Monday, October 6, 2008

Strength Training For Men

Strength Training For Men
Jurgen Grobler
Men’s Head Coach GBR
FISA Coaches Conference, Budapest Hungary. November 7-11 2007
I think the first two presentation already showed that there are always more questions than answers, and I think that that is a good sign, because a coach that doesn’t ask questions is at a standstill, still knowing there is not always an answer, but what I would like to say there as well is: don’t forget the roots, don’t make it too complicated, sometimes the simple things we might miss in our coaching, they gave you the success in the past and I’m sure there’s a lot there as well that gives you success for the future, and I think coming back to Rene that he shows the picture of the 96 eight of 5:22 and he say that that would still be an eight that is very competitive this time, I think you can see that that is 11 years ago. Everything moves on but there is still a lot of elements in our training, I think, we can jump up and down but you can’t find a short cut, like if you are building cars or whatever it was where you have top machines and they make the work for you but I think in training there is nothing else.

Like Rene has a little bit of history with his eight and success in 2004 so this is also not up to date, the four, its history and I think it has future as well. Saying that I think it is also a coach’s job, you win and you lose in your job as well and you still carry on because as Rene says it a job you enjoy. You are working with young people, they are dead keen to follow you and do the training.

If I talk about strength training I think that was always something special for me, as a coach; was always a highlight with the program. If I look a long time back I still remember there was the water running down the walls when we did weight training because the guys had been sweating, there was no heating or whatever, it was just in the back of the boathouse and this was something really, really special.

If I look what has changed, I’m coming around a lot in all different types of high performance centers and boat houses, I don’t think a lot of things have changed in our weight training. Rene just picked up again neuromuscular training with not so heavy weights or force, that was already there many, many years ago as well, but if you look at the boathouses there’s always a corner where you have your weights were people carry on. If we are together in Seville we know the facilities there are not always the most posh facilities we have in rowing. It good to see we have in Great Britain better facilities now and the Dutch on the Bosbaan. But I think you can’t always pick the venue for your training. If you go with 26 – 30 men on a training camp, you go there before and you find maybe a fitness centre because the facilities at the boat house is not big enough and the first time they say yes you can come in, but after the first session the manger will tell you maybe you are wrong here because the way we do weight training doesn’t quite fit in with that nice fitness center with the nice dressed ladies. Our boys I think we have a different fashion a different attitude to conditioning training. So I just say that in principle when we talk about strength and conditioning how I see it and even in our area we had Richard come to the Henley Regatta and had a look around the Leander Club and had a look at the Gym and Richard was “Oh is that all that you have? Where are all the other special machines?” I don’t think that we have special machines. Of course there’s always something a little more related exercises, some things will be a little bit changed to fit more to the rowing movement but in principle I think in 37 years that I’ve been a coach there is still the bar, the disk as a key thing, so free weights, and I think only a few of the clubs have some of those machines, but most of the clubs picking those machines that really fit to us, to our training, first to be more safe to train so there is no injury, but also because those machines can help us to develop different muscle groups we maybe can’t do with free weights every time.

So that is how I see it to assess our situation in the gym and if I take in those last years where I talk about the gym, first I must say as I said before, that I really think the gym training is an important part of my training program but as I said we don’t always have the facilities. And I think of all those years that we go to high altitude we just empty a garage it still smells of petrol and we still do a very good gym training there. We have just been to Brisagt (sic) again coming there with 25 athletes there is no facilities, even the corner in the boathouse is totally too small, we spend all day to get something done, so we did it outside and I think the Swiss coach from Lucerne was a little bit surprised when we did that but Ok we did a training session with 25 athletes at the same time and I still think it was good intensity, a good workout and again not always just heavy weights but a variety of weights but this comes very close to what we’ve discussed.

At the end of the day we are looking at our weight training that everything should be related to what you do in the boat. Of course I talk about men’s strength and conditioning training, ok myself I was also 10 years women’s coach and how I see it, but maybe our colleague form Australia will show me something different, but I don’t think that in our sport there is a big difference as I think we are still using the same gym, the same exercises. Maybe something is a little bit more related to the women’s side, maybe some more sessions because the geometry and the build of a woman is a little bit different to the men and we know in our sport that makes the big difference.

If we talk about our strength training and I think we come a little bit more close, if we analyze our rowing stroke and what we need and that’s I think rowing is one of the few sports where you really have to use all the different muscle groups, rowing is something for conditioning, not just high performance sport, that’s is why you can see a lot of the gyms really taking those rowing machines on because it is a good way to build your overall body fitness on the machine. But you can see here on that picture what different movements and what different muscles we have to develop to make the perfect rower.

As we already mentioned rowing is a strength endurance sport or you can say endurance strength or whatever but strength is an important part. I think that you can be a good mover but if you do not have the strength you will fail at one point or another, so strength is something naturally given in one way but of course that’s not just enough. We have to spend time there to develop strength. How I develop strength is one on land, is an important part, I think we have in average over the years 2-3 sessions per week; second we do a mixed transition on the water and third part is I think we do the strength training in the transition on the erg. These are the three different types of strength training we integrate in our training. The main component of our program, ok we like as we said before really a well balanced very athletic athlete working on weakness as well as strength and get really the muscle balance right in your body. This means you always train the main muscle groups as well as the groups supporting those main muscle groups. I will show you later some exercises we are using and I’m sure there’s nothing special or secret or anything or exercises but of course you can see in my discussion maybe don’t be shy to ask me questions. I take something that is totally familiar with me and our weight sessions but there may still be a question to you don’t be shy ask. I will try to answer every question with what I especially do in training.

And the principles of training is also something you cant move away so Im sure especially now it is the winter period, so weight training is more important, we have specially two cross camps where the weight training is the number one priority because when we say strength endurance there is always that thing in there, I find however for a long time, yes you can balance your training but strength, power always not go parallel with or develop at the same time that we do a lot of endurance training. If you think we make a big progress there or try to measure something you can’t see it because the endurance training is a little bit, how I see it, like fire and water, but still you have to train the local muscles, build up the local muscles as a base for your successful rowing.

As I just said, why do we do gym training, the whole case is to make and go faster in the summer I think just put up here again what I think are some of the most important things. As we mentioned before, all our training is now supervised and in the hands of a strength and conditioning coach. If somebody has some question Harry (Brennan) is here and was helping put something together especially the nice pictures.

So I think the key thing again can be always sometimes the training is seen one sided, I was looking back through some books from the time of Karl Adam in the 50s, beginning of the 60’s is maximum power training very much related to the main muscle groups. I think it is very important to me to prevent injuries as well to et the crews muscle balance. Since we focus there more as well we have less back problems than before because strength training helps us to save the body.

Ok some principles. Of course in the strength training you get to the local muscles and main muscles a lot better load so you can overload the muscles, that one of the key principles, of the training; progression, we put more weight on through the times through sessions; specify a little more your training sometimes to different athletes to different muscle groups; you have variations in different trainings to even you change the exercises, you change the way how you do it, so this becomes not the routine, I think all very simple things for you to do every time the same thing, I think the brain doesn’t work any more and they just do it but I think you can see if you change the exercise people will be adapting and they still have sometimes things to do; individual, of course every athlete is different build, different weaknesses and strengths, of course you always have a group training, but I think even in a group training you still have a good chance to address different weaknesses in your training and fix that up.

I just show you one of the machines I’m sure is quite common and is quite safe, it saves a little bit the back and still trains the main muscle groups. If you listened to last years coaches conference and before if we look to our rowing stroke we know that the rowing stroke strarts from the legs, the legs are the key part, the strongest part, the legs are the most edurance based muscle part of the body. You can walk for long long hours but I’m sure you can’t do that with your hands, if you walk with the hands you will go down even the best one, so that’s a main muscle group.

We train again here the legs, again the whole body work and that something we like to put over our weight training. Of course if you look guys are very competitive and that’s the key things and I think with the help of the conditioning coach we spend a lot of time before we really train hard again on technique, I think that helps as well to prevent injuries but also to train really the right muscle groups and not just finish the session, and we know sometimes that if we go in the gym and you close your eyes and ask what is he doing. So I think again that’s a very simple message as far as a strength and conditioning coach is good as a different voice, they might listen a bit more because he has the expertise, to the athletes rater than having always the coach 24 hours around the athletes. I think so far that has a good teaching aspect as well to work with some other people.

Also to me again a leg exercise, very simple can be done anywhere (step up) you don’t need a big machine or whatever and this is very effective, of course it is very important that you use the top leg and not the bottom leg, people can cheat there and I find with the bottom leg but the idea is from that right angle or even steeper angle from the top leg you press your body up. This is the body without any weight, for the best people you can do you can do things with weigths.

Split squat, just bringing back those very simple exercises from the past.

We are just looking to the leg side.

Ok we said if we are developing the legs, ok we know the back in rowing is something very special and we had also in other coaches conferences the special discussion with our doctors about rowing backs, so far of course if you have strong legs it is no point to maximize your legs if you do not at the same time to strengthen your backs, then will be the back the weakest part working against the blade ok the back will come out and the disc problems so I think that is why it is very important that you have a good balance in your program and I show you later some of what we do in our program.

That’s again, if you do it right, it took me a long time especially the good morning exercise, to introduce that in the program, because if you are not having the right technique, ok stronger people can do it, very dangerous then I would say better you don’t do that exercise but otherwise of course again free weights is a very god exercise still to train your back, improve your back, this comes exactly, very close to what you do in the boat.

Ok this is a very classical exercise for rowing, bench pull, of course every bench in Britain is different and so if you do testing or whatever to measure what you are doing then you should look a little bit for a standard that some benches are that thick ad some are that thick and I would look always for the thinner one because that’s a bit more like what you would like to have in the boat to send the boat away without stopping here, so I think that’s nothing new. You can see that it is simple and can be done anywhere.

The same exercise just with one arm that we have been doing quite a lot and again as progression with heavier weights sometimes through the session and through sessions.

Other arms exercises, again very simple it can be done everywhere, nothing very posh.

And of course pull ups or chins. I see the gym training, we do the muscle training but I think when we talk about talent and identify your athlete’s weakness and strengths I think you can see a lot in the gym and specially the chin exercises I think you can see who is really fighting, for those 110kg guys. I think Matthew Pinsent when we introduced chins again I think if Tim is right he maybe did one, using all his muscles just to come up there but then I think over the time because of being competitive, everybody was around I think he did 10 as well. So of course the best one would be 20 or more. But I just say its also the mental thing take into consideration the body weight as well. I think very simple exercises you shouldn’t forget, that why I said a lot of things we discussed questions and answers, a lot of things go in circles as well. Im now 37 years in this sport, there’s the rigging and everything with the blades and I think will be my message, don’t forget the very simple exercises before you look to all the nice machines. There’s no short cut.

That’s a very simple exercise, you can do it slowly, you can do it fast, all different variation of the press ups you can do.

I think, and we already discussed and I think that’s in the last couple of years the new exercises, it not just pushing very hard with heavy weights, introduce also and I think, we discussed as fast as possible from A to B in your rowing boat of course then the strength training has to be related to the movement. And the better you get that system running, the signal from the head to the muscle, and using also the small muscles that means there will be really balanced in the boat and the right core position, those exercises they are looking in the first time if you have a men’s group, 10 men, big men, they are Mickey Mouse (the exercises) because you had always in your mind ok big handed, big noise, but I think I would just like to open your mind a little bit in that direction, I’m sure that a lot of athletes already doing things, I still believe that a good balance in our strength training using those very simple exercises.

Ok another one, bench press is nothing special.

Here again using the Swiss Ball, and working not with the bar but with dumbbells to balance and still will with the weights. Very, very simple again but you can already see the good guys against the bad guys.

Here are other trunk exercises, you sometimes think ok should I spend my time with that but I still think you should integrate those ones in your training as well.

Very simple things once again, just working with your own body, I think that is also a little bit the message Rene said before, a little bit the new thinking with the strength and conditioning coach, in the gym, also getting little bit more out of them and do sometimes a little bit more intensity but the right balance, you are not wasting all the energy in the gym and theres nothing left while you are there normally to go fast in a boat.

That’s a Russian Twist, I don’t know why its called a Russian Twist in Great Britain, maybe they did it first. But I think that that is a very simple good exercise, really again to fix your body and get that movement, again something you try to do in the boat to keep your body under control and still try and do something with the weight.

The same thing here just with the legs, getting that light rotation where the hip is still, neutral and the lower back.

Here again, and that really part of our weight training, sometimes we do a small circle before we do our weigth-strength training. Before as a warm up that’s about 25-30 minutes, especially using those lower weight exercises, just move the body, get elements of core stability in those training to make sure the athlete, especially the big athletes we know we still have some clumsy athletes so they learn a lot more about their body, their body movement, because that’s something that really pays off in the boat. I think we are moving away from that model where we have that guy with the really small head and the muscle, big body. I think we need, if we talk about talent, I think the well developed athlete, he learns to move, he learns to get his body in all different situations and in very unstable positions under control, I think that what we have to look at. The time is over where we just look at, have everything based on power.

It has been asked why the lightweights are more close to the heavyweights, that is still one part. The lightweights are still very athletic, 180-185 tall, very athletic and they are a lot more efficient sometimes than the heavyweights. I think part of the strength training should still be developing efficiency for the rowing as well and that can be done in the gym, still building the right muscle balance.

I think a very good exercise and very similar to our sequence in the boat is the power clean. I must say as well that some years we did it, some years we didn’t do it because with all the trying to train the right technique we still had the athletes moving away form the technique and we had some problems but of course they are very competitive and it is very difficult to stop them. But now I think we have a good technique in our group so we can move on, we can lift higher weights in the right technique. I think that is something that really pays off in the boat; you see again the sequence legs-back-arms. Very simple gain you can see legs strengthen, hip, body comes in and that last little bit finishing off with the arms. I think a really good exercise but really look to do the right technique otherwise if you work with 100 or more kilo and you lean over you are not in a vertical position then you can make a big load on your lower back and on the disk and that can be quite dangerous.

You can see here a little bit that an example I think of a position we don’t like to see, that’s a dangerous position.

Ok if we look to our strength training with some, if we move from the methodical way this gives a little bit of an idea of what we expect in our strength training when we address different intensity in our training and the repetition we have there.

I think I discussed before our warm up. This is a really important part, not just how it is in practice, people just laying around in a corner, putting just their head a little bit form one side to the other. I think we have now the discipline and they feel it is really part of their training in that warm up, get better, get the body prepared and again make the transition from their overall shape of muscle development into a dynamic good movement in training. I always address it quite a lot because I see that is the way. Yes strength training Yes, yes I think there is no other way but everything had to see a gradation to movement that gets the transition from good muscle movement to more speed.

Ok that’s one, I know Rene says they do it different, but that’s why I said before there’s always different ways to do the same thing. I still believe those simple sets and its as old as rowing, it is still a good way and fits with our needs, that’s really the main muscle groups.

We have an endurance circuit, something I would say a little bit more. I think if you look to the time for a session, especially if you take a strength session I would say we have 45-75 minutes in that range doing around up to 200-300 reps in that time. It is important (if you look back wards 2 slides) that you rest every set so the muscle can recover so you can do the next set again with good quality with the right speed, and of course that’s a session where you would like to have less lactate if you take lactate, maybe just below 4mMol/l. Just to bring in what we do on the water is 10 x 10strokes or 10 x 15 strokes, through the winter we do it more with a hydro break, we are just putting a bungee or something, at the moment for everybody the same, around the boat, and trying straight way early enough to make the transition from the gym again in the boat, still trying to work and build that link from the legs to the back to the upper body to the water. In our training we also have a series of 8 x 50 strokes and the longest one we do is 3x 2000m around 160 strokes, 160-180 strokes. So that’s the 3 things we are using on the water of course more the rate is around, for the shorter ones around 26, for the longer ones we are still looking for rate 20-24, so really distance per stroke, power per stroke so theres enough recovery time in the sequence of the rowing.

That’s also one that the guys enjoy, going up to the maximum of what they can do on the bench pll, bench press or power clean. That is a short session around 45-60 minutes. I think that they like that always very much and it becomes a little bit, it has even more the competitive element, you can see everyone standing around and shouting so they get that last little bit done .

Another endurance circuit you can see 1000-1200 reps circuits I have in my program so together with Harry (Brennan) we have mainly if you take the 3 sessions one upper body one lower body and then we have a combined session of endurance circuit training or a defined session, upper body, lower body in one session together. Its a little bit a longer session and Im doing at the same time more the short series training in the boat because otherwise you might develop a little bit too much lactate.

Ok, if you come to the conclusion you can see that again I would again underline the middle point, “Train movements and not just muscles”. I think of course that the muscle is always involved in the whole thing but I think that from my point of view the message strength training with all the varieties we just discussed here is an important part of how I see it to underlie and care for the training on the water, to prevent injuries and to build up a good, better trained fit athlete for the summer.

Question: I’d like to ask the number of training through the year and secondly how you measure resistance on the water training?

Grobler: I think we have in total 80-90 session in a year, if you take 46 weeks a year of course in the competition season, especially in the week where we have the competition we don’t do weights but otherwise we always carry on through always doing weights. Of course the repetition gets a little bit less, just I would call it especially if your in the World Cup series a little bit of memory thing just to still stress the muscle to load them again to keep that going, so that the 80-90 sessions. Of course when we have 2 cross camps we definitely do a little bit more and we building up strength.

Ok the resistance on the water, we took a water boss thing and put a bungee through and measured that compared to the time we did in the boat, in the pair, and that between 7-10% slower. Don’t make it too heavy because again you should see the movement and you should still have the feeling to the boat, there’s some run out not just stopping if you put a big bucket on, that was on many years ago, people put a bucket on and you smash your boat, but I think try to find a good balance still that the athlete has a good feeling for the boat and movement and still feels the resistance.

Question: So what about strength training during the season, during the summer time, do you still work with the weights during the competitive season?

Grobler: Yes, I just said we still carry on in the week after, take a World Cup, coming back on Sunday evening, then on Tuesday and Thursday in that week we will have a weight as I said, at first we just rebuild again working on muscle strength, rebuild the muscle strength, in the second week of the three week we will carry on with two sessions but a little bit reduced intensity, a bit reduced in reps, as I said a little bit the memory effect and because we are using again a little bit more energy building up again for the next competition.

Question: I am interested in the period of the day, in the winter when you do your strength training, is it morning?

Grobler: Yes, I think how we are organized, and of course people coming from all different place, from London and Henley and further like Oxford we do always a firs session in the morning because that’s the best thing I can organize that everybody’s there at the same time. Sometimes we do it also in the afternoon, but mainly at the moment to organize it and get everyone there we do it in the first session.

It has advantages as well, we have a good warm up session as well where we get into the day, warm up the muscles are well recovered so far in one way it is quite good because we do it before the endurance training on the water the muscle is a lot more recovered and I think in one way we train better. We take the time that’s why we have the good warm up to wake them up and then I think in the last three years we have quite good success and we move on quite well.

Question: In the summer period, the competitive period is it the same?

Grobler: I wouldn’t say it a totally routine, we squeeze it a little bit in and we go a little bit more what the crew needs and how it fits best with the crew and then and we are not doing it always a whole group and we do it a little bit based on crew needs.

Question: What is your opinion about outings, water sessions right after strength training? Does it improve the sensitivity? Does it improve the feel of the boat for the athletes?

Grobler: It always depends what weights session but I think to have session after weight training or even have it in combined, sometime we did it, I wouldn’t say it is a real practice but I can see what you like to get out to loosen the body up again and get them ready I think is a good thing. It always depends how much time you have, and you will see sometimes they row quite well after they do the exercises well in the weight room and you can see technically they can row quite well because there’s less resistance than you can have in the gym and they have good acceleration and they are still left, of course you are not trying to kill them off in the weight session so I think it is possible so sometimes we do it as well.

Question: It may be my eyes but for me the British rowers in heavyweights of course seem big, with big muscles in comparison with for example the Australians and some other crews and this I think has to do with the weight training. The question is do you think there is an optimal size for a rower in weight wise? In Rosie’s survey they tried to measure how tall people are but they did not ask how much they weigh. Is there an optimum, what a certain person should weigh in relation to how deep the boat will be in the water and such things?

Grobler: Ok I think I can’t really remember any research being done like we did with the rigging about how a World Champion or measure the World Champion, their body weight and how high they are. If you ask me for being quite a while in the sport and looking how an Olympic Champion looks, whatever ‘72 – 2004 I would still think, and some of the date came up here already it will be above 190cm if you look at body height and between 90 and 96 kilos knowing that if you take Steve Redgrave as five time Olympic Champion I think and especially in the last three Olympiads he was between 103-105 kilos in weight and his body height was 193or 194cm something so nothing extreme and Matthew (Pinsent) is quite similar, ok he was always more a heavier guy. But I think if you will look close their still lean enough, I don’t like that really slowing them down, big muscle profile, they should have a profile but I don’t think that the strength training should move in the direction close to bodybuilding because that will be really against the endurance side and I think if you have a lot of muscle mass and so build up the force will be against the bloodstream and after a while you get fat I think because with a big muscle mass the blood stream can get through when you get tense and you will not succeed so so far that is the observation ok so maybe we try to optimize that and to do the two things and that’s a big balance I can say it not the idea of bodybuilder.

You can see some nations over years were always struggling that last little bit because they are very powerful, very fast off the start, first 1000m and then nothing I think maybe because the disbalance, in that kind of training as well.

Question: Jurgen, my colleague is asking if it is true that Matthew Pinsent bench press result of 140 kilos.

Grobler: That’s correct. We have Tim (Foster) here as well who was already 110-115. He was (Pinsent) a natural gifted athlete.

Question: Why do you train muscles we don’t really need in rowing?

Grobler: I think that if you look to the body, I think the body is held together with muscles otherwise you would be like a sack of concrete or whatever but you still train the muscles. I don’t know the direction you question goes?

Questioner: I think it’s good to train them because you need a compete body and there id no need to only have muscles for rowing, but if you traing muscles you don’t really need they need oxygen instead of giving that oxygen to muscles that really need it. There is maybe a little balance.

Grobler: That is what we just said, I think that the thing is to find the right balance we don’t need a bodybuilder body. We just tried sometimes and if you look at the guys we have trained in rugby ok it a different sport what they can do in 10 strokes all the rowers sitting around the area are open mouthed but he cant do 20 strokes. So I think so we have to find that very fine line in the body. A very good athlete, athletic athlete but not over muscled.

Informing Youth of Their Non Selection in Competitive Sport

Selection – Informing Youth of Their Non Selection in Competitive Sport
By Lauren Capstick, MA:
University of Alberta

Questions for Coaches to consider when making elimination announcements:
To what extent does the way that I plan to inform athletes of their elimination:
Answer their questions of ‘why didn’t I make the team’?
In a way that is personal and relevant?
In a way that is sensitive of their age?
In a way that considers their investment and future goals in this sport?
Let me inform them of their strengths?
Provide me with the opportunity to discuss with them the alternative programs, leagues, or lessons in our sport?
Invite them to ask future questions about their evaluation and follow-up questions about the feedback I provided?
Consider the environment (surroundings, other people) in which they will react to being eliminated?
Encourage or discourage confrontations with the youth or their parents?
Match with the amount of time I can, or am willing to spend?
To what degree do I care about the subsequent physical activity of non-selected athletes and is maintaining their motivation in this sport or potential other activities important to me?

How well am I informed about other programs, leagues, clubs, or lessons in my sport offered within my

How best can I provide information about alternative sport choices to non-selected athletes?

Do the provided reasons as to why they are unsuccessful in making the team:
Include mostly areas that are controlled by the youth?
Include information about how to improve in those areas needing improvement?
Significantly overshadow any positive feedback I can offer about the areas in which they have strengths?

Are the eliminated youth already expecting some of the feedback that I will provide:
Because I indicated that I would provide feedback following the tryout?
Because feedback and coaching has been offered throughout the tryout process?

How do I feel about the ways in which I have experienced, or observed others being eliminated when I participated in youth sport?

What can I learn from the examples of other coaches regarding the manner that tryout decisions are announced?
What can I do to clarify how tryout results will be communicated?
Can I offer choices to the athletes that would allow them to receive news of their elimination in a manner that is personally desirable?
What is the role of parents and would it be beneficial to increase their role?
Should I/how can I inform parents of the tryout process?
Should I/how can I inform parents of their child’s elimination?
Will the child require support and parenting to deal with their elimination and what is my role in helping the parents?

How can I solicit feedback about the way in which I inform athletes of their non-selection?
How do I want the youth to feel when he/she leaves here as an eliminated athlete? What have I done to help make this happen?

Questions for Athletes facing elimination:
How can I ask for (more) feedback?
How can I respect the coach’s time whilst still gaining answers to my questions?
How can I demonstrate respect for the coach and the coaching decision?
How can I deal with my pain and disappointment and still learn from the situation?
What are my other options in this sport and how can I learn more about them?
How do I want my parents to be involved and what is my role in helping them to become involved?

Questions for Parents of Athletes facing (or potentially facing) elimination:
What should I know about the sport system before my child attends the tryouts?
What can I do to remain informed about the tryout process?
What are the options facing my child should he or she be eliminated?
What can I do to become informed about the alternative choices within their desired sport?
How can I respect the coach’s time and effort whilst still gaining answers to my questions?
How can I help my child appreciate the varying levels of competitiveness within their sport?
What can I do to collaborate and demonstrate my support for the coach’s decision?
How can I reinforce the positive feedback that was provided to my child?
How can I provide feedback to the coach and/or to the organization about the way in which nonselection was communicated?

Questions for Club Administrators of youth sport:
Whose responsibility is it to ensure that families understand the club, community, Provincial, or National developmental systems of the sport? How does this occur?
Whose responsibility is it to ensure that families receive information about alternative options (other playing levels) in the sport? How does this occur?
In sports were consecutive eliminations (trickle down cuts) occur in order to form teams at the highest levels first, whose responsibility is it to ensure that the process works properly and how is this achieved?
To what degree does our team/club/organization have policies, recommendations, best practices or resources about communicating tryout results that are available to coaches?
How can we solicit feedback about the way in which our coaches inform athletes of their nonselection?

Childlike Simplicity

Childlike Simplicity
By Suzie Tuff ey Riewald, PhD, NSCA-CPT,*D
From NSCA Performance Training Journal October 2007 Vol 6 No 5
Do the following phrases sound familiar to you?
“Race you to the light pole,”
“Whoever gets ten points first wins,”
“Coach said I get to start in the game today. I can’t wait.”
They are all things that you likely would hear come from the mouths of young athletes.

Contrast that with the following quote, “I’ve never played so poorly in my entire life. I can’t believe how nervous I was and how I collapsed under the pressure.“
This actual quote came from an athlete who had been playing and competing in her sport for years and years. It came after a poor performance in a major, international competition where she felt she had prepared herself to do well yet failed to do so.

In these competitive scenarios, there seems to be contrasting emotional experiences. In one, there is an overriding pressure or expectation to perform and in the other the athlete exhibits a joy and excitement about performing.
Which emotional reaction or perspective of competition do you think facilitates optimal performance?

There is something positive to be learned from kids and competition; have fun and treat your sport like the game it is and this attitude will translate over to great performances. In this article, we will take a look at how to bring this childlike simplicity back into your training and your approach to competition and see how it can enhance your enjoyment of your sport while also improving your performance.

Think for a minute abut your own childhood athletic experiences. What words come to mind when recalling competition? Ask a group of adults to reflect back and you will hear them use words like “fun,” “easy,” “enjoying the process of performing,” “naive,” “not too stressed.” And now ask yourself about how you perceive competition as an adult? You are likely to come up with words like “overly complex,” “stressful,” “not so much fun” and “anxiety provoking,” and that is what competition can become, if we let it.

Many elite athletes tell me, when recounting competitions as a child, that “it was so easy back then.” By easy, it seems athletes are referring to having the ability to just compete, to get up and do what they have been training for while not worrying too much about the outcome or the environment. Somewhere along the way a shift occurs where athletes worry about the outcome, worry about the environment (“Th is is the US Open” or “Th is is my first nationals”) and they then force their performances. And such thinking sure takes the fun out of competition.

While there is no one answer as to how to keep competition light and fun, I present some thoughts and ideas about how to help you bring the simplicity and ease back to competition:

Alter Your Perspective
I had an athlete once tell me that to get in an effective competition mindset he recalls when he used to race with his childhood friends. Specifically, he would remember walking home from school when someone would yell “race you to the end of the block” and all the kids would take off. Everyone would just race, there was no worrying about who was going to win. Now, in his competitions as an elite athlete, he tries to bring back this unencumbered, simplified approach. He reminds himself to “just race to the end of the block.” It can be that simple.

What, Really is the Task?
Kids do not get too caught up in the environment. It is about getting from point A to point B or hitting the ball over the net. This is true whether it is competing with friends after school or competing on a local or regional team. As adults, we sometimes let the environment complicate what needs to be done. Athletes often make the task more diffi cult by telling themselves it is the Olympics, or that a college recruiter is in the stands and that they have to be even better, faster, and more perfect. Th is is not true, the task is the same regardless of the environment. Remind yourself of this. Get back to the task stripped bare of the surrounding, getting from point A to B as fast as possible or hitting the ball over the net.

Let the Outcome Take Care of Itself
Of course, kids want to win. They want to be the fi rst to the end of the block, they want to catch the ball and they want to score a goal. But, they seem caught up in the joy of competing and trying one’s hardest. As adults, instead of directing
our energies to the process, we are consumed with the outcome. We forget that the process of performance is what influences the outcome. Acknowledge that winning, placing, running a specific time are important. Then, let it go and focus instead on what you need to do to perform well. The joy and ease of competing is sure to manifest itself with such an approach.

It is not often you are instructed to act like a child, in fact in most cases we are told to grow up or act our age. However, in this one regard, you should be like a child. Leave all your baggage at the door. Simplify things in your mind so all you are doing is really jumping as far as you can or racing your buddy across the pool. Bring this attitude to your competition and watch your performances improve.

About the AuthorSuzie Tuffey Riewald received her degrees in Sport Psychology/Exercise Science from the University of North Carolina – Greensboro. She has worked for USA Swimming as the Sport Psychology and Sport Science Director, and most recently as the Associate Director of Coaching with the USOC where she worked with various sport national governing bodies

The Importance of Coaching Credibility

The Importance of Coaching Credibility
By Sean McCann, Ph.D. USOC Sport Science and Technology
From Olympic Coach Vol 18 No 2
“Be more concerned with your character than your reputa­tion, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” John Wooden

While searching for new ideas on coaching and leadership, I recently read an article by Nilsen and Hernez-Broome, titled “Integrity in Leadership.” 1 It was a valuable reminder of the importance of credibility and integrity for any leader or coach.

Based on research by David Campbell of the Center of Creative Leadership, the article reported that the primary quality separat­ing the most effective and least effective leaders was credibility — defined as “being believable and worthy of trust.” Examples of credible leadership included being consistent in making decisions (even when this resulted in a short-term problem) and “walking the talk.” The results of this study of business leaders were so dramatic that the authors concluded that once a leader’s behavior caused the loss of credibility, “it is probably gone for good.”

This article reminded me of the times I have seen elite coaches lose credibility with their athletes. Talented coaches, who lose cred­ibility with their athletes and NGBs, can never retrieve this key ingredient of coaching leadership success. The two most common examples I have seen in elite coaching are: 1) giving up on athletes, and 2) disappearing in bad times, re-appearing in good times (fair-weather coaching).
Giving Up On Athletes
Coaching at the elite level requires tremendous energy and sacri­fices, often without significant rewards. When a coach’s team or individual athletes perform poorly, it is easy for a coach to ques­tion whether the sacrifices and energy required to coach are worth the commitment. This is especially true when family or other non-coaching responsibilities also are important to the coach.

Poor performance on the field can be so discouraging that a coach’s outlook can change for the worse; thinking, language and behavior can change dramatically. These changes are usually visible to other people in the coach’s environment and can become poisonous.

One Olympic coach told me that her athletes would never be internationally competitive due to disadvantages the sport faces in the U.S. Months later at the Olympic Games, an athlete in the sport said, “It’s amazing, but it is so hard to ‘get up’ for the Games, because nobody on the team thinks we can do anything here. Even our coach gave up on us after our last trip. She doesn’t even try to motivate us anymore. Why should I care? Half of my teammates are here just to go to the parties.”

When a coach gives up on athletes, they know it, and credibility and the chance to lead towards success is gone.

Fair-Weather Coaching
Fair weather coaching is the act of disappearing when results are bad and paying attention to athletes when things are going well. Like giving up on the athletes, coaches under tremendous pressure and stress may find it difficult not to fall into the behavior pattern. Because of time pressures, coaches often must focus their energies on the athletes with the best chances to succeed. This is simply the nature of high pressure sport. Athletes don’t always like this aspect of elite sport, but they usually understand it. On the other hand, coaches who carry this behavior to extremes may lose credibility and the ability to lead athletes.

For example, one athlete described her feelings towards her coach after winning an international competition,
“It is pathetic. When I was performing horribly, he told me I was lazy and didn’t even know what I was working on. Now that I win, he is jumping in front of reporters to tell them that it was his program that ‘turned things around.’ It was really his assistant who worked with me when I was struggling, and we both know it. He is the same way with injured athletes, never calling them and ignoring them unless they are ready to compete. It makes you feel like a piece of meat, and it makes you want to think only about yourself.”

Giving up on athletes and extreme fair-weather coaching are coaching behaviors in and of themselves - athletes learn that “coach doesn’t care about me.” Conversely, coaches who lose credibility become quite lonely when things are going poorly. The two-way street of good will and patience that can benefit a coach with struggling performers is absent when a coach loses credibility with athletes, other coaches and administrators. A coach who loses credibility loses the chance to lead, which may lead to a loss of his/her job.

Building and Maintaining Coaching Credibility
Losing credibility is devastating. What can coaches do to build and maintain it? The opening quote by Coach Wooden suggests a good starting point, character; but reputation is also impor­tant. As research has indicated when it comes to leadership roles, perception (and reputation) can become reality. Many coaches in danger of losing credibility are unaware of it, because they don’t realize how they are perceived by others.

Tips for Coaches Who Want to Maintain Credibility
Get feedback. Do you have a feedback mechanism to get an accurate reading of how others perceive you? If not, this should be a starting point. Coaches who get over the initial fear and discomfort of soliciting feedback from coaching peers and ath­letes find it to be extremely useful. If you are lucky, your sport organization has a system in place, but if it doesn’t, you should start one.

Increase consistency. “Walking the talk” is easy to say but often difficult to accomplish. One common mistake is to make a rule that is applied strictly for some athletes and less so for a star ath­lete. This is a classic example of the kind of inconsistency that leads to a loss of credibility. Taking an occasional short-term loss of long-term credibility is rarely a mistake. On the other hand, I have frequently advised coaches not to establish rules or expecta­tions that they are unable to enforce. If you know that you can’t be consistent in your behavior, don’t pretend of your will lose credibility with your athletes.

Know your strengths and weaknesses. Loss of credibility may be related to a blind spot within yourself. Coaches who understand their own motivation, personality and preferences can build an environment that helps maintain credibility. For example, a coach who thrives on constant change and new challenges might not want to preach the gospel of consistency, unless they have other people in the environment (such as a strong assistant coach) who will maintain a consistent approach.

Credibility is the key to strong leadership, and the loss of credibili­ty is a major factor when coaches lose the ability to lead. If leading others is one of your goals as a coach, consider your credibility and determine what you need to do to build and maintain it.

Nilsen, D. and Hernez Broome, G. (1998), Leadership in action, 18, 2, pp13-14.

Coaching the Y Generation

Coaching the Y Generation
By Kevin Giles
We live in an age where we all chase ‘best-practice’, whether in sport, the corporate sector or the community at large. Much is written by the world’s leading lights and we all look for those words of wisdom, supported by research and expounded with the jargon of today. I fully understand that what I attempt to set out here is probably verging on heresy, uncalled for under the spotlight of modern day coaching methodology and certainly not backed up by any research. To be honest I don’t care. I am doing what my Dad did and his father before him – I am speaking my mind as an ‘old-fart’ who the current generation of athletes, coaches, scientists and administrators will not give any time to at all.

Nicole Jeffery wrote an intriguing article in the Australian in early 2007 entitled “Coaching the Why Generation” where she outlined the changes in our current generation of developing athletes. This generation, apparently, are bringing different needs and values to the table and as such we, as coaches, should understand and accommodate them in their needs. Offering different coaching methods and structures, appeasing their need for ‘quick training and competition results’ and getting them involved in the decision making because the “new breed will not accept that the coach is always right’ were statements in the article that illustrated the psycho-social changes we all face. This new generation are ‘outcome-focused’
and therefore need to know all the reasons for why they are doing things in their training; especially those parts of training that are uncomfortable.

Sports science has been the major consumer of physical and financial resources in all national sporting strategies around the world. This arm of the sports development world has given us wonderful guidance in ‘best practice’ in the biomechanical, physiological and psychological aspects of high performance attainment. Without doubt this section of the sporting community has made us all question our assumptions and certainly given us a heap of measurements to put into our daily coaching practice. We can, or are expected to, measure just about everything from RPE’s (Ratio of Perceived Exertion – how tired are the poor dears?) to how far and at what velocity did they run today using Global Positioning Satellite data.

I am just completing my 40th year in coaching. I have experienced the trials and tribulations of this profession from my days as a teacher through to the heady heights of Olympic finals and Championship winning football finals. I have embraced sports science, the computer age and all the waffle that goes with establishing those previously mentioned National Performance Strategies (the reams of ‘warm and fuzzy’ words, the copious diagrams and flow-charts etc). I think that I have reached the stage of having to finally own up to the fact that I have grave misgivings about where we are heading in all this.

When did we all give in to this ‘welfare state’ stuff where the athlete is concerned? When did we appease the weak-minded or the athlete that simply wants something for nothing or will only commit if the reward is high enough? When did we as coaches stop doing it because we loved it and gave up on the lengthy apprenticeship we all must serve before being paid for it? My problem is that I still have in me some of the traits that I learned from the adults that surrounded me as I grew from childhood to being an adult. All the adults around me in my formative years were my teachers, my teachers in behaviours and values. They had been forced to endure the unspeakable Hades of war where their fortitude and courage were tested on a daily basis. They were stoic and resilient and in the post-war period they suffered from a lack of just about everything that we take for granted today. We were, or are, the ‘baby-boomers’ and those of us who have not completely capitulated to the slothful, greed driven, easy living needs of today may still have something to contribute.

If this ‘Y’ generation are as described then we seem to have two ways to approach them. We can either appease their weaknesses or we can retain a grasp on some of these fundamental traits of human-kind that have seen us survive hardship.

It is only a decade ago that I was heavily involved with the Brisbane Broncos Rugby League Club and I reflect on this period of my professional life as an illustration of the changes that have accelerated us towards this potential mediocrity. At that time the playing staff held down full-time jobs outside their sport. Many of them spent the day in physical labour as plumbers and concreters or at the docks scrubbing down the hulls of ships. They would turn up for training, on time, covered in the dust and dirt of their daily grind. No RPE’s for them, no complaints from them either. They got on with their work and gave us the very best they had every session, every week and every year. They got some rest when they had earned it.

No ice-baths, hot & cold showers, massage, special classes of this and that to consume all the available training time – they kept at their trade minute by minute, day by day, week by week in a relentless pursuit of the winning formula. Don’t get me wrong, sports science has unearthed some fabulous examples of recovery methods and I have used them all with significant success. The key issue is that they had better be ‘pushing out the envelope’ to earn these recovery methods. I see too many athletes ‘recovering’ from some very unimpressive levels of fatigue. The Championship winning squads of 1992 and 1993 contained men who overtly displayed fortitude and stoicism.

I had been appointed with one phrase that still burns in my memory, “put some ‘steel’ into them.” My interpretation was that as well as the football speed, strength and endurance components coupled with some decent injury prevention plans that had to be delivered, and delivered better than any of our opposition; the minds of these guys had to be strengthened to be able to overcome both physical and emotional adversity. After all, if you want to be a champion these traits will be sorely tested throughout the campaign. The idea was to give them physical and emotional resources way above what they would experience in a game.

Whatever intensity the opposition brought to the table we had to know that we had reserves that they could never match. The game had to become the easiest part of the week by setting emotional and physical standards so high that we were never at our limits, ever. Don’t for one minute think that I had all the answers to this challenge. I had no text book to turn to or physiological scoring tables to check against. This was ‘seat–of-the-pants stuff’ where I applied the known theories of training and periodisation to the distant echoes of greatness those previous generations had displayed. A hero is not a celebrity, or someone who wins a contest in the sporting arena. A hero is someone who does something extraordinary, against all the odds and with maximum sacrifice. I took the standards that I had been exposed to as a child as a guide to ‘what was possible’ for the Broncos. The bar was set high, the road was a relentless exposure to the real interpretation of attitude commitment and discipline and the players were to be challenged in all aspects of their lives.

In some cases my job was a lot easier than that of my counterparts today. Many of the young men in our charge were hungry for personal and team success, driven by a deep desire to win and carried little or no ‘baggage’ that might keep them from their dreams. The ‘baggage’ I refer to are things like, “What’s in it for me?”, “Is there an easier way?” Of course I tried my best to give them the best balance of training that was well periodised and well thought out but the key issue was to find out how they could develop their ‘mental toughness’, the ability to overcome adversity and for them to accept that whatever dreams they had about winning would have to be earned – and the price would be high, very high.

We can all train athletes hard, that’s not difficult to do. If it was just a matter of giving them horrendous numbers of reps and sets at a high intensity then anyone could do it. The key is to train smart and hard and to know when to take a mighty step forward and when to back off. Here I was in the hands of the players. Don’t get me wrong – I hardly ever asked them for an opinion – I watched closely for all the tell-tale signs of ‘too-much’ or ‘too-little’. Put simply, I got to know them as individuals, to understand when they were giving up due to being weak-willed or when they had really had enough physiologically and psychologically. I put the edge of the physiological envelope lower than the edge of the psychological envelope.

These guys had to take it psychologically, just like my Dad and his fellow battlers of the 1940’s and 50’s. They ‘couldn’t die doing this’ was a typical response to the oft heard cries of complaint and submission. Put another way, I was unfair to them – for a reason. Every missed target, every missed rule, every smart comment, every ‘collapse with feigned exhaustion’, every ‘tactical limp’, was met with a firestorm of reaction. Repetitions and sets of exercises were started again, sessions were started again from scratch, those that gave up were sent home in disgrace to ‘never darken my door again’ or ‘get him out of my sight’. Unfair, unjust, yes, but this scheme always found their weak traits. They could either quit on themselves or the team or find the fortitude and stoicism to get through it. They had no protection from this onslaught; they could not turn to a Players Association to get them off the hook, or go bleating to coach Bennett.

In today’s ‘welfare’ environment none of this would work. Complaints are met with benevolence and charity. People are appeased on their way to mediocrity and they drag a load of other ‘do-gooders’ with them. We continually shift our social standards and accept less and less as being acceptable. Laws are written, agencies resourced and society capitulates to the bleating of the weak.

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. Sports science has given us the tools to help us decide when an athlete should reduce or adjust training so that the training system can be precise. Great, I have tried all this stuff and it works. What I would like to also see as a tool is something that indicates when the athlete should take a ‘leap of faith’ into the unknown, whether this is to do with the psychological or physiological aspects of training. Stop finding all the reasons to “back–off’ training ands give them the tools to go to the dark places that their talent will take them. In other words what are they willing to give-up or sacrifice to improve their current status? What psychological or physiological ‘shock-level” are they willing to experience as the payment for their success.

We often use the words attitude, commitment and discipline as the underpinning requirements of any successful person. The trouble is they are only words and we often award the individual with the trappings of these words without them really earning them. We devalue these words but more importantly we fail to see that they should be used as a result of consistent, repeatable ACTION. I see coaches handing out these words to athletes who try to lead two lives – one life, the shallow simulation of attitude, commitment and discipline when in the training environment and the other one completely the opposite when outside the training environment.