Saturday, December 20, 2014

Random Thoughts: Technical and Tactical

  • Train for consistency and variability. Executing a skill under pressure is vastly different from doing so on your own without time constraints, crowds, opposition etc. To really translate all the work you spend on drills into match play, gradually increase variations. Progression is key. Jump to fast and you'll introduce too many elements, hindering the learning process. Without progression, drills are idealistic attempts to make people do what X's and O's did in your imagination. 
  • There remains no substitute for getting to the by line and delivering a quality cross. 
  • Quantity can never make up for lack of quality
  • Counter Attacks are pointless without speed
  • Non-contact injury, like hamstring strains, are inexcusable. They demand the assessment of the training program. Are they affecting many players? Change the training program. Is one or two, repeatedly? They need more attention to make sure their specific needs are met by the program
  • Train for speed endurance. The trick is to make sure that the quality of your work remains high. High volume with poor quality only leads to injuries. It's not a matter of if but when. Let's use sprint training as an example. Mindless shuttles will not produce fitness. After a few runs, a 40m sprint that was taking 4 seconds will take 7. After that, you're only training to be slow. Speed is a result of well trained type II muscle fibre types, which fatigue quickly. After that has set in, any more work utilizes type I fibres which are optimized for slower, longer duration like running marathon. Choose wisely
  • Intangibles win games- confidence, instinct, intuition. A confident forward takes shots instinctively. One doubting himself thinks before shooting, looking for that perfect space for a clear chance at goal. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't but chasing the perfect goal often results in no goals at all. 
  • Discipline is the game-winner least practiced. Without it, you end up with players booked or sent off for avoidable incidences. It may not stick the ball in the back of the net, but it allows you to recover the ball without committing fouls. It gives you the opportunity to play with 11 players and trying to execute a drill you practices with 11 is easier than trying to do so with 10
  • Patience is a virtue with or without the ball

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Different Approach To Training and Coaching

Recently, I enjoyed a hike in the mountain surrounding Lake Moraine. The climb was steep right from the start- enough for me to notice how quickly my heart rate went up, and my breathing rate followed suit. Huffing and puffing, I recalled a lesson I have learned from Gray Cook, that of self-limiting exercise. Many injuries, and therefore delays and deterrents to performance/achieving our goals are the result of overuse. It's not hard to reach the point of overuse given our emphasis on more- quality over quantity. Self-limiting exercise could be the answer.

A self-limiting exercise is one that demands high levels of precision in technique, timing and alignment without which the you will experience failure of some sort. In essence, it does not allow quantity at the expense of quality. Think jumping rope- timing and posture are required. Walking on a balance beam. In his classic book, Movement, Gray provides this a of self-limiting exercises.

While I was hiking, I focused on my breathing. As the steepness of the slope continued to increase, I found myself breathing through my mouth, my chest heaving up and down. This is dysfunctional breathing as it makes use of accessory muscles. The sternocleidomastoid (SCM), the scalenes, upper trapezius, and other muscles of the upper chest and neck area assume the role of ventilation, a function largely controlled, under normal circumstances, by the diaphragm. The cascade of substitution and compensation that follows is very far reaching, as explained by the concept of regional interdependence.

In this article discussing cervicogenic headaches, the author expertly described this situation. "Diaphragmatic breathing allows the lungs to fill on inspiration by increasing chest volume. In patients with diaphragm dysfunction, the accessory respiratory muscles (scalenes and SCM) lift the rib cage to facilitate lung filling during inspiration. These secondary muscles are often tight and hyperactive in patients with chronic neck pain due to deep neck flexor weakness. In faulty respiration patterns, these tight muscles are readily activated and continue to facilitate the patterns of muscle imbalance with each breath."

With this in mind, one way to insert the concept of self-limiting exercise was to allow myself to breath ONLY through my nose. If I went at a pace that was too fast, I found that I ended up back to mouth or apical breathing. It forced me to slow down and believe it or not, I felt the tension release from my neck.

Recently, one of my clients missed several training sessions under chiropractic direction. Those very muscles I described as accessory were taped following a diagnosis of acute torticollus. It's certainly a fancy term- even I had to look it up. Torticollis (wryneck) is one of a broader category of disorders that exhibit flexion, extension, or twisting of muscles of the neck beyond their normal position ( What brought this episode to mind was that my client said she had no idea what she had done. She had just gone hiking over the weekend.

When I'm working with someone who has a medical condition, I make it part of my job to communicate with the medical professionals he/she may be seeing. I depend on their medical expertise and they on my movement, exercise and training specialty. For both of us, that the client progresses towards their goals pain-free is the top priority. In communication with my client's chiropractor, not only did she tell me the diagnosis, she mentioned the same stuff- dysfunctional breathing, accessory muscles. Because of the pain my client was feeling, certain exercises were no longer available as options in my programming. Push ups, planks, loaded squats. Balance was also a bit of an issue for my client so even though we tried to stick to lower body stuff, the need to throw the arms out every so often meant that even that selection was limited. And "cardio" was perhaps the worst option. Because my client was using those muscles unawares, any exertion to the point of 'feeling it' would undoubtedly reignite the problem.

In the end, we went back to lying on a mat and simply learning how to breath. Through pictures, videos, and hands on exercise instruction, I pointed out which muscles were working, which ones should have been working, how to inhibit the overactive ones and facilitate those that were inhibited.

A trainer's job is not just to burn calories. It's about being very knowledgeable and observant. The client's goal are important, so I listen. Their movement profile is important, so I listen to that too. And so we dance. I learn as I watch them move and pay attention to how they feel about the exercises and positions I'm asking of them. They learn as their feedback directs my decisions and short-term and process goals are consistently revisited and adjusted. Even if it means we lay on the mat and address something as elementary as breathing, educating the client is how they achieve their goals.

That is personal training. 

That is coaching.

Phil Page, P. (2011) Cervicogenic Headaches: An Evidence-Led Approach To Clinical Management. The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy Volume 6, Number 3,  Page 255

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Knee Valgus: Why You Should Care

Knee Valgus is medial knee collapse (or the knees coming closer together) during a squat or squating movement. Research continues to associate knee collapse with injuries as well as degenerative conditions of the lower extremity. You don't have to be an expert to see why it's considered a dysfunctional movement.

A Bit Of Science

During a squat, researchers observed increased neuromuscular activity of the adductors (the muscles on the inside of the thighs), the tibialis anterior (shin muscles) and gastrocnemius (one of the big calf muscles) in subjects with MKD. Conceptually, the increased activity in these muscles makes them stiff, resulting in limited dorsiflexion. This in turn leads to increased tibial internal rotation, talar adduction and calcaneal eversion. (These are discussed in more detail in this article.)

Note the lack of control in the knee. There is significant deviation of the knee medially as the client descends into the lunge. 

Why You Should Care

Injury Potential

Although most commonly around the ACL (review that here), the three points above are all potential areas of injury, particularly when high forces are involved. Tibial internal rotation describes rotation of the bigger of the 2 shin bones. Grab a skeleton and you will see how little rotation you can coax out of it without popping it out of alignment. It is such a minuscule amount that the articulation of the bones forming the knee joint is very often describes simply as flexion and extension. So imagine a wringing movement- in Valgus, the femur (thigh bone) falls inward, and the tibia rotates outward. Now imagine that happening at speed, with a 100+ pounds. That's what the knee goes through when players compete for an aerial ball and return to the ground.


Joint centration is an important concept. The body has an incredible capacity to create and distribute force, and the higher the force, the greater the demand for proper alignment. Ask anybody to jump as high as they can and the first thing you see is that they get 'shorter.' By going down, we tap into the power of the hips. The movement itself loads the muscles (potentiation) and the elastic energy thus created allows the explosive spring that gives us the vertical jump. To a degree, the lower you go, the greater the amount of energy stored in the muscles, and the greater the height. This is because there is an optimum level of muscle contraction for maximal force production. Either side of that point, whatever you are doing, you're leaving some of your potential on the table.

Not only can an athlete who displays MKD not reach that optimal range for force production, more often than not, the forward movement of the knees pulls the athlete forward. Introducing load to this type of movement pattern would be disastrous. And trust me, you want to add load.

According to a classic paper by Stolen, et al, (2005), "Physiology of Soccer" players sprint approximately every 75 to 90 seconds, with each sprint lasting 2-4 seconds. That's equivalent to about 40 meters or less. This means that when it comes to ASSESSMENT, knowing how fast you can dash 40 meters is nice but knowing if you can do it repeatedly is even better. The 40m dash provides valuable information about the athlete's power, acceleration, reaction time and anaerobic system. For it to be even more meaningful for coaches and players alike, it must be repeated. Several trials will give an indication of the athlete's capacity to sustain those qualities. How well do they recover? How many sprints can they run before there is a significant decrease in performance? These questions and others like them become a wellspring of data coaches can use to decide who is going to struggle if they are trying to employ strategies that rely on the hard graft of wing back; who would be most impactful as a substitute; when to make that substitution. Of course this too can be used as you observe the opposition- see a player struggling to recover? Play in that area. A lot. Chances are, you'll find plenty of success there. But what do repeated sprints have to do with knee Valgus?

In THIS study, researchers wanted to find out how lower body power variables would impact repeated sprint performance. Nineteen players were tested through several sessions. The first of these included the countermovement jump (CMJL) and the progressive full squat (FSL), both with external loads. Power in the CMJL and FSL was measured with each load that was lifted. In the second session, the repeated sprint index or RSI was calculated. The players had to sprint a timed 40m distance. They were allowed as much as 2 minutes rest before going again and continued until a 3% decrement in performance was noted. The results suggested repeated sprint performance was moderately correlated with power relative to body mass in the CMJ and Full squat demonstrated by differences in the RSI (9.1 ± 4.2 vs. 6.5 ± 1.6) and 10 m sprint time (p ± 0.01). That means the most powerful players ran up to 13 times before that 3% decrement was noted compared to just 7 in their weaker counterparts. Moreover, the more powerful players were 0.01 seconds faster in getting to the 10m.
The correlation between the performances in the repeated sprint test and the CMJ and squat are clear. Both the squat and countermovement jump are performed poorly with increased risk in an athlete with knee valgus. So why should you care? Speed. Power. Sprint ability. Because, unless your players are excellent compensators, this simple deviation in knee tracking can tell you who is likely to be added risk for injury; and, based on the study discussed here, who is likely to prove a weaker player during the course of a match. It is important to note that as a bio-marker, medial knee collapse is a predictor, not a given. On the other hand, strength, when all else is equal, pretty much guarantees who will be the better performer.

Brent Brookbush has a wonderful review about MKD as well as exercises you can do to address so you can get back to training hard and winning game.

Remember, injury prevention and performance enhancement are rooted in the same work.

Related Articles:

Reducing ACL Injury Risk

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Winning In A Nutshell

I was at the top of my game. I was playing for both of my school sides. We had an A and a B team, as well as a program that sought to promote activity for everyone at very age. This is what is called the House League here in Canada. The result, a different kind of league that featured up to 9 teams per age group. So strong were my performances week after week, I was tipped for the captaincy of my provincial side as well. With Rep, House, and Provincials, my week looked like this:

Monday: Practice: Provincials

Tuesday: Practice: Rep followed by Provincials

Wednesday: Rep Match

Thursday: Practice: Rep and House

Friday: Practice: Provincials

Saturday: Matches (Rep and House)

Sunday: Prov...

I woke up. I mean I was awake but the body that step off the side of the bed wasn't mine. The thing my mind was connected to was weak. It shook, refused to hold my weight yet it was taut with tension, ready to retch. It was not satisfied with lying on the cold bathroom floor, nor was there comfort in warmth of my bed. It was feverish, and the speed of movement that had always been my signature seemed to hurry me only into the darkness of unconsciousness if I didn't stop it.

There would be no practice for me that Sunday. No game. No spot on the provincial team. No captaincy. I have experienced first hand the punishing side of unrestrained passion. We had 2 hours of practice per session. That was almost 18 hours of soccer that week, in the punishing heat from above, with the hard ground offering no cushioning from beneath, and 2 orange slices during a 5 minute half as the pinnacle of nutritional replenishment. From my experience I have learnt that More is NOT More.


To that end I have attempted to provide information on my blog about efficient and effective strategy. From Warm ups to off field training, from thoughts on using drills wisely to a better practice metrics, my goal is to give you what works so you can achieve your goals. And less works better than more. There is no doubt that practice, drills, running, "fitness" and strength training are important to success in soccer. But ultimately, these are the means not the goal. It's difficult to scale, but while mastering the elements of the practice plan and eventually executing that on game day falls on the players, the goal for coaches is to figure out the highest level of intensity, duration and challenge that will result in a residual increase in performance. Indeed, the ability to differentiate between laziness and doing just the right amount to get the job done is a mark of a winner.

Here are some principles to get you closer to that goal as a coach.

Practice should have a scalable, challenging goal. Challenging means that the task is difficult, sure to have mistakes. The key is that they are manageable mistakes, something Gray Cook calls the Edge of ability. Make it too difficult and you will only succeed in frustrating and demoralizing your players. Make it too easy and no learning happens. Remember, it is not in rehearsing the things you are already good at that you will grow. Strengthen your weaker areas.

• Focus on the quality of work, not its quantity. Any fool can smoke athletes with tough, exhausting workouts. Again, practice is not the goal, it's the means. And if it's true that a training session should put in you more than it takes out, what's the benefit of mopping your players off floor after doing laps and laps. Today's fitness motivation has things like, "I pass out, please record my time." "I don't stop when I'm tired. I stop when I'm finished." When they give a gold medal for passing out, and there are World Championships for fatigue, then we can celebrate the pinnacle of the fitness oxymorons. If you are passing out, vomiting and unable to function the day after, what are you for exactly? Focus on quality. Once it starts to decline, stop.

More will result in less learning and poorer performance. Bondarchuk made a stunning revelation that the harder you push the body, the more stubbornly it refuses to change: "In our practice, with each year we have become more convinced that the stronger our desires to significantly increase the level of achievement, . . . the less the effect. . . .This is explained by the fact that the stronger the complex of training effects, then the more harmony there is in the defense functions in the body. . . .This in every way possible creates barriers or prevents a new level of adaptation, where in the process of restructuring it is necessary to expend a significant amount of energy resources. . . .The defense function of the body systems in high level athletes is more “trained” than in low level athletes. From here a very “bold” conclusion follows, that the process of increasing sports mastery takes place at the same level as the process of developing defense functions. In the end result, the defense functions prevail over most of the time of sports development. . . . Up to this time, all of this is a “superbold” hypothesis, giving food for very “fantastic” propositions, but there is something in all of this....Today it is only sufficiently clear that in the process of sports improvement, the body always defends itself against the irritants acting upon it."

In case you missed it- as a coach, you hold stress in your hand. The right amount produces adaptation. Too much challenges the body to summon its defence systems and it's a battle you will lose every time. Remember how I felt on that Sunday morning?

These principles apply to the tactical coach as much as they do to the strength and conditioning coach. To the latter, the wording takes on more specific terminology:

• Stop your sets and your workout before you get fatigued. Strength training... must take up as little of your time and energy as possible—all in the name of leaving you as much gas in the tank as possible for practicing sport specific skills.

Strength Training

Strength training is the most under-utilized and the least addressed skill in youth soccer. Despite the evidence for Strength Training for Juniors, and the considerable risk for various injuries whose genesis is in general weakness or in specifics like Hamstrings or ACLs, there continues to be no structured weight training in the majority youth clubs. Many players with all the talent in the world fail to make it to the highest level because they haven't the strength to compete. The entire premise behind Easy Strength is that at any given challenge, if the competitors are equally skilled, the stronger will win every time. So why do your players not have a strength training program? I'm amazed at how many players 15, 16, 17 years old who cannot do proper push ups. Of those that can, an embarrassing percentage can match that number in pull ups and hold a proper plank for 60 seconds. And these are elementary, body weight exercises. By this time, they should squatting, deadlifting and pressing respectable amounts.

To paraphrase the great John Wooden, if we ever come up against a team with similar skill levels, we will win because we are better conditioned. I'm inserting that here to highlight that victory often lies beyond skill but is very much within the realms of strength and conditioning. Yet it would not be prudent to advocate for the benefits and therefore use of strength training without offering a warning there as well. I have already made reference to this, but it's worth repeating.

The strength regimen must deliver great strength gains without exhausting the athlete’s energy or time.

The late Dr. Mel Siff put it well:
To me, the sign of a really excellent routine is one which places great demands on the athlete, yet produces progressive long-term improvement without soreness, injury or the athlete ever feeling thoroughly depleted. Any fool can create a program that is so demanding that it would virtually kill the toughest marine or hardiest of elite athletes, but not any fool can create a tough program that produces progress without unnecessary pain.

To finish, some more great quotes from Easy Strength (By Dan John and Pavel Tsatsouline) Chapter 3

Sprint coach Charlie Francis never hesitated to cut back on the weight or drop the strength session altogether either when Ben [Johnson}] was tired from sprint training. Insists the coach: "If there is any degradation in training, stop. If there is any doubt about one more rep or run, don’t do it. If you are trying to learn with reps, you won’t get it later if you haven’t already. Leave it and come back to it.If the previous workout has been spectacular, I will pull back and force an easier workout as a matter of principle.The athlete will usually want to build on a spectacular workout and train even harder. . . .As this can lead to overtraining and injury, it is always better to err on the light side—do too little rather than too much. . . ." (More about Charlie Francis' coaching methods here.)

Tommy Kono has a powerful insight:
After each repetition, erase any flaw detected so the next repetition will be even smoother. . . . If you perform a total of 20 repetitions of snatches in a workout, your twentieth repetition should be the one most efficiently performed! That is productivity! If fatigue (of mind or body) is setting in by the twentieth, it is better to quit snatching, because you begin to fail in refining your technique.

In the mid-1990s, a curious book came out in the States: Body, Mind, and Sport, by John Douillard. One of his techniques was practicing a competitive sport without keeping score. In his words: “Focusing on the score attaches you to the result. Focusing on the process lets you access your greatest skill and increases your fun.” That rang true.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Measuring Up: How Good Are Your Athletes, Really?

I have coached for years and played for even more. In all of these situations, there was no testing/measurement/assessment. The closest thing was a "cardio test" that was no more complicated than running laps around the soccer field for 75 minutes. When I introduced it, I was taken aback by the response. The parents of the boys were excited- their kids had never been tested before. The boys themselves were curious- and buoyed by the opportunity to compete against each other. Fellow coaches thought it was a novel idea. Just don't do it before the season so we don't lose time to work on drills!

I believe that results come from focused on attention on player development. Testing is second nature. How else do you know if you are better than last season? The Win-Loss column tells the truth, but it's only a fraction of the story. In preparation for this year's World Cup, Spain beat Haiti 10-0. They were humiliated when the finals came. Good result, but hardly indicative of any progress the team had made since winning the last tournament, nor indeed what they would be able to do in the future.

Once more, every coach should get their hands on Easy Strength by Dan John and Pavel Tsatsouline. More quotes from them (italicized).

Until you squat double bodyweight, rock bottom in a “no-no-no” fashion and put up same league numbers in a few other key lifts, you should have no fear. Strength will not make you slow. Just the opposite. European research and in-the-trenches experience on both sides of the pond show that there is no simpler means to drive a kid’s vertical jump up to the border of respectable than pushing up his squat poundage.
Given the value of a vertical jump testas an indicator for soccer players, it is vital to squat to the level that Pavel and Dan suggest. Although not a strict vertical jump, those players we describe as having great aerial ability embrace this concept when they jump for headers. The flexion and extension of the hip in the movement are also helpful in developing speed. More on the SVJ coming up!

In my article, How To Make Yourself Indispensable, I discussed the value of knowing your strength every component of athletic performance has a compliment that, if developed, would increase performance. Likewise, in You are Ruled By Your Weaknesses, I pointed out that working on your strengths is good, but developing areas of weaknesses is even better. These are two sides of the same coin. Here's what Dan and Pavel have to say on that.

Discussing your strong points may seem obvious, but it is well worth the time...This, of course, leads us to the more elusive issue: what are your weaknesses. Like Inspector Clouseau might say: “There are ‘clews’ here.” Success and failure tend to leave tracks, clues, and it is possible to sort through them.

Cleau/Clew/Clue Number 1 What do you hate? You could also skip a component of training, or you might ignore a part of a game or sport that just gets under your nerves. There you go: There is a hint here. You have taught yourself to ignore something rather easily, because you hate it. A good coach will insist that this is what you focus on! There is a rule here that shouldn’t be missed: This weakness must be within the parameters of your sport or focus.

Cleau/Clew/Clue Number 2 If you are lucky, an honest, skilled observer will be able to quickly point out your technical and training weaknesses. There is often nothing better than “fresh eyes” to save you literally months of work in the wrong direction....So, how do you find these skilled observers? For many, a camp situation is often best, especially at a place that might not follow the same exact method that you are currently doing. A multi-day camp setting, with several sessions a day and many sets of fresh eyes, will help most people. Otherwise, clinics and workshops and even a private session or two might be helpful. Even your competitors might be able to give you insight into what glaring weaknesses you may not be seeing.

Cleau/Clew/Clue Number 3 Assessments are both over- and underrated. Often, the key factor that’s missed is the assessment of the assessment...The standing vertical jump is a great predictor of quickness in all movements, not only leg explosiveness. According to Russian coaches, 70 to 80 centimeters (28 to 32 inches) for young men and 60 to 70 centimeters (24 to 28 inches) for young women predicts success in speed-strength sports.

Improvement in quadrant IV is all about assessing and addressing weaknesses. For the QIV athlete, the most crucial assessment is simply this: Is my primary goal (and my only goal) improving? At this elite level, no matter what is tried—no matter how far fetched—any improvement is RIGHT. A whole battery of assessment tools that all indicate improvement will be tossed out if the primary goal does not improve. Such is the life of the QIV athlete. (See Easy Strength for a breakdown of what the quadrants are).

For a power athlete, the tests listed below seem to have some validity. But before you even try the movements, I strongly recommend having a full FMS screen. My first screening only took about 10 minutes, but the review took half an hour.

Screening your mobility is essential, as those tiny compensations made for injuries really add up over time. If you are “locked down” here and compensate there, you are not only risking injury, but in addition, these compensations are inhibiting progress in your sport.

I owe much of my success in recent times as a personal trainer for soccer players, golfers and hockey players to the Functional Movement Systems team. The FMS is invaluable as an injury prediction model and using it, I have been able to manage the risk of injury for my athletes. Curiously, for those that were already injured when they came to me, the FMS was also my go-to for restoring function, and getting my athletes from post-rehab to better that they were before they got injured. This case study, and this one show how it use it to develop my training programs. Visit to learn what the FMS is and how to use it. Back to the power tests.

So, GET SCREENED, and then test yourself [your athletes] on the following:

• One-minute plank: If you can’t do this, stop worrying about anything else until you can!
• Push-ups in a minute: Note how many at the 30-second mark, too. Real power athletes will do a lot in the first 30 seconds but not so many in the next 30. If you can’t do 45 in a minute, well maybe you need to do some push-ups.
• Horizontal rows in a minute: Again, note the 30-second number. Consider 24 as a minimum, or half the number of push-ups for most people.
• A flexibility test: I like the simple overhead squat with a light stick. Again, the full FMS screen probably has more value.
• Bodyweight bench press for reps: Up to 15. Anything more is just overkill.
• Bodyweight back squats for reps: Up to 15. Again . . .
• Pull-ups: Should equal the number of bench press reps.
• A measured jump: I suggest the three jump. If you can do over 30 feet, you are in rare air. Strive for at least 21.
• A measured throw: Anything is fine—med ball, kettlebell, shot, or whatever.

Let me insert here that some of these are obviously technical and therefore require some expertise, spotting, etc. We are trying to prepare athletes to play and injury during this process is unacceptable. It defeats the entire purpose of training. Take care then that risk is minimized as much as possible during testing.

Added Bonus:

  • How fast is Cristiano Ronaldo?
  • How does he compare to a professional sprinter? 
  • See what experts say about his running technique. Is yours the same?
  • What is Ronaldo's vertical jump like?
  • How does his mind work?
  • And those feet- just how fast are they? Check out the really cool test that answers the questions about skill, technique and ball control. 

Check out the following link:

Friday, June 6, 2014

Easy Strength: Because Strength Is What Every Athlete Needs

All else equal, the stronger athlete will win every time.

After understanding this, I went out seeking ways to get stronger. Who better to learn from than Pavel Tsatsouline and Dan John. At the back of their book Easy Strength: How To Get A Lot Stronger Than Your Competition- and Dominate in Your Sport, these are shots from their bios so that you can understand who these men are and why their words and experience demand our attention.

Pavel Tsatsouline, is a former Soviet Special Forces physical training instructor, currently a subject matter expert to the US Navy SEALs and the US Secret Service.

In his athletic career, among many other championships and records, Dan has won the Master
Pleasanton Highland Games twice, American Masters Discus Championships several times, the
National Masters Weightlifitng Championship once and holds the American Record in the Weight

I have been so very bold in a adding a few thoughts to their, but I would gladly remove them. The book, unadulterated by my few words is a worthy read for coaches and players alike.
"Increase the number of QUALITY workouts/performances." (Emphasis mine). As coaches, we often fall into the trap of thinking that more is, well, more. So we make it that our athletes run more laps or sprints; they get more touches on the ball; have more practice sessions; try more drills. But we all know that 1 shot, 1 goal is better than having more possession, more corners, and more shots if none of them find their way to the back of the net. So it bears repeating:

Increase the number of quality performances/workout/sessions. "Not a bad idea, really, as many strength coaches think it’s their God-given duty to smoke the athlete each and every time. Certainly, it is fun to do, but it leaves the athlete a physical wreck."

How? Pick one skill or attribute and focus on it. Be the guy, and let your team be the one that, at the diving championships does nothing more fancy than a swan dive, but does it perfectly 10 times out of ten. Only then should you move on. (To be sure, the game has a lot of skills that need to be developed, but many cannot be maximally developed if addressed at the same time as specific others. More of that to come.)

I swear by Apollo, the healer, and Asclepius, Hygieia, and Panacea, and I take to witness all the gods, all the goddesses, to keep according to my ability and my judgment, the following oath and agreement: I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.

The Chinese have a saying: “A step in a wrong direction in the beginning of a journey takes you a hundred miles away from your goal.” Enter the idea of Periodization. What are you trying to achieve? Work backwards from there to where you are now. That's your plan, that's tour direction. Go that way. This isn't news to anybody though. The trouble is how we proceed when we do have a plan. Too many of us are easily swayed from our path by the flashy things other coaches are doing. Stick to your plan. The other issue is sticking so rigidly to your plan that you fail to adapt to what is right in front of you. Obviously, it's a fine art balancing the two- so let me make it easy for you. Have contingency plans. A sideways step when you are headed in the right direction is better than ploughing on when your current path is doing more harm than good to your campaign.

Concerning exercise

Professor Yuri Verkoshansky: Calf muscles are strongly involved in the shock absorbing phase of run and bounces. The preliminary enforcement of calf muscles, before the use of jumping exercises, is needed also to avoid legs injuries (calf muscles strain). Running barefoot on an uneven surface will strengthen the feet and ankles and develop a natural running style.

The kettlebell swing introduces the dynamic strength component, further preps the kids for jumping and landing, and builds conditioning. The swing is as athletic as an exercise can get.

Single-arm farmer’s walks will strengthen the grip, the traps, and the waist. Professor Stuart McGill is a big fan of this exercise, because it strengthens the quadratus lumborum—a pelvis-tilting muscle on the side of the spine... And Dan (John) dug out a study that concluded that QL strength prevents ankle injuries in girls, so we have a double winner.

Hetero means “different,” and chronos means “time.” Heterochronicity refers to the different time periods required for recovering and improving different qualities, different muscle groups, etc. For example, you will retain a good portion of your strength even after a month’s layoff, but you can kiss your anaerobic endurance good-bye. This means you need to carefully plot recovery from workouts focusing on different qualities. Finally, there is the interaction of workouts with foci on different qualities. For instance, a low-volume/heavy-strength session performed before a sprint session has a positive effect on the latter. Elite sprint coach Barry Ross adds: To do the opposite, running first then lifting, has negative effects. The reason for that is the amount of footfalls. A relatively slow runner would apply force at ground contact at two times bodyweight, or more . . . at every ground contact! Trying to lift sufficiently heavy weights to improve performance after a speed practice becomes very difficult.

Thus spake Verkoshansky and Siff: “It should be noted that cooperation between the cardiovascular-respiratory and motor systems is important for improving work-capacity, not only in endurance sports, but in all sports.” They added that aerobic training like cross-country running “improve[s] peripheral vascularization and recuperation after intense exercise.”

And don’t forget that a well-developed aerobic system will allow a football player or any other burst-and-rest athlete to recover faster between his anaerobic efforts. That means getting gassed less.

Under pressure, under stress, we revert to our training. If any aspect of our training is slipshod, our response to pressure will be the same.

Plyometrics are powerful but also dangerous, if misused. Make sure to get strong before starting them, and keep their volume very low. Performing overspeed eccentric swings and snatches with a light kettlebell offers an excellent powerful and safe alternative to plyos.

Verkhoshanky and Siff’s
Supertraining offers another reason for such training: Research has shown that the transfer of strength developed in bilateral training (e.g., using squats or power cleans) offers specific improvement in performance of bilateral events such as the squat clean and snatch in weightlifting, while unilateral training (e.g., with dumbbells or split cleans) enhances performances more effectively in unilateral activity such as running, jumping or karate...The answer is to train both the bilateral barbell lifts and the unilateral kettlebell and bodyweight exercises, although not necessarily at the same time.

Among [Tim] Ferriss’s tools for getting the most out of life is Pareto’s law. The essence of the law is that “80% of al results come from 20% of the efforts.” Applied to strength, it means that if most gains will come from the three powerlifts, why waste your time and energy on curls and leg extensions? Faleev stresses that doing additional exercises is worse than worthless. It is harmful, because it drains valuable energy that your body could have directed toward spectacular gains in the big three. Get rid of the excesses and just do what is necessary. . . . When you give up the secondary . . . exercises you will feel that you are not training enough. You will be leaving the gym totally fresh. This is it, the energy for an increase in the load in the basic lifts. This reserve is what will enable you to “shoot out of the gate”!

It has been said that one cannot be healthy if one’s goal is not to be sick. One cannot win if his goal is not to lose... Dr. Judd Biasiotto, who squatted a world record 603 at 132 in minimalistic supportive gear of the 1980s, is a sports psychologist who has shrewdly used his knowledge that the nervous system does not operate in negatives. When a competitor of his would walk toward the platform, Judd would say to him, “Don’t miss, Bob!” Of course, the only thing that the lifter’s subconscious heard was “miss!”—which he often did while thinking that Judd was such a good sport.

Work your weaknesses first in a workout, or work your priorities first in a workout. Either method will do. In this example, do the most important thing for your training first.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

12 Random Lessons From Moneyball

  1. Every player has something to offer. 
  2. Teams that ignore player development are missing an opportunity to take themselves to the next level. 
  3. The quickest road to success is through identifying your opportunities and improving on them. 
  4. Are you asking the right questions? What is the problem you are trying to solve?
  5. Just as Jonah Hill's character believed there was a general understanding of where runs come from, I believe the same about soccer and where goals come from. That's why I believe in the engine room of a team. The ability to control the ball and complete a pass. That's where goals come from. 
  6. Get back to basics. Master them. Execute them- consistently. 
  7. Brutal facts are tools everyone who wants success should grasp. Brutal facts are a better guide to the top than dreams and aspirations. 
  8. People will always be resistant to a different approach. But just because something has been done for a long time, it doesn't mean it can't be improved. It doesn't mean it isn't wrong. 
  9. Don't be afraid to dispense with things that are not working. 
  10. There is a difference between playing to win and playing not to lose. 
  11. Sentiment can be a powerful ally and a treacherous instructor. 
  12. One of the pitchers in the Athletics' story was overlooked because he threw 'funny', but he produced results. I'm sure, at some point, left-footed players were 'funny'. Different is not wrong, right or bad. If it produces the right result, it should be good enough.