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.

HOW LTAD WORKS

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.

WHY FIND THE TIME?

“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.

 

REFERENCES:
*http://www.nbcnews.com/health/kids-health/girl-athletes-need-training-protect-knees-doctors-advise-n90171
**www.ltad.ca
*** http://www.faqs.org/sports-science/Mo-Pl/Physiology-of-Exercise.html
www.unm.edu
  – “Resistance Training:  Adaptations & Health Implications”, By Len Kravits, Ph. D
iyca.org

Our 2014 Summer Sports Training Schedule

We will once again expand our youth training class times once we get to the end of the school year, which is only a few more weeks away!

You can find our full summer athletic development schedule here:

SUMMER ATHLETIC DEVELOPMENT CLASS SCHEDULE

 

Here are some of the highlights:

We are putting a much greater emhasis on speed development.  Morning speed academies and semi-private speed training lessons are found throughout the week.

 

-  Our morning Speed Academy is a very low cost option for speed development.  Just $20 per month for current members.

 

Our 30 minute Semi-Private Speed Training classes are a new way to help you get faster.  With groups of just 2-4 athletes, this class will entirely dig into sprint mechanics and how you can correct your own specific areas of need.

 

- Champion classes are varied by age throughout the week.  We’ve kept our Tuesday at 5 and Thursday at 6 classes, but added an all-age morning class and another Age 10-13 class on Friday afternoon.

 

Overall, we have 47 weekly class times to choose from.  Still plenty of strength & power development classes as always (now called ‘Group Personal Training’), but now have 11 weekly times dedicated just to speed development.

If you are serious about becoming a better athlete this summer, we are ready to help you improve no matter what your development need may be.

 

 

 

The Daemon Vs The Resistance

‘Linchpin’, written by Seth Godin, is a book I wish every high school and college student in America would read.

It talks about how to achieve greatness in any field while navigating through the challenges of our 21st Century world.

In one critical part of the book, Godin talks about how we all struggle with the internal battle between the daemon and the resistance:

“The Daemon is a Greek term (the Romans called it a ‘genius’).  They believed the daemon was a separate being that lived inside of us.  The genius living inside of us would struggle to express itself in art, writing , or any other endeavor.”

The daemon’s enemy is the resistance.  It will invent stories, illnesses, emergencies, and distractions in order to keep the genius bottled up.  

The resistance is afraid.   Afraid of what will happen to you (and to it) if your genius gets out, if your gifts are received, if the magic happens.

You know the resistance is there.  You’ve felt it.

The resistance is nefarious and clever.  It creates diseases, procrastination, and most especially rationalization.  Lots and lots of rationalization, some of which you may be experiencing right now.”

I’m sure you can relate to this as well as I can.

Everyone has some type of genius skills within them, whether they be academic, athletic, artistic, or any other form.

And it can be scary to let it out, because we are all hard wired with this ‘resistance’ feeling deep inside of us.  For millions of years it was necessary for human survival.

When taking this concept specifically to athletic development, it is my firm belief that for every 1 athlete who reaches an elite level in their sport, there were at least 100 others who could have been just as good.

So what happened to everyone who didn’t make it?

They all gave in to the resistance.

They allowed it to create endless distractions in their lives.

It made them consistently take time off to attend to an endless series of minor ailments & illnesses for months and sometimes even years.

It let others cause them to lose faith in themselves.

It told them it was OK to put off until tomorrow, next week, next season, next year, what they should have been working towards right now.

And then it rationalized all these decisions so that it all made sense in their head, that never letting their genius shine had a perfectly defensible explanation.

If you know you have something better inside you than what is currently showing today, and you only need to continue developing that genius skill in order for it to flourish, then stand up to the resistance

Fight through all the things that knock everyone else off course, despite that powerful voice telling you its OK to give in this time.

Because once you start standing up to the resistance some of the time, it begins to weaken.  And before you know it, the daemon starts winning the battle.

And you will have overcome the largest obstacle on your way to reaching your true potential.

(‘Linchpin’  can be found at many online bookstores, including here: Amazon.com )

How To Become A Complete Athlete

Kids come in all shapes, sizes, and personalities.

Some make huge progress in their sports over time, but others do not.

Many have the drive to succeed but get frustrated over time because they don’t see progress in their performance.

Unfortunately, becoming what we refer to as a ‘Complete Athlete’ has many facets.  It’s not as easy as everyone going out and taking a few more shots or doing a few more pushups to reach the top.

But if there is an overall formula for excelling in athletics over time, it would be this:

STEP 1 – Honestly assess what your strengths and weaknesses are as an athlete/teammate

STEP 2 – Work diligently do shore up all of your weaknesses

STEP 3 – Continue to work on growing your strengths, especially those that will allow you to achieve high levels of success in your specific sport or activity.

Simple, right?

No one can do Steps 2 & 3 for you, but to complete the first step you’ll need to know all the variables that come together to create the Complete Athlete.

So here is your comprehensive checklist, broken down by category, of all the attributes you’ll need to become elite in almost any sport.

PERFORMANCE SKILLS
The more glamorous category of physical skills typically advanced through training.

STRENGTH –Just about every sport these days emphasizes getting stronger more than ever before.  Why? Because strength leads to being faster and more powerful, plus it will help you play a more physical game.

POWER – Explosive bursts are what sports are all about – kicking, throwing, shooting in stick sports, and many other movements require a potent combination of speed and strength.

SPEED – The faster players and teams cover more ground and make more plays.  This is the most coveted skill by scouts and coaches, although it is important to remember it is still just one of many pieces of the puzzle.

AGILITY – Cutting skills, often going hand in hand with speed but has more technical parts to it than simply sprinting.  Not to mention you can add defensive footwork skills like shuffling, crossover runs, and backpedals here too.

BALANCE/COORDINATION – An underlying group of skills that is best described as being ‘athletic’ in your movements.  Balance and coordination are key factors in helping you make jaw-dropping moves while also keeping you injury resistant.

SPORT SPECIFIC CONDITIONING – You need to be in good enough shape to play a complete game consistently throughout the season.  This varies widely by sport, as a soccer player needs more continuous conditioning compared to the stop and start sports like baseball and softball.

 

SKILL DEVELOPMENT
The actual skills you need to express your athleticism.

GENERAL – Running, skipping, jumping, throwing, catching, kicking, spinning and all the other fundamental movement skills.  This wide range of general skills is best developed by age 13.

SPORT SPECIFIC – The skills you’ll need to put your 10,000 hours of practice in to as you get older.  It could be chipping if you’re a golfer, taking slap shots for hockey, or free throws for basketball.  There are too many to list here.

 

INJURY RESISTANCE
Does it really matter how good you are if you’re always hurt?
(Likely the most neglected category in sports right now at all levels.)

MOBILITY – Can your arms, legs, and upper torso move through full ranges of motion?  If not you may be susceptible to deceleration injuries as you become more powerful, as your body has less time to ‘brake’ before coming to a complete stop.

TISSUE QUALITY – Muscles and other connective tissue lose their elasticity due to intense exercise, which can come from workouts or the demands of in-season game/practice schedules.  Any type of soft-tissue massage, typically from a foam roller or massage specialist, allows joints to continue to move through full ranges of motion and receive the vital nutrients they need to regenerate.

STABILITY – Sometimes you need to be able to resist motion in order to avoid moving too far.  Particularly through your midsection, lower legs and shoulders, creating maximum stability without sacrificing mobility will lower your injury risk.

SYMMETRY – Other than having a previous injury, the greatest predictor of your future injury risk is an imbalance of strength and/or flexibility from one side of your body to the other.  Imbalances are trainable when workouts are designed properly.

 

MENTAL PROFILE (definitions from Jeremy Boone’s Athlete Mindset course)
The intangible category that is impossible to improve unless you are willing to confront your weaknesses.

SELF CONFIDENCE – Do you believe in yourself and your ability to achieve your goals?

FOCUS – How well do you maintain concentration on the details of the task at hand?

COMPETITIVE FIRE – Is your desire to succeed greater than your fear of failure?

SELF DISCIPLINE – How well do you adhere to a practice and training routine to control your behavior and desires in order to achieve your goals?

SELF MOTIVATION – What is the quality of your present desire to improve?

COACHABILITY – How well do you take instruction from those who can help you raise your game?

GAME INTELLIGENCE – How well do you understand the tactical aspects of your sport, and position?

MENTAL TOUGHNESS – Do you have the ability to cope with the present in order to accomplish your future objectives?

TEAM PLAYER – Do you put the team’s needs ahead of your own when necessary?

PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY – How well do you face up to and address your personal strengths & weaknesses?

 

PHYSICAL PROFILE
Often times the hardest to change, but can be adapted to better fit your sport and position.

HEIGHT – Other than nutrition factors in your younger years, this is pretty much out of your control.  But it should match the demands of your sport.  If you’re 7’ tall your odds of excelling in basketball are much better than in gymnastics.

WEIGHT – Through proper eating and training you can gain or lose weight to match the needs of your sport and position.  However, some of this is genetically determined…not everyone can become an NFL lineman.

BODY COMPOSITION – Going hand in hand with weight is the ratio of muscle to fat that you carry, and is also adaptable based on nutrition and training.  Most roles in sports, but not all, require you to be lean in order maintain your speed and conditioning.

 

Do you see where your strengths for your sport & position lie?

These are the things that are fueling your current athletic success, but for now they should not be the primary focus  of your training and development time.

 

Can you identify 3 to 6 areas from this list where improvement would raise your game?

Be honest and face up to those needs.

Then go out and start working on them!

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.

Start With WHY

If you or someone you know sets a New Year’s Resolution to change a habit or set an annual goal, this one tip will greatly improve your chances of success.

In the book ‘Start With Why’, author Simon Sinek states that the things we do have 3 layers - WHATHOW, and WHY.

WHAT we do is pretty obvious.  They are our jobs, hobbies, habits and so on.

HOW we do them goes a bit deeper.  This layer gets a bit more specific on the way you go about doing what you do, and can take a variety of forms.

But the key part is the deepest layer, WHY we do the things we do.  It comprises the emotional reasons that cause us to do WHAT we do, whether we realize them or not.

So let’s get back to New Year’s Resolutions, which have a pretty poor reputation for having a lasting effect (in factbig box gyms set their entire business model around failed fitness resolutions).

Most people who set these annual goals state WHAT they wish to do – lose weight, stop smoking, get a promotion, make the varsity team, etc.

The more motivated among us might even lay out a plan for getting there, meaning they will determine HOW they will accomplish that goal.

But unless you reach down to the emotional level and tap in to WHY this goal means so much to you, your chances of success are brutally low.

So if you are determined to make 2014 the year that you:

 

Get faster

Gain those 10 lbs of muscle you need to play at the next level

Get back into shape and feel 10 years younger

Quit a bad habit

Recover fully from a serious injury

Work towards anything that will make you better 12 months from now,

 

then the best first step you can take today is to really make it clear in your mind WHY this is so important to you.

Think about what it will feel like to be there at the finish line, and how your life will be positively affected by the hard work and discipline you display.

Start with WHY, and the odds are much better that your goal actually will become a reality.

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.

BUILDING GOOD HABITS

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.

UNDERSTANDING KEYSTONE HABITS

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.

BREAKING BAD HABITS

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.

 

20 Tips & Thoughts On Training

1. Knowing your resting heart rate and measuring it daily to see when it is well above normal is a simple and effective way to know when you, as a fitness enthusiast or an athlete, need to focus more on recovery strategies.

2. Having a ‘fast metabolism’ is something anyone can work towards, but to get there you need to understand how metabolisms work. They are raised by being active of course, but also through the amount of muscle tissue you accumulate (more is better) and the type of food you eat (foods with protein raise it most).

3. Focusing on stability is the single greatest improvement to sports performance training I’ve seen in the last 15 years.  A stable athlete’s strength level always plays up, but an unstable athlete’s strength always plays down.

4. Getting in shape for a sport is uncomfortable because you need to work hard enough to create an after burn effect that forces your body to adapt.   But it needs to be done, because conditioned athletes in every sport are less prone to injury and play better almost all the time.

5. Training is about so much more than athletic performance.  If we can get a kid to understand what it means to commit themselves to a goal that matters to them, and then get them to focus their energies on how to properly go about working towards that goal, we’ve achieved something far more important than success on the field.

6. A 5 to 10 minute static stretch before bed not only relaxes muscles, but also your mind.

7.  Eating is supposed to be enjoyable, even when you’re eating healthy.  No one ever said you had to torture yourself in order to have a quality diet.

8. Focusing first on ‘how well’ instead of ‘how much’ in a workout is something every elite athlete I’ve ever worked with has had in common.

9. 2011 IYCA Coach of the Year and franchise partner Dave Gleason on why we train kids from age 6 to 13,

“You are building a foundation that will give their high school and college coaches more to work with when the time comes.”

10. Every athlete and coach wants their kids to be faster, but few are willing to put in the time to develop it.  Speed improvement takes time, repetition, and dedication to the finer points of athletic movement to be achieved.  If you are the athlete or team that’s willing to follow this path, you’ll end up way ahead of all the kids who give up when they don’t get better in a week or two.

11. If you want a simple way to get an edge on your competition, prioritize training the back side of your body. Most kids fixate on the muscles they can see on the front side, but it is the more powerful ones on the back side that do the most to improve speed, power, and limit injuries.

12. Athletes who get injured almost always struggle with self-confidence and self-image during their recovery.  As parents and coaches we must be very aware of this when digesting the erratic behaviors they will typically show during this challenging time.

13. Every athlete I know who follows a great diet eats breakfast. Every single one.

14. When middle school and high school kids spend more weeks during the year playing their sport than Olympians and professionals, we have reached the point where something is very wrong about how we approach youth sports in our society.

15. The last 30 years has seen an explosion in girls sports participation, and with it a meteoric rise in their injury rates (especially at the high school level).  Getting stronger and more stable are the female athlete’s secret weapons in reversing this trend.

16. Sport-specific training for those age 18 and under is not even close to being as important as identifying individual athletic needs (lack of balance, flexibility, core strength, etc) and hammering away at them until they are no longer a weakness.

17.  Proper warm ups before a workout or practice has been proven over and over to lower the risk of injury during the session that follows.  If you are a coach or fitness enthusiast make sure your warm up includes a good combination of light heart rate elevation and dynamic stretching.  For those who want to improve their flexibility over the long run, move your static stretching to the end of the workout and make it a cool down period that finishes off your practice or workout.

18. Training and youth sports participation has to be fun, no matter how high the skill level.   Would we as adults spend a huge chunk of our time and energy on anything that wasn’t engaging on some level?

19. Sometimes a setback is the best thing that can ever happen to a young athlete, if they are surrounded by supportive people.

20. For those under age 30 you can typically stay in good shape by being active, even if you have a poor diet.  Once you pass age 30, no amount of exercise is going to overcome bad eating habits if you want to stay fit.

 

 

 

Practicing Safely In Hot Weather

Heat illness is a very real concern for fall sports athletes, and it seems like this time of year there is always a story or two about health problems brought on by a youth sports practice in the heat.

Coaches are, by and large, a very caring group who only want to see their players succeed.  And to do that they know their kids need to be challenged from a conditioning standpoint in order to best prepare for the challenges of the upcoming season.

Preexisting health conditions aside, there are many ways that coaches, parents and athletes can still achieve their performance goals while also lowering the risk of heat stroke brought on by conditioning in extreme weather.    Follow these simple steps and you can go a long way to increasing your ability to benefit from practicing in the summer time.

GET ACCLIMATED
Your body is an incredible adaptive machine, and with repeated exposure to hot weather you will undergo physiological changes that help you to function better in hot conditions.  By getting outside and exercising for progressively longer times during the summer, you will be much more ready for that tough August practice than those who have been inside most of the time.

And what if that is you, the kid who has been indoors?  It’s never too late to get at least a little adaptation going, so use your last few days to begin some light conditioning outdoors while also following the other tips below.

STAY HYRDATED
Staying hydrated allows your body to remove heat from inside the body, which is part of why we sweat during intense exercise.   A lower amount of water in the body limits your ability to remove heat through the sweating process, and takes away your natural ability to drop your core temperature.

Coaches and athletes know that frequent water breaks are necessary for sustained exercise in heat (or any weather, for that matter).    What tends to get overlooked is that staying hydrated is a 24-hour process.  It’s not enough to drink during and right after practice.  It starts from the minute you get up to the minute you go to sleep.   Sipping water all day and consuming at least one ounce for every pound of bodyweight (more if you are doing a lot of conditioning) is key.

Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, especially water-based types like oranges, apples, peppers, and others can also do wonders for maintaining proper hydration levels.

EAT FOR ELECTROLYTE  BALANCE
Sodium and potassium are two electrolytes that need to stay in balance in order for your cells to function properly and keep you humming along during exercise.  However, any time you sweat heavily for at least an hour your electrolyte balance can be seriously thrown out of whack.

This is mostly due to a loss of sodium, which leaves your body through sweating.  Replacing this sodium loss with a salted, low-fat snack like pretzels will replenish your electrolyte stores and keep you performing at your best.

LIMIT SUNLIGHT EXPOSURE WHEN POSSIBLE
Practicing in direct sunlight causes your body to absorb radiant heat, and further raises your core temperature on top of everything else.  For teams that play outdoors in the fall, it is pretty much unavoidable to practice in the sun.

But on the hottest days it would be helpful to get athletes out of the sun about once per hour for at least 10 minutes or so.  Even this is not ideal, but it would make some difference in keeping your body temperature down.    Practicing earlier or later in the day, when the sun’s rays are not as intense, is a common strategy many coaches already use and should continue to do.

PROGRESS CONDITIONING DAILY
As mentioned above, the human body is an incredible adaptive machine.  From day to day, it is constantly trying to keep up with the demands imposed upon it, whether it be from exercise, weather conditions, or both.

To get the best results from your players and to maximize their health, conditioning should progress over time to give their bodies time to adapt.  Starting out with a punishing 2 or 3 day conditioning start to the season is not only more dangerous for them, but also much less effective.

If you do plan to emphasize conditioning during your first week of practice, make each day progressively more challenging so the toughest workouts come towards the end of the week.  And keep in mind that conditioning is an ongoing development, so continuing to build endurance over the course of many weeks is really the best way to develop your players for the long grind of the upcoming season.

 

Despite a coach or parent’s best effort to keep their kids safe when practicing in hot conditions, sometimes athletes do get overheated.  Feelings of lethargy and nausea are immediate signs an athlete needs to be cooled down.  It is in everyone’s best interest to have a bucket of ice water (separate from drinking water) readily available with towels that can be soaked in the ice water.  Placing a wet ice towel on the back of the neck and forehead can almost immediately drive down their body temperature.  Drinking a cold beverage also helps to get your internal temperature down quicker.

Practicing in hot summer weather is not an ideal situation, but it is one many coaches face this time of year.  To get the results your team needs and to maintain the safest training atmosphere possible, stress these tips to your kids and enjoy the start of what hopefully will be a very positive season for you.