Transition Time

iStock_000004316057MediumTransitions are a part of every sport. We go from offense to defense, sometimes by design and sometimes as the result of a turnover. The mountain biker or runner switches from uphill to down. Athletes who are good at transition, who handle it well stay in the game , have more fun and are often healthier.

The fall season has ended for a lot of the high school athletes we work with. Whether you are transitioning to a winter sport or looking ahead to the next club season here are a few things that might be helpful in the transition.

Ease into it. You’ve been training and competing six days a week for at least two months. Now is the time  to reduce the volume, and cut back the intensity. Stay active though. Continue to move in ways you enjoy. Hike, bike, switch to ultimate frisbee for a while, try yoga. Do your stretching. Approach the next few weeks like a long cool down rather a full stop.

Get healthy. This is about more than injuries. It’s about restoring the balance that gets lost over time when we are competing and training. Take an inventory. How’s your sleep, nutrition, social connections? Is there one that needs some attention? Pausing now to reset those things will help you heading into the next season. Flourishing is about resilience not endurance.

Reconnect. Relationships take time and energy. There’s only so much to go around during a season when you are part of a team. It’s natural for them to ebb and flow. Are there important relationships where the connection has worn a little thin lately? Now is a good time to reach out and renew those. One of the things those relationships do is remind us of who we are outside of our role as an athlete.

Reflect. Experience is a great teacher and sports offers some wonderful lessons but, only if we stop to reflect from time to time. What went well and why do you think it went well? Is there something you want to do better and how would  you do that?  Gratitude is a big one here too. Name three things you’re thankful for from this past season. Researchers have found that a sense of gratitude is a positive predictor of team satisfaction, life satisfaction and lower burnout for young athletes.  Write down your reflections. Getting it our of our head and onto the page is helpful. The old saying is “ink it, don’t think it.”  It can be helpful to share it as well. Taking time to reflect also helps us close the chapter on the last season so we can move forward to prepare for and enjoy the next one.

Plan. After a little time to relax, reconnect and reflect we can start to look forward. The best time to get clear about your goals and the steps you want to take to accomplish them is before the next season.

Take advantage of the moment. Just like a good transition in a game helps us move from offense to defense and back again, a good transition between seasons helps us move from one to the next ready to give our best and continue to grow and develop.

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Prepared For The Next Level

This post comes from Davis Bates who has been working with our soccer girls, middle school boys and  leading the Breakaway AAA Hockey dry land sessions. 

 

113_113We all have had an experience of not being prepared for the next level. Whether in school, work, or athletics, not feeling like you’re prepared can be detrimental to your confidence and performance.

For me two examples stand out. The first, I was a 23 year old, newly promoted team leader at my old job. My boss was out for the day and at the last minute asked me to run the meeting. Now I am normally someone who does well speaking in front of others. But now, I had to instruct and deliver some tough news (as the new boss as of a few days) to people who had been working there longing than I had been alive. Talk about nerve racking.

Second, was during my freshmen year of football at Bethel University. The first day of Fall camp was eye-opening. I was totally unprepared for the speed of the game and the tempo of the practice. After that year, I knew I was going to have to prepare differently if I wanted to be able to play at that high of a level.

Now, what if I came to that meeting prepared to present, a written presentation that I had practiced, as a new boss should? What if I found other college football players that summer before fall camp and trained with them? What if I had prepared so that I would have had the confidence to succeed at the next-level? It’s possible. We see it in sports all the time. Weather it’s a first time Varsity athlete who is leading her team, a freshmen running back being named All Big Ten, or a 19 year-old rookie being the Timberwolves’ best player. Examples like this don’t happen by accident, they happen on purpose.

DSCF1217Obviously, physical training plays a big role in someone’s ability to succeed at the next-level. And that’s what we do at Kick-It Training by helping athletes prepare to make as big a contribution at the next level as possible. In order for them to do that we help improve their strength, speed, agility, coordination, and stamina so they can meet the physical demands that they will encounter at a higher level of play. And, we do it in a healthy, common sense way that lays the groundwork for continued growth and improvement.

IMG_3029But I would argue that their confidence and the maturity that develops through long-term training in preparation for the next level is just as important as any physical gains they will see. I walked into both examples I gave above unsure of my ability to perform and feeling that my preparation for the situation wasn’t enough. When an athlete goes into that first game, try-out, or practice knowing they have put in the work, knowing that they belong on the playing field physically and mentally, that’s when they will succeed not by accident, but on purpose.

We work with a lot of great young athletes who are developing their potential and discovering what it’s like to move to a higher level. Whether the youth basketball player moving from the B team to the A; the Bantam hockey player making the jump to high school varsity or the soccer player moving from club to college. Check here and here to find out more or CONTACT us. 

College Bound

It’s almost April. For young athletes who are college bound that means that the summer conditioning and physical preparation packets will be arriving soon. 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.

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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Growing Confidence

DSCF1217Most of the time we think of training as mainly a physical process. It’s something  we do to develop a skill or quality like speed or strength or passing and shooting. There’s another aspect we often overlook or undervalue. Preparation and training contribute mentally as well because they give us confidence.

A source of great anxiety for a lot of high school players going on to college is the fitness test that they get in their packet from their new school.   While we don’t “train to the test” we will run it with players regularly to help them see how their work is paying off. It may not be an ideal part of our training program but by the time they head to their teams they have already demonstrated repeatedly they can meet the standard. That allows them to show up with confidence and focus on their game rather than the test.

GIRLS SOCCERWe work on deceleration and stopping as well as speed and acceleration because when a player has confidence in their brakes, they can play faster, go harder and put more pressure on their opponent. Without that confidence they may pull up too quickly, afraid to over run, leaving their opponent with more time and space.

 

IMG_0650A Bigger Kind Of Confidence – Part of the value in assessments and training logs lies in helping a player track their own growth and development.  With time to reflect, they come to have confidence in their ability to accomplish results over time, to make changes and develop what Stanford Psychologist and Professor Carol Dweck calls a growth mindset.  That mindset is more important in the long run than any physical quality. When they hit a plateau or struggle with something new they can draw on the confidence they’ve developed in themselves and in the process of training.  Focus, intentional work and consistency have helped them thus far and will help them with new challenges as well.

Slowly, in little ways, over time, good training and the right atmosphere can help us develop not only the physical qualities we need to compete but the confidence in our capacity to grow that will serve us whenever we need it.

In his Wheel of Excellence model, sports psychologist Terry Orlicki says, “Belief in yourself and confidence in your capacity allows you to extend your limits, create your own opportunities and push through performance barriers. Where there is unwavering belief in your capacity to carry out a mission and absolute connection with your performance, doors are opened to excellence.”

This week as we wrap up our fall training with assessments we will ask our young players to notice their progress, look back at the effort they have put in and begin to see that those doors can open little by little, for all of us.

Only one opportunity to success concept

Being In The Moment

118_118We started the high school girls warm up in silence this week. No talking for the first 10 minutes of training – just time to focus in, get connected to yourself and the moment. Warm up does many things but it really serves one purpose and that is to prepare and transition into training or competition. Often we focus on the physical dimensions of that transition, activating the nervous system, warming up the tissue, getting blood flowing, activating energy systems etc … Warm up serves as a time to make a mental transition as well, to bring our attention and focus to what we are about to do and what we are doing.  So, we tried something different this week and did our warm up in silence.

It was a challenge for sure and the girls responded well. They held the silence and stayed with the process. Afterward I asked what they noticed as they were quiet. One of them shared that she realized, ” how busy my brain is. I have all these thoughts going through my head and usually I just say them. This was hard.”

Hard and good. Lest you think its just a gimmick, the goal here is really to begin to help young athletes develop an awareness and bring mind and body together. Ellen Langer, Harvard Psychologist said in a talk, ” Mind and body are just words and if we put them back together then wherever we put the mind we’re necessarily putting the body.” We want to put the body in the training session so, this week we experimented with a little silence as  a way to put the mind there first. Only one opportunity to success concept