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!