England FA In-Service

In my continual quest to gather more frequent flyer miles that I will probably never be able to use because award seats are never available, (That is a story for another blog) I am off to England today. Tuesday and Wednesday I will be doing an In-Service workshop for the English Football Association (Real football – Soccer for the uninitiated that still think the Super Bowl is super). This is for Fitness coaches of professional teams. It will be at Loughborough University. Should be a fun opportunity, I am honored to be invited, also will be able to spend the rest of the week catching up with some old friends.


Prisoners of Gravity – The Movie

Coming soon to a theater near you, in the best film noir tradition, is the latest blockbuster movie by Broken Body Productions. The main characters are compelling and will capture your imagination. The lead character and the villain is MR GRAVITY. The good guy is THE BODY, that magnificent self organizing and problem solving movement genius. Appearing in a crucial supporting role, THE GROUND, is terra firma where we live, work and play. The plot is quite intricate and will have you holding your breath while sitting on the edge of your seat. THE BODY is trying to move faster, higher and stronger in the best Olympic tradition. In order to do that it must learn to effectively cheat that evil villain, MR GRAVITY, by fooling it with training tricks that enable to use THE GROUND as his friend. After all THE BODY knows that he must use THE GROUND as a launching pad. The spellbinding chase scene follows THE BODY on the functional path journey down one way streets, through red lights around blind corners to a spectacular ending. To find out the ending you will need to join us on our travel down the functional path – safe travels.

Playing on one leg

Because we play on one leg we should train and assess on leg. The picture is a powerful justification for single leg squats, lunges, hops and step-ups. In summary exercises that involve force reduction onto and off of one leg.



Is winning a validation that a training program is successful? Absolutely not! There are so many factors that go into winning. Many teams and individuals win in spite of the training programs they use. I think over the long term a good sound Athletic Development program makes a huge contribution, but to use winning as a validation that a program is effective does not do justice to the whole process. A great conditioning program without the support of the head coach and the assistant coaches will not be effective. A great program without a buy in and a commitment from the athletes is a shadow program. In short winning is not validation of an Athletic Development program. How about the situation where one year a team wins a championship and the Strength & Conditioning coach is lauded as the second coming, produces the a Winning Secrets DVD and next year they are at the bottom of the table. Did he get stupid all of a sudden? I know strength and conditioning coaches who have multiple championship rings who hardly ever worked with players on their teams. Are the rings validation of their expertise as a coach? Look beyond the hype. Look for substance not style.


Open Season on Hamstrings

I lost track a bit when I was in Abu Dhabi on the current stats in regard to hamstring pulls in MLB. On doing a little checking it appears that gravity is still undefeated. Just a tongue and cheek reminder to keep religiously doing those hamstring curls, supplemented by Ham/Glute raises and be sure to add a heavy dose of pre-game static stretching especially when it is cold. If you want to add a little icing to the cake and insure more pulls be sure to do Nordic hamstring curls immediately after you do some high speed treadmill runs. Happy hamstring pulling!


Abu Dhabi - The last two days

I am writing this blog 38,000 feet over Iran on my way back to the US. The trip to Abu Dhabi to work with the Abu Dhabi Sports Council was a great experience. Just getting the opportunity to spend six days with Kelvin Giles and Michael Dalgleish was worth the trip. I learned so much more about the application of the Athletic Profile, how to adapt it and use it help prescribe exercises. The opportunity to work in a different culture and a different sport culture is always eye opening. There is much potential if they take their time, emphasize the correct sports and don’t get impatient. The pictures are from physical education classes we observed on Thursday at two schools: The first was the girls Alafaq Model School and the second was the Al Ameen Normal school a boy’s public school. These were impressive lessons taught by very well trained professionals. At the girls school two of the three PE teachers trained in Egypt, the other trained in Sudan. The woman who was the supervisor of PE also trained in Egypt. At the boys school the PE teachers were women who were all trained in Egypt. The girls were aged six to nine. The boys were aged nine to thirteen. The boy’s class was large, eighty boys taught by one woman teacher. It started with a warm-up using the ABC Ladder. Great discipline and concentration. Both schools only had PE once a week. One of our recommendations was to have at least four lessons and if possible five. Later in the week when I get over the jet lag I will post some video of these two lessons.


Abu Dhabi “First Steps to High Performance Conference”

These are pictures from the conference we presented on behalf of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council on Wednesday. There were 365 people in attendance. The audience included coaches, physical education teachers, Doctors, sports administrators and physical therapists. The conference was held at Zayed University for Women.


Kelvin Giles on Coaching Generation “Y”

One of the highlights of this trip is getting to spend more time with Kelvin Giles. This quote from him really resonated with me. I hope it makes all of you think. “Championship winning or winning in life, whether doing this as a family, an athlete or in the corporate sector will demand that you survive at the very edge of your psychological, physiological and structural envelope. I believe that these traits are trainable. Maybe it is time to re-visit some of the methods in the light of the current “I want” generation. Why can’t we test out their mettle rather than appease them? Why can’t we expect good behaviour, punctuality, respect? Why do we continue to list all the reasons why an individual can’t achieve something instead of challenging them to do what they think they can’t do?”


Abu Dhabi Day One & Two

I arrived in Abu Dubai Saturday night after a fourteen-hour flight from Houston. Frankly driving through Dubai from the airport, if it were not for the signs both in English and Arabic, I was not sure I had left Houston. Today’s world, to borrow Thomas Friedman’s term truly is flat. It is a ninety-minute drive to Abu Dhabi on a very modern superhighway. Checked in the Al Jazira Sport Club hotel that is actually attached to the football (soccer stadium). The main event of the day on Sunday was a press conference at the Abu Dhabi Sports Council to announce the initiative that we are working on. Kelvin Giles www.movementdynamicis.com, our team leader and Mahommad Al Mahmood, General Secretary Abu Dhabi Sports Council both spoke and answered questions from the press. Unfortunately Abu Dhabi leads the world in Type II Diabetes and rank high in childhood obesity. The prediction is that by year 2020 twenty percent of the population will suffer from Type II diabetes. The initiative that we are working is to create a continuum from community health and well being through to high performance to address these issues. The focal point of the visit is a conference on Wednesday titled “First Steps to High Performance,” to launch a concerted effort to address the need for exercise and health for all ages.

Monday dawned bright and early and we were off to Al Ain, the second largest city in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, a ninety-minute drive from Abu Dhabi. It was an amazing drive through desert sand dunes and farms. The drive was not without incident as our driver nodded off to sleep several times on the trip while going 180km/h. I did not even notice as I was glued to the window like a little kid at Disneyland for the first time. I even saw a herd of camels off in the distance. We arrived safely at the Al Ain Sport and Social club. On arrival Mick McDermott, the conditioning coach for Al Ain Football club who was our host greeted us. We spent the morning doing athletic competency tests with a class of schoolboys all born in 1995. In the afternoon we tested the 20 soccer players born in 1995 and two born in 1994. The soccer players tested 8% better than the schoolchildren. Those boys born in the first quarter of the year were 30% better than those born in the last quarter of the year. (How important do you think growth and development is?) When we finished the testing Michael Dalgalgeish of our group, who is a physical therapist, looked at two of the soccer players. It was very interesting to watch him work and see commonalities of problems worldwide. The soccer athlete in Abu Dhabi is not unlike the soccer athlete in the US or Australia. They play too much and train too little!

Just being able to spend a bunch of time sitting around and talking with Kelvin and Michael has been worth the trip. Together they have developed a very comprehensive Athletic Profile that gives great practical information to determine training emphasis and remedial work. It is very practical and easy to administer. I have used some this in my GAIN Network and it is superb. In my opinion this profile is something we need to institute in our schools. I find it quite ironic to be here in a foreign country doing an evaluation that we need so badly in the US.


Abu Dhabi

I am leaving for Abu Dhabi today. I will be there a week with Kelvin Giles and Michael Dalgleish. We have been invited by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council. Monday and Tuesday we will be the Al Ain Sports Club doing athletic profiles on young soccer players and physical education students. Wednesday the three of us will be presenting at a conference entitled “First Steps to High Performance.” It should be a very interesting week learning a different culture and working with athletes and coaches in a different sporting culture. As time permits I will update periodically on the trip.


A Crisis

Patrick McHugh sent me the following article from the Chicago Sun Times. This situation is not unique to Chicago or Illinois, it is a national crisis, we need trained coaches who are teachers. I see this all the time where I live in Florida. Often the main qualification is that you are willing to put in the time, nothing more. You are considered extremely qualified if you participated in the sport at any level. In future posts I will offer some solutions, but just as in training there are no quick fixes. Before you read the article I will leave you with a question – Why do you think basketball fundamentals have eroded? Answer - because there are few coaches who know how to teach them. This is true in every sport.

The hurdle hurting track

Lack of coaches has caused sport to idle in Illinois

BY TAYLOR BELL – Chicago Sun Times March 29, 2008

Remember when Chicago Public League sprinters, middle-distance runners, jumpers and relay teams used to be dominant factors in the state track and field meet?

Remember when Illinois competitors frequently recorded some of the fastest times in the nation?

Remember Craig Virgin, Dave Ayoub, Bill Bahnfleth, Larry Kelley, Gail Olson, Leroy Jackson, Dave Butz, Howard Jones, Willie Thomas, Bob McGee, Tom Graves, Adam Harris and Reggie Torian?

Remember when Illinois products made the U.S. Olympic team?

Remember Ralph Metcalfe, Jim Golliday, Ira Murchison, Don Laz, Bob Richards, Willie May, Mike Conley, Greg Foster, Rick Wohlhuter, Jim Spivey, Jan Johnson and Sunder Nix?

The Public League has virtually become noncompetitive in the state meet. It hasn't produced a team champion since 1974 and has produced only two individual champions since 1987.

''So many top athletes in football and basketball are starting to specialize. They don't come out for track as they used to in the spring,'' said Leo's Ed Adams, who coached four state championship teams. ''All of them think they will be the next Michael Jordan and have to practice year-round. Football coaches say they have to get bigger and stronger, so they have to lift weights year-round.''

But Adams, who has been coaching for 30 years, and others cite another problem that has crippled high school track and field in Illinois: a coaching crisis, a lack of qualified coaches in the schools.

''We are in an era where really good coaches have retired,'' Adams said. ''Because they aren't paid very well for working from January to May, no one wants to coach track and field. Schools must find coaches outside the school. It takes years for a young coach to be able to teach so many events ... sprints, hurdles, jumps.''

Adams said he doesn't fault young athletes for wanting to specialize in one sport.

''Kids see three teams in the state basketball finals, and they want to do that. But the school has to get kids involved in more than one activity,'' he said.

Wheaton Warrenville South's Ken Helberg, who has coached for 26 years and produced two state-championship teams, reminds that prospective athletes today have many more choices than they did in the 1960s and 1970s.

''Any new sport that has been added recently has been added in the spring,'' Helberg said. ''Our school is typical of a lot of schools: Only a certain percentage of kids will participate in sports. When you add more sports in one season, like boys volleyball, and the pool of athletes isn't growing, then you dilute the talent in the school.''

Skip Stolley, who coached outstanding cross-country and track-and-field teams at Thornridge in the 1970s and 1980s, said it isn't accurate to say there are no more great programs or great athletes giving great performances in Illinois.

''There are, however, far fewer of them, and the depth of qualify is far less than it was in the '70s and '80s,'' Stolley said. ''The reason for the decline is not year-round basketball programs. Quite simply, it is because track and field is a coach-driven sport.''

Stolley, who left Thornridge to coach at Indiana State and now runs an elite track club in Santa Monica, Calif., that has produced nine qualifiers for the U.S. Olympic trials, points out that two-thirds of Illinois high school track-and-field coaches are walk-ons -- non-faculty coaches who come to the campus at the end of the school day to coach.

''The need for walk-on coaches was created by the elimination of physical education as a high school graduation requirement,'' Stolley said. ''The elimination of a physical-education curricula is indefensible and an embarrassment to public school education.

''We have the first generation of high school students who are less fit than their parents. Obesity is a national epidemic, 63 percent of Americans are overweight, and childhood obesity in the United States has more than tripled in the past two decades.''

Stolley said when he coached at Proviso West, Thornwood and Thornridge, the physical-education staffs numbered 18 to 20, and almost every one coached at least one sport. Since physical education became an elective, the staffs at schools with enrollments of 2,000 to 2,500 have shrunk to three or four teachers, which almost always includes the football and basketball coaches.

''So today, high school athletics is carried on the backs of walk-on coaches in almost all sports other than football and boys basketball,'' Stolley said. ''This is not to say there are not some great non-faculty coaches in sports like track and field. There are. But being a walk-on coach makes recruiting and promoting your program in the hallways and classrooms almost impossible.''

The coaching crisis in track and field isn't limited to Illinois, Stolley said. It's a time-intensive, poorly paying part-time job that has a burnout/dropout rate of almost 30 percent a year, higher than ever before. In fact, most schools have a new track coach every three years.

''You can't effectively coach a sport with five events that are each profoundly different from one another -- sprints, hurdles, distances, jumps and throws -- without a staff of coaches,'' he said. ''Most schools simply don't have enough track coaches. The football and basketball coach isn't expected to coach every player -- freshman, sophomore, junior varsity and varsity -- in their school. They have lower-level coaches who do that. And you won't find them pulling out the bleachers or waxing the floor or lining the field.

''But all the facility preparation [setting up pits, standards, hurdles and marking landing sectors], plus recruiting and training officials and volunteers, is considered part of the job description for coaching track and field.

''That is not how you build a program and develop great teams and great athletes.''


Hamstring Pulling Season

We have just started hamstring pulling season (AKA Major League Baseball Season) So far in first two days of the season there have bee two hamstring pulls. Do you ever wonder why? Is it the cold weather? No I don’t think so although can be a factor at times. Are they out of shape? I hope not they have spent six weeks in spring training getting game fit. Based on my observations over the years here is my take on the hamstring pull situation in baseball and for that matter other sports. Too much emphasis on static stretching in warm-up. Warm-up to stretch, do not stretch to warm-up. Flexibility of the hamstring is basically a non factor in hamstring pulls, it is dynamic hip flexibility that is important. You don't get that wallowing around on the ground in pregame stretch. Lack of sufficient warm-up. The current rage in warm-up does not involve enough movement, way too much at walking tempo, you need to build the warm-up in a crescendo to top speed sprints. Another reason is too much emphasis on linear running mechanics, very little on turns. The hamstring is a transverse plane muscle that is stressed when running a curve and on deceleration. There is too much strengthening using non functional exercises in prone and supine positions. The solutions are simple, but require understanding muscle function and compliance to a program. More lunges in all planes, step-ups both low and high, more emphasis on running turns and at least two days a week of all out sprinting outside the game. It takes time and preparation with attention to detail.


Crash Programs

Training adaptations take time. Three to six week crash programs generally are a waste of time. Crash programs can give some short term results, but you usually end up paying the piper later on. There is no substitute for a well planned long term program that has a balance of all training components distributed throughout the training phases. Balance of the training components and time yield the best and longest lasting results. Unfortunately marketing and hype lead people to believe otherwise. Crash programs do just that, eventually they crash!