The story of my life looks a lot like this roller coaster to the left. From my time growing up to where I am right now, there have been many ups and downs along the way. Life is not linear. I have played on and coached teams that have won a ton of games, and teams that have lost a ton. I have gained weight and then lost weight. Then gained weight again. The same is true for personal relationships. The same is true for my business. No matter how hard you want things to constantly trend in the right direction, it just never seems to work that way!
We all have good days, and we all have bad days. The one thing that determines our success is the sum of all our days. We can not let one bad day define who we are. Like the legendary basketball coach Dean Smith once said, "If you make every game a life and death proposition, you're going to have problems. For one thing, you'll be dead a lot." The darkest moments don't define you. The same could be said for your brightest moments. I am often reminded of this in the fight game. Think about what just happened to someone like Ronda Rousey. She outworked everyone to accomplish her goal of becoming the greatest female fighter in the world. The moment she reached that success, she lost a little bit of that determination that she had as a young fighter. She started showing up at Wrestlemania, in movies, on the cover of magazines, etc. That is not what she did to get her to the top. She may have lost focus. She may have been distracted by other obligations. That, among other things (aka Holly Holm), quickly exposed that. Now it is time to see if Rousey can follow up this decline with another rise and maybe another peak.
Each and every day will bring on new challenges. If we do not attack each day with discipline and grit, then we are doing ourselves an injustice. We need to be armed with grit and have the confidence to stay the course no matter what happened the previous day. Even if it is something positive. Accomplishing a goal is an incredible thing. But once we obtain that goal, we need to continue to do the things that got us there. Deviation from the norm may be detrimental to the sum of our days. Remember, once we reach the peak, the next step is ultimately down. Stay the course. Stay disciplined. And stay gritty!
There are a few things in this world that I think I know a little bit about: strength & conditioning, coaching football, and Rap and R&B from the 90s. One of my favorite En Vogue songs, and music video (check out the badass video here), was titled, "Free Your Mind". That is exactly what we are going to talk about here.
The mind can be used to our advantage. The mind can also be used to our detriment. It is up to you as the individual to decide how you are going to use your mind. I struggle with many things in life. Eventually, I sit down and say to myself that all this crap needs to stop. If my goal is to lose 5 pounds, then I do everything I can to lose 5 pounds. That means getting strict on the weekends and keeping focused. If my goal is to sleep more, then I try to sleep more! Again, this stuff sounds simple but it is never easy. You have to take the required steps to re-train your brain to accomplish the things that you want it to do.
YOU have the ability to do extraordinary things. You have to believe it. You can use your mind to control and move your life to where you want it to be. Nobody else has that control over you. NOBODY. It is up to you to control your mind in the right way. The moment you can control your mind is the moment that you can set it free. When this occurs, special things begin to happen in your world. And like the wonderful ladies of En Vogue once sang, free your mind, and the rest will follow!
You know, I heard a great discussion today about scope of practice in regards to being a strength & conditioning or fitness coach. I am not going to get into the specifics of the topic that was being discussed, but it was referring to a physical therapy method. Key word: physical therapy. Nowadays, anyone can watch a Kelly Starrett video and claim to be an expert. Or, just like the cartoon, look the part. But what these people don't know is that Starrett has worked with over 10,000+ athletes over the course of his career as a Physical Therapist and Crossfit coach. He has some skin in the game. He is not some person that works a 9-5 in the factory, watches a few Starrett videos, and then goes on to coach others how to move better. This is scary stuff here.
There is going to be a time in our lives as coaches where we need to refer out. If someone comes to me and asks me how to shoot a better jump shot, I am referring out (Now, if it was how to shoot a double leg takedown, I might help them there!). Or, if someone comes to me looking for some massage work, I am finding the best massage therapist I can find and referring out. We can't be a jack-of-all-trades as coaches. It is good to be educated on a variety of topics, but when it comes down to it, if you specialize in everything then you specialize in nothing.
Growing up, there were only two clubs that I knew about: the one pictured to the left being held by my old buddy Bam Bam and the other one is that place all those rappers used to talk about. But there is a new club out there: the sports club. Sports like lacrosse, baseball, soccer, etc. have all grown club teams that have grown exponentially in recent years. For some athletes. the club sport scene is the reason that they got into the university that they desired. For others, it is wreaking havoc on the development of some athletes.
When did it become a standard to play one sport all year around? As I sat back and watched the PIAA Team Wrestling Championships this weekend, I made an observation to a friend about the attitude of some of the multi-sport athletes that were competing. Even if the score was not in thier favor, they still competed and worked hard to get back in it. As a former football coach, I was proud to see that toughness, both physically and mentally. For the athletes that only participated in one sport for most of their life, I noticed a different psyche. When things didn't go their way, you could almost see the psychological effect it had on them. The sample size is small and this aberration may totally be made up but it is something that I believe in. The more you compete in a variety of sports, the greater the opportunity to learn valuable lessons. Lessons on toughness. Lessons on losing (remember, more competitions = more opportunities to get your butt whooped). And lessons on being a teammate.
The most common answer you hear from athletes who quit a sport: I just want to focus on one sport. It is a big cop out and you hear it all the time. They may decide to play lacrosse all year around and give up on their basketball dreams. So instead of playing bball in the winter, they are playing indoor lacrosse. They have a coach hyping them up. This coach is telling them that if they keep working, and join their summer league team, they will get an opportunity to play in front of a lootttt of college coaches. Who knows, maybe one of those coaches may like you enough to offer you a scholarship. How could the kid and parent say no? Nevermind the fact that the percentages say only about 7% of high school athletes play in college. They buy into what the coach is saying, and I mean that literally. They fork over the cash for the opportunity to play on the Elite Tiger Bear Catzz Club team (there are some ridiculous club names out there, trust me. Or you can google it yourself). These kids psyche and athletic skills become very limited outside of the training for the sport that they play. They have no other training skills to fall back on.
Mike Tyson said it best: "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." What happens when this skilled club player gets "punched in the mouth?" (not literally I hope). How will they react? If they grew up playing a contact sport like football, they may bounce up off that turf and get back after it. If they grew up on a wrestling mat they may have the mental toughness to rebound after a loss. Believe me, in a sport like wrestling, there is always someone out there that can put a whupping on you. You better learn how to lose if you want to improve and develop in anything that you do. When you don't have a varied background, you may not be able to develop the proper coping mechanisms to survive. It is a tough world out there sometimes and when you close your world off from everything but one thing, and that one thing doesn't work out for you, it could be extremely detrimental to your mental well-being. Your self-esteem may suffer. You put in a ton of work and you still struggle to play well, or start for your team, or even make the team. This is a lot to handle for anyone, especially a young kid. Don't become bound by one coach or one sport. Experience new skills, sports, and competitions and enjoy the process!
The past few weeks have been pretty good in regards to some of the athletes I work with. After completing their senior sport season, some college football coaches came calling and offered some tremendous opportunities. I am both happy and excited to see what the future holds as they continue to grow and become NCAA athletes.
With all of this going on, it got me thinking a little bit about the NCAA. My understanding is that the term amateurism in sports goes back a long, long way. It was first used in England as a way to prevent the unwealthy from participating in activities. If you were broke, you couldn't miss any time away from work for a game. This is somehow the same term that is used to describe the college athlete: an "amateur". These "amateurs" are responsible for hundreds of jobs for the NCAA. They need coaches, trainers, athletic directors, etc. These "amateurs" generate nearly one billion dollars in revenue for the non-profit NCAA. What do they get in return? They get a free education and for some, that works out well. But they also get denied rights that every other human in America gets. The ability to gain income from the work they put in.
The term "student athlete" was created to avoid having to pay players compensation for injuries. This came to trial in the 1970's when TCU running Kent Waldrep was knocked out cold in a game against Alabama. When he awoke, he was paralyzed. The university helped for years with some bills but eventually, stopped aiding the family. This led to a lawsuit. Ultimately, the NCAA won out. The term student athlete was created as a way to prevent athletes from filing claims for compensation if injured while playing. Now the term is viewed a little differently.
The NCAA prides itself on amateurism and "student athletes". It is what some fans say they love about the college game. They say, "these kids play for the love of the game, not a paycheck" (I bet if you polled these athletes they'd gladly take a check for their services). The universities make it hard for their athletes to excelling as students. Coaches schedule early morning workouts prior to class. There are road games. There is travel for tournaments, bowl games, etc. All of these things conflict with the class schedule. Like NFL player Dominique Foxworth said, "C's get degrees" (this was a running joke when he was a student at Maryland).
Will we ever see a solution to this? I think not. The NCAA doesn't seem to budge in regards to paying the athletes. They are OK denying athletes rights to work, get a meal or two bought for them, and profit of ticket and jersey sales, but god forbid they get a few bucks for all the time and work they put in. Jay Bilas told a story of his nephew who was the class president at the university he attended. He received $5,000 a year because of his role at the university. And this kid was already on full academic scholarship. How does that make sense?
Before I end this, I understand a majority of these kids get their tuition paid for it. As a 30 year old still paying off school loans, I get it. Believe me. But these contracts that they sign, aka scholarships, are open for approval or denial each season. A scholarship one year can be pulled the next. Some families depend on this. Like running back Arian Foster said, college athletes are indentured servants. By definition, an indentured servant is a person under contract to work for another person for a definite period of time, usually without pay but in exchange for something. Substitute the word athlete for indentured servant and it describes the life of an NCAA athlete.
As I sat back and watched some of the Super Bowl festivities, the one thing that stood out to me most was the Peyton Manning and Bill Cowher interview that aired before the game. Coach Cowher asked Peyton about his legacy and in only a few sentences, spoke some words that should resonate with every competitor in the world. Peyton discussed two things that his father taught him to strive for growing. The first, was to have your teammates say that you were a great teammate. The second, strive to gain the respect from not only your coaches and teammates, but from the opposition as well. I think Peyton did a great job of doing this over the course of his career, and if this is the end, it will be the start of something that the game of football will struggle to replace.
Growing up, I always had an affinity for the quarterback position. It was the position I played, and later, the position that I coached when I was working as a high school football coach. I remember liking players like Joe Montana because of his "Joe Cool" demeanor and his ability to win football games. I used to love watching Steve McNair. A small school quarterback with a ton of athleticism and arm strength, but what I admired most about him was his toughness. Then Mike Vick comes along and introduced the NFL to a new style of play. Fast forward a few years to guys like Colin Kaepernick who electrified the league (albeit only for a season or two), with his athleticism. But one breed of quarterbacks that is dying is thrown drop-back QBs who seem to last the test of time. With each season, guys like Manning, Brady, Brees, Rodgers, etc. all get a year older. Some of these guys are closer to retirement than others. Once these guys retire, where are the next crop of young signal callers?
We are living in the greatest era of quarterback play. Outside of an Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson or Cam Newton, who will the "torch" be passed to. I am sorry, but a Derek Carr, Teddy Bridgewater, and Blake Bortles don't excite me as much as a Manning, Brady, Brees and Rodgers would. And for that matter, I don't know if I would put those guys on the same level as a Philip Rivers or Carson Palmer. I will say this, the dropback quarterback is what consistently wins in the league. For proof, look at the playoff teams this year. So will the dropback quarterback go the way of the dinosaur or will we ever see a crop of college come into the league ready to handle an NFL offense? But anyway, I guess time will tell which way the game of football will go.
Congrats to the Sheriff on another Super Bowl win!
The answer, "what do you?" get brought up all the damn time when you meet new people. Some talk about the marketing job they have. Or their job as a nurse, laborer, teacher, ______________ (fill in the blank). When it comes to me, it is always a difficult one. Am I personal trainer? Kind of. Am I a teacher? Sort of. Do I help people get stronger and in better condition? The answer is Hell Yea!
Working with young athletes often times put you in a tough spot. For some kids, you only get 3 or 4 weeks to work with them. So how do you handle this? You get them a little stronger, a little better conditioned, and then send them off to their sport coach. After a few months of the season, they come back in for a few more weeks before they start the next sport. So what do you do now? You get them a little stronger and get them in a little better condition. It sounds simple but it definitely is not easy.
There are a ton of great training programs out there that only seem to work in a perfect world. I hate to surprise you all but we don't live in a perfect world. You can have everything planned out for months but then a surprise vacation comes up. Or an illness. Or a blizzard (hopefully we don't see this again). Or how about those days you are supposed to "max out" but the athlete only slept 4 hours the previous day and didn't have a chance to eat breakfast or lunch. Do you still max out that day? For me the answer is no way! The risk and potential for a letdown is too high in a situation like this. Which brings me back to my point...
Planning and preparing is always a must. But outside circumstances always come up. You may work with some kids for 6-8 months and you get a better idea on how they are feeling, what works for them, etc. But for those kids where you get them for only 2-3 weeks before a sport season begins, you can only do one thing: Get them a little stronger and get them in a little better condition. Afterall, your title is Strength & Conditioning Coach.
Have a great week and weekend
WEEKEND CHALLENGE: Do Something You Have Never Done Before.
I don't care what it is. Lift five more pounds, do one more rep, run one-tenth of a mile further, you get the idea. Give yourself a reason to celebrate and feel good about what you just accomplished!
“Get the kid to buy into your dream. If you can get the kid to buy into what you’re selling, you’ve got it made.”
That quote comes from the documentary Trophy Kids directed by Chris Bell (he also directed Bigger, Stronger, Faster which I highly recommend). This documentary takes a look at overbearing parents and their quest to "help" their child become the best athlete they can become. The examples in this documentary are to the extreme end, but, I have seen examples of this over the course of my coaching career. Here are a few from the documentary and common ones I come across at different sporting events.
Example 1: The parent who puts his kid on every travel team, pays for private coaching sessions, force feeds the kid protein shakes and is the loud mouth at every competition. The man in the documentary is quoted as saying that he has spent "two Lamborghini's easily" in his son's training. From the age of 10 this father was feeding his child all types of pills, sometimes as many as 25, in the hopes that the kid would grow. All this in the hopes that the son will get a college scholarship. Getting a scholarship is one thing, but continuing to play the sport while in college is another. By the time some kids walk on campus, they are already burned out and quit. All that money spent is thrown out the window. The parent can't believe it. This is an example of the parent thinking that the child wants the same thing that the parent wanted
Example 2: The parent of a youth athlete who takes things too far. I have witnessed parents bring their child to tears during a match or competition. This is in front of everyone in attendance. You can only guess what goes on behind closed doors. The emotional damage this does to a child is extremely harmful. Continually getting picked apart for every little thing will lead that child to believe they aren't worth shit. This happens at the upper levels too where every car ride home from practice or a game becomes a "coaching" session from the parent. If the kid made a mistake, there is a pretty good chance they know they made that mistake. And they probably feel bad for making that mistake. They don't need anyone else, especially a parent, re-living that moment and telling them what they should have done. This is one area that really bothers me. Let the coaches coach and support your kid after competition. Your support and love should be consistent. It should not be determined upon if the child won or lost.
Example 3: The supportive parent. This one is tough for me. A few years ago I was working with a wrestler and his father was working a crazy amount of hours to pay for his child's camps and training sessions. He told me that when he grew up, he didn't have these opportunities. He wanted to do everything in his power to set his kid up to be successful. He was very open and candid about everything. He even got a little emotional talking about it. With this kid in particular, he didn't want it as much as his dad. The father thought that given the child these opportunities, he would put in the work. A mother in the documentary said, "What if I didn't do everything I could to help them reach their dreams?" Sometimes, we forget whose dream it really is!
Dr. Larry Lauer is the mental skills specialist for United States Tennis Association's Player Development. A majority of his work is done with developing young talent and how much is too much in regards to training. He uses the term "optimal push" when identifying how far to take certain training methods. The optimal push is when there is some structure, but not too much where the parent wants to control everything. A good example of this is when the parent attends every scheduled practice or training session and is virtually breathing down the kids neck. Any issue that may arise, he or she chimes in and makes a comment to the child. There is no evidence that this type of parenting will make the child better or "toughen them up". It most likely does more harm than good in kids. If they feel that the child doesn't give the effort or have the motivation to work hard, maybe it is because the parent is on top of there every move. Or maybe the kid might not care much about the sport. Maybe they only do it for their parent. Maybe it is only the parent's goal and not the child's. The parents goal should be to help their child find what their passionate about and support them in that field. Not force them to do something they don't want to be doing. The motivation has to come from the child. There is no amount of extrinsic motivation that will get the child to do what the parent wants them to do.
With that being said, I am out!
Enjoy your day
Chris is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and member of the National Strength & Conditioning Association. He has recently served as a high school football and wrestling coach. Chris loves swinging kettlebells around, watching football and reading books!