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.