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 yahoo.com and thank you for reading today: http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/football/news?slug=ap-t25usc-johnsonhurt&prov=ap&type=lgns

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: http://www.usscouts.org/usscouts/games/game_t.asp

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.


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 http://www.jlrowing.com/stwoun.html . 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)!