Greatness

The day following Muhammad Ali’s death, many paid homage to his success in and out of the ring. Just about every social media post coined the hashtag “Greatest” when mentioning his name. With this powerful phase it made me think just what it takes to be called that in the sports world.

For me, being great has to have two different yet equal parts. First, you have to be the top 1 percent in your sport statically. At the end of the day we have to have a measurement or number that we can compare athletes to from generation to generation.

But the second aspect is the one I want to think hard about. These are the things that some might not see. These are things that many not know how to do or even want to do. For me, these are the foundational concrete that forms greatness together. What are these aspects? There maybe be too many to even write but I’ll jot down a few:

Determination; you have to be able to be trusted when the moment of adversity and despair arrive. When adversity looks you in the face do you run or do you face that obstacle in the face and find a way to overcome it?

Morals; you can see this off the playing field. Ali was great at fighting against the Government during war. He stood up for his morals and ethics. He was willing to risk his boxing achievements and belts, to throw it all away in order to take a stand to the inequalities in our country. Sometimes you will need to stand up against the rest of the crowd in order to make change.

Hard Work; this factor of sports is one that has to be intrinsic. You can’t always have a coach or parent wake you up to go to weight training or practice. You have to want it. You’re going to have to make sacrifices, miss hanging out with friends, parties, girlfriend/boyfriend, and sleep. You will have to work harder than your counterparts in school who aren’t playing sports. You will have to balance school work with sports which many cannot do.

Taking Risks; there will be times when taking a chance seems scary. These will be the times when you will face your fears of failing. Maybe you will fail, maybe you won’t. But can you live with yourself years later not knowing what would have happened if you didn’t take that chance? Wayne Gretzky said it best “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”!

Being great isn’t easy. Very few should even be mentioned in the same breath as Ali. It is an obtainable goal but the recipe has to be created on and off the court!

 

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Eat more, supplement less!

Browsing the web you can see all kinds of supplements from pre-workout stimulants, post-workout recovery, etc. I probably get requests to sell these supplements about 2-4 times a month. I’ve worked at 2 different nutrition stores years ago and have seen EVERYTHING under the sun when it comes to powders, pills and bars. We have to realize that losing weight or adding muscle isn’t always considered “healthy”.

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My biggest issue training high school kids is their everyday diet. Most skip breakfast, lunch consists of a bag of chips and a Gatorade and diner might be a decent meal or fast food. Today’s young athletes are missing fruits, vegetables, fiber, protein and raw ingredients.

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Then we have the overly used stimulants such as NO Xplode or C4. These supplements are taken way too much for high school kids. These stimulants are giving kids a false sense of energy and can be quite dangerous with kids who might have undiagnosed cardiac issues.
There are also large pyramid companies that have deep pockets and now have big named athletes to support their products. We can look at these supplements and see the holes that are missing and why we should be eating whole foods. One of these products is a Post Workout Recovery Sports Drink. The first protein ingredient is Soy Protein. 90%-95% of all Soy produced in the US is genetically modified. GMO’s have a long list of negative interactions with humans. Soy has also been proven to disrupt hormones and cause miscarriages according to a study in 2009 preformed on rats. (http://www.foodconsumer.org/newsite/Safety/gmo/genetically_modified_soy_diets_0910100128.html)
Another questionable product is a Post-exercise Restore supplement. First ingredient is Vitamin A in the Beta Carotene form which has 2,200 IU per pill. Although this is a good form of Beta Carotene, the recommended dosage according to Dr. Weil, who is a leader in natural medicine, is about 14,000 IU (http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART02759/facts-about-vitamin-a) That’s about 7 pills at a time! The third vitamin listed is Vitamin E in the DL-Alpha Tocopheryl form which is a synthetic form. The DL form is cheap and is only 50% absorbed by the human body at most. (http://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=21476) Why would we consume anything synthetic?!?!
I only recommend one supplement and that is a protein recovery shake called Rockin Refuel.

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I’m sure there are better shakes out there but there are 3 things I look for when recommending a product. First, the ease of use, they are already made. Second, the carb to protein ratio, which is 2:1. Third, it’s fairly natural. Derived from cows and it isn’t sitting in a warehouse for months on end, it has to be refrigerated. There are multiple studies showing regular chocolate milk is a superior post recovery product over other commercial products. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19234590)
I make no commission nor do I get paid for selling them. In fact, I’ve given up the chance to create an extra source of revenue to sell pyramid type supplements just based on the fact that I can’t support a product that I don’t believe in.
As a culture we must look at what we put in our bodies. It’s hard for us to eat perfect but we can start with limiting or not even using supplements. Try to consume as much food and protein as you can through food. Eat organic, eat natural. Support your local farmer by buying local. Ask them questions about the raising of livestock and growing of crops. Stop relying on powders and pills to reach your health goals and start doing it the right way……through food!

What Do I Make?

This is a follow up post to Boston Red Sox Strength Coach Mike Boyle’s from his “What Do I Make” blog. Mike talks about what he makes. He says” I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could. I make them push through self-imposed limits… I make them competitive and teach them how to win with humility and lose with honor… I make a difference”. I thought this was a wonderful quote. I guess, some get into the private sector to create their own business and perhaps be profitable and rich one day. Then there are others who do it for the love fitness, the love of sports and the challenge to make an athlete better.

I think as a Strength Coach we have to look at “What we make”. We need to do an annual analysis on ourselves to make sure we are on the right path that we set out when we started our careers. We need to make sure that at the end of the day we can look in the mirror and like who we see looking back at us. Running a facility is physically and mentally draining. We are continuing to better ourselves through continuing education, making sure the facility is running properly and making revenue. After all of this we have to make sure we are making a difference, not producing a watered down cookie cutter program and creating athletes through proper programming.  

So I challenge every coach out there to write down a sentence stating “What do I make” and stick with those values day in and day out. At the end of the day all we have is our beliefs and foundations that create who we are. 

 

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Why high school coaches handcuff today’s athletes

Why high school coaches handcuff today’s athletes

Today’s athletes are surrounded by Strength & Conditioning Trainers, Speed Coaches, Position Coaches, Combine Coaches, Recruiting Services, etc. Parents are always trying to get a hand up on the competition and make their child better than the rest. Sports coaches will seek out a lineman coach to make their Offensive line better. A baseball coach will look for a pitching coach to make his pitchers better. But why don’t sports coaches seek out Strength & Conditioning Coaches to make their athletes stronger, faster, better conditioned and decrease risk of injuries? I get resistance from multiple coaches from an array of sports who view me as the enemy like I’m trying to take their kid away from their sports program or school. Coaches say that the Spring is the time to build “team unity” and “team work”. I say this is the time to make an athlete better. The summer is the time for team work. We have many coaches threatening parents and players that if they don’t show up off-season workouts then their starting position might be in jeopardy. So as a sports coach are you telling me that you care more about off-season weight-lifting participation or do you really care about kids getting the best training available? So a high school weight room with 50-80 kids and a football coach running it with no exercise science background will be more beneficial then a group of 5 kids going to a small training facility training with a qualified trainer? Some sports coaches seem to think that exercise isn’t a science, just lift weights, jump over a few hurdles, do some ladder work, run a couple of miles and be done. As a sports coach you must realize what is within your realm of specialty and what you need to sub out. Sports coaches can’t recognize overtraining, sports injuries, when to increase or decrease weight in the weight room, volume of plyometrics, and how to teach Olympic Lifts.

We live in a world where parents, coaches and athletes live by the old saying “No pain no gain”. Well this just isn’t true. Sure, you should be exerting energy and that will cause fatigue but my job of being a Strength Coach is to make you feel and move better. If you are sore day in and day out then I’m not really helping you! Sports coaches and some parents think that if an athlete is sweating, tired and sore the next day then it must be working. This is not true! Parents, educate yourself. Coaches, realize what you are coaching and realize that you are putting a child at risk when you are outside of your expertise. Talk with a Strength Coach with REAL credentials and who can work with your athletes to make them better. Remember why you got into coaching…..to help kids!

 

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Sacrifices of an Athlete

Sacrifices of an Athlete

Today’s athletes are becoming more and more demanding with increases in TV access, large sneaker contracts, full ride scholarships and the demand for a starting spot on the team. In order to become an elite athlete there are quite a few sacrifices and decisions an athlete needs to do in order to call themselves elite. I see and hear many kids saying they want to be the next Lebron or the next Adrian Peterson. In order to become great you must become a master of your trade. Malcolm Gladwell explains in his book Outliers that in order to call yourself a master you must perform 10,000 hours on practice alone.  That is a long time! To become a master you must practice day in and day out. You must be willing to sacrifice your time and attention to something that doesn’t have an instant reward but for something that will reward you months or even years down the road. This is why so many athletes quit. As humans we want instant gratification and want to reap rewards now.

When we look at what it takes to become an athlete it all sounds pretty crazy. I’ll use football as an example because that’s what I played. The football season started in August. We woke up and had practice at 6:00am. It was dark outside and the coaches used to bring their cars on the field and turn on their headlights. The grass had enough dew on the ground to get you soaked. Nothing worst then playing in wet football pants! Practice was for 3 hours, then another practice in the afternoon then another walk through in the evening. We did this for weeks. While our school friends were sleeping in bed, we are grinding and hitting. I missed many parties, family events and sleep. In addition to things I missed, sports took a toll on my body. Lots of running, weight lifting the wrong way and contact drills. This was the era before Code Red days because of heat, concussions and how many 2-a-days were allowed. Football was for men and if you complained you were off the team. If your parents wanted to complain the coaches would set them straight too! Football was a sport that took lots of sacrifice.

Sacrifice and being the best have seen to become synonymous. I have many past and present athletes tell me how they want to be the best but when it comes down to it they only want to be the best when it is convenient. Don’t tell me you want to be the best but there is this house party this weekend that you have to go to. Don’t tell me you want to be the best but I just got my license and there are some things I have to do.

Being the best doesn’t start 2 weeks before the season. There is no off-season in today’s sports. You have to be eating right year around. You have to stay strong and be in good cardiovascular health all the time. Being the best doesn’t mean you are the fastest guy on the team. Doesn’t mean you have the highest points per game or the fastest pitch. Separating yourself means you are open to learning. This means listening to your coaches and understanding what they are trying to instill in you. Being elite means you don’t care about going out on Friday nights during the off-season because you’d rather be in the gym training. Being elite means when everyone else around you quits you dig deeper. Being elite means when you get knocked down or miss the game winning shot you get back up and tell yourself that it’s not going to happen again. It’s putting hours in the gym training harder than the competition, mastering your specific position and looking your opponent in the eye on game day and seeing that he has already been defeated before the whistle even blows.

If you want to be an elite athlete in today’s sports, you have to make more sacrifices then the next guy. It starts with looking in the mirror and asking yourself “Is this really what I want”.

Are year around sports bad for our youth?

Today’s sports are increasingly becoming specific, more intense and now, year around. From AAU basketball, select soccer to youth football. Some coaches say that training specifically with one sport will make the athlete that much better. Year round athletes can become elite at their sports because of the repetition, game time scenarios and coaching. These athletes can increase their chances of getting a scholarship and eventually become a professional superstar!

Lets take a look at the facts. One interesting article that was written by Grant Hill who states that specialized athletes suffer from mental & physical burnout, loss of influence from other coaches and loss of social contact. Wiersma (2000) speculated that specialization would limit range of skills and overall motor development. Another article written by Ewing & Seefeldt, 1996; Gould, 1987; Weiss & Petlichkoff, 1989 have shown that there was a large number of athletes who dropped out because of lack of fun and sometimes transferred to another sport all together. Vern Gambetta who is one of the greatest Speed Coaches out there says that the broader the athletes exposure, the broader his motor development range. There are also studies showing the concussion rates in soccer, football and basketball are growing. Concussion rates seem to be higher in females compared to males according to the Journal of Athletic Training. Once one athlete has had a concussion, they are 3 to 6 times higher to receive another one compared to those who have never had one. One alarming study shows that 30-80 percent of athletes who received a concussion had post-concussion symptoms 3 months after being injured, 1 in 7 had symptoms a year after. So if many athletes are still having symptoms weeks and months after injury then why are we still putting them through the same intense training without a break?

So what do we do when a child wants to play the same sport in the offseason? We as parents and responsible coaches need to step up and educate the athlete on long term effects of injury due to prolonged seasons and let the athlete pursue other sports or hobbies. Parents and coaches need to look at the evidence and research. All evidence shows that athletes have a high percentage of suffering from injury, fatigue, burn out and/or mental stress. Parents think that if they let their child play the same sport year round that they will become great and receive a scholarship. Coaches think that if they have their athletes play year round that the team will have more unity and have better chemistry from season to season. So who really wants the athletes to play? The parents/coaches or the athlete themselves?

We need to let our children be children. Open them up to new activities. Let them relax from the stress of a specific sport. Let kids work on getting stronger, faster and reduce their risk of injury through weight training. How can a football player become faster when all he does is jog laps around the field as part of his conditioning? How can a basketball player jump higher when all he or she does is shoot 100 baskets each day? How can soccer players reduce their risk of injury if he or she is only practicing dribbling and corner shots? Working on your game is a big contributor to becoming a better athlete but I would say that to be a well-rounded athlete you must be open to other avenues of athleticism not just one sport!

Here are a few links of articles/resources-

http://www.momsteam.com/health-safety/concussion-rates-high-school-sports

http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/4422/

http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/40364616?uid=3739704&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=56210182073

http://www.questia.com/googleScholar.qst?docId=5002496722

http://www.functionalpathtrainingblog.com/youth-sports/page/2/

These two articles are great resources

http://strengthcoachblog.com/2008/10/24/youth-sports-early-specialization/

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/19/sports/ncaabasketball/19athlete.html?pagewanted=2&_r=2

I Could Be The Most Boring Trainer Around!!!

In today’s world of Athlete Training there is about as much variety as there are flavors of coffee at Starbucks! From the “Speed” training to Crossfit, training methods vary. When I take a look at websites and YouTube videos of training I seem to think my style and programming is really boring! I created a list of training types I don’t do.

1.) Crossfit- I don’t like it and its one of the worst training methods for young athletes. When technique is thrown out of the equation and numbers of reps are important, then it’s not for me.

2.) Speed Ladders- Good for proprioception, worthless for speed.

3.) Balance training- Great for rehabilitation, not that wonderful for strength, power or endurance. This is a big one for me. Risk vs. Reward. Does the benefit outweigh the risk of injury? You can see trainers having their athletes doing pushups on balance balls, standing on balance balls, military presses on Bosu Balls, etc. All of these exercises are a great way to injure your athlete without really reaping many benefits.


Here are the boring exercises I do program for my athletes.

1.) Olympic Lifts- the best exercise for any athlete. Creates power & strength.

2.) Plyometrics over hurdles and on top of boxes. My athletes don’t jump on balance balls or med balls. Again, I’m boring.

3.) Single limb movements- Single arm dumbbell bench press, not trying to max out on barbell bench every day. Lots of single legs squats & split squats, not maxing out on back squat each week either. Athletes move with one leg at a time (running, football linemen in a 3-point stance, etc.) why not train that way?

4.) Lots of stretching and prehabilitation- stretching is boring and it’s taking time away from throwing around a bunch of cool weight! Stretching is one of the most important parts of my programming. Athletes get tight from moving bad, lifting heavy weight at school without stretching beforehand and they get hurt during games and practice. Stretching helps reduce the stress and tension as well as prehab helping with mobility and stability.


I love to quote my idol and trainer Mike Boyle, “Be brilliant at the basics”. Be good at the small things and pay attention to detail. Don’t buy into the hype of the latest fads and gadgets. As a trainer I don’t try to reinvent the wheel. I don’t try to make up exercises. I just read, listen and educate myself from the ones who have come before me and have succeeded such as Mark Verstegen, Mike Boyle and Charlie Weingroff. These individuals are the ones have laid down the path for trainers to walk down.
So maybe it’s not that my programming is boring maybe I’m just focusing on the foundation and core of athletic movement?