the case in athletics as well.

Using words of possession with the athletes is not proper dialogue and is something we can definitely work on as coaches. Give the athletes an equal voice and hear their opinions, I think it will go a long way in your relationship and you will gain a lot more respect.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Interval Training- How to Look Like the Man Below

It is widely known that interval training is a better method for burning calories, increasing cardiovascular capacity, and athletic performance compared to steady state work. During interval training, your body will work very hard for a predetermined amount of time, and then there will be a recovery period provided for up to 5 times the duration of the work period (or perhaps even more in some special cases). Although we know this information, there are still people looking to reach their fitness goals , but doing so in an outdated manner (steady state). Here are the facts:

Burning More Calories- Interval Training forces your heart rate above comfortable levels during the work interval. During the recovery interval, your heart rate drops a little bit back down to a comfortable level, but is then increased again. Over the workout, your heart rate will more than likely drop less and less during the recovery interval (depending on how efficient your cardiovascular system is). The Result is a higher average heart rate over the course of the workout and thus more calories burned over the same amount of time.

Increasing Cardiovascular Capacity-While performing intervals, there are two key components increasing your cardiovascular capacity, both are adaptations to the workload. First, the work interval is producing lactic acid in your muscles and your body's ability to regulate this lactic acid, and remove it from the system is an adaptation that will increase your Anaerobic Threshold and allow you to do more intense activity for a longer duration in the future. Secondly, your body is adapting by increasing capillary beds (i.e. more blood vessels) to accompany more oxygen to be effectively delivered to the working muscles of the body. With a greater area of oxygen delivery, your body will get more oxygen in a shorter amount of time- More efficient, and therefore be able to tolerate more work- Increased Capacity.

Athletic Performance- Tailoring Interval Training to a the demands of a specific sport will increase your fitness level fro that sport. For example, if it's found that during a soccer game, a player will run 15 yard sprints on average 20 times per half, you know that your training should last about 15 seconds in duration (work interval) accompanied by jogging periods (recovery interval) for about 20 times in 45 minutes. This is specific training. Obviously intervals do not necessarily need to be exactly on time, but the closer the better I think and the more the athlete will benefit. Maximize your benefits with a more specific conditioning plan.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Know Your Trainer

Since I do a little bit in the area of personal training, I thought today would be a good day to give you all some information on that side of things. I have two article to share with you, one a little bit older and about how you should know your personal trainer and their credentials because nowadays just about anyone can become a "personal trainer". Remember whoever you are training with could be hurting you as much as helping you.

Here are my 3 steps to finding a great personal trainer:

1.) Find out their certifying body: The best organizations are National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and the American Council on Exercise (ACE). If they are being certified by the local gym they may not be as qualified in my opinion.

2.) Ask Questions: If your Personal Trainer can not answer questions you have logically, they are more than likely a fake! Be mindful of what you are doing. Even the biggest fitness dummies can probably spot something that is not right. Trust your intuition, if something feels weird, ask a question about it.

3.) If your Personal Trainer is not respecting your abilities, I do not think they are legitimate. Motivating you is one thing, but getting you to push through pain or discomfort I do not think is very smart.

The second article is about running shoes, thanks to my boy Dan Frid for passing this one along to me. Have a look:

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Realtive (Not Absolute) Ability

This morning, when golfing with an 80 year old couple I was frequently reminded of an important coaching strategy. The female in our group had just begun golfing less than one year ago. When she addressed the ball for a shot I stood far away, and cheered loudly- when she made contact. See, at her age and skill level, making contact with the ball and sending it in a positive direction toward the hole seemed to me like a very positive result. (Through 9 holes she had about an 85% contact percentage. That is, she made contact with the ball about 85% of the strokes she took)Now, my cheering and encouragement after a 30 yard drive may have seemed strange to someone outside of our group, but for her 30 yards might as well have been a hole-in-one. This is because when she made full contact with the ball, and exhausted her potential, it went about 30 yards. My cheers for her were based on her own individual skill level and relative ability. If I was comparing her to Michelle Wie, I think I would have been sorely disappointed and extremely frustrated over the nearly 3 hours I spent with her today.

This idea of Relative Ability is something we need to remember as coaches and also as parents. I have seen too many comparisons between professional, or expert level athletes, and High School or even middle school athletes. To some parents and coaches, LeBron James' High School statistics have become the standard for measuring their own athletes, and to me: THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE! For example I have heard things like "If Randy Johnson threw 75 mph as a 10 year old and my son can only throw 45 he has no chance at a college scholarship". I think this statement is absolutely ridiculous, but for some parents this is the standard measurement. I think we need to stop comparing athletes to their peers and instead recognize individual gains, based on individual standards, as an accomplishment. In Strength and Conditioning, we use max testing and individual percentages to asses gains/losses which is easy for us. As sport coaches, you have to know the athletes you are working with and realize their relative abilities and what they are capable of. When you see them make improvements, praise them- even for the smallest details.

I guarantee most of the athletes you are working with are not the next LeBron James, so let's not treat them that way and discourage them away from the sport. I think sport is great for any young individual and would hate to see anyone discontinue participation at a young age because a coach was not receptive to an ahletes needs or did not respect their own individual level of relative ability. You can only perform your best, and this old cliche is really true. Thanks for reading, I've got a great article for everyone to read tomorrow so please come back.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Wednesday Review- Vital Friends

After Coach Gwozdecky preached to me about networking Monday, I felt it was only necessary to write about relationships in my next post. Vital Friends by Tom Rath is a novel I recently completed that provides a compelling look at friendships and uniquely analyzes the impact of interrelationships on your everyday life. The power of friendships and interconnectedness is clearly revealed in this novel. In contrast to last weeks review, Creative Coaching, Vital Friends uses some experimentation (mainly surveys) as a means to provide evidence for the conclusions made. Now, I know surveys aren't the most scientific method of data collection known to man, but it is more reliable than anectdotal evidence.

The results that were obtained in some of these surveys was remarkable and the impact friendships have on our life every day are truly amazing. In one of the examples given, the author along with fellow researchers interview a group of homeless people and find that one of their reasons for isolation is that they have been abandoned by their peers and all of their family/friends. Once they no longer had someone who believed in them, they in essence had no one to live for or to give them hope. This situation was not very motivating and they eventually lost hope in themselves as a result of those around them. This was very striking to me and stood out among the various studies reviewed.

In another section of the book, Rath outlines eight types of people: Builders, Champions, Collaborators, Companions, Connectors, Energizers, Mind Openers, and Navigators. Rath gives examples of each and outlines how each can improve a relationship. There is also a section on creating more friendly work areas and creatively designing work spaces to facilitate friendships which is definately something I have never thought of before.

Overall, this was a great book providing an easy read with a great amount of mind opening knowledge. If you want a different look at how you define the relationships around you I suggest reading this book. Thanks for reading the blog.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

3 Mentors in 3 Weeks- Denver University

Traveling through Denver this past weekend, I finally met with my third mentor in as many weeks. This time it was University of Denver Head Men's Hockey coach George Gwozdecky. Coach Gwozdecky offered me some great advice for a young coach and we talked primarily about how to advance in the coaching field, here were his 3 take home points:

1.) Networking- As a young professional I have a good idea about the concept of networking and it's not always about WHAT you know, but WHO you know. This was clearly Coach Gwozdecky's main point. To get anywhere in this World you have to constantly reach out to others and get to know them and what they do. Once you have solidified a good network, use that network to your advantage, it can be one of your greatest assets.

2.) Practice- As coaches we should know practicing a task will give you more experience and hopefully make you better at that task. Therefore, if you want to become a better coach- coach. Get your butt off the couch, turn off the tv, drop the "Coaching For Dummies" book and go out an conduct a practice session. You will undoubtedly gain more from experience, than you will from reading any book, or listening to any speech.

3.) Player Development- Coach Gwozdecky told me his favorite part of being a collegiate coach was Graduation. When he sees one of the atheltes walk across the stage and receive their diploma they have finished a long and hard road of personal development both physically and mentally. This player development was also something he mentioned as the hardest part of being a collegiate coach. Athletes are multi-dimensional people and watching them develop within a sport context is great, but seeing them develop as people is a whole different dimension and often times hard for us as coaches to grasp. Respect this next dimension and help them get there.

Thanks for keeping updated the past three weeks to hear about all three mentors. Come back tomrrow for the Wednesday Review.