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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 6/1/15

Written on June 1, 2015 at 6:07 am, by Eric Cressey

Happy June, everyone! Let's kick this month off on the right foot with some recommended strength and conditioning reading:

Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success - I just finished up this best-seller from Adam Grant, a professor at The Wharton School. It was an outstanding look at some factors that characterize those who are successful in the business world, and there are definitely a lot of applications to coaching. I've already recommended it to several friends who manage training facilities.

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Why Tommy John Surgeries Won't Cease Any Time Soon - This ESPN The Magazine article does a good job of addressing the social (as opposed to physiological rationale) for why arm injuries continue to be such a problem.

Are You Consuming, Producing, or Engaging? -  Todd Hamer is a good friend of mine who always has great insights on coaching, and this is no exception.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 5/26/15

Written on May 26, 2015 at 6:56 am, by Eric Cressey

In light of the holiday weekend, I'm a day late with this week's recommended reading, but I promise it will be worth the wait:

The International Youth Conditioning Association High School Strength and Conditioning Certification - I very proud to have co-authored this resource for the IYCA, and it's on sale through the end of the day today (Tuesday). Just enter the coupon code MDCERTSALE at checkout to get $100 off.

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It Won't Kill You to Grill - With yesterday being the "unofficial start to summer," Brian St. Pierre's article for Precision Nutrition is very timely. He discusses how to grill without any concern for health risks.

Memorial Day Musings on Player Development - Cressey Sports Performance pitching coordinator, Matt Blake, shares some great stories on success in spite of adversity, and highlights the importance of long-term views on development.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 5/18/15

Written on May 18, 2015 at 4:54 am, by Eric Cressey

Good morning, everyone. In following with Monday tradition, here are some good strength and conditioning readings to kick off your week:

6 Mistakes Experienced Lifters Make - Ben Bruno was spot-on with his points in this article at T-Nation.

Durability on Decline for Today's Players - This MLB.com feature brings to light some pretty crazy numbers on how injury rates have gone up in professional baseball - both due to change in the game, and how players prepare.

35 Ways to Transform Your Body - As always, the folks at Precision Nutrition come through with practical advice for those looking to improve their nutrition and training programs. Here, they highlight lessons from their most successful clients.

Finally, just a friendly reminder that we're ten days out from the early-bird registration deadline for the Alex Viada seminar at Cressey Sports Performance in Hudson, MA. This will surely be a great event you won't want to miss. You can get more details HERE.

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Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training: Installment 10

Written on May 15, 2015 at 9:22 am, by Eric Cressey

It's time for the May installment of this popular strength and conditioning series.

1. Train OUTSIDE.

One of the things I've noticed over the years - both with sprinting and long tossing - is that athletes seem to "hold back" when they're indoors. They won't run at top speed when there are only 40-50 yards of turf ahead of them because they're already worrying about decelerating before they even really get moving. And, with throwing, there just seems to be more inhibition when an athlete is throwing into a net - as opposed to throwing to a partner who is pretty far away. Maybe it's the quantifiable feedback of actual distance, or maybe it's just less restriction - but the effort is always better.

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To that end, it's mid-May and the weather is getting really nice around the country. Now is a perfect chance to get out and sprint in the grass or at the local track. Don't miss this chance, as it'll be snowing again before you know it!

2. When selecting exercises, prioritize upside over avoiding downside.

This will be the "glass is half full/empty" point of the day - and I'll use an example to illustrate it.

Let's take the question of whether or not to prescribe bench presses for baseball players. I, personally, don't prescribe them for this population, but there are still a lot of strength and conditioning coaches out there who do.

Their argument is that they aren't as big a problem as has been proposed. In other words, they're protecting against the downside.

My mindset, by contrast, is to highlight the lack of an upside. In a population where shoulder and elbow issues are astronomically high, does this exercise provide substantial benefit such that it deserves a place in our programs? Does it deliver a better training effect than a push-up variation or landmine press, for instance?

In other words, it's not just a discussion of "good vs. bad;" it's a discussion of "optimal vs. acceptable." Even if some players can "get away with" bench pressing, are we really doing right by these players if our approach to training is to simply try to justify that our exercise selection isn't doing harm?

3. Use fillers to break up power training sets.

Optimal training for power mandates that athletes take ample time between sets to recharge. Unfortunately, a lot of athletes have a tendency to rush through power work because it doesn't create the same kind of acute fatigue that you'd get from a set of higher-rep, loaded work. In other words, you'll want to rest more after a set of five squats than you would after a set of five heidens, even if you were attempting to put maximal force into the ground on each rep with both.

To that end, one thing I commonly do is pair power training exercises with low-key corrective drills. We call these drills "fillers," but that's not to say that they aren't very important. We might pair a rotational medicine ball training drill with a wall slide variation. This helps us get more quality work in with each session, but just as importantly, slows the athletes down to make sure they get the most out of their power training exercises.

4. Coach standing posture.

Static posture assessments are boring; I get it. However, they can still be incredibly telling. Here's an example...

Last weekend, during a two-day seminar I was giving, a trainer approached me and asked about his chronic bilateral knee issues. He described his soft tissue initiatives, mobility work, and strength training modifications in great detail; it was clear he'd put a lot of thought into the issue and was clearly frustrated, especially having been through physical therapy a few times without success. When he was done describing everything, I looked down at his lower body and asked, "Do you stand like that all day?"

He was just "hanging out" in a bunch of knee hyperextension. A follow-up toe touch screen looked pretty similar to this:

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The toe touch is obviously a movement fault, but he was in a bad starting position before the movement even started. If you stand in knee hyperextension all day - especially if you're a personal trainer on hard, unforgiving surfaces all day - your knees will hurt. It doesn't matter how much you foam roll or modify your strength program. You have to learn to stand correctly before you learn to move correctly.

With that said, apply this to your athletes. How many of them do this during down-time in practice or games? And, next time you watch a Major League Baseball game, watch how many position players just "hang out" like this between pitches - and wonder why we see more hip and back pain on the right side.

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Sometimes, the easiest solutions aren't the most obvious - even when they really are obvious if you know where to start looking!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 5/11/15

Written on May 11, 2015 at 8:33 am, by Eric Cressey

Happy belated Mother's Day to all the mothers who read this blog; I hope you all had a great day yesterday! As a belated gift, here are some recommended resources for the week:

A Doctor's View of CrossFit - I thought this was an excellent interview at T-Nation with Dr. Stuart McGill, arguably the world's premier spine specialist. He definitely covered some points that haven't been mentioned previously in the Crossfit debate, and you'll find quite a few one-liners you'll want to commit to memory. One that stood out to me: "Olympic lifting must find the lifter. Not the other way around given the special anatomical gifts needed to lift with efficiency and injury resiliency."

An Interview with Eric Cressey, by Jason Glass - Jason and I talked shop a few weeks ago, and you can listen to the podcast online now. We covered a lot of topics, the foremost of which was training rotational sport athletes.

Hip Extension and Rotation in the Baseball Swing - I had a great conversation with a seminar attendee this weekend about this very topic, so I thought I'd bring this great guest post from Jeff Albert (minor league hitting coordinator for the Houston Astros) back to the forefront.

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4 Keys to Making the Most of Summer Baseball

Written on May 5, 2015 at 7:19 am, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance - Florida coach, Tim Geromini. Tim has seen summer baseball on both the collegiate and professional levels, and today, he shares his insights on how players can thrive between June and August. Enjoy! -EC

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The topic of whether or not to play summer league baseball has been debated quite a bit over the last few years. Eric wrote a great article about it (HERE). This article is not designed to make the case for or against playing summer league baseball, but rather to give some points on how to make the most out of your experience if you decide to play. With four seasons in summer league ball under my belt, I’ve heard the phrase “this was the best summer of my life” more times than I can count. Assuming it is the right timing and situation for you, here are four keys to making it the best summer of your life on and off the field.

1. Get your mindset right before you arrive, and stick with it.

This might seem like an easy one, but you’d be surprised how many guys come in with the wrong mindset every year. Summer league baseball should not be what it’s made out to be (party time!) in movies like Summer Catch. Rather, it’s a chance to become a better player and person. I’m not saying you have to be sound asleep in your bed right after the game ends, but you should understand the true reason you are there.

You are there to learn more about the game and become a more complete player. Some coaches will not do much teaching, but rather let you play your style and make some adjustments. Others will be incredibly critical and teach you until the day you leave. I’ve seen both coaching styles work. What are the common traits of players who’ve thrived under both circumstances? The players were open minded, incredibly positive, and wanted to get better. If you’re willing to accept another way of thinking, keep a good attitude about it, and do it with a determination to be better, you are doing everything you can to improve on and off the field.

2. Be part of your host-family.

Most players will live with a host family, and you are lucky to have that opportunity. Be part of that family for the summer and beyond. If you have a host-brother or host-sister, you have an opportunity to positively impact that person’s life. They look up to you, just as you would have when you were younger. Hang out with them, teach them, and learn something from them. I always loved seeing my players playing with their host families on the field after games. Whether its dinner with the host-parents, running the bases with their host-brother, or playing a round of mini-golf with them after the game, it’s a great way to spend your summer. On a related note, most of our Major League Baseball guys at Cressey Sports Performance keep in close contact with their host families from their college and minor league days, as they’ve built life-long friendships.

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Remember that you also represent the town for which you play. Be a gentleman on and off the field.

3. Rest and Recover.

In many cases, players are playing competitively 8-10 months out of the year. Summer league is at the tail end of this run, when your body is exhausted. Sleep and nutrition are your keys to be able to perform every day. It’s difficult to play your best and be mentally in the game on a few hours of sleep every night. A hidden form of recovery is to get yourself out of the sun when you can. Baseball camps, practices, and games can make for upwards of 8 hours in the sun all day. Get yourself in the shade or in a cool, dark area when you can. Some teams will have a rule where your host family provides a certain amount of meals for you each day. Take advantage of this to get your calories in and make healthy decisions. The most successful players I have seen took rest and recovery seriously.

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4. Train!

There’s no way I could write this article without highlighting the importance of training during the summer. If you follow this website, I trust you know the benefits of training and are proof of the results. I must say, however, that many athletes think the summer away from their college strength coach is their opportunity to not see a weight room. You don’t have to train every day. In fact, trying to train 6 days per week while playing 5-6 days per week can do more harm than good. I always shot for 2-3 training sessions per week for my guys, depending on their situation; this kept them fresh and strong. The non-training days are just as important to improving tissue quality and maintaining mobility. Whether it’s doing it yourself by foam rolling and going through some dynamic flexibility drills, or seeking manual therapy elsewhere, it’s important to get your work in on these fronts.

Conclusion

There are a number of ways to make summer league baseball an enormous success and something you will always remember. These four always stuck out to me and I hope it can help some of you in the future. I’d love to hear your feedback and thoughts on other important factors in summer baseball in the comments section below.

About the Author

Tim Geromini is a strength and conditioning coach at Cressey Sports Performance in Jupiter, FL. Prior to joining the CSP team; Tim spent time with the Lowell Spinners (Class A Affiliate of the Boston Red Sox), Nashua Silver Knights (Futures Collegiate Baseball League), Cotuit Kettleers of (Cape Cod Baseball League), and UMass-Lowell Sports Performance. You can contact him at timgero@gmail.com and on Twitter.

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Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 9

Written on April 30, 2015 at 8:16 am, by Eric Cressey

With only a day to spare, here's the April edition of Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training.

1. Don't forget pauses can be beneficial with single-leg training, too.

Working pauses into your lifting can yield tremendous benefits, as they reduce contribution of the stretch-shortening cycle and force a lifter to work much harder to produce force from a dead-stop. For some reason, though, they usually only get applied to "big bang" bilateral exercises like squats, bench presses, and (obviously) deadlifts. I actually really like to program pauses into single-leg work to improve carryover to what athletes really encounter in athletics and the real world. Here's an example:

2. Try the 1-arm cable rotational row from a low setting.

I love incorporating rotational rows in our athletes' programming. Many coaches only program this as an upright variation where the cable is set at chest height. I think this overlooks the importance of athletes learning how to "accept" force on that front hip. Hip rotation rarely occurs in isolation in athletics; rather, it is generally concurrent with flexion/extension and abduction/adduction. By lowering the cable a bit, you challenge things in a bit more of a sport-specific manner - and, in the process, add some variety to your athletes' programs.

3. Make sure put your intensive rotator cuff work after your overhead work.

I recently reviewed a program that paired Turkish get-ups with cable external rotations. While both are great exercises, the last thing you want to do is fatigue the rotator cuff before you go overhead, where it needs to work really hard to keep the humeral head depressed relative to the glenoid fossa. Likewise, be careful about doing all your cuff stuff early in the session, then progressing to overhead carries later. My feeling is that you just do enough to turn the cuff on during the warm-up, then train your highest stabilization demands (e.g., overhead supporting/carrying), and then head to the more direct (fatigue producing) stuff.

4. Different strength qualities make different athletes successful.

We have two athletes - both left-handed pitchers - make Major League Baseball debuts this week. The first, Jack Leathersich, is a relief pitcher for the New York Mets, and he just has one of those insanely "quick arms." In other words, it's almost as if he doesn't know how to throw a ball softly; it really jumps out of his hand. I think it's a function of his natural "reactive ability."

The second, Tim Cooney, is getting a start in his big league debut today for the St. Louis Cardinals.  He's not as naturally reactive as Jack is, but you could make the case that Tim is the strongest pound-for-pound professional pitcher we train. I've seen him do Turkish get-ups with a 100-pound kettlebell, and walking lunges with the heaviest dumbbells in the gym. He can make up for less reactive proficiency by falling back more on pure strength. I think this "strength reserve" also helps Tim as a starter, whereas reactive capabilities tend to fall off as fatigue sets in, which is probably why Jack has thrived as a reliever.

This static-spring relationship closely parallels the absolute strength to absolute speed one I shared in the past.

The more "static" guys are strong and need more reactive training, which largely takes place on the speed end of the continuum. The more "spring" guys need to keep prioritizing strength as a foundation for effective stretch-shortening cycle function, as you can't display force quickly if you don't have enough force in the first place.

I'll be back soon with another installment during the month of May!

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Changing Baseball Culture: A Call to Action

Written on April 28, 2015 at 9:25 am, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post comes from physical therapist Eric Schoenberg, who is an integral part of the Elite Baseball Mentorships team. Enjoy! -EC

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Baseball is a game of ritual and tradition: lucky socks, pre-game meals, stepping over lines, special handshakes, and on-deck habits are all part of the “rhythm” of the game. Unfortunately, other “old-school” traditions are still the norm when it comes to the management and prevention of injury on the diamond. It is clear that we are moving in the right direction with new technologies and smarter training; however, injuries continue to pile up. A difficult question to answer is: are any of these injuries avoidable or are players already “damaged goods” by the time they get to the professional ranks? Some things are out of our control, but clearly we can do better.

Here are four opportunities for us to make a difference:

1. Identify the signs before there are symptoms.

The best form of treatment is prevention. The best rehab for a pitcher is one that does not exist at all. To support this point, a sign is a warning that something bad is about to happen. Some examples of objective signs in an at-risk pitcher are a decrease in velocity, loss of location/command, and ROM changes. This might be a loss of total glenohumeral ROM, internal rotation, or shoulder flexion; scapular upward rotation; elbow extension; forearm supination; and hip rotation. Or, it may be a significant increase in shoulder external rotation (see here and here for details). Some examples of subjective signs are poor body language, lack of confidence, altered communication, and working slower on the mound – just to name a few. Once a pitcher does become symptomatic, we need to take it seriously. I am not implying that we need to baby our athletes (there is enough of that going on!), but on the flip side, the solution is not to ignore the pain and “pitch through it.” As always, the truth is often found somewhere in the middle. In 15 years, I have yet to come across a pitcher that ended up needing surgery that did not first have signs and symptoms that were either missed or ignored.

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2. There is no such thing as “normal soreness.”

To piggyback on point #1, the expectation is not that a pitcher will be pain-free 100% of the time. That is unrealistic. There is unavoidable stress and tissue breakdown associated with pitching. If there isn’t, my guess is the pitcher is not throwing very hard! However, I would like to make this point loud and clear: There is no such thing as “normal soreness.” By definition, if things were normal, then there would not be soreness (and certainly not pain). To this point, one could argue that throwing a baseball 100x at 85-100MPH is not “normal,” either, so what can we do about it? Let’s follow this rule: if a pitcher presents with pain, tightness, or fatigue in the front of his shoulder or the inside/outside of their elbow or forearm following an outing, then he needs an evaluation and treatment. If a pitcher presents with soreness in their glutes, core, and posterior cuff, then he needs some rest and a pat on the back for a job well done. Remember, just because the pain or soreness is common doesn’t make it right.

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3. One size never fits all.

I can’t think of a situation in baseball (or life) where one approach works for everyone. For example, not every baseball player needs to stretch or “loosen up.” Most players are already too loose or lax and need to gain stiffness and stability with their pre-game routine. They need to warm-up and activate. Yet, at every level, we see teams line up and stretch before games. This robs their bodies of the good stiffness that they have worked to develop in the gym and during the off-season. We need to warm the tissues up and take the body through the appropriate ranges of motion to prepare to play; however, we don’t need to stretch these tissues right before asking them to generate massive amounts of force. For these loose-jointed individuals, throwing, sprinting, and hitting will provide all of the “stretching” that’s needed.

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Another example that needs to be looked at is too many reps of strengthening or band exercises done right before activity on the field. If we don’t want to overstretch an athlete prior to playing, then we certainly don’t want to fatigue them. A fatigued pitcher has a 36x higher chance of getting injured than a non-fatigued pitcher. Let’s save the fatigue for the innings on the field and not with hundreds of band reps or a 50-pitch bullpen session before the 1st pitch is even thrown.

4. Avoid this question.

The worst question you can ever ask a pitcher on a mound visit or in the dugout is “How are you feeling?” This same question is asked every day on fields across the world and yields no valuable information. Any pitcher, at any level, will answer, “I’m good, coach.” If they don’t, they are playing the wrong sport.

Instead of asking this question, we should be using our experience as professionals to make unemotional decisions to best help our players stay healthy for the entire season.

It is our job is to acquire as much information as we can through experience and observation to make the best decision possible with the data that we have at that moment. Players lie. It is a way of showing their competitive spirit to stay in games and try to help their teams win. It’s called adrenaline. It’s not their fault. It is our fault for asking bad questions that have no good answers. The pitcher’s job is to get outs, not to decide what soreness is “normal.” That is what what we get paid to do.

Let’s close by comparing injury management in baseball to one of the world’s most successful companies. Apple talks about avoiding the “sameness trap.” This is the thought that if you ask a consumer what they want, they will tell you to do what other popular companies are doing. Steve Jobs worked to avoid this by not asking his customers what they wanted, but instead, giving them what they didn’t know they needed. So, let’s stop asking the same questions and getting the same generic answers and worked towards continuing to change the culture in baseball and help our athletes get better results.

If you are interested in learning more about our approach to managing baseball athletes, we'd love to see you at one of our Elite Baseball Mentorships. The next event is June 14-16, with an early-bird registration deadline of May 14th.

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Common Arm Care Mistakes – Installment 6

Written on April 23, 2015 at 6:08 am, by Eric Cressey

It's that time of the year when our baseball players are in-season, so things get a bit quieter around Cressey Sports Performance. Sometimes, it's even so quiet that my staff members film videos like this:

As impressive as this reverse stunner was, I actually get even more excited about taking a step back to work "on" the business instead of "in" the business when quiet season rolls around. Often, this work on the business consists of "audits" on everything from assessment, to programming, to coaching cues; we want to know how we can get better. One topic that came up during one of these discussions was the recent trend of fitness professionals and some physical therapists insisting that upper body carrying variations with appropriate joint positioning would suffice for arm care. Examples would include things like Turkish Get-ups, or bottoms-up carrying variations:

While I absolutely love all these exercises, I firmly believe that they are only a few pieces of a larger puzzle - and this brings me to this arm care mistake:

Not selecting exercises that appreciate the true functional demands placed on the shoulder and elbow during throwing.

The problem with the "carries are enough" mindset for shoulder health is that this opinion is heavily predicated on the assumption that we're talking about general population folks who don't have to stabilize extreme positions like end-range external rotation during the late-cocking phase:

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A 90/90 External Rotation Hold would be a much more appropriate training strategy that would appreciate the unique joint position demands of throwing, as Eric Schoenberg demonstrates:

Another example would be the crazy distraction forces that occur at the shoulder during ball release:

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A rhythmic stabilization at the ball release position probably yields better carryover to the act of throwing:

Most of the research on isometric training shows a 10-15 degree carryover in strength from the joint angle trained. In other words, if you don't train anywhere near end-range external rotation, don't expect to be strong in that incredibly crucial position.

I've only spoken to joint position specificity thus far, though, and there is more to this discussion. Baseball players also need to handle some pretty crazy velocities of arm speed - particularly with respect to shoulder internal rotation and horizontal adduction, as well as elbow extension. Good programs start out by building strength through these patterns:

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Once a solid strength foundation is in place, we need to begin to challenge athletes on the velocity end of the spectrum:

Very simply, to keep throwers healthy, you need to challenge both cuff strength and cuff timing - and do so at functional significant positions. In my opinion, just relying on carrying variations doesn't really accomplish either of these challenges correctly, and you can't carry in the positions that really matter.

As a final point, I'll add that I think it's a leap of faith to say that a largely reflexive muscle group (the rotator cuff) will automatically fire across an entire population when we know that structural deviations from normalcy (e.g., asymptomatic cuff tears, labral pathology) are widely prevalent.

Carrying and supporting variations are absolutely fantastic and I'll continue to use them a ton, but in my opinion, it's shortsighted to say that they can serve as a complete replacement to more "functional" arm care drills that replicate the forces and positions our players encounter on the field.

If you're looking to learn more about our comprehensive approach to arm care, I'd strongly encourage you to check out our upcoming Elite Baseball Mentorship, which takes place at our Hudson, MA facility June 14-16.

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How to Cultivate Intrinsic Motivation in Young Athletes

Written on April 21, 2015 at 7:50 am, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post comes from former Cressey Sports Performance intern, John O'Neil, who has a huge interest in long-term athletic development. Enjoy!

In his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, author Daniel Pink outlines what defines true intrinsic motivation. As a coach, we clamor for multiple things: control, results, and motivated clients. In dealing with young clients, how do we develop a young athlete from someone who can’t define the word motivation into someone who comes to exemplify the definition of the word? Using strategies I learned practically and have organized through Pink’s motivation structure, here’s an outline of how I incorporate subtle motivation tactics while also gauging a youth athlete’s motivational progress.

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According to Pink, true motivation is a blend of three factors; autonomy, mastery, and purpose. You can’t have mastery or purpose before you have autonomy. Autonomy in the training process is a client’s ownership of their program, understanding that while they are provided structure and coaching, they are the one executing the movements and looking to improve upon their given goals.

Mastery is the ability to perform the process of the given program to the point where variables – movement type, loading scheme, structure – need to be altered periodically to maintain both psychological interest and physiological adaptations.

Purpose is a client’s awareness that movements they are given have reasons in progression towards their goals and the client feeling the need to continue the process to optimize performance.

While this progression is long-term, when these pillars are in place, we have created true motivation within the client. What kind of strategies can we practically implement to lay the foundations for autonomy, mastery, and purpose?

Autonomy: We provide the client with structure, but at what point is structure overbearing to the point where it diminishes an athlete's motivation? There needs to be an element of client responsibility within the process. Challenge your athletes to make decisions in the weight room as they will have to on the field. Incorporate options, not demands. Practically:

  1. Have your youth athletes carry their own programs and write in their own weights. While this sounds simple, how can something seem like it's truly yours if you never carry it, and you can't make your mark on it?
  2. Instruct clients on where to be, but make them responsible for being there. For example, once the kid knows where the warm-up area is, it shouldn't be up to us to lead them there and take them through foam rolling each time. Make sure they're doing what they should be without coaching everything again. Knowledge is power. Allow them to use knowledge you've given them.
  3. Let the client participate in the process of picking weights. Once they know an exercise and have an idea where to start, give them the option of choosing, say, 5 pounds heavier or 10 pounds heavier on the next set. I have one rule with my clients in regards to this: if you pick your own weight from options I give you, you better be confident in your decision. If not, I choose. Confidence in your selection will breed confidence in the movement and in the process in general.
  4. Have them rack and load their own weights. While a coach can and should help sometimes, a coach should never do all of the work for a youth athlete. Make them responsible for their own process and be respectful of where they are.
  5. Consider incorporating varying rep and/or rest schemes. There is nothing wrong with throwing in an exercise here and there that is listed as “6-8” or “8-10” reps. Assuming the client is proficient in the movement and not blowing past technical failure, this forces the client to make a decision while amidst the action. Is there anything more similar to sport than that? Another, and often times easier applicable option, is to allow rest to be up to the client. Give them a window - i.e., 3-4 minutes for a heavy strength set, or 30-60 seconds in conditioning - that makes them take responsibility for when they start the next set.
  6. Include the youth athlete in the scheduling process. In my experience, there seems to be a clear middle school/high school divide in terms of kids knowing their own schedules. Most middle school kids leave it up to mom to be chauffeured from activity to activity, not necessarily knowing what comes next until it's almost time, whereas most high school kids have knowledge of their schedules. While you can't practically leave it 100% up to many kids, you can at least broach the conversation and force them to think about when the best time for them to come back in would be.

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Mastery: Training models should stress the process, not the outcomes. We can monitor and control the process, but we can’t control the outcomes. We can, however, have a heavy influence on the outcomes and give our youth athletes as much opportunity for success as possible. A kid doesn’t necessarily have to be able to execute every movement to a “T” without coaching (most won’t), but they should gain knowledge of what they are trying to do and the difference between wrong and right. They should be held accountable to follow coaching when given and communicate with the coach about what they felt and how it went. Practically:

  1. Over time, the client should gain knowledge of the names and positions of given exercises, and they should be held accountable in doing so. If something says “half-kneeling cable chop” and the client routinely goes to the squat rack for it, we’re in trouble. The process can’t be mastered until it is understood.
  2. Allow this process to shift from a conscious one to an unconscious one. A foam rolling series, for example, isn’t “mastered” until someone can just go from one spot to another without being told and can hold a conversation in doing so.
  3. To steal a quote from Eric, our most important job as coaches is to prepare our athletes for the day they are on their own. While coaching and monitoring will always be paramount, our clients will hopefully go on to play at the next level and won’t always be able to train with us. By the time they do so, they should have an understanding of types of things they should and shouldn’t be doing/feeling.
  4. New variations are understood to be progressions of previous ones. If you spend a month goblet squatting a kid and then progress them to a double kettlebell front squat, you shouldn’t have to re-teach anything except the intricacies of the grip. If you have to, the kid really hasn’t put that mental effort into it that would allow us to believe they have taken ownership of the process.

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Purpose: At this level, the client craves training. They know that the training process is a contributor towards the success they have experienced with their goals, and that without it, they would not have achieved their level of success. You no longer have to stay on top of the athlete about keeping up with things like in-season training or any take-home mobility drills you’ve given them. Rather, you know that it has become as important to them as it is to you. Our practical motivational strategies are moot point with this type of client; they are already ingrained within them. We program and monitor with the goal of optimizing progress, but coaching becomes more guidance than dictation. Success experienced by an athlete with purpose and true intrinsic motivation breeds the desire to continue the process that got them there and builds a craving to experience success at a higher level. It should be every coach’s goal to have a stable of clients that exhibit this.

About the Author

John O’Neil is a strength and conditioning coach at The Annex Sports Performance Center in Chatham, NJ and Drive495 in New York, NY. He previously interned at Cressey Sports Performance and Ranfone Training Systems. You can contact him at joh.oneil@gmail.com and on Twitter.

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