What An Annual Athletic Development Plan Looks Like

Like no other time in our history, the decisions on where to play, what to spend time on, what to cut out, is critical in the long-term development of every young athlete with dreams of playing at higher levels.

And make no mistake, these decisions matter greatly.  Better opportunities lead to better results. 

As the book Game On explains in detail, the trend in college scholarships right now is that a higher percentage of them are being awarded to richer families each year.  They connect this trend back to the fact that those spending top dollar are gaining a significant advantage with their child’s athletic development.

And what is the most critical first step that people who will spend tens of thousands of dollars annually need for this investment to pay off?

A comprehensive athletic development plan.

In the midst of everyone trying to get the best opportunities for their child, what sometimes gets lost is the big picture of what kids should do and when they should do it.

The first step of pre-planning development is to look at how the 12 months of the year are set up, so that everything is geared towards the long-term goal.  

Using the widely recognized periodization model for athletic development, let’s break down both the physical and sports skill key development areas that best suit athletes over the course of a year.

In-Season (3-6 months)
If you are mainly a one-sport athlete, this is closer to 3 months, and for a two-sport athete it would be 6.

Anyone considering themselves truly ‘in-season’ for more than 6 months out of the year is severly disadvantaged compared to their better organized peers.  The days of the true three-sport athlete are mostly over if you wish to thrive at the highest levels.

(Note:  This model is focused on ages 13 and up.   At younger ages playing multiple sports is recognized as being a much more effective way of achieving long-term success.)

Sports-Skill Development - Winning is nice, but lots of great players come from teams that don’t necessarily win championships all the time.

Find a program that teaches skill, team concepts (if its a team sport), and challenges their players to get beyond where they are today.    

Those who focus first on these areas and make winning a byproduct of them, instead of vice versa, have long-proven to be the best talent developers.  Coaches like John Wooden, Vince Lombardi and Dean Smith did this, and their teams turned out just fine.

Physical Development - This is a time, as we’ve stated in previous articles, where explsoive power and injury prevention work are your top priorities.  This is not the time to make significant gains, you’ll be too tired to do that, but you can keep your off-season development consistent over the long season with a little extra time devoted to key areas.

Early Off-Season (1 month)
Sports-Skill Development - This period depends on your motivation and physical state.  If you are burned out from your season, a month off completely from your sport may do wonders for you.  If not, this is a great time to simply get out and practice skills on your own or in pickup games with friends.

Nothing substantially challenging should come in this time if you are tired from a long season.

Physical Development - This can be structured or unstructured, but as an athlete you always want to stay active.  It could be as simple as playing pickup games as stated above, or it can be more formal training that is less intense than what you’ll need to do later in the off-season.

This first month is again based on how hard your season was.  Remember that there is only so much development time that you’ll get in your life, so if you can get at it sooner you’ll be better off.  But rushing it without full recovery will limit your progress in the next phase.

Off-Season (4-7 months)
Sports-Skill Development - This is the critical period where some players rise up, and others fall to the wayside.

Playing on off-season teams is great, and can open doors, but it better not be the #1 goal once again, or you will have squandered a huge opportunity.

The best thing an aspiring athlete can do is find their real weak points, and hammer away at them.  

This could mean just working with your team coaches, it could be getting out on your own for countless hours, or it could mean hiring a private coach.

Right here is where the value of being in a strong program matters most.  SInce there’s nothing to be won in the off-season, a coaching staff focused on winning over development will not help you here.  But in the right program, taught by the right coaches, this is where you can make huge strides from year to year.

Physical Development - Literally everything above also applies to the physical side.

If your coaches truly understand athletic development in all its facets (speed, strength, power, agility, coordination, flexibility, stability)  the you once again are in good hands.

However, if they do not have that deep expertise in place, and very few truly do, you once again may need to go outside your organization to maximize this critical time period.

Pre-Season (1 month)
Sports-Skill Development - In most sports, this is when conditioning for your sport becomes of utmost importance.  

A smart way to get skills in with conditioning is to run team drills at fast paces.  This will allow you to begin working together, it gets your heart rates up a bit, and gets you all a lot of repetitions.

Usually this gets done in captains practices, so if you are a captain I recommend strongly you organize this ahead, possibly with some planning from coaches or other trusted, knowledgeable sources.

Physical Development - Training intensity on everything but conditioning should drop about 10-40%.  This is the time to ramp up sport-specific conditioning.

Rest periods and recovery times should gradually come together so you are well-suited to play well for a full game.  This takes some data collection, but is doable for any athlete.

Other training should be more fine-tuned to hit the key needs of that individual, since you will devote less time to it priorities must be made.

 

As each year goes by, the well-prepared athlete would simply fine tune their needs, and ramp up their training to match their physical maturity.

Now obviously there are lots of variations to this based on age, sport, and injury considerations.  

But if you are truly serious about reaching your peak performance, you need to have a comprehensive outline of what you should be doing at all times.

The 21st Century world of athletic development is giving those who have the most resources this recipe for success, but the reality is smart planning and a well thought out plan don’t need to cost outrageous amounts.  

It does, however, require pre-planning and disciplined decision making.

 

Barefoot Training – Secret Weapon Of Athletic Success

Is finding the right sneaker or shoe really as big an issue as we all (myself included) seem to think it is these days?

Or should we be focusing a lot more on strengthening and mobilizing the foot and ankle better than most of us do right now?

Many of the world’s elite distance runners train barefoot regularly.  The winner of the 1960 Rome Olympics won the Gold Medal running barefoot on cobblestone roads.  Zola Budd broke distance running world records in the 1980′s and 90′s without wearing shoes.

If a simple concept like barefoot training could lead to fewer lower body injuries and, for sports participants and fitness enthusiasts, better performance, is it not worthy of a close look?

Some basic facts shed light on just how important the function of your feet can be on your movement skills.

25% of all the joints in your body are found in your feet.  A large number of muscles, both large and small, are connected down there too.   

This is because your feet are designed to handle all kinds of minor changes in ground surface conditions.    When actual contact with the ground is made, tons of little information sensors, called proprioceptors, fire up and help you adapt to rapidly changing conditions when you are in motion.

But spending all day, every day, in shoes dulls these sensors and their ability to function properly. (It’s even worse if you’re constantly wearing high top sneakers or boots).

And this loss of function can have profound effects on injury prevention, especially in athletics, leading to:

  • Ankle sprains
  • Shin splints
  • Tendonitis
  • Plantar Fasciitis
  • Knee injuries
  • Hip injuries
  • Lower Back injuries

Consider that in non-industrialized countries where shoes are rarely worn, these types of injuries are almost unheard of.

Top strength coach and physical therapist Martin Rooney, founder of the Training For Warriors system, is a leading proponent of barefoot training.  He claims that using this concept has done wonders for his PT patients who had recurring lower leg and foot injury problems.

Coach Rooney has a few suggestions on how to begin incorporating barefoot training safely and effectively in any workout program:

  • Begin by doing foam rolling and tennis ball self-release work on the bottom of your foot and all the muscles of your lower leg, then completing a series of lower leg flexibility drills all without shoes
  • Spend some time each day moving around without shoes.  This doesn’t have to be exercise, just let your feet re-learn what they are supposed to do naturally without a lot of high impact.
  • Over time, begin performing some lower impact warmup drills and exercises without shoes in your workouts, too.
  • Avoid doing barefoot sled work or high speed sprinting, which could lead to a turf toe situation if your ankle and big toe flexibility are limited (which they likely are if you are always in shoes)
  • Also avoid heavy squatting work barefoot, especially if you know your foot and ankle flexibility is limited.  In fact, you are probably better off avoiding all heavy squatting work until your feet are more mobile, since they can severly impact your technique on those lifts
  • Do jogging-pace running barefoot, as it removes the hard heel strike and makes your stride more efficient.

Your feet are the only part of you (most of the time) that contacts the ground, and that interaction leads to an incredible range of movement changes related to both posture and athletic skills.  

The better your feet and ankles function, the better your health and athletic performance will be in time.

 

Sled Training: Who It Really Helps

If you have followed the fitness world for any length of time, you’ve seen an incredible amount of fad training concepts come and go.  One of the more popular ones right now, for athletes and even general fitness populations, is sled training.

For anyone who hasn’t seen or used them, it essentially involves pushing or pulling a sled loaded up with a good amount of weight.  Depending on how the workout variables involved are designed (distance, reps, sets rest time)  it can be absolutely brutal.

But does brutal equal good training?  

As top strength coach Martin Rooney likes to say, 

“Anyone can make you tired, but a good coach knows how to make you better.

Let’s take a look at how sled (commonly referred to by the brand name Prowler) training can make certain athletes better.

It Helps Fully Grown Ice Hockey Forwards and Defensemen Skate Hard For Full Shifts

Because of the incredible lactic acid build up you get in your legs, sled work helps skaters adapt to the same exact challenge they face in their sport.  

This type of adaptation requires longer distances to simulate a 60 second shift, must be done for multiple sets, and needs rest periods that match the time they typically get in between shifts.

The same concept actually applies to middle distance runners in track, too, also making it an effective training tool for them.

When You Can Incorporate Arm Movement Too, Sleds Help Teach Sprint Acceleration Mechanics

Combining excellent posture with a good forward lean is the key mixture of developing starting speed.  The extra resistance and ability to lean forward that a sled provides can be a great tool under the right conditions.

A harness attachment must be used to allow the arms to move freely.

Technical drills like marches, skips and bounds are also great sled drills on top of just sprinting.  

The weight needs to be relatively light, depending on what your focus is the resistance could be as little as 5-10% of the athlete’s body weight.

Sled Pushes Help Football Linemen Drive Opponents Off The Line

Due to the angle of the drive out and the heavy resistance they encounter, sleds are great for football linemen when done correctly.

Distances should be extremely short (5 yds up to 20 max), weight should be about the size of a typical lineman at their age, rest should be about 30 seconds, and there should be a lot of sets.

Sleds May Be A Good Substitute For General Fitness People Who Struggle With The Pounding Of Running

The angle of a sled push takes the eccentric load off since the weight is not being carried and you don’t have to support your full bodyweight when pushing off.   

With the understanding that this may not be a cure for everyone who is fighting a chronic injury, in some cases sled work allows for high intensity training without having to sprint.  The angle does put a different stress on the knee and ankle, so in specific cases it could make things worse.

 

Unfortunately, just as with all other fitness trends a Prowler sled workout is not a magic bullet that cures everything.  

Some common ways sleds are being used today that are not effective are:

  • Training with sleds to the point of exhaustion and/or vomiting if you do not need to tolerate lactic acid buildup.  This is the classic example of making you tired but not better.  Any good coach knows the difference.
  • Using heavy weight sled work for speed.   You train fast to be fast, heavy weights slow you down.  It’s not rocket science.
  • Letting younger athletes do intense sled training.  This is the one that really irritates me, because not only is it usually not a fit but younger athletes can’t  properly adapt physiologically to the intense lactic acid training anyways. To me this is borderline criminal ignorance.
  • Wasting your time and energy on something you don’t need for your sport.  There is actually a name for training with sleds to the point of throwing up (Prowler Flu), and although some athletes do need to go through this, most do not.   Check the categories above, and if your sport and position aren’t there then this likely isn’t helping you at all.

New ideas in fitness continue to make training more effective each year, provided that they are being used in the right way and are not overdone or misused because they are popular at the moment.    

Right now that’s sled work, which can be a breakthrough tool for the right situation, or a painful waste of time and energy.

 

Absolutely Critical For Your Health

Do you wish you could lose a few pounds?

Do you wish you had more energy?

Do you have some kind of physical ailment you wish went away?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, I strongly recommend you look at the some of the work done by F. Batmanghelidj, M.D, author of the book ‘You’re Not Sick, Yo’re Thirsty!  Water for Health, for Healing, for Life’.

Those of you who read our emails know how big we are on drinking water.  But in this groundbreaking book, Batmanghelidj digs much deeper in to how chronic dehydration causes many of the health-related problems we suffer from in our society.

There are many, many more examples of the powerful effect chronic dehydration has on our long-term health. What follows is simply a brief summary of some of them.

Water Helps You Stay Leaner

The signal your body sends to tell you you’re hungry and the one that tells you you’re thirsty are indistinguishable (he argues dry mouth is a terrible way to determine thirst).

Since food is usually far tastier than water, and these days is plentiful, we gravitate toward food when often times we really needed to hydrate.

Drinking a glass or two of water 30 minutes before each meal would go a long way towards controlling your eating.  This is a key component for those taking part in our 8 Week Fall Transformation Challenge.

Water Helps Minimize Effects Of Asthma And Allergies

The author goes into great detail about histamines and how they are regulated by the body’s hydration level.  But long story short, staying fully hydrated on a regular basis could play a major role in lowering or even eliminating the discomfort of allergies, and the potential dangers of asthma attacks.

Further, asthma attacks in childhood have been shown to lead to other health problems later in life.  

The author states that he now focuses most on curing asthma through proper hydration as the main focus of his current work.  He has found that sodium intake is also closely linked to helping cure asthma.

Water Improves Energy Levels and Mood

Those who don’t drink enough water typically gravitate to other energy drinks to stay alert.  This gives a short term rush but leaves you less energetic in the long run.

 Plus, water plays a key role in regulating neutotransmitters like tryptophan, serotonin, and melatonin.  Not being fully hydrated slows down the transport of these to the brain, making you more irritable than you would be otherwise.

Dehydration Leads To A Wide Range Of Short-Term Illnesses

All of the following conditions are linked to being dehydrated:

  • Heartburn
  • Regular Illnesses (flu, colds, etc)
  • Migraine Headaches
  • Nose Bleeds
  • Arthritis
  • Colitis
  • Depression
  • Constipation
  • Dry and Burning Eyes

 

Chronic Dehydration Can Lead To A Number Of Long-Term Health Issues
As if this wasn’t enough reason to drink  more water yet, here are all the long-term issues the author’s 30 years of research has led him to conclude are linked to chronic dehydration:
  • Diabetes
  • Strokes
  • Kidney Stones
  • Chronic Lower Back Pain
  • Osteoporosis
  • Coronoary Heart Disease
  • Cancer
Yeah, that’s a bit of a depresssing summary.

But the positive is that the best preventative ‘medicine’ to it all is free, and readily available to all of us almost anywhere we go.

For all the fuss about Mediterrenean Diets, and organic foods, and all the other touted remedies for living healthier, could the best solution really be as simple as keeping your water and sodium intakes to levels that provide optimum cell functioning?

Sometimes the best solution to a problem is the simplest.

Dr. Batmanghelidj has a website that provides far more information on this topic, I suggest you check it out to reach your own conclusion.

Hopefully there is something there that can improve your life, or the life of someone you know.

You can find it at www.watercure.com

 

The #1 Key To Running At Top Speed

A few weeks back we discussed acceleration skills, the ability to reach top speed as quickly as possible.  

But what about what happens after those first few strides?

This is where most athletes who don’t seem to run properly stick out.  Something is just off in their stride, but you can’t quite put your finger on it.

Well, just like with acceleration, there are a lot of things that it could be.

  • Arm movements
  • Rotation in their upper body
  • Poor posture
  • Weak ankles and poor pushoffs
  • Striking the ground at a poor angle

 However, when dealing with top speed there is one thing to look for that trumps everything else.

The ability of the back leg to recover forward into a high knee position as quickly as possible.

Many athletes slow their stride down significantly because, after their foot strikes the ground, their leg hangs behind them for too long.  And since you can’t take the next stride until that leg returns to the front of the body, this wasted time adds up to what we see as a slow athlete.

Please take a moment to watch Usain Bolt in slow motion on this video.  Pay particular attention to where the knee of his trail leg is when his lead leg makes contact with the ground.

http://youtu.be/D2KNnxdMyKk

Notice when one foot strikes the ground his trail knee has already crossed in front of his body.  No wasted time at all, one stride leads directly in to the next.

So how do you get young athletes to achieve this?

The first step is to focus on posture, because leaning forward literally makes this impossible to accomplish.

Second, you need to have sufficient strength in the glutes and hamstrings, because they are the key to getting that snap forward to speed up.

And third, you need to practice the feeling of speeding up the leg recovery with technical drills that isolate that part of the stride.   There are many excellent drills that track and speed coaches use to improve this aspect of the running stride.

Speed development is not as much of a mystery when you actually know where to look. There are very specific things that athletes can do that can have a profound effect on improving their speed.

Getting your trail leg to recover in to what is called the ‘Figure 4′ position is absolutely one of the biggest areas for improvement young athletes can achieve through proper speed training.

And its another way you can, both literally and figuratively, distance yourself from the competition.

 

The Law of 168: How It Affects Everything You Do

The Law of 168 is a very simple concept, that we all have the exact same number of hours each week to spend on what matters most to us.

And it is how well we match up our actions in those 168 hours each week with our goals that ultimately determines our long-term success or failure.

Although this applies to all of us, adults and kids alike, the start of a new school year is a critical time for kids to re-focus on the things that will have the greatest impact on their lives.

 For any kid who goes to school and is playing a sport, you have some obvious commitments to your time.

You spend about 35 hours per week in school.

You spend 15 to 20 hours per week with practices, games, and team travel time.

You should be sleeping 8 hours per night, 56 hours per week

You likely spend about 10 hours per week on homework (hopefully…)

 

That leaves you with about 47 remaining hours each week if you are a student-athlete and adhere to everything above

So how do you spend those precious remaining hours?

Being able to relax, spend time with friends and family, these are things you can and should do.  Both your mind and your body need to re-charge.

But 47 hours each week should leave time for some things that, for a small time investment, would have a big impact on your long-term success.

Here are two huge ones for student-athletes:

Eating Breakfast

Far more times than I’d care to count, kids have told me that they “don’t have timefor breakfast”
Really?
It takes less than 10 minutes out of your day, or about 1 hour total per week, to eat a quick and healthy breakfast.
One simple recipe was in Sports Illustrated recently, the 1 Minute Ham & Egg Bowl:

HOW TO PREPARE:

- Line the bottom of a microwave-safe bowl with a few slices of ham.

- Pre-scramble 1 egg and pour on top of the ham.

- Microwave for 30 seconds, stir the egg, then cook another 15-30 seconds until egg is set.

- Top with shredded cheese.

 

Done!  Even better, finish the meal with some water-based fresh fruit (orange, apple, pineapple slices, etc)

Not a ham and egg person?  Here are 6 more protein based breakfast ideas:

http://www.menshealth.com/nutrition/6-muscle-building-snacks-you-can-make-protein-powder

Eating breakfast, especially one with protein and fresh fruit choices, has been proven to improve your performance in both school and athletics.

All for 1 hour per week.

 

In-Season Training

What if, for 1 hour per week plus travel time, you could do something that:

- Would lower your risk of injury, or minimize the effects of one should it come up

- Help you maintain your current speed and power levels while your teammates and competition gradually wear down as the season goes on

- Keep you posturally aligned a bit better, helping you to feel more energized and less sore.

Would that not be worth just one more of those 47 hours each week?

Many athletes feel they don’t have the energy to train at all during the season, but what they don’t realize is that it is not something a smart in-season workout takes away.  Done properly, training will actually give you more energy over time.

Everyone these days feels rushed, overbooked, and sometimes even overwhelmed.

But the Law of 168 is the same for each and every one of us.  

We all get the exact same amount of time to move forward towards the things we wish to accomplish.

The key is in whether you spend more time on the things that will truly make an impact, or you allow time and future opportunity to slowly slip through your fingers.

Its those who master this concept that have the brightest futures.

 

 

 

Understanding Speed – Acceleration Skills

While it is true that your maximum speed potential is determined in part by genetic factors (limb length, muscle fiber type, hip width, etc), everyone has technical areas they can refine to improve their current speed.

But those factors are hard to see, and harder to coach, because it all happens so fast.

Below is a link to a video of sprint champion Asafa Powell in slow motion.  This short clip shows exactly how young athletes want to accelerate.

Before you watch the clip, though, here are the acceleration skills you want to focus on.

Arm Drive - Notice the powerful split with one arm forward and one back, and how they fully extend BEFORE the legs are done their work.  This is what we mean in our sprint programs when we tell our kids ‘the arms are the gas pedal’, because they initiate movement.
Back Hip & Knee Extension -  Notice the full and complete push-off in not just the first step out of the blocks, but the next few too.  Full extension maximizes power output, which is essential to a fast start.
Angle of body at start - Mr. Powell has the advantage of pushing off blocks to get his phenomenal forward lean, but all athletes in motion should have a straight back side leaning forward during times where they speed up.
Placement of First Step/Shin Angle - The first step should not be under the knee or especially out in front.  Instead it should land behind the knee to create another push back for the following stride.  Notice the parallel shins in Asafa Powell’s stride, keeping his mechanics consistent from one stride to the next.
Knee Height Of Front Leg -  The front knee should power up to be at least, if not a touch above, perpendicular to your torso.  It goes hand in hand with powering the other leg back into the ground (remember the ‘equal and opposite reaction’ law in physics?)
Toes Pulled Up Towards Shin - The foot is what contacts the ground, and the more rigid it is the easier it is to strike and power off.  Asafa Powell’s toes are pulled up perfectly, allowing him to strike the ground with minimum contact time.
Now that you have a good sense of what a perfect start looks like, check out this 1 minute video:

If you are a coach involved in youth sports, these are the things you want to teach when doing sprints.

It makes conditioning more meaningful for the kids, and gives them more to focus on when trying to improve.

Do Sports Kids Have A Protein Problem?

The average young athlete these days is working very hard to achieve their goals, but they’re doing it on a less than optimal nutrition plan.

And more often than not, at the heart of their problem is a total misunderstanding of how to take in adequate amounts of protein.

I’m sure you already know that protein is incredibly important for active people because it helps repair and rebuild broken down muscle tissue that is damaged from exercise, both during sports participation and in programs like ours.  

Protein acts as the building blocks, the materials your body uses to rebuild a new and better you.

But it can only be digested in relatively small doses, roughly 20-35 grams per meal.

Considering that active people need between 0.7 to 0.9 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight daily, that’s a lot of meals that need a good protein source.  Even a 125 lb person needs 3-4 protein-rich meals per day.

So how can any kid, athletes in particular, reach this number if they do not eat a quality breakfast?

Let’s take what appears to be a very common scenario with at least the kids we work with, but probably active kids everywhere.

We’ll start at the point you fall asleep, and assume you are getting 8 hours of sleep and do not get up to eat a meal during this time.

With your remaining 16 hours to get in your protein-rich meals, you choose to not eat breakfast, or have :

  • a bagel
  • toast
  • muffin
  • pop tart
  • scone
  • pancake
  • French toast
  • juice

all of which have no proetin at all.  

Protein cannot be stored and used for a later time, so when you wake up you are desperately in need of an infusion of fresh building supplies, but you let the fast continue even longer.

That gets you to probably mid-morning, leaving at best 12 hours to reach your rebuilding needs.  You’d have to perfectly thread the needle and have a high-protein meal every 3 hours until you go to bed, a nearly impossible task.

So most kids wander through their day underrecovered, developing at a rate that is behind where they could be if they did a better job of spreading their protein meals out throughout their day.

To me, this is where the facination with shakes and supplements comes in for many high school and college athletes.  They are trying to make up for a massive nutritonal error to start the day by overloading their diet with protein later on.

There is nothing wrong with a protein bar or shake sometimes if its not more than about 30 grams worth.

But in huge amounts your body just can’t process it all at once, so most of what you pay big money for literally gets flushed away.

Breakfast is so important for so many reasons, but for active athletes and kids everywhere it is the chance to replenish their protein stores at the start of the day that makes it most valuable.

It is such an athletic advantage that, if you aren’t eating a protein-rich breakfast right now, starting to do so might be the single greatest way you have to improve the performance you see from your workouts and sports practices this summer.

Here are some better breakfast choices for ending your overnight protein fast:

GOOD CHOICES:

  • Eggs
  • Yogurt (Greek Yogurt has more protein)
  • Ham or another lean meat
  • Lowfat milk

BETTER THAN NOTHING CHOICES:

  • Peanut butter
  • Sausage
  • Bacon
  • Protein bar or shake
  • Cheese

 

 

Stretch This, Then Strengthen That

Of course every individual client we see, both kids and adults, are unique in their own way.  However when you see enough people training there comes a point where some very obvious patterns emerge.

In this case, for 2 groups in particular:

Adults who work at a desk or tend to be in a seated posture most of the day.

Upper class high school athletes who spent a ton of time in their school weight rooms working on programs that almost exclusively focus on bench pressing, squats, and abs.

What could those two populations have in common?

Almost without fail, both groups come in with tightness on the front side of their body, and weakness on the back.

Both are caused by a process called ‘reciprocal inhibition’, where muscles get tighter and shorter on one side of a joint while also having the adverse effect of causing the ones on the other side to legnthen and weaken.

For sedentary adults, the shortened front-side musculature comes from being in a hunched, or ‘C’ shaped posture most of the time.

For high school athletes, it is entirely self-created through incredibly imbalanced workout programs that hit the ‘mirror muscles’ on the front (lots of quotation marks today for some reason….).

The long-term solution to both is to spend more time stretching the front side of the shoulder capsule, hip flexors, quads and possibly even the abdominals.

At the same time, these people should focus much more on strengthening the back of the shoulder, upper back muscles, glutes, and hamstrings.  

Common side effects of this condition typically present as knee pain, back pain, and shoulder pain.  

Football players in particular often complain of these symptoms much more than our ice hockey players do, despite the fact both play heavy contact sports.  The biggest difference we see is that, at least at the prep school and college levels, ice hockey players are much more aware that a complete approach to training is best.

Training requires a patient approach to see results, but poor training also takes time to create these deep-rooted problems.  

If you feel you are one of these people, take steps immediately to re-acquire the balance you used to have so you can move as well or better than you ever have before.

 

4 Key Findings From Our Performance Combine

This June we ran our 2nd round of performance testing for all of our athletes.  Now that we have gone through all the resuts, we’ve learned much more about how each athlete has progressed over the last 3 months, and what they need next.

But just as interesting is that with 2 sets of data we can now see some trends in the way our athletes change over time.  

With over 100 kids testing in each season, our findings still represent a small sample but had enough participants to present us with some very useful conclusions.

Here are the most critical ones you should know.

1. You Lose Speed and Power More Than Strength When You Train Less (Or Not At All)

This came as a big surprise, at least to me, that the kids who cut down most drastically  on their workouts since February to play a spring sport did not lose a significant amount of strength during that time.  It appears that the gains made in the off-season pretty much held up for at least 12 weeks with minimal workout time.

What did drop quite a bit, though, was their speed and power.  We measured these with vertical jump, Pro-I Agility, and Hang Clean scores, all of which took about a 10% hit during the spring for this group of athletes.

This is the true value of kids who train in-season.  Even if you’re not the fastest or most powerful kid on the first day of practice, taking the time to get less tiring workouts in during your season that focuses on speed and power will make you about 10% better at the end of it.

And that is the time when good teams play their most important games.

2. Being A Complete Athlete Really Helps   

We compiled a list of every athlete who scored at least at proficient on all 8 tests in our combine.  Tests covered strength, power, speed, flexibility and balance.

About 25-30% of our kids met this basic proficiency level, which we refer to as our Complete Athletes.  

And what do these kids have in common?

They aren’t just very good athletes, they also happen to be a group that’s stayed injury-free over this period of time.   Probably not a coincidence.

3. You Can See Growth Spurts From Test Results 

It is rare that any athlete would significantly lose flexibility over a 3 month period, unless they have experienced a major injury in that time.

But we noticed a group of about 6-8 kids who did not get hurt yet still saw their flexibility scores take a noticeable downward turn.

They were all between the ages of 13 and 15.  This leads us to believe it was due to a current growth spurt, or one that is about to occur.

Getting ahead of growth spurt challenges are important not just for long-term development, but to lessen the physical discomfort and awkward challenges that growing presents to our kids.

4. Our Middle School Athletes and High School Boys Are Progressing Faster Than Our High School Girls 

We post our Top 3 Most Improved athletes from the previous season in our facility for Middle School Boys and GIrls, plus High School Boys and Girls.

Every group had a long list of kids who made significant improvements this past spring.

Well, except for one.

Our high school girls scored far below all the other groups as far as improvement this spring.

Part of the problem is that our high school girls do not train for very long – only a small number of them even stayed for 2 consecutive seasons to train.  Usually they come and go in just a couple months, not building enough of a foundation to see real gains.

Another part is they are also a group that misses a lot of workouts.  Many did not complete all 8 tests in either season, even with a makeup week added, because they aren’t here enough for us to score them.

Simply put, almost all of our high school girls do not train enough to significantly improve their athletic skills the way our other groups are.   The numbers are very clear on this point.

 

Whether positive or negative, having all this information at our disposal is only going to make it easier for us to help our kids here get better in the future. 

Hopefully learning about at least one of these trends will help you, as well.