What You Can Learn From These Girls

 

As the club season was winding down last June one of the seniors in this  group sent me an e-mail asking if we could start training again to get ready for the upcoming high school season.

And so we put a group together, spread the word and invited a few of the sophomores and juniors to join us.

They wanted to put the emphasis on fitness and conditioning. So we did and it was a lot of hard work. They came to train even when it was hard and they could have been somewhere else. They worked hard and took workouts with them when they couldn’t make a session. And, they challenged and supported each other all the way through.

Two weeks ago they won a conference championship and last night they came from behind to win in overtime in the first round of the section playoffs.

Having a goal is important and then a good process to accomplish it. They brought the first and I provided the second.  But … what drives winning or performance is character. It’s what you bring to the process and into the arena that make the biggest difference.

It’s hard to run twenty 30/30’s in a workout. It’s hard to come back from 0-1 with less than 10 minutes to go. That’s where good stuff is though. And the real growth is not in a faster 40 time or bigger vertical jump but in the lessons we learn and the  ways we grow as people by stepping up to a challenge.

What was being formed in those days in July and August when they were working on strength or speed or fitness was really character. They have it in spades and it was fun to see them draw on it this week. Good luck going forward!

 

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Embracing The Struggle

As Brene Brown says, ” We are hardwired for struggle.” Yet it’s tempting to try to manage our way around it or pull back rather than embrace it, even though we know it’s the struggle and challenge that provide the stimulus for our becoming better athletes and better people.

In his book Listening Point, Sigurd Olson has a short chapter on The Paddle. He writes, ” The paddle is made of native ash from a tree that grew in a cold swamp and gathered its toughness from bitter springs and cold falls when even staying alive had been an effort… into the new paddle went those qualities of texture and spirit that develop only under stress.”

Those qualities of texture and spirit grow in us  through our efforts to respond to the difficult days of training, the  match with a tough opponent, the recovery from an injury. When we rise to meet the challenge, like that ash tree rising from the cold swamp, reaching for the light, we too gather that toughness and resilience.

It takes patience though. The new growth rarely happens overnight whether it’s physical strength or changing an attitude. As Olson writes about his paddle, ” It’s fineness of grain came from slowness of growth, some so fine it could barely be seen with the naked eye, evidence in those sections that life had been difficult.” 

So what’s the challenge you’re facing? Improving a skill; developing a physical quality; changing an attitude or a belief? Maybe it’s not even on the field. Maybe its a difficult conversation you need to have with a teammate or coach or player.

Whatever it is, embrace the struggle. Match your efforts with time to rest. That’s part of the process too. But, embrace the struggle. It’s where the transformation begins.

And, part of what you may discover is, that transformation allows you to bring even more to the people, and causes you care about.

 

 

Trust The Process And The People

I am inspired almost daily by the athletes and coaches I get to work with. This week I congratulated a college player who was back in the lineup and having a good start to the season after recovering from serious surgery last winter. Her response “Thanks for thinking of me. Trusting the process.”

We talked a lot about trusting the process and leaning into the challenge as she was preparing to make the leap from club to college a few years ago. So, to hear her talk about “trusting the process” had a profound impact.

Trusting the process changes our attitude, internally and externally. We free ourselves up to lean into the challenge. It doesn’t make it easy but it gives us the energy and the courage we need to move forward, physically and mentally. We give ourselves the green light.

When we trust the people in the process, the ones making the journey with us, we often find unimagined resources and support to draw on; the coach or teammate who was there for us in unexpected ways.

Trust is like a muscle – it can be strengthened by exercising it, practicing and dealing with the occasional pain that is part of the process.  Lean in this week, trust the process … and the people. Allow yourself to be surprised by the results.

Learning To Run Right Is A Game Changer

One of the things that comes up right away when I ask sport coaches what their athletes need to work on is running. Poor mechanics diminish speed, make players less efficient and leave them vulnerable to injury.

Like any skill; throwing a ball, swinging a racket or a club it needs to be learned and practiced to improve. But investing the time and energy to develop a smooth, powerful stride that allows for a coherent efficient flow is a game changer.

Steve Magness has a great introduction to running form, why it’s important and how to coach the changes. You can read it here. Its often neglected because coaches don’t know how to coach it or because with a large number of athletes we feel we just don’t have the time. Magness offers some simple thoughts on how  and where to begin.

One of the things that’s needed is a whole body integrated approach to learning to run well. Another is an individualized or personalized approach to helping the athlete find cues and adjustments that help them developing a smooth efficient style that’s also their own.

There are few things more satisfying than helping and athlete find that sweet spot and feel the “take off” and ease that comes with it. We can do all the strength training and plyometrics we want but if the mechanics or technique aren’t right we’re wasting energy at best and stacking strength and power on top of dysfunction, courting injury at worst. How may cases of shin splints are influenced by poor mechanics?

Check out Steve’s article and his book the Science of Running and if you want to improve your skill as a runner, whatever your sport or age get in touch by clicking here  and we’ll get started.

Leaving The Drama To Someone Else

We often look to the dramatic, the cataclysmic, the one big moment to create change – to move us toward our goal. We want the “hack”, the plan, the quick fix or the shortcut. What we discover over time is it doesn’t work that way. It’s the slow accumulation of an intentional practice, a daily choice that becomes a habit that moves us toward flourishing and excellence.

Daily stretching, eating the right food, practicing the fundamentals, getting enough sleep. Over time we literally change the structures of our bodies, our brains, our attitudes and the environment  around us. It’s a challenge to stay with it, to pick it up again when we drop the ball but, it’s surest way to discovering and developing our potential. So, surrounding ourselves with others, team mates, coaches, friends and family who are committed to the same thing goes a long way – takes us a long way.

What habit do you want to begin? What small step repeated over time will help you move in the direction you want as an athlete, a coach, a person?  Who can you engage to join you or support you?

And here’s the really cool thing; once we take that step we may discover it opening up possibilities we hadn’t imagined. 

Becoming More Flexible

When people think of flexibility they often think of a gymnast doing the splits or a figure skater or dancer who can lift their foot over their head and touch their knee to their nose. That’s range of motion – the distance a joint can move between the flexed position and the extended position. But, its not the same thing as flexibility.
 In their book Fascial Stretch Therapy, Ann and Chris Frederick encourage the use of the online definition from Merriam-Webster for flexibility:  “characterized by a ready capability to adapt to new, different, or changing requirements.”  Flexibility is about adaptability.
In a webinar with Human Kinetics a few weeks ago Ann and Chris pointed out how flexibility or adaptability draws on all the qualities we associate with athleticism; strength, power, speed, agility, quickness and mobility.
John Kiely, a leader in the strength and conditioning field and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Lancashire refers to what he calls “robustness” or a wide variety of options in how an athlete adapts and responds to the demands of training or competition. When those athletic qualities are diminished through injury, fatigue, lack of skill or improper training we loose that robustness, have fewer options to choose from in our response the the challenges of training and competition and become more vulnerable to injury and underperforming.
Mobility is an important factor on that list. As Chris pointed in the webinar we’re talking about functional mobility, our ability move in order to accomplish a task.
Developing flexibility is about integrating all  those factors in an effective way. For example I worked with a collegiate volleyball player this summer who was strong in the weight room and had a better than average countermovement jump demonstrating power. By addressing hip and ankle mobility through a self stretching routine and Fascial Stretch Therapy sessions  and then incorporating specific plyometric training designed to improve elasticity and reduce ground contact time she was able to increase her block jump by over 8 inches. Working on her conditioning and agility she is better able to take that jump where it’s needed on the court and repeat it effectively throughout the match and adapt to the challenges of the game.
Good training produces athletes who are healthy, robust and  as Steve Myhrland has said, “ adaptable not adapted”. A flexible athlete may not be able to touch their palms to the floor but they move optimally in response the the changing demands of training and competition. How flexible are you?

College Bound Players – The Best Time To Start Working On Your Packet Is Before It Gets Here

It’s almost March. For young athletes who are college bound that means that the summer conditioning and physical preparation packets will be arriving in a while. They’re often received with a mix of excitement, confusion, shock and anxiety. Natural reactions to the challenge of moving to the next level.We work with a lot of players to make the leap. Over the years we’ve found three things that help in the transition and give our players a leg up on the process when they arrive on campus in the summer.

Interpret and Translate

When you open that E-mail or packet it can be overwhelming. The language is new, there are calendars, standards, workouts, schedules, and often information on nutrition, rest and mental preparation. Even our most successful club and high school players find it daunting.  So, the first thing we do is help them understand what’s there and put it in context. There’s a logic, goals and a set of principles behind the plan. Seeing the plan as a coach’s way of helping the team and players be successful can change something like the fitness standards from an obstacle to a stepping stone on a path toward contributing and accomplishing goals. It doesn’t make it easier but it becomes a challenge to rise to more than something to fear.

We often take all the pieces and lay them out in one place on a single calendar and help players see how the pieces fit together; how one phase leads to the next and how the elements like speed, agility, strength and stamina fit together. If there are standards or tests they need to pass we help them understand what they are, what they measure and how to prepare for them. Making the unfamiliar more familiar helps reduces some of the emotional static and makes the plan feel challenging but doable.

DSCF2240Assessment

Once we have a sense of where we’re going, we get a sense of where we are. If the program has hang cleans in the work out and you’ve never been in the weight room then we need to build a bridge from here to there. If you’re expected to run ten 110 yard striders and you’ve never done one, then we need to start there. When we know where we’re starting we can create the steps to get players on the coaches plan and get them to campus ready to go.

Support

DSCF1219On the physical side we look at what parts of the plan can you do on your own or with your team and what parts make sense for us to do together. Then we build a schedule. Every player is unique. Some will train with us 4 or 5 days a week, indiviudally or with a group. Others maybe once or twice a week. We create the workout schedule to fit the player and their needs. Certain lifts make sense to do with coaching, other parts of the strenght training they may do in our space but on their own. We’re there if they need it and they learn to work independently. If there’s a standard or a test to pass we’ll practice it  to become familiar with it and benchmark it.

The mental side is often the bigger part of support. Having someone who is trained and experienced who can stand outside the process while you go through it is huge for a lot of players. Sometimes we challenge and sometimes we encourage. A lot of it is helping them reframe and deveiop habits that they can draw on when the get to school.

When we’re feeling challenged  one of the most important things we can do is stay connected with our goals and values. Why am I doing this? What do I want? What am I expecting or hoping for? Those conversations happen both inside and outside the gym. Being able to go back to that is even more valuable in some dorm room in August when you’re away from home and exhausted.

The Best Time To Start Is Now

If you begin now you can put the things in place that you will need to start working on your college program when it arrives. What you may not realize is that the plan you get is the same plan that the rest of the team gets, players who have been training at a college level for a few years. You’ll be building the capacity to train at the next level and get the most out of your plan when it arrives. It’s a great feeling to be able to jump into that packet when it arrives with confidence.

For those who are moving to a new level it’s an exciting and challenging time. It’s supposed to be. Having a plan, being supported and remembering why it’s important can make it immensely rewarding as well. If you’re going to be taking that next step and you want some help. Let us know. We love getting players ready to leap.

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