Saturday, February 27, 2010

Coach Less

A couple of days ago I was watching a coach run through starts with some of his combine athletes.  After each rep of about 15 yards, he went down a laundry list of technical aspects and things to work on and do different than that rep.

I did a good job and didn't let my jaw drop at how inappropriate I felt it was.  It's entirely true that I don't know any background on their training or the athlete's learning style, but REALLY?  2-3 days out from his 40 yd dash and you are coaching him like this?

Reinforce basics.  Keep them focused on their PROCESS goals.  Not outcomes like high pick, money and so forth, but ARMS, DRIVE, TALL, etc...  those better have meaning by now.

I want my guys focusing on the feelings and their own specific cue words.  I want consistency and confidence.  Dont try to change anything now.  Be very careful in how you point out the small things.  If you know there is one that they know how to fix, reinforce.  If its something they haven't gotten now, let it.

I think as coaches we feel like we have to fulfill our role.  We need to coach, need to say something, need to give feedback.  If you have done your job up to now, coaching less is more.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Managing Stress

Years of learning methods to load athletes' muscular and neurological systems.  Research into nutrition.  Therapists and coaches with years of schooling and masters and Doctorates.  Planning, training, measuring and monitoring.  All of it, SECONDARY.

All of the training is secondary in importance during Combine preparation.  The primary goals are to MANAGE STRESS AND BUILD CONFIDENCE.

Don't get me wrong, the training is important.  However, its only part of the equation.

  1. Great training coupled with stress & confidence problems equals poor performance. 
  2. Mediocre training coupled with well managed stress & great confidence equals good performance if they are athletic.
  3. Great training coupled with well managed stress & great confidence equals great amd consistent performance.

I shoot for the third.  Managing stress and building confidence influences every decision we make.  Environment, loading, recovery, communication, feedback, and more. 

Today our second group of athletes got in to Indianapolis and the goals generally include acclimating them to the environment and whats coming.  We want to get blood flow and mobility so we use the pool first.  Aquatic exercise is one of our normal recovery modalities in training so they are used to it.  We selected a hotel that has a great small pool to use with a good warm temperature.  Great to get that blood flowing, get hip mobility and release stress.

It releases stress because its familiar.  We do the workout basics, but it also lets them have some fun in the water splashing and having contests of jumping up, holding breath and who can bound across in fewest steps.  The guys have a great time and then folow-up with some stretching or tissue work if needed.

The guys on their second day here (combine day 1 of 4 for them) change the routine a bit. We still need to help their system continue to recover from the training and keep the nervous system tuned.  Some have been sitting around a hospital all day getting medical or lots of time in an MRI.  Mobility, blood flow and nervous system tuning are key.  The biggest thing we are doing with the movements (40 starts, 5-10-5, 3 cone) is reinforcing the process and feel of what they have already learned.

Even with that said, the biggest benefit is often keeping something familiar in this circus environment.  The same coaches, warm-ups, and exercises.  Training is a comfort for most athletes.  It's also a chance to ask questions, share stories with other players and visualize whats coming tomorrow.  Go through your set-up routines, cue words, answer questions, etc... 

You have to make sure your players know what to do so they don't end up stressed.  Coaching athletes in competition has really taught me this.  Know every detail you can and have back-up plans.  Take care of little things like "do you know what time you start tomrrow".  Have them stock up on their MuscleMilk bars and rtds so they are fueled during the day. 

Others times like today it can be running interferences with the hoards of autograph hunters if it stresses your guy.

Bottom line, MANAGE THE STRESS and BUILD THE CONFIDENCE.  If you don't, the rest of the work may go to waste.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Here We Go Again

It's late February and we again get to witness the circus that is the NFL Scouting Combine.  Although at times very frustrating, the process of preparing the athletes is a highly condensed, stressful, challenging environment.  Its one where many of the keys to long term sports performance training actually get turned on their ear.  Still, I enjoy the challenge scientifically and even more the challenge to the ART of coaching these young men.

Over the next week here in Indy we will try and make sure guys are prepped and ready to perform their best.  I'll also use this time to write a series of articles on different aspects of coaching them and their preparation.

We had a great year last year and look forward to the same.  While we had five1st round picks last year that really tells that we got some good athletes.  What I am proud of is that out of all of the tests for our 19 guys last year, 93% of results in Indy were PRs.  They were peaked and performed when it counted.  We helped them to perform their best.
Today 7 of our guys got into Indianapolis and after a long plane ride we take them into the warm pool at our hotel and had them go through a recovery workout to loosen hips and get the blood flowing.  A couple guys got massage and a few did core work. 

Looking forward to seeing some former athletes like Donald Brown here in Indy and catching up with other coaches.