How Coaching Youth Sports Has Changed Over The Years – Guest Post by B. Joe Eldridge

This post is from B. Joe Eldridge, who has great insight as a youth sport coach over several decades.  This is a very emotional topic and one that we are very passionate about.  The youth sports experience has seen better days, to say the least.  We care too much to let it keep going and will be publishing more on this subject in the future.  If you agree that the Youth Sports Machine needs some serious change, please let us know your level of interest as we put together a group of like-minded individuals to help facilitate change.  Thank you for your support.

 

Do I think coaching youth sports has changed since I started coaching in the 70’s? The short answer is:  I think coaching youth sports has become more challenging. Before I expand on that thought, I should provide some background about myself. In my youth I played a variety of sports but mainly soccer, track, football and cricket (I lived in England for three years). As my own children grew, I volunteered to coach and ultimately got involved organizing a local soccer league. To help in that endeavor, I joined a national soccer organization where I was trained as an instructor. Ultimately I was asked to join the national staff and for the next 30 years I traveled extensively across the country teaching volunteer moms and dads how to coach, referee and administer soccer programs. Additionally, I continued to coach and referee at all levels of youth soccer including High School and College. I retired in 2009.

Enough about me… back to why I think coaching youth sports is more challenging than it used to be. First of all, it takes more effort to img_20160527_221746become a youth sports coach than it used to. We used to let anyone coach who would volunteer their time. We are not so trusting these days and reputable youth sports programs often require background checks, training and certification before we consider selecting someone as a youth sport coach. Youth sports have become much more organized and available than in the past which means coaches have more competition with other sports to attract and retain young players. In my day, baseball was the only organized game in town for kids, whereas today it’s possible for kids to be involved in a different organized sport every day of the week. Also, coach knowledge of the sport is no longer enough, they must now also have knowledge of exercise physiology and child development. I shudder to think of some of things I had kids doing for conditioning when I first started coaching only to later learn how they were detrimental to young growing bodies. An awareness of concerns for the emotional and physiological well-being of youth is also required of coaches today to recognizing the effectiveness of and differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivational techniques (kids don’t respond to critique in the same way professional athletes do).

The most significant challenge for coaches in youth sports today from years gone by is, in a word – PARENTS – or overzealous and ill-informed adults. Youth sports coaches must deal with player parents who have developed preconceived notions and behavior from watching professional sports which are not appropriate for youth sports. Over time, Americans have become more and more obsessed with sports. You might say we are sports fanatics! Not surprisingly, this has resulted in huge sums of money paid professional athletes and generated by sports organizations, schools and colleges. With the money has come some not so positive changes in adult behavior about sports, particularly when viewed through the impressionable young eyes in youth sports. The will to win has been replaced by the need to win in professional sports, and just about anything goes to achieve that ultimate goal… winning!cjlhizswsaacklo

Many of the old fashioned values associated with sports in the past have taken a back seat to winning. The values of sportsmanship, fair play, respect for opponents and for authority, honesty and humility are now challenged by “in your face trash talk”, childish temper tantrums, open criticism of officials, excessive celebrator demonstrations for minor successes and a general lack of humility. The average red blooded American sports fan attending a sporting event is mostly concerned with their own amusement, including criticizing or trash talking players, ridiculing the officials or in general just behaving in an outrageous manner. So, when they bring this behavior and attitude to youth sports, it is out of place and destructive to the kids who don’t understand why mom and dad are being so negative and spoiling everyone’s fun.

How inappropriate would it be for mom and dad, while attending their child’s music recital, school play, spelling bee or other such activity, to shout critical and derogatory comments during the performance? Support and encouragement is what young players need, so they will continue to participate and to learn. The pressure to succeed will come soon enough in their lives, without mom and dad speeding up the process. We should let them enjoy their youth and share in their enthusiasm for just playing a game.

For the overwhelming majority of youth sports players, sport is not about the end product of winning, but rather it’s all about the process of playing the game and having fun. Winning is not a dirty word. The object of any game is to do your best to win, but the purpose of playing games at the youth level is to enjoy the process. Think back to when you were a kid and the games you liked to play whether it was stick ball in the street, basketball in the driveway or football in the backyard. Can you remember playing for hours and hours and the score might be overwhelmingly in favor of your opponent but you kept on playing because it was fun? Can you remember it getting dark or your Mom calling you for dinner and how many times did someone keep saying, “OK, next goal wins?” so you could squeeze in every last minute of playing time? It was all about the process of playing not about the end result of who wins!

Too often player parents fail to recognize that the behavior and attitudes common in professional sports have no place in youth sports. The “in your face” mentality, open criticism of officials or opposing players and an excessive emphasis on winning in professional sports have made coaching youth sports so much more challenging than it used to be. Years ago the coaches job mainly involved teaching players; how to play the game, respect for opponents and officials, the importance of sportsmanship, doing your best and how to win and lose as true sportsmen. Today coaches must now also “coach” the player parents to make them aware of the critical role they play in contributing to the overall “success” of the sports experience for their child and indeed for everyone involved.

The coach’s job in “educating” player parents on the differences between youth and professional sports and their role in helping their child have a successful and worthwhile experience is both sensitive and difficult. Hopefully, help in this task is available from the sponsoring sports organization in the form of parent meetings, signs and literature addressing the topic and support from more knowledgeable and informed parents (peer pressure). It only takes one or two misguided parents to spoil the experience for everyone involved. One of the worst things a coach can do when presented with inappropriate behavior from players or parents is to ignore it. If inappropriate comments or behavior goes unaddressed this silence gives tacit “permission” for more of the same. It may not be easy, but ultimately it’s the coach’s job to set the example of what is and is not acceptable behavior for players and parents alike.

It’s important to be clear about what is considered “success” in a youth sports program. Is the primary goal of a successful youth sports
program to develop a winning team or to contribute to the positive development of youth? Hopefully most would agree it’s the latter. The additional challenge coaches have today which was not such an issue years ago is that somehow they must convince the player parents they should let the coaches coach, the referees referee and that mom and dad’s job is to support and encourage the young players to enjoy the process of playing a game without external pressure or criticism whether or not they are winning.

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It’s a great ride and it goes by fast, so we should enjoy every minute and remember that…

In Youth Sports, It’s About More Than The Game!

Long Term Athletic Development – What you need to know

Long Term Athletic Development, or LTAD, is a phrase that coaches use to describe the process by which children acquire skills, starting in the pre-pubescent years through their early twenties.  It involves motor skill acquisition, biological maturation and physical literacy among other variables.  The definition laid out in the following position paper is as follows:

The term long-term athletic development refers to the habitual development of “athleticism” over time to improve health and fitness, physicalliteracyenhance physical performance, reduce the relative risk of injury, and develop the confidence and competence of all youth.

In layman terms, it is the framework to “slow cook” athletic development.

The National Strength and Conditioning Association recently came out with their Position Statement on the matter.  Since we are all members of the NSCA and certified through their certifying arm, it made sense to give a summary of the key points of their paper….

 

The first three points from Coach Platt:

1). NSCA Position: Long-term athletic development pathways should accommodate for the highly individualized and non-linear nature of the growth and development of youth.

My Take: The position of the NSCA is that youth develop at different rates. There is a vast difference between chronological age and biological age. While some children may be “ten” years old chronologically, biologically they may be closer to eight or twelve, depending on the child. A training program that is appropriate for one fourteen year old may not be suitable for another child of the same age. The differences in the rate of biological development must be accounted for when prescribing an athletic development program for any athlete.

2). NSCA Position: Youth of all ages, abilities, and aspirations should engage in long-term athletic development programs that promote both physical fitness and psychosocial wellbeing.

My Take: The NSCA advocates for all youth, regardless of age, abilities, and aspirations to participate in some form of long-term athletic development. Consideration must be given to the different developmental rates, as well as other lifestyle factors, of each youth athlete. Programs should not only focus on improving measurable traits of athleticism (strength, power, speed, etc.) but, should also place a large
emphasis on the psychosocial development of the youth athlete as well. As a coach that works with young athletes I see the need for psychosocial development everyday. Young kids are facing extraordinary outside pressures from peers and what they are exposed to by social media platforms on a daily basis. As coaches, it is our job to nurture a healthy social atmosphere that encourages youth athletes to be themselves without fear of social repercussions.FB_IMG_1442708270367

3). NSCA Position: All youth should be encouraged to enhance physical fitness from early childhood, with a primary focus on motor skill and muscular strength development.

My Take: I could not agree with this more. All youth should be encouraged to be active from the get-go. The obesity epidemic we are facing is real. Children are becoming more and more obese by the day. As coaches and advocates for a healthy lifestyle it is our job to encourage a fun, safe, and healthy environment for our youth to participate in. Children that are exposed to an active lifestyle from an early age are much more likely to continue being active as they develop. Getting all youth involved in some form of physical activity is crucial to solving our current obesity epidemic.

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Points 4 – 6 from Coach Macdonald –

4). NSCA Position: Long-Term Athletic Development Pathways Should Encourage an Early Sport Sampling Approach for Youth That Promotes and Enhances a Broad Range of Motor Skills

My Take: This has been a major issue/topic within the sporting world that needs to be addressed by parents across the board. It’s been proven time and time again that early sport specialization is detrimental to the development of our youth athletes and their odds of making it to the elite level are likely hindered by high volumes of sport specific training at a young age. On the other hand, playing a variety of sports, aka “sports sampling”, at a young age not only increases gross motor coordination in athletes compared to those who are specialized, but are also more likely to be successful at the next level.

5). NSCA Position: Health and Well-Being of the Child Should Always Be the Central Tenet of Long-Term Athletic Development Programs

My take: Our youth need to be exposed to positive experiences associated with sports and physical activity early on. In my eyes, it is most important with IMG_20150806_165240_741physical activity. Once a negative association is made with physical activity (physical activity as punishment, for example), that is when a sedentary lifestyle is almost inevitable. Fun should be the driving force behind playing sports and being physically active. Once fun is taken away burnout is the end result and a large percentage of our youth ends up quitting all sports by the age of 13. From the strength and conditioning side of the topic, we need to be sure our programs for the youth that we deal with are positive, constructive, and age appropriate. Quite a bit of damage can be done when an ill conceived and thoughtless program is implemented with a group of 10 and 11 year olds.

6). NSCA Position:  Youth Should Participate in Physical Conditioning That Helps to Reduce the Risk of Injury to Insure Their Ongoing Participation in Long Term Athletic Development Programs

My Take: This is pretty cut and dry, when youth athletes participate in a well rounded strength and conditioning program, it can cut their risk of injury down by up to 50%. If I’m a parent, that is just about all I need to see in order to get my kid involved; who cares about results if my child is injured all the time? Growth needs to also be a major source of concern when it comes to the increased risk of injury. When rapid growth of the skeletal system occurs, soft tissue structures are playing catch up. This is a breeding ground for injury. This is another reason our youth need to participate in a long term training program that promotes athleticism and strength to withstand the growth associated with increased injury risk.

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Points 7 – 10 from Coach Poggiali –

7).  NSCA Position : Long Term Athletic Development programs should provide all youth with a range of training modes to enhance both health- and skill-related components of fitness.

My take:  Remember when recess was organized chaos?  Kickball for a few minutes lead to tag lead to swingsets lead to chasing the girls/boys.  While structured exercise is important, unstructured, unsupervised play also needs to be integrated.  Role-playing, problem-solving and strategizing are just a few of the cognitive tools used when play is the driving force…no rules, no reward, just fun.

8). NSCA Position:  Practitioners should use relevant monitoring and assessment tools as part of a long-term athletic development strategy.

My take:  This one is a struggle for me; on one hand, I value the use of technology and assessing athletes to develop protocols, set goals and IMG_20160619_191706-01measure progress.  However, we have foregone assessing over the last several years so we can “assess” via observation and relationship-building.  I still feel there is a place for testing (acceleration, strength, power, FMS, etc) but the power of observation is our biggest ally right now.

9). NSCA Position:  Practitioners working with youth should systematically progress and individualize training programs for successful LTAD.

My take:  At some point, general physical preparation should segue into special physical preparation and eventually competitive physical preparation.  This process can be several years, with cycles lasting any where from three months (multi-sport athletes with multiple peaks throughout the year) to four years (Olympic athlete).  Progressions can be any number in scope, from increases in volume, intensity, frequency, duration, difficulty, etc.  Exercise selection can be progressed as well including advanced approaches of Olympic lifting, plyometric considerations, bounding, etc.  The key is to “slow cook” the process so adaptations occur in key windows of biological growth and development.

10).  NSCA Position:  Qualified professionals and sound pedagogical approaches are fundamental to the success of LTAD programs.

My take:  This is the fun part:  the art and science of coaching and/or teaching.  Each child is different in how they interpret information the best way; some are visual, some are auditory and some are kinesthetic, or hands-on.  They might not even know their preferred style of learning, but it is the coach’s responsibility to observe the environment(s) in which they thrive the most and pattern their teaching style to their learning style.  There is no perfect way to coach, but developing many styles of teaching will transfer to the most styles of learning.0407161735d_hdr

 

 

Random Thoughts – May 2016

Neil Platt ~

I am an avid reader and I have two must-read book recommendations:  The Matheny Manifesto is an absolute must read for anyone involved with youth sports. It is written by St. Louis Cardinals’ coach, Mike Matheny.  Whether you are a parent, coach, or trainer it is an eye-opener that really hammers home the point of youth sports:  IT IS ALL ABOUT THE KIDS!  Another book that blew my mind was Legacy, a fantastic read that focuses on leadership. The central theme is the leadership structure within the New Zealand All Blacks program and how they have used this structure to dominate the rugby world.  Need a knowledge bomb or two?  Check out these two books.

Have you ever wondered “what is athleticism?” Yeah, me too.  Here is a quick comparison of two of the NBA’s finest:  Russell Westbrook and Steph Curry.  Who is the better athlete? At first glance, Westbrook is by the far the better athlete. He’s faster, stronger and can jump through the roof. However, Westbrook’s career accomplishments fail to match what Curry has done. When you really dive down the rabbit-hole of what makes a great athlete, you have to consider aspects like reaction, focus, feel for the game, and coordination.

In-season training is a tool in the long-term development of an athlete that hardly anyone takes advantage of. Athletes of all ages spend countless amounts of blood, sweat, and tears, not to mention hundreds if not thousands of dollars, on their off-season training only to see diminished returns from their investment as they move through their season. Rather than waste all of this effort, add some structured training to your in-season routine. In-season training is generally done at a lower intensity with a shorter duration. The goal isn’t to make vast improvements during the season, it is to keep the improvements that were earned during the off-season.

Single-leg glute training hardly gets enough attention. Everyone is concerned with big squats and deadlifts, which are great, but not the whole picture. So much of our time is spent in a single leg position, yet we hardly train for it. Try adding some single leg hip extension, flexion, and abduction/adduction exercises to your training and see if you notice a difference, Stephen Curry certainly did.

The best diet ever is…the one that works best for you and the one you can follow for the long term. The diet industry is pretty comparable to the wiwinedietld west where anyone can put anything out there and claim is the secret to success. Instead of chasing the next diet craze that promises six pack abs in 30 days, try sticking to a diet that is well balanced, consisting of healthy fats (nuts & oils), fruits & veggies, lean proteins (chicken, lean beef, fish, eggs), minimally processed carbohydrates, and the occasional sweet treat. Remove all of the complex myths that most diets use to confuse you and just focus on the basics!

Brian Macdonald ~

Adding muscle is the best way to burn fat, and here’s why: Lifting weights allows you to sustain a higher metabolism after your training has finished, unlike never ending cardio circuits which will spike your metabolism while you are doing it, but will return to normal shortly after training has ceased. It has been estimated that metabolic rate can be elevated for as long as 39 hours after an intense bout of resistance training, so you are burning calories at a higher rate for a longer rate. Also, more lean muscle = higher metabolic rate. Think of it as the more lean muscle you have, the hotter your “metabolic fire” will burn. The cardio/starvation approach is not going to be the best means to achieving the goal of a better physique. Reasonable amounts of cardio/conditioning are perfectly healthy and highly encouraged for cardiovascular health, but if a true change in your overall physique is the set goal, consider a sound resistance training program paired with equally sound nutrition containing sufficient quantities of macronutrients to support muscle growth is the way to go.HANK

Peri-workout nutrition is a hot topic in sport nutrition circles right now.  Consuming food prior to exercising will help sustain energy, prevent the breakdown of muscle mass, boost performance, and aid in the recovery process. Some sort of mixed meal, containing protein and some sort of carbohydrate, a few hours prior to exercise will go a long way in achieving these goals. Protein will help maintain and potentially increase muscle size, help to reduce the severity of muscle damage, and increase your amino acid profile within the bloodstream which aids in your body’s muscle building ability. Carbohydrates can simply be viewed as fuel for your workout as well as stabilizing blood sugar levels. They also help to preserve muscle and liver glycogen which will help prevent the breakdown of muscle. Lastly, carbs will help boost insulin levels which will help in protein synthesis, also a reason to eat a mixed meal including these two macros. Think of something such as fruit, oats, or rice for your carb content. Hopefully this will inspire you to consider the importance of fueling your body and make a difference in your workouts.

Another controversial topic in health and wellness is detoxing or cleanses.  When it comes down to it, our body is extremely efficient at cleansing itself, that is assuming that we treat it right. If we simply boost our natural detoxification systems within our bodies and not abuse them, we are perfectly capable of clearing unwanted toxins and chemicals, free of charge.  Our liver, kidneys and lymphatic system do a tremendous job of clearing out the “garbage” from our multiple cellular processes. [For more info, please check out this fantastic article from the incredibly knowledgeable team at Precision Nutrition on whether detox diets are actually good for you.]

Brigit Reder ~

Creatine… Just for the guys right? Wrong. Creatine is an organic acid that every human produces. Simply put, it helps supply energy to all cells in the body, especially 0504161619_HDRmuscle cells. Its not specific to only male muscle cells and incompatible with those of females. The benefits of taking creatine regularly are worth considering when trying to add that next level to your training, potentially put on some extra lean muscle mass, enhance recovery, and exert one more powerful sprint rep. Again, it does not matter male or female… if you’re training goals are not being met with current balanced nutrition, recovery, and exercise protocol, consider putting some thought into adding Creatine as part of your routine.

GPS in sports. Something not spoken of frequently in the media or on your hour of SportsCenter every morning. However, it’s an integral part in professional sporting arenas and even most top college programs. Especially within soccer, rugby, and even basketball. GPS and heart-rate monitor use, in combination, during games and training help strength and conditioning coaches monitor athlete’s output and therefore aid in recovery programming. GPS tracks max output sprints, total mileage covered, where movement is taking place on the field or court, quantifying amounts of acceleration and deceleration within a game, and using this information to analyze the physical demands of athletes in their positions and sports. Incredibly useful tool, but underused based on high cost.

Leadership tends to be a term thrown around among coaches, teachers, and businesses alike. Everyone seems to have their own definition of what a leader is… naturally capable of captivating an audience and influencing, or the opposite, skills and attributes that were learned over time through study of literature or interacting with groups of people. No right or wrong, simply just different styles of leadership. Ultimately leadership is a powerful tool. The ability to lead and organize a group of people to share a common belief or goal, and then find a way to identify and solve problems in an ongoing journey. If you’re identified as leader in your workplace, sport, school, whatever arena… are you positively influencing and leading those around you towards the greater good or goal?

 

Tony Poggiali ~

The time I spend with my daughter and all the kids at ASF is such a two way street; I am sure that I learn more from them than they learn for me.Kaizen-2.svg

Our coaches are always behind the scenes getting better so you can better.  There is a stigma that all we do is lift weights, wear t-shirts and shorts (which we do), and just show up to write workouts and administer a  bunch of drills.  We take every bit as much pride in mastering our craft as any other professional.  Ask any of us how much time is spent on continuing education and you may be surprised how serious we take our vocation.  There is SO much that we know, but even more that we do NOT know. It makes the path to mastery extremely fun.

Short of non-stop traveling, I am convinced that the world can be found in books.

Are smart phones really making us smarter?  It feels like they are making us dumber.

The training industry gap is widening.  The good coaches are becoming great, the great coaches are becoming elite, the pioneers, and everyone else is poor or average and will eventually have no more business or leave the industry.  Consumers are getting smarter, more skeptical and becoming informed.  If you are not getting better, by default, you are getting worse.

I love to make mistakes.  It has taken me a long time to get over the word failure.  I am messing things up pretty much every week but have changed my mindset to accept that mistakes are the greatest teachers.

After 28 years of training/coaching, I am still having fun.  When it ceases to be fun, I am done.marypoppins

I think the next wave of research (actually, it is already here) will focus on our relationship with the billions of critters that live inside of us, known as the microbiome. They may be responsible for….everything that goes wrong (and right) within us.  Stay tuned.

 

You either get better or you get worse – Neil Platt

We all have goals that we want to accomplish in life. Whether it’s climbing the career ladder, losing weight, or being a better spouse/friend/person, we all have these aspirations. Having a clear vision of where you are going in life is absolutely essential to your overall success. I recently covered a series of topics in a three-part mini series that I feel to be very important. Creating and practicing healthy habits on a daily basis will help keep you on track. Having a set of core values you live by is crucial to staying grounded and living a life of which you can be proud. A healthy dose of a positive attitude will be the driving force behind your journey to reach your ultimate goals. Having all three of these characteristics work in harmony will be the life-blood of your ultimate success.FB_IMG_1451519836218

Some of the goals we have can seem daunting. Let’s say you have been sedentary for the past few years. You have been wrapped up in your work, your family, and everything else except your health. You have really let yourself slide and the negative habits of poor eating, too much stress, and not enough sleep have really taken their toll. As with most things, something has happened in your life and you have decided to make a change. You’re going to get your life back in order and lose 40 pounds. You go out and get a fancy new gym membership, some sweet training shoes, and some fresh new gym wear. You’re ready to rock and roll. But wait, it’s Thursday. You can’t start anything on a Thursday, might as well wait until Monday and start fresh.

Monday rolls around and you come out of the gates on fire. You’re eating nothing but salad for three meals a day, hitting the gym, and getting to bed on time. You’re going balls-to-the-wall, 100% intensity and having fun with it. The novelty of this journey is still strong and nothing can stop you now.

Next Monday rolls around and…s#@t. “I’m tired, sore, and all of these salads kinda suck“. Before you know it, week two was not as productive as week one and you’re right back into a rut. You’re thinking, “Where did I go wrong? I have everything I need, I picked up all these awesome workout ideas from the Biggest Loser, I was so motivated, and now this. WTF?!?”

It is estimated that about 80-90% of New Years’ resolutions fail to produce lasting results.

Why is this?

I don’t claim to know all of the reasons (psychology is not my forte) why most attempted lifestyle changes are abandoned after a short amount of time but I have a few ideas.

More often than not, when most people start a new habit they pick something so big they are destined to fail, just like in our example above. Not only do people tend to think way too big when it CCB2WONW4AEqsTucomes to changing their lives, they also come at it with too much intensity. The intention is there but they focus all of their energy on this one topic and attack it with relentless enthusiasm. The initial week or two are a breeze due to the novelty of the venture. There is a bit of excitement from being a new person. However, the thrill of adventure inevitably wears off as you realize the unforeseen complexities that undoubtedly come with creating a new habit. You burn out and quit before you have a chance to start noticing any tangible results. The cycle of grandiose plans to change your life followed by the eventual failure to see it through perpetuates itself until you’re truly at your whit’s end with nowhere to turn.

So, how do we break the pattern and finally start changing our lives for the better? It starts with a new way of thinking.

Rather than looking at your life and thinking you need to make massive, large scale changes, I want you to think of it a little differently. Instead of taking one aspect of your life and attacking it with 100% effort, I want you to take inventory of everything you do and improve on these by just 1%. Put another way for all of you math whiz’s:

Instead of improving on 1 thing by 100%, improve on 100 things by just 1%.

When you break things down into much smaller, easier to accomplish tasks you’re setting yourself up for success. Just setting a goal of losing 40 pounds is almost a guaranteed way to fail. Rather than setting the damn-near unattainable goal, simply think about sleeping a little better, eating one more vegetable a day, being just a little more active today than you were yesterday, and drinking one more glass of water. When you’re dialed into what you’re doing today and doing each of those things just 1% better, your long-term success is almost a guarantee. You’ll accomplish your big-rock goals in less time and with less effort than you would have otherwise. Shifting your focus from your major ambitions to your daily tasks will leave you feeling less stressed and more accomplished at the end of the day. Rather than having the weight (literally) of a 40 pound weight loss hanging over your head every night, you’ll have the enjoyment of knowing you took a step in the right direction.

You may be thinking there is no way making a 1% change in anything will lead to any tangible results. However, life is full of examples where 1% makes all the difference. The difference between placing in an Olympic event and going home empty-handed is typically in the tenths of seconds (or the equivalent for longer events), a 1% difference in interest rates on a student loan can be in the thousands of dollars, and the difference between being human and a chimpanzee is about a 1% genetic difference. When you add up all of the improvements you make by doing 100 things just 1% better you will see the results. Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday nailed it. If you haven’t seen the movie or didn’t watch the clip, the brief summary is opportunities for small improvements are all around us at all times. The difference between someone who is successful and someone who is not is the willingness to take advantage of these small opportunities and work at them every day. Don’t focus on breaking a 50 yard touchdown run. Focus on fighting for the inch in front of you and the rest will take care of itself.

I was recently reading an article and I can’t remember where it was so I apologize for not being able to give credit to the author but he wrote something that has had a profound change on the way I now approach things. He was talking about habit change and why most people fail and his point is this:

Intensity is for Amateurs, Consistency is for Pros.

I absolutely love that statement. I am in the process of making some lifestyle changes and every time I want to get ahead of myself or I get down about a recent failure, I remind myself of those words. It has really helps me keep everything in context and it is a great reminder that anything worth doing will take time, effort, and consistency.

Active Kids (new program at ASF)

Over the last ten years, ASF has worked with some amazing student-athletes. We have had the privilege to see young boys and girls excel on the field, court and classroom. While not every child will continue to play sports at a high level, he or she can still maintain an active lifestyle, including healthy habits and behaviors. However, there are significant obstacles that consistently affect the adoption of these behaviors. Consider the following:

  • School budget cuts — which have resulted in teacher layoffs and a lack of equipment and other resources — as well as policy pressures that have led schools to increase classroom time for standardized test preparation.[1] One of the first subjects to get axed/reduced includes Physical Education. (There is some resistance however. Some schools in Texas have four recesses, and the positive results have ensued. Also, some reports [1] are advocating for the Department of Education to make Physical Education a core subject.)
  • Nearly half (44 percent) of school administrators report cutting significant amounts of time from physical education, arts, and recess to increase time in reading and mathematics since passage of the No Child Left Behind legislation in 2001. These challenges have been cited as the reasons why the percentage of schools offering physical education daily or at least 3 days each week declined dramatically in U.S. schools between 2000 and 2006.[1]
    Physical inactivity has increased due to reliance on nonactive transportation, automation of activities of daily living, and greater opportunities for sedentary behavior. [1]
  • Technology, especially video games have replaced the backyard. Screen time averages six hours per day![4]

technology

  • Families who have more disposable income are able to drive early participation into sports, and active lifestyles. [2]
  • Kids are more sedentary than previous generations. In a recent study from Canada, just 9% of boys and 4% of girls between the ages of 5-12 meet the minimum guideline of 60 minutes of daily activity.[3] The CDC states about one-quarter of kids 12-15 years of age are active for 60 minutes each day. This trend is across all age groups.

2015 Inactivity Chart

  • Currently no states require that at least 50 percent of time spent in physical education be devoted to vigorous- or moderate-intensity physical activity.[1]
  • This is not isolated to the United States, as every country has seen declines in physical fitness outcomes over the last decade. [1] This is also coinciding with the increase IN overweight and obese children.

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  • Sports, which is the most popular way to introduce young children into the world of movement and activity, is declining. [2]

Youth Participation 2014

There are several more examples, but you get the idea. This has made me equal parts upset and sad for a long time. I know that sports shaped me growing up, and it directly led to the lifestyle that I retain well into my forties. So, off the heels of our successful adult Challenge that we do every year, the thought occurred, “Why not have a Challenge for kids?” It is a simple formula, active kids do better in the school, are healthier and contribute to society in positive ways as adults.
Consider the following concerning activity and kids:

Active kids get better grades.

Active kids are 1/10 as likely to be obese.

Active kids achieve up to 40% on test scores. Their brains literally light up after activity.Figure 16 copy

Active kids smoke less and use less recreational drugs.

Active kids are 15% more likely to go to college.

Active kids make more money as adults.

It is clear that physical activity has a multitude of benefits with very few drawbacks. The goal of the kid Challenge (herein referred to as Active Kids) is to promote physical literacy and be an advocate for the introduction and adoption of healthy behaviors, leading to habits for life.
Before we go into the specifics of Active Kids, let’s briefly discuss the phrase physical literacy.

At its core, being physically literate means to have the Ability, Confidence and Desire to be active for life.[2]physicalliteracy
Here is a brief description of each of the three components:

Ability refers to competency basic movement skills and an overall fitness that allows individuals to engage in a variety of games and activities. This outcome is achieved through a mix of informal play and intentional teaching of movement skills, among them running, balancing, hopping, skipping, jumping, dodging, throwing, leaping and throwing and general hand-eye coordination activities.

Confidence is knowing that you have the Ability to play sports or enjoy other physical activities.

Desire is the intrinsic enthusiasm for physical activity, whether organized or unstructured, resulting from early positive experiences that are fun and motivate children to do their best.

So, if we as coaches (and parents) can get them to “buy-in” early, we are setting them up for success later.

However, for each year that passes, the likelihood goes down that healthy habits will be utilized.[5] It is unlikely to be a daily routine in school (only 4% of elementary schools offer PE on a daily basis, even though 80% require PE to be a part of the curriculum; that figure goes down to 2% in high school [1]), so the onus falls upon coaches and parents to steer the ship.

With busy lives, less and less “family time” and more and more demands on children than ever, it is a tough sell to get kids to develop and continue healthy behaviors. While it is not the panacea, we feel that there are certain foundational principles that need to introduced and implemented, including Physical, Nutritional, Intellectual and Social categories. A big driver behind the genesis of Active Kids is rewarding behaviors that kids are already doing, not necessarily overhauling their lives.

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So, using the above as a backdrop, we are excited to bring Active Kids to ASF in April, 2016. If successful, we will certainly keep it as a regular program.

Here are the specific details:
Dates – April 4-30
Availability – 12 spots, open to new and current clients
Ages – 10-13 years of age, playing sports is not a requirement
Cost – $49

This will be a point system that is based on the above four categories (Physical, Nutritional, Intellectual and Social). For example, for every 30 minutes of silent reading, there would be “x” points; for every 30 minutes of free play, that would be “x” points. There will also be a fun physical Challenge every week.
We encourage you to have your child register for this, especially since they don’t listen to mom and dad anyway :).
If you are interested, registration begins on March 14.
References:
1. IOM (Institute of Medicine). 2013. Educating the student body: Taking physical activity and physical education to school. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
2. Sport for All, Play for Life, Aspen Institute.
3. Physical Activity Promotion in the Preschool Years: A Critical Period to Intervene
Gary S. Goldfield, Alysha Harvey, Kimberly Grattan, and Kristi B. Adamo, Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2012 Apr; 9(4): 1326–1342.
4. Active Healthy Kids Canada. Don’t Let This Be the Most Physical Activity Our Kids Get After School: Active Healthy Kids Canada Report on Physical Activity for Children and Youth. Active Healthy Kids Canada; Toronto, ON, Canada: 2011.
5. Developing Physical Literacy, A Guide For Parents Of Children Ages 0 to 12, Canadian Sport for Life.

Mindset of Young Athletes

The following is an excerpt from John O’Sullivan’s excellent book Changing the Game.  If you would like to see more about his book, or Carol’s Dweck’s Mindset book, links are provided at the end.

The influence of state of mind on performance has been confirmed through decades of research by world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck. She has discovered that beyond talent, intent, and actions, a person’s approach and what she calls “mindset” play a tremendous role in achievement and performance. Dweck has discovered that people have either a fixed or a growth mindset when it comes to performance. The view a person adopts profoundly affects the way she lives her life, how she performs, and what she accomplishes.
Fixed-mindset individuals believe that their abilities and qualities are carved in stone and that every activity is a test of one’s innate, unchangeable ability. Whether it be in the classroom, on the athletic field, or in a relationship, fixed-mindset individuals view every situation as a confirmation of their intelligence, ability, character, and even their personality. Challenges are to be avoided, obstacles are reasons to give up, criticism is ignored, effort is worthless, and the success of others is threatening. Fixed-mindset people do not believe in growth, only validation. You’ve either got it or you don’t!

Here are some things that fixed-mindset people say:
“I don’t play much. I am just not a good soccer player.”
“I failed the test. I won’t ever understand algebra.”
“I am not an artist. My brother got all the artistic genes in our family.”

Do any of these sound familiar? Do you know anyone whose every failure is a repudiation of his ability? Do you see a player who has potential but is not applying himself? “Why even try?” says the fixed mindset person. “I am just not good and never can be.” On the other hand, Dweck has discovered that growth-mindset individuals believe that one’s abilities are starting points and that talents are capable of being cultivated, nurtured, and developed. Effort, commitment, risk, failure, and disappointment are all components of development and not a reflection of permanent traits. Everything is a part of the journey, and every success or failure is a reflection upon where one is today, not where one might be tomorrow with some effort and application. As a result, challenges are embraced, effort is the path to
accomplishment, criticism is helpful, persistence is celebrated, and the success of others is inspiring.

Hopefully we have heard some growth-mindset statements from our kids:
“If I’m going to break into the starting lineup, I need to practice
harder and more often.”
“I got a C. I need to do some more studying for our next test.”
“Wow! That was the most challenging practice we ever had. I like our
new coach!”

Growth-mindset individuals love challenges, take risks, try new things, and focus on the process—not the outcome—of achievement activities. Through her research, Dweck has developed a series of mindset workshops and tested her theories on students of all ages. In one of her studies, she taught a portion of a class a fixed-mindset approach (the brain does not develop, skill is innate and cannot be learned, etc.), while others were led to adopt a growth-mindset approach (this can be learned, ability can be developed). Over eight sessions, both groups of students were taught study skills and how to apply them to learning challenging new concepts. Their teachers were not told which kids were in which group, but they were asked for feedback on student performance. Throughout the study, teachers singled out far more students in the growth-mindset group for making huge progress in both their motivation and improvement. At semester’s end, Dweck looked at the students’ grades in math. The growth-mindset group showed an improvement and was far more inspired to learn and put forth effort. The students in the fixed-mindset group did not improve their grades. In spite of receiving everything the growth group did, except for the growth-mindset training, their motivation to learn and apply their new study skills did not change. Their mindset held them back!
From toddlers to adults, Dweck’s results are astounding and consistent. Every study confirmed that the growth-mindset individuals learned more, demonstrated more improvement in testing, challenged themselves more often, and enjoyed themselves more than the fixed mindset groups. Every time! The highest-performing athletes are likely to have a growth mindset when it comes to sports. Of course, young athletes and even pros may perform well on a fixed mindset, but they will never reach their true potential. They will constantly seek validation and need to prove themselves instead of focusing upon improving themselves. In the long run, they will be surpassed by those athletes with a proper growth oriented state of mind.
The great news is that mindsets can be changed. Dweck has developed workshops and exercises that help students, athletes, and others adopt a growth-oriented mindset. Sometimes it is as simple as watching a short video on how the brain grows and develops throughout life. Other times it is simple statements of praise that have the desired effect. Once people are open to the possibility that nothing is fixed, they can get on with
learning and performing their best.

John O’ Sullivan’s site

Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset

Personal nutrition

Everybody has heard of personal training.  It is ubiquitous in every gym.  You join, they set up an appointment with a trainer, you discuss goals, frequency, duration, training history, time of day, etc.  It is the “personal” part of personal training.  You get a training card with your exact routine:

  • If you want to gain muscle, it is probably a body part split, with reps between 8-12, 3-4 days/week.
  • If you want to get super strong, it is a powerlifting style, with lower reps and heavy weight.
  • If you want to burn fat, it may be a metabolic style with several exercises grouped together with the goal of burning calories.
  • If you “want it all”, it is a total body routine that is repeated 3-4 days/week.

Could the same be said for “personalizing” your nutrition?  If you read ten different books, each with their own twist on how be lean, eat healthy and look/feel your best, you would likely be more confused than ever.  So, if we take the time to write up exercises, design programs and teach proper form, exercise progressions, recovery methods, etc, shouldn’t we treat nutrition pretty much the same?

Personalized nutrition is as much science as it is art.  Training methodologies work for the vast majority of trainees; the same cannot be said for nutrition.  It is much more about the person and how they need to eat than training.  For example, Brian and myself have extremely fast metabolisms and are afforded the “luxury” of eating whatever we want.  While it works for us, it is not recommended for everybody.  Others simply have to look at food and they gain weight.  It comes down to experimenting with several different habits, not diets, until you find the formula that works.

So, you may be wondering, “How can this work for me”?  It is a two part process:

Part 1 – Develop habits.

Part 2 – Experiment, refine and repeat those habits.

Here are a few habits to consider:

Habits

In the past, I have been guilty of taking more about diet/nutrition than building habits that include nutrition, but are not grounded in nutrition.  Some of the habits above (journalling, gratitude, planning) are not directly about food but about a habit involving food.  They could also be about anything else in your life!

There is not a “one-size-fits-all” answer when it comes to nutrition.  It is a never ending questSpeedBump to learn as much as you can about your own unique physiology, brain chemistry, metabolism, genetics, and digestion among other factors.  The key is to never give up the journey to find your formula to personalize your nutrition.

If you would like to chat more about this topic, let us know and we can go down the rabbit hole together until we find the answers!

 

Glutes = horsepower (part 1 of 2) – Brian Macdonald

Any athlete who has been to Adrenaline for performance enhancement training can tell you there’s a heavy dose of glute work in just about every training session. Hip thrusts, band hip abductions and glute bridges are just a few of many examples of what you might see athletes performing. On the flip side, new athletes usually have a look of absolute confusion or shock when we show them how to do a hip thrust. “I have to do what!!?? Why???”. The gluteus maximus is the single largest muscle in our body, but the majority of people do not use them correctly or know how to activate their muscle group known collectively as the glutes. It is also critical when it comes to athletic performance.

brian_hipthrust1
So why do we put so much emphasis on glute training? First and foremost, strong glutes directly help to improve posture. All of the athletes we train, and certainly a great number of adults we train, are stuck at a desk or driving the majority of the day. This is a recipe for tight hip flexors, over stretched weak hip extensors and dysfunctional glute activation. All of this contributes to poor posture and associated chronic low back pain. By strengthening the glutes in conjunction with stretching the hip flexors, we can pull the pelvis back alleviating the common issues caused by a constant anterior (front) pelvic tilt. Second, and probably most importantly, is injury prevention. I previously hit on the importance of glutes and how they collectively support the low back, but lets talk about how it can affect the lower body. The glutes are hip stabilizers as well, which means when weak, can completely screw up our lower body alignment. If we don’t have proper alignment from the hips to the knees, this can make us more prone to ACL sprains, iliotibial band syndrome, tendonitis, etc. This will obviously trickle down the kinetic chain to our lower legs and ankles. Injuries such as Achilles ruptures, medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints), even ankle sprains can become more likely due to improper alignment stemming at the hips and weak glutes. Lastly, we have their contribution to athletic performance. As the title suggests, our gluteal muscles are collectively the strongest muscles in the body. They are able to produce massive amounts of force which is directly related to how fast we can run and how high we can jump. The more powerful we are with hip extension, the more we can propel our bodies forward, laterally, and vertically.
It should be clear that training and strengthening our glutes is a critical component of all protocols we implement at Adrenaline, whether it is an athlete with a goal of increasing their vertical jump and 40 yard dash, or an adult with the goal of living a more active lifestyle. Hopefully, this helps answer the question I know so many people have either asked, or are thinking:  Why do we train the glutes so damn much?

Part two will go into some specific exercises, why we use them, who they are for and how to properly execute.

Drills must have purpose – Brian Macdonald

If there is one thing that has drastically changed the most since I became a coach, it is how I watch sports. Don’t get me wrong, I still get insanely jacked up when my team scores or makes a big play, but my spectating does not stop there. Instead, I am analyzing mechanics such as arm swing, knee drive, posture, hip level, etc., etc. This is partially due to the fact I am analyzing mechanics for hours a day 5-6 days a week with my athletes, so it just happens without me even realizing it at times. Also, while watching games, I am thinking to myself, “How can I make that situation into a drill?”

For example, I was watching a high school lacrosse game, and I instantly noticed how much the defenders were over-pursuing attackers crossing midfield. Fast forward two weeks later, and I am implementing a drill directly linked to helping with that problem. Not a lacrosse specific drill,  per se, but rather a defensive specific drill involving acceleration, deceleration, change of direction paired with defensive reactivity. It would apply to any team-based sport involving an opponent.

My point with this is all of our drills have purpose to them. Anyone can throw some cones down and do some fancy agility drill that looks cool, but is there purpose behind that fancy drill? Drills must be meaningful and must match the demands of what they will be experiencing on the playing field. When we implement drills, we know there will be direct transfer to what they will experience during competition. The question we always have to ask ourselves as coaches is, “What is there purpose behind this protocol, or will it simply be mindless repetition?”
For example, we have skill days strictly devoted to offensive cutting that we do quite often. That is the major skill set we are covering, however there are a number of different cuts utilized to create space. One of these is what we term as a spin cut. If you happened to catch the Ohio State vs Virginia Tech game in the season opener this year, you saw this exact cut when Braxton Miller broke some ankles on his way to a touchdown. This was a fantastic example of how we tailor our skill protocols to result in direct transfer to competition.   Here are two videos to illustrate what I am talking about:

For coaching purposes, here is what a spin cut drill may look like:

This is a pretty big deal around here.  We always discuss the importance of teaching the skill, not the drill, although the two are linked together.

Supplement 101- What the coaches use, part two

By Brian Macdonald

This is part 2 of my supplement series which will cover my post-workout supplementation. This implies what I take immediately following my workout. Any one who has the least bit of knowledge regarding exercise, and our body’s physiological response, understands that results rely heavily on the effort we put into recovery. A well balanced diet is obviously the critical aspect of recovery, or in other words, how well we fuel our body. There are times where it is extremely difficult, and expensive, to achieve all our body’s needs through diet alone. Someone who may be training more frequently and intense than average may require supplementation to achieve all the body’s nutritional needs. I will use myself as an example:  I am very active on a daily basis simply as a product of my position as a coach, but I am also training for a physique competition. With my goal of adding some additional lean muscle mass, as well as keep up with my caloric expenditure throughout the day, I have to take in upwards of 3,500 calories a day, and as high as 400 grams of carbohydrates.  There are days where I am practically force feeding myself in an attempt to reach these needs. That is where supplementation comes into play. It helps me achieve these nutritional needs while also taking away the pain of stuffing myself. So lets dig into these supplements.

My post-workout regimen consists of a protein blend (See Neil’s description of Beverly UMP in our previous blog regarding supplementation), along with a two part post workout regimen by JYM and Jim Stoppani which utilizes a combination of key ingredients to aid in recovery. The Post Jym Matrix, as previously stated, utilizes a scientifically-backed ingredient line-up proven to aid in recovery. Many of these ingredients are identical to that of Pre JYM which I covered, in detail, in our part one of this series. Those ingredients are BCAA’s, creatine HCL, beta-alanine, betaine, and taurine. All of which are effective when taken before and after a workout session to achieve desired strength, power, and muscular results. The difference in Post Jym are the glutamine and L-Carnitine L-Tartrate. It contains three grams of glutamine which is an amino acid in our body that aids in muscular recovery and growth. There are countless scientific studies suggesting glutamine speeds up the recovery process. Research also suggests it optimizes our immune system function which is an obvious plus. Many people do not understand working out is in fact breaking down our body, part of which can include our immune system, so it is through the recovery process that we achieve our gains. The other ingredient, L-Carnitine L-Tartrate, is considered to aid in the recovery process due to it’s ability to increase Nitric Oxide. This increases blood flow therefore increasing the amount of nutrients and oxygen to our muscles.

The last post workout supplement I use is the Post JYM fast digesting carb (dextrose). During a workout, our main fuel source is muscle glycogen, and research suggests the best way to replenish our glycogen stores is by ingesting high glycemic carbohydrates immediately following your training. Dextrose is a great source simply because it is immediately absorbed into the bloodstream and utilized in replenishing those glycogen stores. If you want some additional information regarding post workout carb intake, take a look at this article by Jim Stoppani. as it goes into quite a bit more detail on glycogen, insulin, sources, etc.

Lastly, I just want to reiterate the importance of recovery in training. So many people think the more you can train in a day, the better your results. Any one who has done an ounce of research on the topic knows this could not be further from the truth. If you do train multiple times a day, you have to make sure you are devoting as much energy towards fueling your body and recovery. Also, we can talk as much as we want about supplements and how we should eat, but everyone forgets the magical answer to recovery…..SLEEP! This has to be a top priority when talking about recovery. Here is a sleep recommendation chart from the National Sleep Foundation to give you a good idea of where you should be at based on your age group.

STAY ACTIVE!