Mobility For Health And Performance

img_2972Two years ago I met Kelly Quist. Kelly works for the Minnesota Twins as their massage therapist and stretching specialist. She had been practicing something called Fascial Stretch Therapy™ and invited me to experience it for myself. The results were so noticeable that I sent one of the track sprinters I was working with to see her. A strained quad from a year and a half earlier was healed but, tightness in it kept her from reaching top speed and anxious about straining it again. With one session she was able to train and compete with confidence. She continued with FST for the season.

Mobility is a huge issue in both the health and performance of an athlete. Ranell Hobson of the Academy of Sport Speed and Agility in Australia gives an example of the connections in a helpful blog post here https://playerdevelopmentproject.com/football-mobility/ . As she points out, if the hip flexors are tight, the hips are pulled into constant flexion and the gluteals can’t perform their function. There is a loss of power, stability and an increased likelihood of injury. 

img_1666Coaches and trainers will often tell players to stretch and may even take time before or after practice to do it. I know we do. It can help in some cases. But, it tends to focus only on specific muscles and not on the net of connective tissue and muscles that work together to help us move. So the effects while beneficial are limited.

That’s what is so impressive about FST and why I spent time in Phoenix this January getting trained and certified. It is great to be able to bring it back to our Kick-It! Athletes.

While traditional stretching addresses specific muscles, typically in a static way, FST addresses full fascial lines throughout the whole body. Because FST uses a whole-body concept based in anatomy and functional movement, it results in improved flexibility gains over traditional stretching.

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If you watch the NFL on Sundays or you’ve watched the summer Olympics you’ve most likely watched athletes who use FST.

For players who are interested, I’m offering times on Sundays and Wednesdays to come in for half hour sessions to get a quick assessment and begin the process of increasing mobility and flexibility. In the past few weeks I’ve been able to help athletes increase ankle and hip mobility and improve their vertical jump and squat. There is no extra cost or charge for this for players who are currently training with us although there are a limited number of slots right now due to current training schedule.

If you want to learn more about Fascial Stretch Therapy™ you can check out this short video from the Stretch To Win Institute or visit their website.

To sign up just click here, pick a day and time and hit submit.

Looking forward to unlocking speed, strength, and power with FST.

 

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Developing Athletes And Pumpkin Seeds

img_1872I gathered the girls in the soccer training group in a corner of the gym after a workout and gave them each a pumpkin seed. “Do we eat these,” one of them asked?  ” Not yet,”I told her.

I asked them what do you have to do to make this grow? The obvious answers came quickly – plant it; water it; feed and fertilize it; weed around it, give it sunlight.

In a sense it’s how we grow anything. We decide want to grow it. Then we give it what it needs, in the right amount, at the right times, over time. Then we pay attention, respond to what we see and adjust.

For an athlete to develop their potential we do the same things. Give them the right things, in the right amounts, at the right times, over time. Then we pay attention, respond to what we see and adjust. It’s as simple and as complex as that.

That tender seed won’t benefit from the same amount of water or fertilizer that a mature vine needs, in the same way that the workouts or plans or exercises that a 25 year old elite athlete needs are appropriate for a 16 year old. What our college coach did with us is usually not what we need to be doing with our young players.

imageBut, if we do the right stuff, in the right amount, at the right time, over time and then pay attention and adjust – wow, the results can be truly amazing. And, we have the seeds for another generation.

OK. You can eat your pumpkin seeds now.

Getting Better Together This Winter

Tired AthleteEvery athlete knows that in order to develop and make progress we need to be challenged. Whether it’s speed, strength, conditioning or agility we have to take ourselves outside the comfort of what we’re used to. In meeting the challenge our bodies respond and we get faster or stronger or more fit. It is important meet the right challenge in a healthy way so the response is positive and sustainable.

Three things that are helpful  in taking on a new challenge.

Coaching ~  Every athlete is one of a kind. We need the right challenge in the right dose at the right time to improve in a healthy way.  Experience and expertise helps coaches  recognizes the individual differences in each athlete and helps them focus on the right challenges in the right way to accomplish their goals. Training is work with a purpose, not just a matter of doing more or trying harder.

Positive Environment ~ Research has shown that young aIMG_0650thletes accomplish more, participate longer and feel better in an environment that is player centered and goal focused with positive relationships. Sounds simple but it takes conscious effort to create and sustain that environment.

 

 

imageConnections ~ There’s an old saying, “If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far stick together.” Training consistently with good partners can take you to some surprising places. A recent article in Outside Magazine reported that a team mate or friend to train with is more important than any app, device or program. Working together, over time some of  our athletes have accomplished some pretty cool things for themselves.

Our training groups aren’t classes. They are groups of young athletes working together in a positive environment with good coaching to grow, and develop in healthy ways to accomplish their goals and contribute to their teams. We have groups starting a new round of training in January. You can check it out HERE. It you’re looking for an opportunity to be challenged in a healthy way it might be a good place to start.

January Training Groups Are Now Forming

We’re wrapping up a good fall with our current training groups. Our plan is to take a little time off for most of our groups over the holidays. We’ll be working with individuals, athletes home from college and any of our “reconditioning” or “return to play” folks who need to continue over the next few weeks to help them work on their individual goals.

Training groups for the January – February block are forming now for the High School Girls Soccer Group, the High School Boys Soccer Group and, the Middle School Boys Group.  New times for the Middle School Girls group will be up shortly.

You can click on any of the links above or go to the Training page for more details and to sign up.  We’re really looking forward to helping our athletes build on the progress they’ve made over the past few months. If you weren’t able to train with us this past fall that’s no problem. Our groups are small and we’ll start you right where you need to get back up to speed.  Contact us here with any questions and we’ll help you get set.  DSCF2235

Middle School Girls Group Starts This Week

MSGirlsSoccerThe big goal is pretty simple. We want to see girls playing the sports they enjoy as well as possible, for as long as possible. With that in mind we are focused on two things. The first is to reduce the likelihood of injury. The second is to help develop their athletic ability so that as they grow they can play their sport at the highest level they enjoy.

For nearly 15 years now we have been helping girls develop their athletic ability to the fullest, from nine year old hockey players to Division one soccer players. We work on the basic movement skills and patterns that are the foundation of long term athletic development, skills and patterns that directly support the technical skills of any sport. The more comfortable, strong and balanced you are as you lunge, squat, jump, land, stop, start or change direction the more you can do on the court, in the field, on the ice or even in the snow … and the more fun you can have.

Learning these same movement patterns and skills is also the key to preventing injuries. Learning how to land, balance, shift weight and change direction helps keep young players out of those vulnerable positions that often lead to injury.

Research and our experience has shown that establishing these movement skills and patterns at an early age opens up more possibilities for their technical development and, makes a significant difference when it comes to reducing the likelihood of injury.

Our next Middle School Girls training group is starting this week. There are just a few spaces left. If you would like to join us click here to find out more or contact us and we’ll answer your questions.

The Ecology of Youth Sports

FLOURISH: ( of a person, animal or other living organism ) grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly favorable environment.

iStock_000004353528Medium-1What if we thought about developing young people through athletics in terms of the ecology of it?

What if, rather than focusing on “producing” young athletes, we focused on how they grow?

We might pay more attention to the environment in which they grow. Is it one in which they can flourish? 

Research with high school age soccer players found that a young person’s well being in athletics was correlated with a high quality environment, one in which the young athlete felt that coaches were concerned about them as people first and athletes second. One in which the key adults were connected in a healthy network of support: school, club, coaches and parents. And, one that was focused on their long term development not short term or even intermediate term outcomes and results.
IMG_2998Ecology looks at, what Robin Wall Kimmerer calls ” the architecture of relationships.” Over the last few months I’ve been working in some new and interesting ways with coaches, parents and health care professionals and over the next month or two will be collaborating on some very cool projects. They didn’t start as “good ideas” but emerged out of conversations and the slower process of growing a relationship. Some of the projects will blossom and bear fruit, others will drop by the wayside. My hope is that the relationships out of which they are developing will continue to grow and flourish.

It’s really not that big of a stretch when you think about it. After all, success in every sport, even the individual ones, is a team effort. Or, as Dr. Wall Kimmerer reminds us, ” in nature all flourishing is mutual.”  DSCF1719

Prevention And Performance Are Only Placeholders

IMG_3016It’s easy to segment and divide, put things into categories. Injury prevention over here, improving performance over there. But, when it comes to preparing and developing young athletes the two really belong together.  Good physical preparation takes into account the demands of the game; the the type and nature of injuries involved, and the developmental level of the players.

Our high school girl basketball players are finishing up their pre-season training. We know their game requires them to change directions quickly, often and at a variety of angles and speeds. They need to be able to start, stop, jump, land and resist the force of another player. And, they need to be able to do those things often while performing another skill like dribbling, passing, catching  or shooting.  Players need to give repeated short bursts of intense effort and recover quickly. So they need a strong CP system to give those short bursts and a strong aerobic system to do that repeatedly and recover.

images-4When it comes to injuries, the most common ones are to the head ( concussions ) ankle and knee and we know that most of those injuries occur late in the half or the game when players are more likely tired and the intensity picks up.

Now, given that,  when assessing players or designing their training we can keep the big picture in mind, see the relationships between the demands of the game and injury patterns and work to address both. So, jumping and landing is not just about improving rebounding or shooting but about reducing the likelihood of ankle and knee injuries. It may even help prevent some concussions where a bad landing might have led to the head hitting the floor. Good technique and improved strength work together to improve performance and keep players healthy.

When we plan a conditioning program we have sessions where we  train short burst of 4 – 6 seconds and sessions where we increase aerobic capacity. With in each of those we blend the movements players actually make in a game like shuffling and cutting with running straight ahead.  Conditioning isn’t something we do for its own sake. The purpose of conditioning is , as Steve Magness said, to extend the quality of the performance. If we can help players move well and execute their skills at a high level through the whole game they are less likely to get injured and more likely to accomplish their goals and enjoy the process.

We can’t really prevent injuries any more than we can guarantee the outcome of a game. There are too many uncontrollable variables from the conditions of the court or field to the opponents tactics to just plain bad luck. But, we can reduce the risk by taking a holistic approach to developing young athletes; teaching them good movement skills, developing the strength to support those movements and the stamina to perform them repeatedly and well.

Categories like injury prevention and sport performance can be helpful as placeholders to analyze and learn. They are a way of looking at the same thing from different perspectives. In the end though we do better by the kids we serve when we see how they fit together and design integrated approaches that help our young athletes, stay healthy, play well and have fun.

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