Observations of 160 Athletes

“Nothing has such power to broaden the mind as the ability to investigate systematically and truly all that comes under thy observation in life.” – Marcus Aurelius

What can 160 athletes tell you?

It’s another new year. For a lot of people, it is time to make changes or renew their efforts to changes that they set forth in previous years.

At Red Zone Training, we seem to always have some sort of change going on: partly by design, partly by circumstance. Last year was no different, and this year will likely be the same.
We change things up frequently due to the perceived needs of our athletes. If we feel we can better serve them by changing something, we change it. It works well for what we do at Red Zone Training and it worked very well for us at a soccer camp.
Most of you know that last Friday we served as the speed and agility coaches at a high level soccer camp and got to rub shoulders with 8 professional soccer players. While the experience for us was a great one, it was also an eye opener, as well.
As you can see it was no joke. This is only what I did while I was there (although afterwards, I was too tired to do anything else, so this was pretty much my day.)
These athletes were pretty serious soccer players, a one day camp taught by professional soccer players does not come cheap. So we expected the attendees to be better than average athletes. While a lot of them seemed to be well above average soccer players, as athletes, this wasn’t as true.
Observation #1: They do not warm up very well, if at all.
We ran the warm up for the whole camp. It was split into two sessions, with around (90) 7-10 year olds in the first session and over (70) 11-16 yr olds in the second. Obviously we ran two different styles of warmup, the younger kids was more of a fun movement warmup and the older kids did more like what our athletes do. They did marching, skipping, side shuffling, bear crawls, and running at different speeds (with walking rest periods built in, to catch their breaths after anything intense); however after about 8 minutes, they were getting gassed – with two having to go throw up! Pretty much all of our athletes would have still been going. 😉
Observation #2: Their movements are limited.
We decided to keep some things simple and use the agility ladder (its not a speed ladder) for the younger group. Basic linear in and out patterns proved to be challenging for a lot of them; however, they all seemed to have the lateral one down (typewriter). One kid kept telling me, “I only know how to do the typewriter.”
All athletes need lots of movement patterns in their toolbox to draw from. For a lot of these kids, they have a hammer in their toolbox and that’s it. If it isn’t a nail, they are going to be in trouble. Also, they are still getting horrible coaching on movements. So many of the athletes were chopping their arms up and down like a robot on overdrive. For the love of all that is good, please stop teaching athletes to do that! We had them do some fast feet drills with their arm chopping like they were taught, and then had them do them with a relaxed upper body, and EVERY athlete said that it was much easier to do with a relaxed upper body.
Observation #3: They only had one speed.
Apparently most of the athletes have coaches who only know the word “faster”, because that is the only speed a lot of these athletes had. A lot of the kids tried to go through the ladder as fast as possible, regardless of if they were doing it correctly or not. I told one kid, “All you did was run through it like the ladder wasn’t even there. What’s the point? I’ll just take the ladder away and we can just run back and forth and accomplish nothing if that’s what you want to do.” (Seriously he stepped in maybe three of the boxes and the ladder looked like he picked it up and threw it in the air.)
The older athletes were a little better, but we had to hammer home the technical points we wanted them to work on and were reminding them to slow down and do it right. It was easier with them though because we showed them what they were lacking, which is the next observation.
Observation #4: They have ZERO stability.
Oh my goodness, these athletes could not stabilize after a skater hop to save their lives (or more appropriately, their knees). Most couldn’t even balance on one foot without squeezing their knees together to find some semblance of stability. A lot of this is because they use momentum for stability, which is also why we need them to slow down, as well.
The last observation was one that was really nice to see and will set them up to succeed in the future.
Observation #5: They really want to learn.

With our older kids, we cut out 5 minutes early to let them ask questions about speed, agility, training, etc and each group asked some real good questions. They wanted to know what they can do to get better, they wanted to know how to avoid injuries, they wanted someone to show them how to do things properly.

All things considered, the athletes did really well.  There is a lot they can improve upon that would help them play easier and longer, and hopefully they will work on them.  Look at your athletes movement and see if any of the previous observations apply to them. If they have any of these issues, maybe we can help. 🙂
Train Smart and Dominate!