Tag Archives: sport-specific skill development

Youth Sports Should Focus on FUNdamentals

24 Jul

Millions of children across the country participate in youth sports.  It’s not unusual for children to start participating in youth sports as early as four to five years of age.  And, while there are lots of potential benefits associated with participation in youth sports, it’s critically important that parents and coaches make it a positive experience — at home, and at all practices and games.

Participation is the first step — get them involved.  The benefits of youth sports participation reach far beyond what children do today on the court or field of play, and include:

  • Socialization with peers and adults
  • Increased independence and confidence
  • Sense of achievement
  • Development of positive self-esteem
  • Opportunity to demonstrate leadership skills
  • Learn to compete and cooperate with others
  • Development of physical skills
  • Learn to make good decisions and act responsibly
  • Learn appropriate expression of emotions and feelings

Focus on development of physical skillsnot winning and losing.  This is the time to emphasize sport-specific skill development (for example, ball-handling and shooting for basketball players), as well as the development of strength, speed, agility, coordination, and endurance.  Be willing to allow victory and defeat to be a by-product of the process, and not the primary focus.

Encourage them.  Kids learn by what we say, but even more so by what we do.  Be positive and encouraging.  A word of encouragement in a difficult situation goes a long way with a child.  Also, be aware of how you act, interact, and react with your team, other parents, opposing coaches and teams, and officials.  As an adult and authority figure, your words and actions will be interpreted as “situationally appropriate” by children watching you and, ultimately, learning from you.

Make it fun.  Children should enjoy their participation in sports.  It’s okay to smile.  Maintain a pleasant demeanor and don’t raise your voice in anger or to criticize; only to praise, encourage, or to be heard while providing direction.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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Mental Preparation is the Key

8 Feb

joey-votto-smi2[1]Every athlete knows that physical tools are important.  Strength, speed, agility, and athleticismand the commitment to the development of each — are integral to success in virtually every sport.  Factor in sport-specific skill development (for example, basketball ball-handling and shooting), and you’re on your way to building a strong foundation.

Equally important is your mind, and its ability to drive your body.  Mental preparation, focus, and confidence are all implicated in your success and attainment of your goals.  Generally, your limits will be those you set for yourself.  Here are some tips to improve performance and push through those self-imposed limitations through mental preparation.

Have a plan

I’m always surprised by athletes, especially at the higher levels, who “just play.”  That is, they don’t really have a game plan.  Situational preparation leads to successful execution.  A baseball player should go to the plate with a plan, depending on the score, inning, opposing tendencies and trends, number of outs, baserunners, pitch type and location, etc.  Having a plan — and working your plan — will help build your confidence, which fuels a positive mindset.

Stay positive

A negative attitude and focus won’t help you or your team.  When I train athletes, we don’t talk about the negative.  Sure, there will be times when you face less-than-desirable circumstances and conditions (inclement weather, an injured teammate, etc.)  Your attitude is contagious and it will impact the people around you.  Do your best to maintain positive words and body language.  Expect to win.

Be adaptable

There’s a lot you can control, but not everything.  You have to practice being adaptable, and believe you can do anything.  Train yourself to overcome obstacles, and not concede to them.  For example, a basketball point guard should anticipate the defense taking away his/her strong hand, and should practice and develop capable ball-handling skills with his/her “off” hand.

Focus on small goals

Rather than focusing on winning the game, direct your focus on each individual at-bat or offensive possession.  Your goal should be to win each inning, quarter, or period.  Successful attainment of each small goal will lead you, ultimately, to your larger goal.  Looking too far ahead to the outcome can dilute your focus.  Do your best to impact the present and the future will take care of itself.

Talk to yourself

Positive self-talk is a strong motivator.  External motivation is great, but it’s also inconsistent — you can’t always count on others to motivate you.  Find quotes, sayings, or slogans that motivate you.  Visualize yourself succeeding (and celebrating).  Learn to communicate with yourself in a way that is positive and motivating.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Taper Your Training Regimen for Peak Performance

12 Oct

Straight Bar Deadlift

Tapering is an important component of the training process. It involves the systematic reduction of training frequency, duration, and intensity combined with an increased emphasis on sport-specific skill development and nutritional intervention. The objective of tapering the training regimen is to attain peak performance during the competition season.

As a general rule, your strength and conditioning activity (frequency, duration, etc.) should be at its highest level during your off-season, when sport specific activity (practices, games, etc.) is typically at its lowest level.  As you progress toward the pre-season phase (usually 4-8 weeks prior to the beginning of the season), your strength training should gradually taper down until the season begins.  At that point, your strength training activity should be at its lowest level, relative to your yearly cycle. At Athletic Performance Training Center we typically observe three phases: Off-season, pre-season, and in-season. That being said, it’s not quite that simple — in reality — when you factor in multiple sports and “off-season” activities like AAU basketball and JO volleyball. Nevertheless, your goal should be to build strength during the off- and pre-season phases, and (at least) maintain strength during the in-season phase.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Summer Camp Thoughts and Tips

2 May

camps[1]Summer is right around the corner (although you’d never know it by the weather in northeast Ohio), and that means it’s time to start thinking about summer camps.  Many athletes use summer camps as an opportunity to learn and further develop skills that will help them improve their performance in the sport(s) they play.

Summer camps may focus on sport-specific skill development (like ball-handling and shooting) or physical development, like the Speed & Agility Camp we offer at Athletic Performance Training Center.  We encourage athletes to talk with parents and coaches, following their sport season, to create an action plan and determine “next steps” for continued development.

Here are some things to think about as you begin the summer camp selection process:

  • Is the camp the right fit for you?  Consider factors like how well the camp’s offerings reflect your needs, what age groups will be participating, staff to player ratio, and whether the camp will provide you with adequate attention and repetitions.
  • Who is running the camp?  What are the camp director’s qualifications, with regard to experience, expertise, certifications, etc.?  If possible, check with others who have previously participated in the camp or worked with the director.
  • Who will be assisting?  Does the camp employ qualified assistants or just a bunch of high school kids.  Assistants should be expected to explain and demonstrate skills, evaluate and correct technique, and effectively communicate with campers.
  • Safety first!  All camp staff should be first-aid and CPR certified by an accredited organization like the American Red Cross.
  • Are they insured?  Liability insurance is not cheap, but it’s a must.  It protects both camp staff and camp participants.  My experience is that most camps/organizations are not covered, and that is potentially a big mistake.

Do your homework to ensure that your camp is a positive, productive experience.

Get STRONGER, Get FAST

By Failing to Prepare, You Are Preparing to Fail

20 Jan

smb_081022_gjw_practice[1]“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

Successful performance requires purposeful preparation.  This is true in school, sports, business, and life.  As an athlete, your preparation should be year-round, and include sport-specific skill development (for example, basketball ball-handling and shooting); strength and conditioning; and nutrition.

Sport-Specific Skill Development

The first step toward improvement is gaining an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses (I like to refer to them as “areas of opportunity”).  If you have access to video footage of your games, watch it — video doesn’t lie.  Sit down with your coach and have a discussion about what he or she thinks you do well and the areas in which you can improve.  Your goal should be to become a better all-around (complete) player.  The more you can contribute — on both sides of the ball — the greater your value to your team.  You want to be an asset to your team when you’re on the field or court… not a liability.  Don’t get caught up comparing yourself to teammates and/or opponents.  Focus on self-improvement — be better today than you were yesterday.

Strength and Conditioning

Improvements in strength, speed, agility, and athleticism can only benefit you as an athlete.  A strength and conditioning professional can help you develop a plan that is tailored to your needs and goals as an athlete.  Your strength and conditioning plan should be periodized, with phases to address the off-season, pre-season, and in-season.  Generally, as your sport-specific activity increases, your strength and conditioning activity should decrease (taper), and vice-versa.  Your strength and conditioning plan should also be progressive, gradually increasing in intensity over time to ensure improvement.  Don’t take the in-season phase off — it’s important to maintain what you’ve developed!

Nutrition

Learn how to fuel your body for optimum performance.  You can refer to several of my previous blog posts that discuss the importance of breakfast, pre- and post-workout nutrition, and sports performance nutrition.  Don’t underestimate the impact proper nutrition can make — it can affect your metabolism, energy level, and mental focus.

Goal Setting

It’s important to set some challenging but attainable (realistic) goals.  You’re probably not going to go from being a 50% free-throw shooter to an 80% shooter, overnight.  It’s fine for your ultimate goal to be 80%, but set incremental goals along the way.  Develop a plan (in writing) that incorporates lots of purposeful practice and repetition.  Decide how you will measure success, then align your plan with — and channel your efforts toward — your goal.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Make Things More Challenging

2 Nov

As a boy, Stephen Curry played basketball in his grandfather’s gravel driveway, as did his father, Dell.

“If you can dribble and control the ball off that gravel,” Curry says, “you’ll be all right on hardwood.”

Even now when Curry trains, he adds elements that make the game harder, so when he’s in that moment of competition in a real game, it should be easier.

Here are some examples of basketball drills with an added degree of difficulty:

  • Ball handling and shooting with an over-sized basketball
  • Ball handling with a weighted basketball
  • Ball handling with two basketballs
  • Over-speed ball handling
  • Ball handling with “blinders”
  • Shooting on a smaller (diameter) rim
  • Shooting with a quicker-than-normal release
  • Ball handling and defensive footwork drills with banded resistance

This strategy lends itself to other sports, as well.

Hockey and soccer players can practice shooting into smaller nets.  They can also practice puck/ball handling with a variety of obstacles, including banded resistance.

Baseball players can take batting practice from a shorter than regulation distance, while maintaining pitch velocity.  Also, batting practice from close range with golf ball-sized wiffle balls and/or a thunderstick (practice bat with a handle-sized barrel diameter) is a great way to improve hand-eye coordination.  Fielding practice gloves — which are flat like pancakes and don’t “close” — can accelerate the development of proper, sure-handed fielding.

Improve your game by adding a degree of difficulty to your practice drills.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

There is No Off-Season

16 Oct

broncos-offseason-workout_1398097292643_4162445_ver1.0_640_480[1]

If you’re serious about winning, there is no off-season.

Winning — and the process of self-improvement that leads to winning — is a year-round endeavor.

Strength, speed, and agility training; sport-specific skill development; and proper nutrition require consistent, continuous effort.

That’s not to say that winning — or succeeding — requires an obsessive, all-or-nothing approach that lacks balance and perspective.

It simply means that you’ve got to be committed to the process.  And that process must be incorporated into your off-season, pre-season, and in-season phases.

During the off-season, you’ve got to build it; During the pre-season, you’ve got to refine and perfect it; During the season, you’ve got to maintain it.

Taking a break, every once in a while, is good for your physical and psychological well-being.  At Athletic Performance Training Center, we like our athletes to take an “unloading” week at the end of each cycle — 12 weeks “on,” 1 week “off.”  During their unloading week, we don’t want to see them in the weight room or at the gym.

However, prolonged time away from your training results in erosion of your physical capabilities and sport-specific skills.

The same principles apply to academics, the arts, and business/professional development.

Read more about Why You Shouldn’t Treat the Off-Season Like a Vacation.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

You Can’t Do It All in the Weight Room

1 Apr

Speed-Resistance-Training-Parachute-1[1]Strength and speed development start in the weight room.  Stronger and faster is the foundation for athletic performance improvement.

But you can’t do it all in the weight room.  What you do outside the weight room will also have an impact on your performance.  Speed and agility training, sport-specific skill development, nutrition, rest and recovery, and mental preparation also complement and play an important role in your development as an athlete.

Speed and Agility Training

Speed development involves a combination of 3 components:

  • Technique — running form and mechanics
  • Assisted and resisted sprinting
  • Strength and power training, including plyometrics

Agility training utilizes exercises and drills that require acceleration, deceleration, change of direction, and reaction.

Sport-Specific Skill Development

Strong and fast is important, but it won’t help you overcome weak ball-handling and shooting skills.  Regardless of the sport(s) you play, skills practice — with proper technique and lots of repetition — will be critical to your progress and success as an athlete.  Time spent on the court, in the batting cage, etc. should focus on quality, and a knowledgeable, experienced coach or trainer can be a valuable resource to make the developmental process more efficient and effective.  Video is also a great tool for performance development (the camera never lies).

Nutrition

Eating the right foods — quantity and quality — is important for two reasons: energy and recovery.  Before you exercise, practice, or play, your nutritional choices help to ensure that you will have adequate energy to perform optimally.  Afterward, the proper balance of nutrients helps with your body’s recovery process, preparing your body for next time.  You should aim to get most of your nutrients from whole foods, and nutritional supplements (multi-vitamin, protein) can also be helpful — especially since active individuals and athletes have a considerably higher need for nutrients to support an active metabolism.

Rest and Recovery

When it comes to strength and speed development, more is not necessarily better.  The goal should be to avoid burnout and injury caused by over-training, doing as much as you need to do to reach your performance goals, and not necessarily as much as you can (please note this does not mean do as little as you can).  Since training places physical and metabolic stress on your body, rest and recovery is necessary for your musculoskeletal system’s regenerative process.  Generally, there is a correlation between the intensity of your training and the amount of rest required by your body to continue to perform at an optimal level.  Make sure you allow for adequate rest during and between workouts, and get a good night’s sleep.

Mental Preparation

In addition to preparing your body, you’ve got to prepare your mind.  Elements of effective mental preparation include goal setting, visualization, focus, confidence, and commitment.  Be a smart athlete — a student of the game.  Be positive and adaptable, and utilize positive self-talk as a motivator.  Expect success and prepare accordingly.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Youth Sports Should Focus on FUNdamentals

10 Mar

muckdogs2[1]Millions of children across the country participate in youth sports.  It’s not unusual for children to start participating in youth sports as early as four to five years of age.  And, while there are lots of potential benefits associated with participation in youth sports, it’s critically important that parents and coaches make it a positive experience — at home, and at all practices and games.

Participation is the first step — get them involved.  The benefits of youth sports participation reach far beyond what children do today on the court or field of play, and include:

  • Socialization with peers and adults
  • Increased independence and confidence
  • Sense of achievement
  • Development of positive self-esteem
  • Opportunity to demonstrate leadership skills
  • Learn to compete and cooperate with others
  • Development of physical skills
  • Learn to make good decisions and act responsibly
  • Learn appropriate expression of emotions and feelings

Focus on development of physical skills, not winning and losing.  This is the time to emphasize sport-specific skill development (for example, ball-handling and shooting for basketball players), as well as the development of strength, speed, agility, coordination, and endurance.  Be willing to allow victory and defeat to be a by-product of the process, and not the primary focus.

Encourage them.  Kids learn by what we say, but even more so by what we do.  Be positive and encouraging.  A word of encouragement in a difficult situation goes a long way with a child.  Also, be aware of how you act, interact, and react with your team, other parents, opposing coaches and teams, and officials.  As an adult and authority figure, your words and actions will be interpreted as “situationally appropriate” by children watching you and, ultimately, learning from you.

Make it fun.  Children should enjoy their participation in sports.  It’s okay to smile.  Maintain a pleasant demeanor and don’t raise your voice in anger or to criticize; only to praise, encourage, or to be heard while providing direction.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Mental Preparation is the Key

25 Oct

joey-votto-smi2[1]Every athlete knows that physical tools are important.  Strength, speed, agility, and athleticismand the commitment to the development of each — are integral to success in virtually every sport.  Factor in sport-specific skill development (for example, basketball ball-handling and shooting), and you’re on your way to building a strong foundation.

Equally important is your mind, and its ability to drive your body.  Mental preparation, focus, and confidence are all implicated in your success and attainment of your goals.  Generally, your limits will be those you set for yourself.  Here are some tips to improve performance and push through those self-imposed limitations through mental preparation.

Have a plan

I’m always surprised by athletes, especially at the higher levels, who “just play.”  That is, they don’t really have a game plan.  Situational preparation leads to successful execution.  A baseball player should go to the plate with a plan, depending on the score, inning, opposing tendencies and trends, number of outs, baserunners, pitch type and location, etc.  Having a plan — and working your plan — will help build your confidence, which fuels a positive mindset.

Stay positive

A negative attitude and focus won’t help you or your team.  When I train athletes, we don’t talk about the negative.  Sure, there will be times when you face less-than-desirable circumstances and conditions (inclement weather, an injured teammate, etc.)  Your attitude is contagious and it will impact the people around you.  Do your best to maintain positive words and body language.  Expect to win.

Be adaptable

There’s a lot you can control, but not everything.  You have to practice being adaptable, and believe you can do anything.  Train yourself to overcome obstacles, and not concede to them.  For example, a basketball point guard should anticipate the defense taking away his/her strong hand, and should practice and develop capable ball-handling skills with his/her “off” hand.

Focus on small goals

Rather than focusing on winning the game, direct your focus on each individual at-bat or offensive possession.  Your goal should be to win each inning, quarter, or period.  Successful attainment of each small goal will lead you, ultimately, to your larger goal.  Looking too far ahead to the outcome can dilute your focus.  Do your best to impact the present and the future will take care of itself.

Talk to yourself

Positive self-talk is a strong motivator.  External motivation is great, but it’s also inconsistent — you can’t always count on others to motivate you.  Find quotes, sayings, or slogans that motivate you.  Visualize yourself succeeding (and celebrating).  Learn to communicate with yourself in a way that is positive and motivating.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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