Friday, February 13, 2009

When Feedback is Too Much

Feedback to athletes on their performance is very important to facilitate motor learning. They are always getting some feedback from their kinestethic sense. Whether that feedback is well tuned is an entirely different story.

We give feedback to coaches as to the quality of performance as well. Often this is just verbal, but we also use additional means.

To augment this as coaches we use methods such as video analysis, timing and more. When working on start and acceleration technique, a common scenario we may use is to utilize timers or stopwatch to time a start. Now this can occur in a few ways. One is to provide OUTCOME feedback. Did you run that short distance faster?

This is useful because it may be a specific goal that is a measuring stick for overall performance. For instance, we set 10yd goals for our NFL Combine athletes that are statistically related to their targeted 40yd dash time. We use this to get data on training progress and readiness.

Another reason we may time a start is for more PROCESS oriented goals. While experienced track athletes become very aware of differences in their performances, team sport athletes like football players seldom do. Individual sport athletes are taught to have a better awareness of the body and attention to movement detail. Its inherent in their events.

A football player is conditioned to the exact opposite. Ignore the pain, don't pay attention to the aches and pains. The is some practicality to this if your are going to play at a high level. Unfortunately it gets in the way of players training well. They don't know what their body needs and can't grade performance.

So using some feedback on reps can help this process. In the start example with our NFL Combine guys, we may do a technical drill like a wall drill. Then a few starts. Some of our guys will then be doing release starts, while others are doing bounds, and still others are doing sled pulls. After a number of reps, they will go and do a start or two.

Now here's the key. If I want them focusing on the PROCESS, how that rep felt relative to the time, I probably don't use 10yds. The reason is since they have goals for 10yds, they instantly throw how they FEEL out the window and focus on the result. They are under tremendous stress about this ultimate job interview that is the combine. They can become far to caught up in the outcome instead of getting quality training in.

Feedback is an important tool, just keep in mind what it will lead the athlete to focus on. Times and video are great tools in your coaching toolbelt, just be sure to wield it well.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Too Heavy for Speed?

During NFL Combine training, its always interesting to see some guys get freaked out when they gain weight. They are sure they can't weigh over XXX lbs or else they won't be fast.

Now I'm proud of the results we get with our guys in the area of body composition. We have most guys shed significant bodyfat while gaining muscle. Providing proper nutrients, at the proper time, to young healthy (college starved) muscles that are in need of good nutrition makes it easy. Our apporach is very close to the methods promoted by Dr. John Berardi. Read some of his articles for more info.

This does lead most of our players to gain some weight. Its usually only a couple of pounds total, but its the change in composition that is dramatic. We had one player who recently hit 250 after having been no heavier than 248 ever. Now he has dropped 15 lbs of fat, but added 17 of lean tissue. That 250 mark really had him worried. The same week, he set PRs in his 5-10-5,1yd, VJ, 3cone, and 20-40yd split. He's not as worried now.

By following sound nutrition principles these athletes are putting on muscle. Because of the training methods, its fast twitch, explosive muscle. Just as importantly good nutrition lets themtrain harder when they are going 2-3 times a day. To get quality speed work, they have to have quality fuel.