So, every time I attempt to write this article it seems as though I am inundated with more and more circumstances of what I view as improper methods of training young athletes. It seems as if I don’t just simply put pencil to paper (and yes, I wrote this out first), then I may be subject to this continuum for quite some time.
I’ve been training to enhance my athleticism since the age of 12 with little guidance other than the passion to be the best and to read and research on my own. My formula was simple. STUDY, APPLY, DETERMINE, CONCLUDE and ADJUST. So, with the culmination of 30 years of training myself and working with athletes of various ages and sports, I’ve come to gain some valuable experience and knowledge along the way. When you start draping 600 plus pounds over your shoulders for weekly squats, you figure out a thing or two!
It’s an art, each athlete, each team; each session is similar to a blank canvas that seeks a medium of choice.
Recently training a formidable lacrosse team I encountered my multi-sport players that due to their over-volume-punishing football workout they couldn’t perform a basic push-up and had great difficulty lifting their arms above their heads. First, your sport training should never leave you in a state of DOMS that interrupts your functionality. But the primary red flag that I found alarming was the fact that this particular football coach had little regard or respect for his players that are enlisted in additional sports. This narrow-minded approach leads to the overtraining of the athlete and increases his or her potential of injury. What is the transfer from large amounts of high-volume work to the sport being played?
It seems as if a majority of football coaches equate their off-season program to that of physical punishment. One of my talented young athletes was asked to perform the “hack squat machine”, of all devices, until he reached complete and utter failure as the “finisher” for his “leg” workout. So, with a great attitude and a willingness to please his coaches, he engaged in this “finisher” until physically blacking out at rep 40! This is complete ignorance and negligence on the coach’s part and exposes their lack of biomechanics and physiological knowledge of the demands required of their players. Once again, what are the ends to the means? Why failure? Why the Hack Squat machine?
And I’m quite frequently confused when the sport, the training and the pre-season testing make for an unsolved mathematical equation. Time and time again I work with athletes or teams in preparation for their upcoming seasons, progressively working in a concurrent fashion to ensure that they are physically and mentally equipped for their sport position; only to discover that their coach is utilizing some form of arbitrary testing that has no specific or direct relationship to the sport. The two-mile run test for my college lacrosse players is a great example of this. As a coach you need to examine the data and feedback from your testing and make certain that it relates to your sporting goals. So many may argue the mid-fielder garners a significant amount of running. But, I would ask you to view the game with your eyes wide open and detect the transitional speed, the contact, the unpredictability and the shift length of the player. Test the movement and the energy required. Test what you “need” to see!
Finally, the one-mile run test for baseball players baffles me. Again I seek the legitimacy? If I surpass you in the one-mile run test, but lack the “true skill” required for hitting and the “proper mechanics” for throwing a baseball how does my test score fit the equation? Baseball is postural power, skill and efficient mechanics. Running/Testing a one-mile run indicates just that; I’m good to run one mile. I have had open discussions with players from quad A (AAAA) baseball programs, that were instructed by their coaches to run the schools cross country course (3.1 miles) as part of the practice plan. I don’t find this to be s solid contribution to becoming a successful unit on the diamond. In my opinion both instances are examples of coaches that are uncertain of what to coach and perhaps lack the know-how of what they can include or should include in their practice plan.
It’s time wasted!
So, each time I’m asked a question or pulled into a conversation about these various scenarios I question the very development of athletes today. Coaches seemed to be guarded, protective and ego-driven about their methods. Supporting it with phrases such as, “This is the way we’ve always done it”, or “this is how my coach taught/trained me”.
Well, your ego is your weakness and your athletes suffer. Remember it’s an art and you should keep an open mind about their long-term development and the championships will follow.