I started this site in 2015 and I really appreciate everyone who read, shared, and commented in 2016 to keep driving me to write more content here.
One of my favorite things to come out of this year was working with fellow rowing strength coaches Blake Gourley and Joe Deleo to start the Strength Coach Roundtable on Rowperfect UK’s Rowing Chat channel. We’ve done four episodes and will do our fifth in February on the topic of Performance Psychology for Rowers. Mental skills training is a passion of mine so I’m really excited for this episode.
I’m glad, and a bit surprised, at the popularity of the specialization article. It ventures out a bit from my usual strength training content but seemed to strike a chord with my readers. It was shared on Facebook massively and I hope changed some minds on specialization and informed on long-term athletic development.
It’s off-season time for spring lacrosse and you want to make sure to get the most out of your training! While you’re here, check out my off-season training resources for lacrosse and drop me a comment if you have any questions.
In part one last week, we covered person-first language, took a detailed look at what it means to truly be inclusive, and evaluated the differences (or lack thereof) in characteristics of athletes with and without disabilities. In part two, we’ll use the critical theory to look at how sport reflects society for people with disabilities, the concept of social settings to check the message your program is sending to people with disabilities, and wrap things up with an action plan for coaches.
Sport as a Model of Society
Especially in an Olympic year, we constantly hear about the values of sport in society. Sports build character, sports teach life lessons, sports teach the value of hard work, team work, self-confidence, and so on. There is no doubt that sport can be a powerful way to do all of these things, but only when done with the goal of doing so. Just like playing a team-building game on the first day of practice doesn’t automatically build a rock-solid team with no further effort, the messages you want to send and the lessons you want to teach with sport need to be consistently evaluated and reinforced to be effective.
One way that we can evaluate sports in society is with the Critical Theory. This is one of five main sociological theories that has guided sociological research for the last fifty years, and focuses on the power dynamics present in a given environment . Someone using critical theory will see sport is an area where culture and social relations can be produced and changed. History has proven that this is the case in sport, from race relations to gender stereotypes, and hopefully now to disability. Main questions to ask of your program from a critical theory perspective include:
How do people without disabilities interact with, influence, and make decisions for those with disabilities?
How is power shared between individuals with and without disabilities? What is the balance of competitive opportunities, resources, equipment, coaching, and more?
I’m a straight, white, healthy, 24-year old athletic male with no disabilities. No one in my close family has disabilities, and it’s not something that I consider myself to know much about. I coach high school lacrosse and college rowing, two sports traditionally known for being more privileged, and aside from a few athletes with attention deficit disorder, I haven’t had any experience of coaching athletes with disabilities. My exposure to the field of disability comes from my girlfriend, an MA graduate in rehabilitation counseling who works in residential services for people with disabilities, and a few opportunities to volunteer with an adaptive rowing program in the Seattle area. I decided to do a final project for a graduate school course on this subject and set about learning more about sport for people with disabilities as well as accommodations and inclusivity in sport. As I started researching, talking to other coaches, and thinking about my own experiences, I realized I had a lot to learn. My goal with this article is to share my learning process, including my own preconceived notions, background research and sociological theory, and tangible takeaways for my own coaching and hopefully yours too.
Part one of this article will discuss person-first language, how we can define and produce inclusiveness, and whether there actually is a difference between athletes with and without disabilities. Part two will discuss how sports reflect society for people with disabilities, how environment affects perceptions and actions, and will conclude with an action plan for coaches.
There are a number of chronic and acute pains and injuries in sports that result from a problem in the hips.
The hip girdle is quite complex, with its four directions of motion and dozens of muscles inserting, attaching, and acting on the various structures. However, don’t get bogged down in complex analyses of each individual muscle and joint. There are a few common practices that most athletes would benefit from in their training to enjoy happy and healthy hips for a long career and great performances.
Summer season is a great time for lacrosse players everywhere to focus on developing some general athletic qualities. Without school, most players have plenty of time on their hands. You almost can’t get enough of wall ball, footwork, and agility drills. For one, they aren’t as physically stressful as a conditioning session or strength training. In order for agility drills to be effective, you can’t do them in a highly fatigued state where motor patterns break down, as you’ll end up ingraining bad movement habits. Ideally, you could do multiple short sessions of agility work and wall ball several times a day without incurring much physical fatigue.
I’ve written before on Footwork and Agility in Lacrosse, with examples of basic drills in the 4-cone box, M, and chair pattern. Here are some more variations and drills to add in to your lacrosse footwork training.
Remember, not all agility drills are designed for 1-to-1 carryover to a lacrosse game. Just like you learn to drive in a parking lot before merging on to the freeway, you need to develop fundamental athletic movement skills in order to demonstrate those skills in a dynamic environment. I picked the first four drills for their ability to allow the athlete to practice basic athletic movement in a controlled environment (think “parking lot”). It’s vital to have these skills down before moving to the final two drills where the athlete has to apply those in a more dynamic environment (“freeway”). (more…)
Dad buys me a used bench and concrete weights at age 12-13. We have to keep a training log for karate promotions, so I begin journaling my training as my middle school best friend and I do endless variations of bench press and arms exercises. I get bit by “the iron bug” and build the early habit of the training log.
Despite no real experience, knowledge, or accomplishments, I become “the guy” in high school writing training programs for himself and anyone who wants one. I latch on to my high school strength and conditioning class teacher and coach. He supervises my senior project after I change interests from sociology/criminal justice to “undecided,” and I do my presentation on strength training for rowing.
I play club lacrosse in college and become the de facto team strength and conditioning coach, organizing weight-room and agility and conditioning sessions.
I work with a few rowers at my student job and run into them in the weight-room during a lacrosse session. They jump in and I start working with a few of them individually. I decide to major in kinesiology because I enjoy sports and training.
Because I’m in the weight-room so much, actual coaches and athletes start assuming I know what I’m doing. The undergrad kinesiology program is backed up, so thanks to one of these connections, I fulfill my year-long internship requirement with the varsity track and field team before I actually begin coursework.
I’m giving advice and coaching to 5-6 rowers at this point, and a few of them become team captains/cabinet members. They talk to their coach about strength training and I officially become the team strength coach.
I overhear my former lacrosse teammate and then-roommate talking on the phone with the head coach of a new lacrosse program he’s coaching, lamenting their struggles to find a JV assistant coach. I sign my coaching contract the next week.
I have a job at a local gym after I graduate. I work it for a while and things don’t work out, so I take a desk job. I have a lot of time, so I start a website so that my high school lacrosse players and college rowers can find technique videos and training resources.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”
I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ve said things to athletes that I’ve regretted, missed plenty of opportunities, skipped on readings that I should’ve read in school, called plays that didn’t work out, and done some dumb things in the weight-room. I’ve learned a lot from these, and I know I’ll make more and learn from those too.
I’ve also done a few things right that I think would help a new coach. (more…)
While many athletes are rolling straight from spring lacrosse to summer club ball, others will have the next few months away from structured sport. Off-seasons are critical to long-term success as valuable time to lay a foundation of strength, size, speed, and athletic fundamentals. Year-round structured sports can lead to overuse injuries, burnout, and failure to maximize potential by depriving athletes of off-season training.
I’ve written many times over the last year about the value of an off-season and how to train during off-seasons to maximize success and potential. Rather than write this all again, here is the collection of off-season resources and links all in one place. A few notes: (more…)
Every sport relies on a foundation of basic skills that must be mastered for continuing improvement. As the level of play improves from youth to JV to varsity to college to professional, individual ability becomes less about how strong your strengths are and more about how strong your weaknesses are. A player with one very strong strength may be able to rely on that at lower levels of the game, but will struggle to keep up with teammates and opponents if he does not also improve his weaknesses.
Relying on one pet dodge, pet shot, or takeaway check will only be successful for so long. Players who want long-term success will dedicate themselves to improvement in the following six fundamental skills.
I posted an article on Facebook a month ago summarizing many of the problems with youth sports and explaining a few ways that youth and high school coaches could improve the situation. The article was “Does Youth Sports Get the Math All Wrong?” by John O’Sullivan from the Changing the Game Project. Many commenters on the article agreed, but one nonbeliever stuck out. They said, “How do you expect part-time HS coaches to actually do any of this?” and suggested that it would be, “like a Harvard Skytte prize-winning professor coming to 3rd grade to teach quantum physics.”
I know a thing or two about a thing or two, and haven’t gotten a Skytte prize for either of them, but here’s what this part-time HS coach does. First, let’s cover research-based evidence of youth sport specialization vs. non-specialization, or “multilateral” development.
#1: “Don’t force, expect, or encourage early specialization”
I encourage all of my athletes to play other sports in the off-season. I don’t leave the “why” up to them—expecting children or HS athletes to read between the lines is a road to frustration. I always played multiple sports, so I talk about what I personally learned and how I applied it from sport to sport. Lead them through it and draw comparisons between their sport and others. Most young athletes won’t see the strategic similarities between soccer and lacrosse or similar skillsets between wrestling and football until you explain it a bit. (more…)