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This article was the first in a three part series published in Game Day Youth Sports magazine in May 2013
Coaches today have a very tough job. They all have high expectations and minimal time to achieve them. This is going on from the professional ranks down to the youth leagues. Coaches are expected to win today no matter what the circumstances. But how do you know if your team is really ready to compete?
One thing that I always tell my athletes and parents is that to be a better “pick your sport” athlete you cannot just play more of that sport. The best football, soccer, baseball and basketball players all have one common characteristic; they are great athletes. So by default, a team with the best athletes will always be able to compete. Now the question becomes how to assess your athletes’ performance needs?
As a coach you have ample time to see what your athletes are doing right or wrong, but you do need to know what you are looking for. There are four primary areas that you want to consider while assessing your athletes:
The Head: Should be basically still and level while running. Problems occur when the head moves side to side or up and down. Issues with the head can lead directly to problems with the rest of the body.
The Arms: They must move aggressively from the shoulders and in a direct line from hip to cheek. Inefficiency develops when they cross the body or stay too low. Another major issue is when movement comes from the elbow.
The Torso: Like the head it should be relatively still but with a slight forward lean. Many of the issues of the torso are directly correlated to other areas of the body, but still need to be addressed. These issues include leaning forward, leaning back and twisting side to side.
The Legs: Motion should come from the knees with limited back kick. The feet also need to hit the ground on the balls. Major issues occur when the legs reach out in front, kick up behind or just barely come off of the ground. The most common issue in youth is landing on flat feet while running. This will derail any thoughts of being fast.
Once you identify these issues it is time to correct them and move forward. If you as a coach have adequate knowledge of speed and agility techniques then you can personally work on the problems. If you do not, don’t try to do some drills that you used to do when you were younger, they never have the same effect. You need to locate a qualified speed coach, like at SFX, to work with your athletes and get them right.
Now I know that you are asking if there is anything that you can do on your own if you want to help your athletes on a basic level. Well follow along for the next couple of months while I discuss each area in more depth and give you simple remedies to help correct each issue.
Once people find out that I am a trainer I get asked “What do I need to do to start working out”. My answer to them is always the same no matter who they are; “Just get started and start off easy”. The biggest issue that I see with this question is that people expect to go from doing nothing to doing a hardcore workout routine. If you go in with that mindset you are more likely to fail because either your mind or your body will sabotage you. In your mind you know that you cannot do it and you really do not want to go through the pain. So instead of starting you talk yourself into not doing anything. Then when you finally go in, you work out so hard that you cannot move for the next few days and don’t go back in. Either way you are not helping yourself to start a program.
As I said before you need to start off easy. That could mean just going out for a 10 minute walk everyday or doing a body weight routine at home for 10 – 20 minutes. Now even with this your body will be sore, but it will not be to a point where you cannot do anything else. With this lower intensity your body will get acclimated to the stress of working out gradually and allow for consistent work. During this time your body will produce endorphins that will make you start to crave the workouts and be able to add more intensity and time to what you are doing. After that you will look for ways to get your workout in and that’s when the real results start coming.
For some social proof of this starting easy principle just take a look at sports. All sports have a pre-season period before the actual games begin. This is the time that the players take to get used to the rigors of their sport. You will never see a season start off with the playoff or championship games. It takes some time to get to that point. So, to sum it all up, to get yourself working out consistently you need to start today and start off with something easy.
Whether you think you can or think you can’t. You are right
Last fitness post I talked about the 5 most common problems that I see with recreational tennis in Atlanta. Now let me clear something up for you. When I say recreational I mean not on the professional or even high amateur circuits. But this does not mean that the players are not out there playing for real. They are deep into tournaments and titles and awards all the same. Maybe that is the reason that they go through all of these problems in the first place. Who knows!!
I want to take the opportunity in this article to tell you my solutions to these problems. I know that most of the competitive athletes that read this will just ignore it, but I guarantee if you follow some if not all of these solutions you can end up playing better than you ever had.
- Playing too much
Solution: Just say NO
As I said last time, this may be the most difficult problem of the group to deal with. The actual solution is very simple, but the issues come from the action steps to complete it. Everyone believes that they owe it to neighbors, friends, family members and past teammates that they play when asked. But this is not the case. You owe it to your body (and family) to make smarter decisions when it comes to physical activities. You must plan out your year and the different leagues that you could possibly join so that you allow yourself more than one day off each week. Make sure that different leagues don’t overlap, especially if one is during playoff time. And lastly, give yourself a few weeks after seasons to just rest and get away from the game.
- Not having playing condition equipment
Solution: Check regularly and replace when necessary
This solution goes a lot deeper than just the aesthetics of the equipment. It is not if your shoes or racket (or court for that matter) look bad, it is about the playing condition. Shoes can look and be practically new and still have tread peeling back. Strings on rackets get loose with more usage and yes practice does count towards that usage. Take the time weekly to check your equipment for faults, inconsistencies and general wear and tear. Once you notice something take note of it and watch it from then on. Once it gets bad, replace it. Remember that with the amount of time you spend on the court the faster your equipment will wear down.
- Not properly warming up before matches
Solution: Dynamic warm-up
You cannot wait until lit is time for you to get on the court to start getting ready to play. I know it is “important” to hit the ball back and forth with your opponent before the match, but the real warm-up starts before that. A proper warm-up consists of (1) increasing the core temperature. If you are not sweating before a match, you are not ready. (2) Increasing blood flow to your muscles. If you still feel stiff when you start, you are not ready. (3) Increasing joint range of motion. If it hurts to take a full swing when you start playing, you are not ready. Get the strategic advantage over your opponent in the first set and be ready to play when you hit the court. To learn more about proper warm-up techniques contact me at Julian@sfxfitness.com and find out what sports performance training can do for you.
- Playing in adverse conditions
Solution: Don’t risk your health
This solution is more about common sense than it is about techniques. The big issue with this is that you need to cooperation of your opponents and other teammates. I know that each league has its own general rules when it comes to playing conditions and outside of that they leave it up to the competitors. But be aware and smart when the temperature gets too cold or too hot. Ask yourself is what you are doing worth the chance of frost bite or heat stroke. I know these are extremes, but sometime so are the conditions that you are getting out in to play. If you have to play take the necessary precautions to make sure that you cannot get hurt in the process.
- Not taking care of the body after playing
Solution: Mimic the pros
This is the simplest of the solutions, but again hard to actually apply. The biggest thing that you need to do is ICE. You have gone through a long match of swinging your racket, which uses your shoulders. This repetitive movement leads to something in the sports performance training world called overuse injuries. You don’t get hurt by doing any specific thing, but after a while you start to notice a nagging pain. Icing is the first line of defense against these types of injuries. Ice reduces the inflammation in the area that it is applied to. It allows the body to be as close to normal as possible before the start of the next set of matches. The tough part about icing is taking the time to get the ice set up and put on. Plus most ice packs are too hard and do not form around the area you need it to. (For information on making good ice packs go to Homemade “forming” ice pack). Once you start taking care of your body after you will see the results in your future matches.
Implementing some of not all of these simple solutions will both improve your tennis game and more importantly keep you a bit more injury free. Of course we all have the possibility of impact injuries. There is really nothing that you can do to prevent those. But allowing the body not to break down gradually will keep you in the game longer and may actually help you hold off any impact injuries. For more information about the sports performance training or general fitness training please visit www.sfxfitness.com and register for your free trial.
Being an Athlete: Responsibility and Ownership
The most important trait you will notice from world class athletes is the responsibility. Now of course there are some exceptions to the rule, but the majority of them are pin point on how they handle themselves. They know what it takes to get to the top and go beyond the norm to make sure that they stay there. The second important trait is ownership. They take pride in what they do whether good or bad and take both the praise and the criticism for whatever happens. These traits aren’t things that they just pick up once they make it to the top. They are learned along the way to the top. They are taught by parents, teachers, mentors and coaches while they are still young.
The biggest dis-service that adults do for young athletes is doing everything for them. I know that they believe that what they are doing is in their child/athletes best interest. They think that by them doing all of the “extra” tasks they are allowing their athlete to just go out and perform and excel in their sport. But more often than not the opposite occurs. Since the athlete doesn’t have to do the behind the scenes work they never learn the commitment that it takes to be great. They never learn that their actions are directly associated with their result. If everything they do besides the game is easy then you are not really progressing as an athlete.
Last week I had a mom set up a session for her daughter who is a top soccer player in the area and has worked with me for a few years now. She told me that her daughter was upset about her conditioning and wanted to get back to working out. On the day of the session the other athlete that I was training her with had to reschedule so I was ready to work with her specifically. Her appointment time came and went without her showing so I called her mom and asked what happened. This is what her mom texted back:
“I am out of town and left my husband in charge. I scheduled with you and her and thought it was all good since she wanted to come. She fell asleep doing her summer school reading. She will apologize in person, pay for your time, reschedule and if you need her to do any chores at your place please sign her up. I am very upset that this has happened again. I had hoped she understood how important an adult’s work schedule was. Mortified!”
Later that day the daughter called and apologized and then came in the next day to apologize in person. I was so impressed by the mom putting responsibility and ownership on her daughter’s shoulders that I had to thank her and ask if I could write about it. Now I know some people might feel that all she said was tough on the daughter, but I do believe that it became a learning moment and will help mold her daughter for years to come.
Once athletes learn to be responsible for everything that they are doing and to take ownership in their choices and decisions they take a big step in becoming great. Being responsible isn’t always the popular thing to do, but knowing that you have bigger and better things ahead of you and taking ownership of your choices and actions can make the decisions worthwhile.
Prepare Less, Play More: Tennis in Atlanta – The Problems
This subject came to me as I was in a personal training session with a few of my clients that play tennis. It is unreal to me how much they actually play every week to begin with. But when you add in the lack of getting themselves ready to play, most tennis players are sports injuries waiting to happen. Being a former competitive athlete and fitness expert I cannot understand this concept of what I call not being prepared. In the Atlanta recreational tennis community it is rampant and routine. Here is a list of the 5 most common mistakes that make up this prepare less, play more mentality:
- Playing too much
This might be the biggest issue of them all when it comes to Atlanta tennis. These players simply play too often. Now the Atlanta has at least 3 competitive leagues (ALTA, T2, and USTA) and they each have various divisions including singles, doubles and mixed doubles. The thing is the leagues run into each other and allow very little “off-season” time, which when it comes to sports performance training is the worse. I have seen players that play matches 4 days out of the week, practice with their teams on 2 days and then have their personal lesson on their open day. Every so often I hear of people playing 2 matches in the same day or 3 straight days of matches. All of this repetitive motion is a big cause of overuse injuries like rotator cuff injuries and back problems.
- Not having playing condition equipment
This is a tricky issue and may be taken the wrong way. I am not saying that people are not playing with the right equipment. Trust me, most of these tennis players will have all of the latest and greatest tennis gear, rackets and accessories that they can buy. The problem comes when they do not have the time to check their shoes or rackets and make sure they are in good condition. With the amount of time they spend playing their shoes get worn out a lot quicker than normal and not making sure that they have the proper tread can lead to leg, foot and ankle injuries. The bad racket doesn’t lead to any injuries except maybe pride when they get whooped!
- Not properly warming up before matches
This problem is standard with all of the tennis community. Players get to the match, sit and wait for their game to start, get on the court and hit a few ball back and forth with the other team then start to play. At no point in time did they properly warm up their bodies. With all of the running and changing of directions that take place in a tennis match, to not go through a thorough movement prep program is insane. Without proper warm-up the body will be more prone to sports injuries such as muscle strains and joint sprains. Also, the quality of play at the start of the match will be compromised because they spend it trying to get loose.
- Playing in adverse conditions
The weather in Atlanta is a big issue across the board. It is either too hot, on occasion too cold and we have one of the worse pollen rates in the country. All these factors affect the conditions of all outdoor activities. I have seen and heard of many players that will play 3-4 hours of tennis in bad conditions just because the team “needs the points”. Now I am not saying that they need to blow the team off just because the weather is bad, but there does need to be some precaution taken in these instances.
- Not taking care of the body after playing
This may be the easiest problem to take care of and would probably lead to less overall injuries, but it is the most widely problems to date. Most tennis players go through all the issues that I talked about previously then go home and don’t do anything for their bodies. This is the most important time for recovery from putting their bodies through the rigors and stress of their matches. This is the time that the body needs to get ready for the next day and playing again. Not taking care of issues that occur, both known and unknown can lead to major overuse injuries like tennis elbow and tendinitis.
One of the things that I tell all of my clients is that even though they watch and try to be like the professional tennis players, they do nothing like them. They play way more than professionals and take less time off to recover or to just train. Watching a match we just see the players come out to the court and hit the ball, but what we don’t see is the hours of preparation that they do pre match. You will never see a player come out of the locker room stiff and not sweating, because they spend time getting their bodies ready to perform before they step on the court. Lastly, if you watch post interviews you will see just about every player with an ice pack on their shoulder or elbow. This is to make sure that they cool down any inflammations that build up during their match. In short you need to prepare more and play better. Part II – Prepare less, play more: Tennis in Atlanta – The solutions
Hello, I pray that this finds you at a positive time of your day. Let me first say thank you for visiting my new blog page. For those that are seeing this on another site go to www.julianamedee.com to visit the new site. I hope that you will find the information on here useful, if not for you, for someone that you know. My goal with this blog is to have 2 different types of posts. The first will be a fitness training topic and the second will be a sports performance topic. Please feel free to share this site with your friends and family and please don’t be afraid to comment on what you read. And I hope that this will NOT be your last time back to the site. Look forward to hearing from you soon.
Julian A. Amedee