Speed and Strength Train Like Spiders

Before I get into spider webs, I just wanted to give a shout out to a couple of athletes for their recent accomplishments.

Congrats to current RZT Athletes:

Nic B. and Zach R. for winning the Norcal U13 Babe Ruth Tournament to send them to Utah for the next round of the Babe Ruth World Series. As of this morning their team was 2-0 in Utah!!

Zareena M. – moved up to the top team at her club, Pleasanton Rage!

Charlie P. – her team won their tourney and she hit her first Home Run of the season!

What do Spider Webs Have To Do With Training

Between being a camp leader for our church last week down in Oakhurst and getting my house ready to be painted, I have seen a LOT of spider webs. Has anyone else cleared off a spider web only to have it reappear the next day or two? The reason a spider can spin its web so quickly and efficiently is due to the simplicity of the design. Lately I have had a greater appreciation for simplicity; that and minimalism, but that’s whole different topic.

In health, fitness, and performance, complex is often celebrated or worn as a badge of honor. “Look at me! I just did a single leg, barbell snatch, while standing on a physioball, with my 2 year old strapped to me!”

While I’m not here to bash the complex by any means, I feel we often sacrifice the simple, the basics, and the fundamentals in search of the complex, the intricate, and the advanced.

Pareto Principle basically states that 80% of the results come from 20% of the input, or work. What that principle doesn’t say is that 20% of input, or work, comes from basic, fundamental input.

Take baseball for instance. A pitcher typically has a specific strikeout pitch they go to. So, applying the Pareto principle, 8 out of 10 strikeouts will probably be from that pitch, with the other two coming from a secondary pitch. Which pitch should the pitcher continue to work on and refine, the one which gets the majority of strikeout, or a lesser pitch that is not as effective?

With Athlete Development, we have seen the continued shift to more advanced, exotic, and complex exercises and drills. While this may be absolutely appropriate for an advanced, fully mature athlete, we should not be seeing this in the younger population where they are not even close to mastering the basic, fundamental movements.

For instance, I had a parent bring me a video of an exercise that his baseball coach wanted him to do. Just watching the video of the kid performing the drill, I could tell right away that he was in no way prepared to perform this drill correctly, so we broke it down into several basic parts. Get better at the basics so you are eventually able to progress to the more complex.

I think a lot of the time, exercises and drills are progressed too fast, or to advanced forms, due to the boredom factor. Adults and kids say they get bored doing the same thing over and over again. They say this, yet in baseball/softball you throw and hit over and over, soccer you run and kick over and over again, basketball you dribble and shoot over and over again; so why is strength training and conditioning different?

It’s not, it becomes boring because you perceive it to be. Your mindset has tainted your perception of what you are doing to the point that it will start to affect your results. You change the focus from the process to the outcome because the real results come much later down the road, years in fact and our instant gratification mindset wants to focus on the immediate.

You strength train to not only improve your performance, but more importantly to resist injury so you can continue to practice and play your sport. One of your results, improved performance may not pay off for a few years as you are building your fundamental base upon which performance can be improved. The other result, being injury free, is often the unseen and not thought of since the goal is not something that we ever really reach, since it is always on going. Most goals have a tangible time frame, but remaining injury free is a constant.

Speaking of goals, my goal with this newsletter is hopefully get you to see that the improvement can be and often is the result of the basics, the fundamentals and if you want to progress to the complex or advanced you have to master the basics and fundamentals first and earn the right to go there.

We hope this helps and if you or your athlete is looking to invest in their health or sports, maybe we can help

Change This One Thing To Make A Huge Impact

“Everything is created twice, first in the mind and then in reality.” – Robin S.Sharma, author; The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari

Recently we changed some of our warm up exercises so our athletes have had to learn a few new things.  Several athletes have had issues with remembering what the words on the board represent.  The other day, one athlete asked me what several of the warm up exercises were.  I asked her, “How can you not remember this?  You are here twice a week and most of the stuff is the same, just in a different order.”

They said to me, “I don’t know why I don’t remember it.  How do I remember it so I don’t forget?”  I told them, “Show Up.”  They said, “I do, I come twice a week.”
I explained to her, “That’s not what I mean.  When you Show Up, you are present, you are focused, you are mindful of what you are doing.”

This time of year, is especially difficult for a lot of athletes, long seasons are winding down, others are starting up, school has been wearing on everyone, and summer is right around the corner.  Although we get a lot of athletes coming in, fewer and fewer Show Up this time a year.

Most of the athletes will tell you I’m pretty laid back.  My goal is to help them see the importance that athlete development will have on their sport and I choose to do this by encouraging them, guiding them, and letting them find their way.  So when athletes don’t Show Up like they should it would be rational for you to assume that I would give them some more leeway.  You would be 100% wrong.

This time of year my patience wears thin more easily, (not for new athletes since they are still often trying to find how everything fits together and how it will make them better) because not showing up is a habit that will take you farther from your goals.

Not being focused, not being present, not being mindful leads to athletes getting lazy, getting complacent, getting passed by the competition or getting hurt.  This is the time when being more laid back as a coach pays off.  I’ve built trust with the athletes, they know that I want what’s best for them, not what looks the coolest, and not to stroke my own ego; so when I start raising my voice or threatening to sit them during their session, they typically respond.

With summer break coming up, we get a lot of our athletes back who have had to take a break because their schedule is tight, and we get a lot of our current athletes coming in more often.  Summer is one of the few times a lot of our athletes can get in consistently, so we NEED them to show up and walking through the door only means you have arrived for your training session.  Whether you Show Up or not remains to be seen.

The Long Game For The Long Gain or Loss.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Chinese Proverb

The other day I had a client come up and tell me that they are officially a size 6.  I was like, “Cool, what were you when you started?”  Six years ago she was a size 12.  That got me thinking about a post I put up on my Instagram @SynfullyFit about how the longer it takes to do something, the easier it is to maintain.

The opposite seems to be true as well.  The quicker it takes to do something the harder it is to maintain.  It’s kind of like when someone does a crash diet, they may lose the weight initially, but it usually comes right back up, and up, and up.  My client played the long game, but in this case it was the long loss, and because of it she will have an easier time maintaining it.

Regarding athletic development, the long game has an athlete building up parts of their athleticism over a long period of time instead of trying to accomplish everything in a condensed period.  Unlike fat loss, where you usually gain it back shortly after a crash diet; trying to “crash” develop an athlete will usually end up with the athlete crashing and burning.  First the body is not good at adapting to multiple or competing demands at the same time.  For example trying to develop top speed and cross country endurance isn’t going to end well.

So how does this apply to sports?  Focusing only on developing pitching, hitting, swim stroke or other sport specific skills, leaves you open to injury, decreased athleticism, and performance degradation as the season wears on.  You just don’t have the strength to maintain.

When you are young, you may display very good speed, strength or power attributes.  You may be able to run for a long time, pitch fast, or hit far, because they are relative to your body.  Smaller kids are faster because they have less mass to move.  Bigger kids can hit farther because they have the mass behind the swing.  However as smaller kids grow, their light weight which was an advantage is gone and they need to rely on strength and power.  The bigger kids may still have the mass behind the swing, but the pitching gets faster and they don’t have the strength/power to swing fast enough to hit and when they do, they don’t have the speed to run the bases adequately.

The same hold true for the opposite as well.  An athlete who only works on strength and speed will not have the necessary sport specific skills to use all that strength, power and speed.  This is why you want a solid, all encompassing, long term development plan that blends both your sport specific skills, with athlete specific development.

Don’t get me wrong there are times, or cycles, when an athlete will focus more on one attribute over another, but you have to intelligently program that, and have built up the foundation and enough of a gain in the other areas so as not to get yourself out of whack.

For example,  the early off-season is a good time to work on more strength.  The late off-season, more power and beginning sport specific skills.  Pre-season transition over to more sport specific skills, power and and energy system development.  In-season is for maintenance.

Get your athletes playing the long game, so they can play their game for a long time.

How To Find Time To Train

“Action express priorities.” – Mahatma Gandhi

How often do we put something off with the reason being we don’t have time?  Then we tell ourselves, “I need to find time to do….”. Ironically I was inspired to write this while I was listening to a podcast while brushing my teeth.  You see, I was trying to find time to get caught up listening to about a 100 podcasts that are queued up and waiting for me to go through.  Even more strange was the fact that I was listening to a Christian podcast talking about making time versus finding time.  Time is such a universal commodity that its constraints are felt by everyone.

Personally I struggle with time.  There just isn’t enough time in the day for me.  Or is there?  I tell myself all the time that I need to find time to do this, that or the other; to the point that I am listening to podcasts while getting ready in the morning, making breakfast, and driving to work.

While that is one way to find time, certain things can not be accomplished as easily as listening to a podcast.  Take training for instance.  I can’t really deadlift while brushing my teeth and working on aerobic capacity is not very feasible while I’m trying to drink my coffee.  This is where finding time is not the answer.  The problem is I’m searching for an answer to a question when really I need to be asking myself a different question.

If you watch TV, get on Facebook, play video games, get your nails done, meet people for coffee, or volunteer at your kids school; you have time, you just choose to use it for something else.  This doesn’t mean you are wasting time, as volunteering for anything is a noble use of time and the friend you are meeting for coffee could be going through a rough time in their life.  The point is we have time.  We don’t need to find time, we need to use it differently.

Health and fitness take time.  Working out/Training takes time.  Meal planning and food prep take time.  Having a house takes time.  Work takes time.  Kids take time.  Laundry, takes up way more time that in should!  So how do you balance all of it and still focus on being healthy and improving your fitness?  That is the question we should be asking ourselves.

Recently I have had two women, who train with my morning women’s group, get part time jobs.  Both of them looked for and took jobs that did not interfere with their morning training times.  Their health and fitness is a priority so they made time for it.  Obviously this won’t work for everyone, but that’s not the point.  The point is they made time for something they thought was important.

Last summer I had a swimmer who had double and triple practices come in between practice almost everyday.  They did this because they knew their bodies needed to do some recovery work to get them ready for their next practice.  They didn’t go home and play video games, or go hang out with friends.  They came in, got what they needed done, went home and ate, took a nap and got ready for the next practice.  This is probably why they got the swim scholarship they were trying to get.  They made time to do the things they needed to do to achieve their goals.  So how does one make time?

Both my women’s group and my athletes made time by making it a priority.  So if health and fitness, or athletic development like speed/agility and getting stronger are important to you then you have to make it a priority as we tend to make time for things that we consider a priority, which is why it seems most people don’t do laundry until they are close to having nothing to wear.  Doing laundry isn’t a priority until you don’t have clean clothes to wear.  Strength work isn’t a priority until you get hurt.  Speed work isn’t a priority until people start passing you by.  When we don’t have priorities, we will fill up time with other stuff.  It may be good and/or productive like volunteering or it may be wasteful like just watching TV.

So instead of looking to find time, find ways to make time by figuring out your goals.  Once you have your goals set, make them a priority by setting aside time to work on meeting those goals.

So what is your goal?  What is something you want to achieve that you are putting off under the guise of not having time?  I bet if you really looked at it, you have the time you need.  Whether or not you want to sacrifice the things that are currently occupying your time is only something you can determine.  If you have a goal, make it a priority and then make time for it, don’t wait around trying to find time for.

Thank you for trusting us with your athlete and we hope this helps in some way

Are Coaches Ruining Sports

“The NBA has made a real issue about really making these superstars the premium that everybody wants to go to. That’s their calling card and their marketing tool. But the coaches at the other end of the sphere are trying to make everybody on the team, even nine, 10, 11, 12, just as important, and have a real role that’s meaningful.” – Phil Jackson


I recently read an article titled, “Strength Coaches are Ruining Football” (I couldn’t find the article to link to or give proper credit to the author) that was written in response to last months Oregon football off-season conditioning program that sent 3 players to the hospital, one with Rhabdomyolysis.  Rhabdo as it is know as, is when skeletal muscle tissue breaks down rapidly causing high levels of waste product, like protein myoglobin to enter the blood stream.  If continued and left untreated this could result in kidney failure.

The article was talking about how strength coaches try to use conditioning to make their players mentally tough.  The writer explains how this toughness is actually a “fake toughness” and so it really is an antiquated method.

Recently we have a had several athletes come in with practice related injuries due to misapplication of training methods both by their sport coaches and their school strength coaches.  So in reality the article I read could have been titled, “Coaches Are Ruining Sports.”  Let me first off state that it is only bad coaching that is ruining sports and I know several good coaches so this is not a bash coaches article, as I myself would be included since I am a strength, conditioning and athlete development coach.  I am starting to see a trend in more and more unqualified or inexperienced coaches trying to coach outside their scope of knowledge.

That being said, we are seeing more and more cases of athletes being literally broken by their coaches.  We had a swimmer whose practice, 10 days before a meet mind you, was so intense that their body became numb and they developed a shoulder injury which made it difficult to even left their hand up over head.  Another swimmer came in with a biceps strain.  Come to find out they were doing bicep curls as part of an in-season strength program?!?!  Also they had them doing trunk twists with a barbell on their back.

For those who don’t know why those are completely inappropriate, swimmers need to get their arms/bodies long.  Doing biceps curls is going to make the muscle tight.  Going out and swimming and trying to get the arm long, after spending time making the muscle short/tight is going to lead to a strain at best.  Don’t even get me started not the barbell twists right now.

These incidents are not relegated to just swimming either.  An in-season volleyball conditioning as punishment drill included 52 gassers (sprints across the short court) followed by a dive at the end.  Yes, lets dive on the court 52 times, in a fatigued state, in a short amount of time; What could possibly go wrong?  Another coaching technique more than likely caused a stress fracture in another athlete.

Track coaches having de-conditioned athletes running 5+ miles on their first day of practice.  Having catchers catch 3-6 games over a weekend.  Soccer coaches doing conditioning as punishment the day after losing a tournament, when their athletes bodies haven’t even recovered from the wear and tear of the tournament.  Strength coaches doing high intensity jumping during in-season basketball.  Having a pitcher do bench press and curls during pre-season conditioning (this is actually bad pretty much anytime of the year for a pitcher).

These are all the things our athletes or parents have told us that have happened in the last month and a half!  Seriously what is going on in my profession?  There are too many uneducated, over-zealous, and/or incompetent coaches in charge of youth athletes.

I’ll be the first to admit that I was nowhere near the coach I am today when I first started.  For all intents and purposes I was the least knowledgeable coach to start a business in the health/fitness scene.  Fortunately for me, I did not have the ego that most coaches do, so I leaned on those who knew way more than me and took their advice.  The other thing that I did was to error on the side of caution.  I knew I didn’t know about training athletes, so I leaned on my former business partner Jason Owings while I was in the process of educating myself.

He had been in the fitness profession for several years before he came to us.  Although he had knowledge, he had not worked with kids either, so he also took an error on the side of caution approach as he educated himself on working with kids.

While I consider myself a pretty knowledgeable coach when it comes to working with youth athletes, I am not the smartest so I still continue to learn from those better than me.  I have over a dozen youth oriented certifications; from active movement and play for toddlers through High School Strength and Conditioning Specialist.  I have certifications for adults and just passed a Conditioning Coach Certification.  I read books and articles daily, follow a couple of dozen coaches who are the top in their industry, and continue to educate myself through other means.  My next project is a nueroeconomics course to learn how fatigue affects decision making.

What I’m getting at, is lack of knowledge or experience isn’t the reason athletes are getting hurt; it is a coaches grand ideas of coaching the next Micheal Phelps, Mia Hamm, Madison Bumgardner, Gabby Douglas, Steph Curry, Usain Bolt, etc. that is the root of the problem.

As coaches, parents, athletes, we look at coaches who have coached superstars and feel we need to do what they are doing, but how many times have you stopped to think about how many athletes have they taken that far?  Maybe Micheal Phelps coach isn’t really that good, or maybe he got lucky that he got such a genetically gifted athlete.  How many athletes did so and so’s coach ruin.  How many athletes succeed/survive in spite of their coaches and/or training?  These are things we all need to think about as we judge the efficacy of a coach or a training program.

I’m willing to bet you have never heard of Dr. Anatoliy Bonderchuk.  He could be one of the greatest coaches of all time regardless of sport.  Bonderchuk, a hammer thrower, is a former world record holder and 1972 gold medal winner in the hammer throw.  What he accomplished as an athlete is nothing compared to his coaching resume.  He has coached medal winners in 5 olympics and several world record holder.  I have read that he coached the Gold, Silver and Bronze medal winners in 3 consecutive Olympics.  Now that is a coach whose methods and training program work!  That is a coach all coaches need to strive to be.  What makes him great is that he coaches what he knows, he doesn’t try to coach everyone. He coaches Olympic hopeful atheltes.

As smart as Bonderchuk is he probably also realizes that his skill set would not transfer over to elementary school, middle school, and probably even early high school athletes.  There in lies the elephant in the room.  Too many coaches or former players turned coaches, are trying to use advanced training techniques with youth athletes.  It doesn’t work well.  Sure you may get an athlete or two who survive your training methods so you can make a name for yourself, but how many athletes did you ruin seeking that glory?

For us, its just not worth it.  We will continue to error on the side of caution, because we are in the business to build athletes, all of our athletes not just the genetically gifted one.  We don’t ever want to break one.  Even our least gifted, no shot at making a college team or even a high school team athlete deserves not to be broken.  Besides, as we are finding out, your best ability is availability.  If you are hurt, you can’t play.  It’s that simple.

Thank you for trusting us with your athlete and we hope this helps in some way.

Train Smart and Dominate!

Strategies All Athletes Need To Embrace

Last week I mentioned how time is not a friend to an athletes’ career, and time spent wasted is something you can not get back.  But what can athletes do when they don’t seem to have time but still need to cram other things in?

Be More Efficient:
It’s easier said than done, but all athletes should take advantage of the opportunities to get better when they present themselves.  For example; How many athletes do you see go through their warm ups haphazardly, or without purpose?  The warm up is an opportunity to work on so many aspects of training, such as posture, proprioception, spatial awareness, form and technique to name a few.  Unfortunately we see so many athletes not take advantage of this opportunity to get better.  Being more efficient with the time you have, will not gain you more time, but it will allow you to do more in that time frame which in essence is like having more time.

Rest and Recover:
Athletes do not spend enough time recovering from all their training and practicing.  Improvements are made during the recovery period.  Your brain shifts short term memory items to longer term memory when you sleep.  The body repairs muscle damage, while you sleep.  Sleep is where most of what you spent doing in the day translates into improvements going forward; yet so many athletes when given the opportunity, will stay up late watching TV, texting with friends or playing video games.   If you wouldn’t skip practice to do those things, why would you skip sleep to do those?

Fuel the Body Properly
You can’t fuel a jet with gas from your lawn mower, yet so many athletes who want to perform at a high level will fuel their bodies with junk food.  The body can adapt for a while before all the consequences of it having to adapt to your not fueling it with enough vitamins and minerals catches up.  You want to be shorter than you are genetically capable of, you want to have weak bones and/or muscles, you want an impaired immune system, do you want impaired decision making?  The body will pull what it needs from other systems so that you can practice, but if you don’t put those nutrients back in, expect to be a high level athlete for not very long.

Make Time:
We hear it all the time, that athletes can’t miss practice.  In reality though, you miss practice when you are sick, when you are on vacation, if the coach cancels it because of the weather or if they have something come up.  Practice is not the mandatory end all be all that most coaches would like you to think. Practice is only beneficial if it improves your short term and long term abilities.  If you are over-stressed or over worked, practice and/or training can be bad for you.  If you do not have the requisite strength or gross motor skills necessary to perform the fine motor skills, movements or techniques that your sport requires, how is practicing going to make you better?  This is even more so true for younger and less developed athletes.  If you don’t make time to fix these weaknesses your game or your body will suffer at some point. Take the time needed to build the foundation needed to create a bigger athlete.  There is a quote in the coaching circle that goes; “The greatest ability is availability.”  Another similar one is “Durability is the greatest ability.”  We have a saying at Red Zone Training, “You can’t get better if you are hurt.”

Even if you can’t get in to train with us, incorporating the other 3 strategies above will go a long way in helping with your availability and durability.

Why I Pulled My Daughter From Her Sport.

“I understand that I’m not perfect.  I made mistakes and I had a hand in everything that’s happened to me, good and bad.” – Dwayne Wade

Let me state for the record that I have nothing against gymnastics, or any sport for that matter.  Gymnastics in particular can be very good at developing balance, strength and coordination.  At Red Zone Training we often say, “There is no good or bad exercise, only good or bad applications of them.” (We didn’t make that up, I just don’t remember who said it first.)

With sports the same can be said, “There are no good or bad sports for kids, only the proper or improper application or coaching of them.”  My daughter, as with a lot of girls, has a good amount of anterior pelvic tilt (ATP).

While anterior pelvic tilt can be advantageous for some aspects of sport, it is not good long term for her back health.  The large curve in the lower back adds strain to the back, as the vertebrae are designed to be stacked, more or less, on top of each other with the two curves being less exaggerated.

Not only does this large lumbar spine curve make for potential long term back issues, it also corresponds to issues further down the kinetic chain.  When the pelvis tilts forward, you lose the ability to drive the femur into higher ranges of hip flexion  For every degree of anterior pelvic tilt, the hips lose the same amount of hip flexion.

Not only do you lose hip flexion, you lose hip internal rotation.  An ATP of 10 degrees results in a lose of 6-8 degrees of hip internal rotation.  ATP can also cause knee valgus, think knock knee’s which can cause pigeon toeing and collapse of the arch.  The hamstrings are also pulled tight since the are attached to the bottom of the pelvis which has been rotated upward from the backside.  None of that is something we want for our athletes, let alone for my own daughter.

(Note:  This is why you should never just arbitrarily stretch an athlete.  You need to know why they are tight in the first place.  If you stretch an athlete with ATP, all you are doing is altering the length tension relationship of the muscle and probably making the problem worse since the hamstrings are pulling tight to keep the pelvis from tilting anteriorly even more.)

So why did I pull her out of gymnastics?  Back bends and handstands.  Since she was developing a significant arch to her lower back, whenever she did a back bend, the majority of the bend came in the lower back, instead of dispersed more evenly throughout her entire spine.  Bending backwards with the majority of the bend coming over 3-5 vertebra is definitely not a good thing.

Handstand, you would think would not be a problem, but the handstand was what was probably compounding the issue.  This is where solid coaching and a fundamental understanding of anatomy/physiology play a role; which is why I am not very big on teenagers coaching sports or exercise.

In sports and exercise we often put the cart before the horse, because we all want to do the cool stuff, but don’t want to earn the right to be able to do them.  With a handstand you need sufficient shoulder mobility and core strength.  If you don’t have those two your body can compensate to do what you ask it to do, but you may not like the long term results.   If you do not have sufficient core strength and you have a pelvis that wants to anteriorly tilt, you end up smashing your vertebrae and disks together in a position not ideal to their design.  On top of that you have your entire lower body pushing down on it without anything impeding it.

Ironically a bad hand stand position is almost identical to a overly arched back squat, only inverted.  We have parents all the time tell us they don’t want their kid putting any weight on their back, but I don’t ever recall hearing a parent saying they don’t want their kids doing hand stands.  Again its not a good or bad exercise thing, its whether it is done properly or not.

Ironically you can google handstands and back bends and you will see a lot of people doing yoga poses.  Look how the back bends at a sharp angle and that is where the back is most susceptible to injury.  Flexibility and mobility are a good thing, but there is such thing as too much of a good thing.  This is why you can look cool with your Instagram photo doing a handstand or yoga pose on the beach, then throw your back out picking up a load of laundry or pulling something out of the back seat of your car.  What allowed you to get into extreme positions is also what is going to limit your functionality with something else.

So allowing my daughter to continue reinforcing and compounding this issue is not something her mother (who is a former gymnast) and I were willing to do, which is why we pulled her from it and I started having her do some strength exercises to address the issue and get her back into gymnastics as soon as her body has earned the right to.

Train Smart and Dominate!

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!

Mindset Matters

Mindset Matters Most.” –  Brian Grasso

The hardest things for a youth athlete to realize is that mindset plays a huge part in their sport.  Our mindset can be shaped by many things from how much we believe in ourselves to whether or not the spectators are supporting you or not.  This past weekend I was able to go watch an athlete of ours play in a tournament.  I don’t get to do that often, but they happened to be playing pretty much across the street from where I live and several of the times were when I was off work, so it worked out great.

I always like to watch our athletes play, even if it is just a recording, although live is much better.  You get to see so many things you normally wouldn’t get to see just observing them in the gym.

One of the biggest things I noticed was how the kids reacted to adversity.  It interesting that they work on so many intricacies of their game, however mindset is rarely worked on.

There were several instances where you could see the athlete was losing their composure when things went wrong or they didn’t perform as they wanted to.

Before I get to things I saw and how I, as a coach, would have handled it, I must first explain that I’m not calling out the coaches in any way.  First it was an all-star tournament, so I don’t believe the coaches get to work with these kids consistently over a length of time, and even if they did, there are so many things a coach is responsible there is no way they will be able to cover everything that could be covered. (This is mainly why we do what we do, because sport coaches can not dedicate time for athlete development, nor do they really have the time to do so).

So one of the things that I observed was a kid who struck out, slam his bat into the dirt while walking back, then hit it against the fence while walking in, then toss it against the fence where the bats were either hanging or laying against, and it just fell to the ground and another kid had to hang it.  Then finally he slammed his helmet on the ground and walked to the back and pouted.

I had football coach in high school who was a tough love kind of coach.  Our football helmets couldn’t touch the ground, unless it was knocked off of us while playing.  If it touched the ground the whole team would be doing belly busters BEFORE practice, which was basically running and doing head first slides in full pads up and down the field until he thought it was enough.  So needless to say the slamming a helmet down would NOT happen.  The reason our coach was strict about this was not because of the helmet, it was the logo on the helmet and what it represented.  That logo is you and your teammates and the school you represented, and we were to show it the respect that it deserves.  All sports are a privilege to play and you really need to show it some respect.

Hitting the bat against the ground I don’t get either.  When I miss a lift, I don’t slam the weights or the bar against the wall.  If you miss a dunk do you try and bend the rim?  Ok, I actually do know some kids who used to do that so they could dunk, but that’s different. ;). What I’m getting at is that it isn’t the equipments fault, it was yours.  Deal with it, learn from it, move on.

One last thing that I didn’t mention above is that several teammates and coaches tried to pick him up and he completely ignored everyone of them.  How many professional coaches do you think you will be allowed to get away with that behavior with?  You probably won’t be playing long if you tried, so why do it now?

Another thing that you can observe in any game is when an ump gets a call wrong.  There were several bad calls in the game, but it’s the coaches job to talk to the ump and let them know they disagree or to try to get another ump to consult.  Too many times I saw the athletes talking about it, sometimes with the coaches.  Athletes need to let go and move on.  Yes bad calls can sometimes go against you, so don’t put the game in the umpires hands.

I had a referee in high school, that before the game came up to us all and said, “I won’t yell at you every time you miss a shot, please don’t yell at me if I miss a call.”  If you do your job, it’s hard for an umpire to rob you of a win.  Ironically one of the blown calls only happened because one of the athletes made a mental mistake and the play would have never happened if he would have not made that mistake.  So sometimes we cause the play that leads to a bad call.  Don’t look for a scapegoat to bail you out of your mistake.

Talking with the athletes about the bad call is usually not a good idea, because it takes their focus from what they are supposed to do, to what someone else is doing.  Let them know, “You guys made a great play, and we think the ump got it wrong.”  And then move on, end of discussion.  Get them focused on their job again.

Lastly, after the game one of the athletes on the team that came up short had called the other team, “over-rated”. A parent and some of the kids heard him and I was impressed that they jumped in quickly and said to him, “come on now, they aren’t over-rated.”  He knew it too and agreed they weren’t, he was just frustrated.  He was talking about how they had something that was basically predicting they were going to sections before the game was even played.  Since the game was over and I didn’t feel I would be overstepping any coaches I said, “If they didn’t believe they could make it, they might as well just not play right?”  What the kid said, really impressed me for his honesty, but also saddened me a bit because you could see it was really weighing on him.  He said, “That’s probably why we lost today, because I didn’t think we could win.”

Pressure does funny things to each person, some it turns them into the best player in the game, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Joe Montana and Mariano Rivera just to name a few, thrived under pressure.  But often times pressure makes us doubt ourselves.  When we doubt ourselves one of two things happens most often.  One, we crumble under the pressure and give it a half hearted attempt or we just quit on our team..  The second thing that most often happens is that we try to do too much and this is where the quicksand analogy comes into play.  Instead of letting the game come to us we try and force us in the game.  I believe that is what happened with Harrison Barnes over the finals.  All the talk about the Warriors wanting Durant had him trying to prove something and he just played too tight.  Often times when we are most worried about making a mistake is when we do make the mistake.  The quick sand analogy basically is saying that the more you fight it the faster you will sink.

Again, I not saying the coaches did a bad job at all.  There are so many aspects into an athlete’s development, sport coaches must be sport coaches first and foremost, and if there is any other time left; then therapists, surrogate parents, entertainers, conditioning coaches, taxi drivers and one of many other hats they may have to wear at some point.  There job, I say job but mostly it is a volunteer position that they let take time away from their families to help kids and for the love of the game, so in no way am I disparaging coaches.  These were just observations that I noticed that I feel could help kids and as parents we are their first and longest coach in their lives so maybe we can help all the other coaches your athlete may encounter by instilling in them a respect and a different perspective on how to handle adversity, because as you now know Mindset Matters.



Too many people undervalue what they are and overvalue what they are not.” –  Malcolm Forbes

I had a female athlete in the other day for her training session.  I told her to do as many deadlifts as she can, up to 12, with 95lbs.  I had someone else ask me a question and when I looked up the bar was already on the ground again.  I asked her how many she was able to do consecutively.  She answer “2”.

I looked at her and said, “Why?”  She said, “I don’t know, it was hard, it felt heavy.”

(Side note:  I always ask them “Why?” You can learn a lot from an athlete by just asking them that question.)

This is a pivotal point in an athlete’s training, because depending on what I do or say, or how I say it, I can either help the athlete or completely lose her.  Each athlete is different and you have to know your athlete to know what you can say or how far you can push or question them.  Now I know this athlete pretty well.  She is definitely a hard worker, but really doesn’t want to work hard; which means she will do whatever you have her do and won’t argue with you, but she really doesn’t want to do it.  For some reason I also feel she doesn’t believe in herself as much as she should.  I often tell her, “I can’t wait for the day that you believe in yourself more than I believe in you.”

So back to the deadlift.  I reminded her that hard doesn’t mean can’t and she just has to get comfortable with the struggle a little more.  In other words, I don’t care if you fail, but you have to try harder than you want to, as long as injury isn’t a concern.  So after her rest period was up I told her, you going to do 4 consecutively.  So she starts her set and just as I suspected, she did 3 like it was no biggie.  While she did her fourth rep, I told her to do 2 more, which she also did without any problem.  She did 6 reps, about 3 minutes after 2 reps were all she was able to do.  The only reason that she couldn’t before was the mental obstacle she placed in front of herself.  By standing over her and watching the set and telling her she had to do 4, which was more than she did before but not that much more that she could overthink the likelihood of her completing it.  Adding the 2 extra was also not an issue as she had just done 4 and realized that she was able to do them.

She did another set of 8 reps I believe and I told her that she, “expanded her world of possibilities with that set.”  She looked at me a little puzzled.  I explained that by going from 2 to 8 reps consecutively she expanded what she considered not only possible, but made it a reality as well.

So next set comes up and I add 10’s to each side and told her to give me 2 reps.  I then told her it was physically impossible that she could do 8 reps at 95lbs and not be able to do 2 reps at 115lbs.  I said that to change the internal dialogue from; what the possibility of completing it was to, it’s impossible not to be able to.  So she hit those 2 reps as well.

Next set came up, so I added 10’s to each side again.  Interesting side note, kids cannot do math when it comes to barbells, for some reason they all get themselves mixed up.  So she thinks it’s 125lbs when in reality it is 135lbs, but I don’t correct her.  I never tell an athlete if it weighs more than they think it does when they are their worst enemy.  So I let her believe it was less.  She pulled 1 and then her form got out of whack and she didn’t get the second, but I didn’t care.  I wanted to see how she would respond when it really did get heavy and tried a couple of times to get that second pull, so I was proud of her effort.  She was happy and proud when she found out it was 135lbs and not 125lbs.

So everything turned out pretty good, but I could have really botched that teaching moment up if I didn’t know my athlete.  If I would have pushed her from the start and said, she was going to do 8 or 10 reps in a row without stopping, her mindset would have shifted from “I think I can get 2 more than I did before” to “I can’t do 8 or 10 in a row” and when you are doing something like a deadlift, you don’t want them doubting their abilities because that’s when someone can get hurt.  I want them focusing on what they are supposed to do, not worry about how they are going to do it.  That would have also put her WAY out of her comfort level and could have led to her pushing back at me and training in general.  Training should not be beating an young athlete into submission, it should be helping them find their own way with guidance and in some cases a push in the right direction.