A couple of weeks ago I finished reading a really systematic book in the field of strength and conditioning. What I mean by sytematic is that it covers lots of details but at the same time you get the clear picture of how various things relate to each other. That book inspired me and made me think a lot so I even ended up with an idea for today’s blog post. Before I give some more thoughts on the topic, I need to say the book I have read is the newest publication of American coaching guru Mark Verstegen – Every day is game day. In that book Mark presents the well known Athletes’ Performance (current EXOS) system and philosophy through four main fields; Mindset, Nutrition, Movement and Recovery. Even though five things I am going to share with you in the text below are quite similar to Mark’s list, I promise to share all of my ideas for each field. In the end, in the coaching world, you are as good as you take and learn from others. And after you do use the knowledge, you have to make positive changes with your own athletes in practice.
So, here are ‘my’ fields that should be mastered:
1. KEEP YOUR MIND CLEAR
Many great things have been presented so far on this blog when it comes to sport psychology. Going through the articles you can learn a lot as I did. And many more brilliant posts are yet to come. I think every athlete should be a positive and optimistic person who sees the good in every situation. Furthermore, athletes should be passionate about what he/she does and always strive for the best. The brilliant Tiger Woods says; “I don’t seek perfection, because it’s unattainable. All I strive for is professional excellence.“ Read, learn and practice to have a stronger personality, and connect with good sport psychologists for optimal growth.
2. REACH YOUR MAXIMUM PHYSICAL POTENTIAL
I love my job as a strength and conditioning coach so much I could write and talk about it for days. But in this post, I am just going to share some thoughts that I see as especially important. Firstly, do not be lazy. Stand up and go for your maximal performance. Don’t think that the coach is the one who gives you will power. Secondly, when talking about reaching maximum potential, we have to refer to something very simple but yet so crucial. In one of the previous articles about functional movement I presented Gray Cook‘s performance pyramid. In order to be injury free and perform at your best, your body needs to be optimised on two levels. The first level is your movement. The second level comprises your motor abilities- strength, power, agility, speed and endurance. In order to enhance your performance, start working on your weaknesses first. Find them and attack them. If you do not have a S&C specialist around you, find one you trust. Working 1 on 1 with a coach is the best way to reach the top.
3. GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR COACH
It is a normal thing in every sport that throughout ones career you go through several coaches. Even though sometimes it happens when you are young that you meet a coach who does not like your style of playing (talking about team sports) or a coach who you just do not like very much, you have to be smart and use time in the best possible way. As time passes by, you tend to miss some things. So, stay positive and focused. If you can’t play as much as you would like to, concentrate on something else that will help you. Practice free throws, work on your serve, study tactics of your game, learn to manage feelings, work on your physical deficits with a strength coach. Believe in yourself. If you happen to have a coach who likes your style of play and work ethic, stay effective and take from him as much as you can.
4. EAT WELL AND HYDRATE
I love how Mark Verstegen talks about food and drinks by using the verb ‘to fuel’. When I first read it, I instantly thought of my car and bad gas stations (poor gasoline quality) where I sometimes need to fill up the tank. It can happen that the motor of my car does not work as well as it does with the best fuel we have on the market. In the same way athletes should think about their diet, learn about the differences between nutrients so their motor (i.e. their body) can perform at its best. Should they eat more white bread and pasta or rice and potatoes? Water and fresh fruit juice or sodas and beer? Fish and poultry or pork? It makes no sense to train hard and fuel badly. It is not a quality of an efficient athlete. Lastly, do not forget to invest in supplements such as whey protein, amino acids, creatin monohydrate, vitamins and minerals.
5. EXPLORE WITH RECOVERY METHODS
Many books have been written on recovery in sports. In the previous chapter we have mentioned one of the most important recovery methods. For that reason it was separated from the following methods. After we take care of an athletes’ diet, it is important that we take care of their soft tissues. Once I wrote here about different recovery methods in sports – starting from physical methods like hydrotherapy and cryotherapy to technical sources like laser and electrical stimulations. Technology is still developing and it should be an important part of recovery but nothing can replace good old manual therapy by a physiotherapist. Aidan Jones has written 3 very thorough articles about massage here on the blog as it is a very important part of manual therapy. I would use the same tip as I had for a S&C specialist. If you do not have a physiotherapist around you, find one you trust.
Working with athletes is kind of an art to me. I may not paint on a canvas or play a guitar but I am juggling these 5 fields in a sound program in an attempt to optimize performance. It is like a never ending jazz performance where you constantly improvise with familiar notes.