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


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:


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


  • 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.


Stretching & The 30% Rule

Adequate total-body flexibility is a critical yet often overlooked factor in the development of any athlete.  Most teams do stretch during their warm up for games and practices, but not much thought is usually given to how well it is done.

So how can you make stretching more effective?

Easy, by following the 30% Rule.

Simply put, the 30% Rule states that you should only apply 30% of the maximum tension on a muscle while stretching it.

So if 0% is no stretch at all, and 100% is ‘tear the muscle from the bone’ level, then 30% would be pretty low on the spectrum.

Why so little tension?

Because at higher intensities muscle fibers will instinctively tighten up to protect themselves from being ripped in half.   They are equipped with little tension detectors inside of them, called muscle spindles, that send signals to your nervous system to contract the muscle when too much tension is applied.  It overrides your command to lengthen and fights you the entire time.

What will lengthen at higher intensity stretches are tendons and ligaments, two connective tissues that do not need to be lengthened and are not equipped with muscle spindles.

Which brings us back to the 30% Rule.

By applying a lower level tension for longer periods of time, a 30% stretch will not activate muscle spindles and provides a true stretch to the muscles themselves.  And if you hold the stretch for about a minute, progressively increasing tension just a little bit every 10-15 seconds or so will allow you to bypass the tension detecting spindles and gain a slightly better range of motion every time.

It should also be noted that this type of flexibility training is best done as a relaxation technique at the end of a workout, practice or even game.  Holding a long, low-intensity stretch before a high intensity event is probably not the best way to perform at peak capacity.

There is no reason anyone who needs to be more flexible in a particular area cannot improve almost overnight.   Done correctly and on a near daily basis, a proper stretching routine can dramatically improve your flexibility in only a few short weeks.

How Long-Term Athletic Development Works

More and more national sports organizations are embracing a Long-Term Athletic Development (LTAD) approach to high athletic achievement in youth sports.  The US Olympic Committee, USA Hockey, US Lacrosse, and many others have moved quickly towards a model that is widely accepted worldwide as the best way to make youth sports both productive and fun for our kids.


Proper physical development at all ages is endorsed by doctors as the best way to lower the alarming rise in youth sports injuries,* on top of developing the most successful athletes and all-around healthier kids.   Canadian Sport for Life**, a movement dedicated to improving the quality of sport and physical activity throughout life, has created a model for LTAD in a series of development stages:

FUNdamentals (Age 9 and under) – Focus on FUN and participation in a variety of skill-based activities.  Agility, balance, coordination and speed are highly emphasized.  Running, jumping, throwing and bodyweight strength are key exercise categories but should be done in an engaging format.  Daily physical activity is recommended

Learning to Train (Ages 9-12) – They refer to this as the ‘major skill learning stage’, because foundational athletic skills are best maximized before age 14.   Coordination patterns become more complex.  Three sport-specific practices or games with three more supplemental athletic development events are recommended.

Training to Train (ages 12-15) – This marks the beginning of the true aerobic and strength development years.  While the fun should not go away, more intensive cardio and weight training become beneficial during these years.  Six to nine practices, games and training sessions per week are recommended.

Training to Compete (Ages 16-23) – This is when the ‘sport-specific’ training model becomes most valuable.  Cardio work that matches sport demands, strength and power work that targets the greatest areas of need in a specific sport should now take hold.  Nine to twelve practices, games and training sessions per week are recommended

As athletes progress to the Training to Train and Training to Compete stages, workouts are also periodized throughout the year for maximal development.  Off-season workouts occur with more frequency and often are higher in intensity, but change the focus every 1-3 months to develop a range of athletic skills (maximal strength, speed, explosive power, flexibility, etc).  In-season training typically only strives to minimize injury risk and maintain the power and speed gains made in the off-season.


“Without realizing the hazards of a short-term approach, many athletes find that success early in sport does not translate to future performance because they neglected key developmental areas, or failed to maximize their opportunities at the right times in their development.”
– US Ski and Snowboard Association website

So often, the talented younger player finds themselves falling behind as the years go by.  What starts as a promising athletic future is done in by an overemphasis on games and competition over building a foundation that stands the test of time.

It is our firm belief that LTAD is successful because it forces the body to continually adapt to moderate changes at a pace it can handle, as opposed to rapid increases to stress followed by prolonged periods of low or no stress.

Constant, age-appropriate strength training changes the density of bones, making them stronger and more resistant to the physical demands of sport.  Working outward, the ligaments, muscles and tendons also strengthen from well-balanced, continual training, promoting both better performance and long-term health.

Continual speed and agility development helps refine complex movement patterns and helps athletes find the most efficient ways to run and cut, skills that almost all of us can do but few have mastered.

Coordination and flexibility, especially during growth years, helps to keep bodies that are constantly changing in the safest and healthiest state possible.   It is during the awkward growth spurt years that injury levels are increasing most, running mechanics typically get knocked out of whack, and sports dropout rates skyrocket.

During an era of instant gratification, it is important to remember that rushing physical development can have profoundly negative consequences.  The slow, steady approach to long-term athletic development is not only catching on nation-wide, it is scientifically backed as the best way to develop any young athlete.


*** http://www.faqs.org/sports-science/Mo-Pl/Physiology-of-Exercise.html
  – “Resistance Training:  Adaptations & Health Implications”, By Len Kravits, Ph. D

Excellence Or Mediocrity?

We will relentlessly chase perfection, knowing we’ll never reach it,
because in the process we’ll catch excellence
- Vince Lombardi

Training programs for young athletes have certainly caught on nationwide, fueling not just programs like ours but also team-wide and even school-wide development programs.

This can add another advantage for athletes who have the opportunity and desire to use it for improvement.

But with the onslaught of coaches at all our local schools trumpeting the ‘you better get in the weight room!’ approach, it might be a good time to step back for a second and ask what is being accomplished by it all.

More specifically, is your program leading to excellence?

It’s easy to say yes to that question with teams or schools touting the number of wins they had last season, or the weights their kids can lift, or how many kids are ‘voluntarily’ taking part in off-season training.

But developing excellence is about far more than winning records, or a 300 lb bench, or anything like that.

Excellence is a habit, a way of approaching everything you do in order to maximize the opportunities at hand. And because it’s a habit, it spreads to other aspects of life, like academics and job performance.

Training programs, for all their physical benefits, are even more effective at instilling the habits of excellence.

  • They can teach you to find a way to get a little better today than you were yesterday, and give you a blueprint to know how exactly you can do it.
  • It can help you develop an almost obsession-like approach to perfecting every last detail of a skill..
  • They can teach you to become fully immersed in the task at hand.
  • It can show you immediate benefits to being receptive to coaching advice from those whose experience can speed up your path to the top.
  • They can help you find the courage to work on the things that are hard for you, taking risks by stepping out of your comfort zone and expanding your abilities.


Having been a strength coach for over 16 years, my biggest concern with teams and schools implementing workout programs right now is not that kids will get injured, because weight training is a relatively safe activity compared to most sports.

My concern is that these programs are instilling the habits of mediocrity in our local athletes, when so many have the potential to reach far, far higher.

Based on feedback from hundreds of kids over the years (and having coached in high school weight rooms for many years myself), typically they are more about:

  • Training with friends while ½ focusing on training and ½ focusing on social issues.
  • Following workouts targeting just a small handful of skills (guaranteed to revolve around bench pressing and squatting while avoiding the other 95% of athletic needs)
  • Athletes not taking small steps forward every day. Or worse, taking too big of a step forward too quickly in the pursuit of instant gratification.
  • A complete lack of attention to detail in the execution of lifts.

Every coach, athlete and parent wants to experience success, to be on top. But very few actually achieve it.

With the ups and downs of a sports season it can often be hard to tell if a team is on the road to greatness, or not.

History shows us who has mastered the habits of excellence with their teams, and where it took them.

Football coach Vince Lombardi, quoted earlier, certainly did. So did legendary basketball coach John Wooden.

Wooden won 10 NCAA National Championships in just a 12 year period. Yet his focus was always on attention to detail, running highly structured practices that were all about habit-building.

As Coach Wooden said himself,

It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen. 

Every practice, training session, game, or other performance-related event we ask our young athletes to take part in should always be judged on one simple question:

Did that lead me and our team closer to excellence, or mediocrity?

When you can honestly answer ‘excellence’ to that question on a regular basis, good things will happen over time.

When Sports Drinks Help & When They Don’t

Sports drinks (Gatorade, Powerade, etc) have become so popular, especially among kids, that to some they are part of their daily diet.   This is an incredible transformation for a beverage that was originally created for performance under the most extreme circumstances.

Certainly there are times that its use is critical for both performance and energy levels.  Hopefully the recommendations below will help you see when it is the right time to turn to a sports drink, and when it isn’t.

When Sports Drinks Help  

Sports drinks are essentially a supplement, something you add to your diet when you are running low on a specific nutrient.

For example, if you lack Vitamin B12 in your diet, a B12 supplement will give you more energy.  If you don’t eat enough protein, a protein shake or bar will speed up recovery and growth.  But without the deficiency, the supplement will do absolutely nothing for you.

Sports drinks are a supplement that quickly re-stocks your glycogen (i.e. sugar) and electrolyte (mostly sodium) supplies when you are exhausted.  Used at the right time, it can re-energize an exhausted athlete or exerciser.

Those times usually happen when:

- You exercise or play a sport for more than 60 minutes straight.

- You exercise or play a sport multiple times in the same day (sports tournaments are a perfect example)

- You are outside on a hot, sunny day for an extended period of time.

When Sports Drinks Do Not Help  

They are not a substitute for fresh fruit or even juice (fresh fruit is better), as it has no other nutritional value.

You will not become super-hydrated by drinking them in excess.  Your best bet to stay fully hydrated is to eat right and drink the real ‘sports drink’ (see below) all day long.

More simply, sports drinks do not help AT ALL unless you have already been active for a long period of time, and/or are in extremely hot weather.

Which means consuming a sports drink usually does nothing for you other than add more sugar and sodium to a diet that is likely too full of both already.

Why?  Your body is already excellent at converting food to glycogen, and as Americans our diets are already filled with sodium.

The only remaining ingredient in a sports drink is the liquid part, which is the part you should be consuming instead of that sports drink…

Water  (If you’ve trained with us before, I’m sure you saw that coming…).

4 Critical Tips For Pre-Season Conditioning

The time of year where fall sports teams get back on the fields and begin preparations for what hopefully will be a successful season has begun.  Step one for almost every sport is to work on conditioning.

At the younger levels taking a lap and running basic drills constitutes conditioning, but as athletes advance up the ladder the specifics of conditioning take on greater importance.

And coaches who understand how to effectivly create conditioning plans for their teams that revolve around the following 4 principles will not only make their own lives easier, they will see dramatically better results than those who do not.

1. Know Your Athletes Heart Rates

   An athlete doing conditioning may get up to about 95% of their maximum heart rate (roughly 220 beats per minute minus their age), and should recover to about 65-70% before doing their next repetition.  In a perfect world athletes would all wear heart rate monitors and complete conditioning drills when they achieve full recovery.  That is unlikely to happen due to financial reasons, but learning to check your pulse and get an estimated heart rate would be better than not knowing at all.

Coaches can use this information to assess which kids might be at risk for overheating very early in the process, and can avoid potential disasters while also putting those kids on a regimen that will get the ready at a pace that makes more sense for them that day.

2. Recovery Times Are The #1 Factor In Desigining Conditioning Programs
Conditioning drills leading into the season should mostly be done at game speed, with gradually decreasing recovery times in between repetitions.  This means that you are looking to see your athletes get back to their 65-70% range in shorter amounts of time as the days of pre-season go on.  It is important to note that getting your heart rate to drop quicker after a bout of intense exercise is the one and only goal of conditioning.

The exact work and rest times are highly dependent on the way your sport is played.  Baseball, soccer, and football players, for example, should have very different work-to-rest ratios.

3. Gradual Increases Of Intensity Are Crucial To This Process

The human body is an adaptive mechanism, but it takes time for changes to occur.  Fortunately for most young athletes, changes in conditioning take place relatively quickly.  But they do not happen overnight, so coaches need to increase workloads over many days and reduce rest times between bouts progressively.

Crushing kids on Day One to ‘get in shape’ is physiologically impossible, and potentially very dangerous for the kids taking part.  At minimum, you will end up with really sore and sluggish athletes for the next few practices who will learn to hate conditioning and in the long-term will have many more problems maintaining the workloads they’ll need to achieve elite success.

4. Variety avoids overuse problems and increases enthusiasm.

    If you want your players to really dread conditioning, make it repetitive and tedious.  Remember, it’s already a painful and miserable process!

Mix up your drills, move in multiple directions, and make it competitive and fun at times.  Your players may never love conditioning,  but if there is something enjoyable or different about it they will likely put a little more energy into it.

For coaches who design their conditioning around gradually decreasing recovery times that match the demands of their sport, they will end up with more fit teams that train safer in warm weather, and are likely to practice with more energy over time.

Think Big

We’ve reached the time of year where many of our athletes begin leaving for college. Some have been with us for years, and going to play a college sport is the fulfillment of a dream they began working towards many years ago. They are field hockey, ice hockey, track, football, and baseball players but are united with the knowledge that they worked as hard and as wisely as they possibly could to prepare for this moment.

But did they all reach such a high level, while other fell to the wayside, by luck?  Was it simply their work ethic?  According to author Gary Keller, who wrote ‘The One Thing‘, probably not

One thing this group has in common is they think big, a trait Keller believes is necessary for high achievement.

He states, ‘Don’t fear big.  Fear mediocrity.  Fear waste.  When we fear big we either consciously or unconsciously work against it.  We either run towards lesser outcomes and opportunities or we simply run away from the big ones.

If courage isn’t the absence of fear, but moving past it, then thinking big isn’t the absence of doubts, but moving past them.’

Over and over we see that the kids who start with big dreams and are willing to do the work necessary get to the highest levels.

Consider the 12 year old who started with us nearly a decade ago.  Back then he was just another good athlete training with his friends, but he was extremely dedicated and always believed he could go as far as his work ethic and energy could take him.

Last week he left us to start his 2nd season as a professional hockey player in Finland, playing on a top line for one of the better teams in Europe.

Many times we put limits on our own expectations and never reach the heights we could reach by ‘Winning the Day’ and believing anything is possible If we win enough of them.

Why do so many young athletes do this?

Keller reasons that a fear of failure plays a huge part in why so many of us, kids especially, do not think big.

Keller offers this advice:

‘Don’t fear failure.  It’s as much a part of your journey to extraordinary results as success.  

In fact, it would be accurate to say we fail our way to success.  When we fail, we stop, ask what we need to do to succeed, learn from our mistakes, and grow. 

Don’t be afraid to fail, because you’ll go nowhere without it.’

Another of our athletes spent the last year recovering from Tommy John surgery, which for a baseball pitcher like him could mean you never pitch again.  After a decorated high school career and experiencing the joy of being drafted by a major league team, his future at that point was likely to end in failure.

So did he give up in the face of this monumental setback?

No chance.  He went through his rehab, spent 6 months getting in the best shape of his life, and is off to play college baseball for a new team this upcoming year.

He kept thinking big even when it seemed unlikely, and because of that he put himself back on track to success.

Last week we discussed Winning The Day and how to work every day to get a little better.  But to do so you’ll have to have a reason, and that means thinking big.

We are extremely fortunate to have not only those two athletes here, but literally hundreds more whose stories are just as impressive.  If those younger kids continue to do what our older role models have done, who knows how far they will go?

The Secret To Building Better Habits

Some young athletes seem to be destined for greatness at early ages but never reach the heights that many thought they would achieve.

Others start slow but continue to make progress year after year, until one day they have gone much farther than the so-called ‘can’t miss’ kid from their earlier days.

How does this happen?

Habits, both good and bad.

In his excellent and highly-acclaimed book ‘The Power Of Habit’, author Charles Duhigg gives a very well researched and informative look into how habits form, and how they can be altered.

First, we need to understand that there are 3 parts to what he calls the ‘habit loop’.

Habit loop:   CUE–>HABIT–>REWARD

The cue is what triggers the habit to occur, and is most often an unconscious undertaking.   It’s what triggers the habit, and can be many things.  Emotions, time of day, and unmet needs are just some examples of how a habit can be triggered.

The habit is the thing you do.  It could be something positive like doing your homework, eating breakfast, or getting in a great workout.  Habits can also be less productive, like playing video games, eating junk food, or losing focus at work or school.

The reward represents why you do what you do, and is tied deeply to the cue, or trigger.  Rewards can be tangible things, like getting paid to show up for work, or they can be more subtle, like the satisfaction you get from completing a job that truly matters to you.


The younger you are, the fewer ingrained habits you have built into your life.  So it stands to reason that getting good routines in place early on will make it far easier to regularly do the things we all know promote health and success.

Eating a healthy breakfast

Being active

Getting homework done

Listening to and taking internalizing feedback from coaches and teachers

Being a good teammate

So how do you get kids to start doing these things routinely?  The key lies in the habit loop above, namely creating the cue and the reward to go along with what you want to see them do.

Cues need consistency to develop, they must be done regularly for them to take hold.  And the reward must be truly meaningful to the individual.

Let’s take listening to your coaches as an example. Coaches who set expectations for listening (eyes on me, no one talks when coach is talking, etc) are actually creating cues that build better listening habits.  Whether they internalize what you teach them may or may not happen right away, but at least you are setting up a routine that is more likely to lead to success.

On the back side, the reward may be the improvement the see and feel from what they were taught.  Far more likely though, the reward will be the recognition and positive feedback from that coach or a parent for making progress, especially if that athlete is younger.  Remember, rewards are often positive feelings that come from an activity.


Studies done in the last decade have shown conclusively that those who begin exercising also start eating healthier, and become more productive at work or school.

It also showed that families who eat dinner together raise kids who do better in school, show greater emotional control, and have more self-confidence.

And here’s the amazing one:  Kids who make their bed every morning grow up to become more productive at work, possess a greater sense of well-being, and are far better at sticking to a budget.

How does this happen?  Because exercise, eating a family dinner and making your bed are what are referred to as ‘Keystone Habits’.  Keystone habits are those that create a shift in mindset that spreads to many other aspects of our lives.

It is these keystone habits that are what makes an athletic development program so powerful for kids when it is done correctly.  Some of the keystone habits we look to develop through training are:

Learning to overcome adversity

Pushing past your comfort zone

Working positively with others, especially those that are different from you

Taking on bigger challenges with no other reward than the satisfaction of succeeding

Sticking to your commitments

All five of those are critical to success in training, athletics, school, work, and relationships with others.  They go way beyond sports.


So what about those who already have bad habits in place that need to change?

Author Charles Duhigg states that once habits are deeply ingrained they cannot be eliminated, only replaced by something else.  Yeah that sounds like bad news at first, but if you understand the habit loop you have the secret to changing them!

Do you want to limit the time your kids play video games?

Do you want your kids to eat healthier?

Do you want them to behave in a different way?

Be observant and search for the cues that trigger the habits you’d like to see improved.  Remember that cues can be triggered by a time of day, a particular emotion that kicks in (failure, distraction, stress, need for connection with others, etc), or something else.

Rewards are often not as obvious as they may first seem, so don’t jump to a quick conclusion.   Kids may play video games to get away from the social stress of their school day.  They may eat unhealthy food because they skip breakfast and lunch and became ravenously hungry later on.   Bad behaviors may be attention-seeking, independence-seeking, or something else entirely.  One thing will be true every time, the ‘reward’ for the habit will be deeply meaningful to the person doing it.

Experiment with changing the activity, but never eliminate the reward itself.  With patience, an observant approach, and a bit of trial and error you’ll find suitable replacement eventually.

In the end, it is far easier to build positive habits early in life.  Once they take hold they create a kind of upward momentum that leads to higher levels of success.

If you or someone you know has bad habits that need to change, remember that all is not lost.  Seek to make changes in the routine with the understanding that looking to eliminate the entire habit loop will be nearly impossible, but adaptations can be made that will have a life-long positive impact.

Nothing shapes a child’s future – whether positive or negative – more than the habits they build in their earliest years.   The more we can guide them to building better habits, the more likely they are to succeed.