When dealing with young athletes who train for sport, the goal is always to help every athlete reach their full potential. For some, this may mean a college scholarship and for others, it could mean introducing them to the importance of physical activity that will hopefully carry over into the next phase of their life. If athletic achievement is why you are striving for, there are two ingredients to look for in your child to identify if the activity they are participating in is the right one.
Sport Scientist Dr. Joe Baker calls intrinsic motivation the “currency of athletic performance.” If the child does not display the desire and drive to train hard and practice on their own, they will most likely not reach their full athletic potential. If this same child doesn't look forward to practice and asks, "Do we have to go?", then it may be time to look for a new sport or activity. Often times it is the parents who are providing the motivation. This motivation is known as extrinsic motiviation (external things like giving rewards). It is like the parent who gives their child $1 every time they take the trash out. Over time, that $1 bill isn't going to cut it anymore and will not be as rewarding. That kid is going to want $2. In a perfect world, that child would take the trash out because he or she wants to. The same is true for athletic training. They should want to go to every practice, game, training session, etc. You should not have to bribe them with gifts to get them motivated.
The second key component is Enjoyment. Training and having fun should not be mutually exclusive. If the child already shows the drive to succeed and are intrinsically motivated, they should also be enjoying the process of getting better. This does not mean they must love everything about training (after all, who loves doing sprints after practice?). But, taken as a whole, the overall training experience must be a positive one. Competition and fun do belong together in the same sentence...contrary to what some coaches and parents may think.
If you want to know why your child isn't making improvements in their sport, motivation and enjoyment are two key areas to look for in your child. If he or she is not spending time in the back yard perfecting their swing, shooting hoops until dark, and doing additional work before or after practice, that activity might not be as enjoyable to them as you think. The motivation has to come from the athlete. They have to want to get up early before school to lift weights, condition, or practice skills. The moment an external force (ie parent or coach) makes them do things, is the moment all is lost and the activity isn't as fun as it used to be.
The world doesn't come to an end if your child isn't displaying these characteristics. The kid just might enjoy being on a team, working out regularly, and creating memories that'll last a lifetime. Not every kid will be an elite athlete. It is important to never forget that!
The word schism was first introduced to me a few years ago as Brett Favre signed with the Minnesota Vikings. A report came out that there was a "schism" in the locker room. When Favre was asked, he replied "I don't even know what that means,". At the time, I was in agreement. I have never heard that word used but when I looked up what that word meant, I realized that schisms show up all the time in sports.
The word schism can be defined as a division between people, usually belonging to an organization, movement, or religious denomination. For a great example, I think back to that Bears team from the 1985-86 season. The defensive coordinator on that team had very little respect for any coach or player that did not play on his defense. He did not seem to have much respect for his head coach either (I think that feeling was mutual). That team was able to stick together and win a Super Bowl but it quickly blew up and that Bears organization never reached the heights that it should have reached. All because of two coaches with an over-sized ego who were both stuck in their ways.
Over the years I have developed some solid relationships in the coaching world. I have made some good friends, heard crazy stories, and experienced some things with other coaches that just don't make much sense at all. One of which is when a coach has a fixed mindset. They do what they do and don't care about what anyone else has to say. They aren't worried about growth. They think they have it all figured out. When this occurs, a schism occurs within the coaching staff. That coach with the fixed mindset alienates himself and often times is not open to debate on any issue. This rubs people the wrong way. This divide on the coaching staff will eventually trickle down to the players. This is what happened to the Bears back in 86. And this is what happens to athletic programs all over the world right now.
Leadership starts at the top. If there is not a stable leader in charge, who openly encourages communication, great teams and organizations will suffer for it. I heard an NCAA football coach once say, "a quiet team is a losing team". What he meant was, if the team doesn't communicate with one another, the results could be disastrous. The same is also true among the coaching staff. All the coaches must be on board with which way the team is heading. If they are not, then it might be time to remove that problem coach from the organization. Don't be surprised if that team begins to flourish!
Hope you are all enjoying this wonderful weather and thanks for reading!
The year was 1922 and the magazine was known simply as Strength Magazine. In one of the issues, something surprising was written: "Squatting on one leg will do more for you than squatting on the two legs together". It was written about again in the 60's and later scientifically discussed in the 80's and 90's. The term used to describe this is the bilateral deficit.
The bilateral deficit is when the summed unilateral work (adding the weight used on the right leg with the weight used on the left leg) is greater than the bilateral work (example is performing a back squat with both legs on the ground). So, lets say you can squat 200 pounds. After a little bit of training, you should be able to squat more than 100 pounds on one leg. For the sake of simplicity, lets say you can do 105 pounds on the right leg and 105 on the left. When you add those two numbers together, they equal 210 pounds. Not sure if I need to write this but 210 is greater than 200. So, because of the bilateral deficit, you are able to lift more weight per leg. When both legs are on the ground, the force given out by each leg is roughly 80% of what it is capable if you were in a unilateral stance. That is one benefit of training on one leg. The next benefit involves your health.
Respected strength coach Mike Boyle ran into a few problems. No matter how hard he worked on improving squat technique, some of his athletes complained of back pain. This got to the point that almost 1 out of 5 of his athletes were not feeling 100% after a squat session. After serious thought, he asked himself “What if the way we had always done it was wrong?” The first thing he did was eliminate the back squat from his training programs and perform front squats only. This helped a little but the issues were still there. He then removed the front squat from training. The results so far have been very positive.
As a sport coach, the best way to win games involves having your best players on the field. When those athletes are hurt, other players are asked to do things that they aren't accustomed to. So not only are you missing your best player(s), but now you have athletes out of their natural position. If these injuries occur in the weightroom, you will not be employed very long as the teams strength coach. It is also your job as the strength coach to reduce the incidence rate of injuries during competition. Everything you do in sport is on one leg (unless you are on the crew team). Running is basically a single leg plyometric exercise as you explode off of one leg to stride. Jumping to catch a pass or grab a rebound is often done on one leg. With that being said, it would make sense to train the legs unilaterally. Improvements in strength and stability on one leg should carry over to less injury and improvements in performance.
I am slowly beginning to make the transition into this type of training with the athletes I work with. For some younger kids, performing some bilateral squats like the Goblet Squat are used as an incredible teaching tool. Same could be said for the Hex Bar Deadlift. But, once they show proficiency and strength in some bilateral exercises, I will then progress it to more single leg work. I do not see much of a benefit by loading a teenagers spine with 300-400+ pounds while performing a squat. The desire to increase weight before mastering form is another common issue with younger athletes...typically male athletes. By removing or limiting some of these aforementioned exercises, your team should be much healthier. After all, we want to have more athletes on the field as the other team. We do not want to have the best power lifters out there. It is my desire to produce great athletes who are good weightlifters and not the other way around!
What is going on everyone? I just have begun reading "The Primal Blueprint: Reprogram your genes for effortless weight loss, vibrant health, and boundless energy (Primal Blueprint Series)" by Mark Sisson and wanted to share a few things with you! The authors notes are in italics, mine will be in bold!
"Learn Them, Know Them, Live Them!
Law #1 -Eat Plants and Animals: Enjoy the natural, satisfying foods that fueled two million years of human evolution.
Nobody on earth knows what the heck people truly ate millions of years ago. If you look up the word paleo diet it will tell you something similar. Now look up the word paleo wrap. You will find a very tasty alternative to a wheat wrap. Does this mean that these paleo wraps existed during the Paleolithic Era? Absolutely not. But it does tell you to get rid of the processed junk you may have in the cabinet and go primal. Which brings me to law #2...
Law #2 -Avoid Poisonous Things: Avoid processed foods (trans and partially-hydrogenated oils, sugars, grains –even whole grains, and legumes) that are foreign to our genes and make us fat and sick.
We might be poisoning ourselves and not even knowing eat. Do you get brain fog after a weekend of eating wheat products? You may want to avoid that. How about your relationship with dairy? If you get super bloated after eating it, your body might need a little break from it. Some of these poisonous things will cause inflammation in the body which will lead to weight gain and an unhappy belly!
Law #3 -Move Frequently at a Slow Pace: Enhance fat metabolism and avoid burnout by keeping active but taking it easy.
I see this everyday, an overworked athlete who struggles to understand why they aren't getting stronger, faster, or losing weight. They are overworked and under-recovered. Just because one hill sprint is good doesn't mean 15 hill sprints are better. Take care of yourself by slowing down and moving often!
Law #4 -Lift Heavy Things: Brief, intense sessions of functional, full-body movements support muscle development and delay aging.
There is a reason why exercises like the deadlift, squat, and press have been around forever: they work! Throw in a few sets of pullups and you have yourself a great exercise program. Work hard on the "big bang" lifts previously mentioned and mix in a few assistance exercises here and there that will support the big lifts.
Law #5 -Sprint Once in a While: Occasional all-out sprints trigger optimal gene expression and beneficial hormone flow.
Now that the weather has changed over, outdoor activity is on the rise. Once every 5-10 days, get outside and finish a session with a few sprints. Your lungs might be screaming but your body will be pleased with you! Just remember rule #3...
Law #6 -Get Adequate Sleep: Avoid excessive artificial light and digital stimulation after dark to align your circadian rhythm with the sun and enjoy optimal immune, brain, and endocrine function.
I have to admit something to you all...I HATE OUR RELIANCE ON DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY! If I set my cell phone down and work on something, I can hours without looking. If I put the cell phone in my pocket, I check the damn thing non-stop. When it comes to night time, put the devices away and give your brain a little break!
Law #7 -Play: Balance the stress of modern life with some unstructured, physical fun! Both brief breaks and grand outings are essential to mental and physical well being.
I really stink at this one. I need to take it easy more and have a little less structure with all my activities. Something to work on I guess...
Law #8 -Get Adequate Sunlight: Don’t fear the sun! Adequate sun exposure helps synthesize vitamin D to ensure healthy cell function.
Vitamin D is a vital component to many cellular functions. Living in the cold northeast prevents us from getting adequate sunlight for a portion of the year. Obviously it is best to get it from the sun but don't be afraid to dabble with a little Vitamin D supplementation. If you are low, it will show up on blood work. Get out and get a little sun this spring and summer!
Law #9 -Avoid Stupid Mistakes: Cultivate hypervigilance and risk management to avoid the stupid mistakes that bring “avoidable suffering” to modern humans.
This list includes texting and driving; attempting stunts or things you were able to do as a teenager; 24 hour death races; and any other crazy thing you can come up with.
Law #10 -Use Your Brain: Engage in creative and stimulating activities to nurture your mental health and overall well-being.
Reading, learning an instrument, learning a new language, coloring, painting, etc. These are all cool things that will stimulate your brain that normal day-to-day activities do not. You might as well have a little fun while engaging that brain of yours.
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!