Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Where's the Speed?

I had a conversation with a coach that was at a smaller school. He told me "we work on a lot of strength because I don't really get the fast kids into my program". I can't say I was stunned but wanted to take the time to give him the best advice I could. Most coaches hearts are in the right place and he was coming from a place of asking for my opinion on his training.
I told him I would only go to speed endurance based workouts when they have hit the max speed goals set for the max speed phase of training.
But more importantly back to the comment of "we work on a lot of strength because I don't really get the fast kids into my program". Everyone can't be fast ( Olympic caliber sprinters) but everyone can get faster, so why not run kids fast? We play basketball to get better at basketball, we play football to get better at football and that goes for any sport or activity. However when it comes sprinting FASTER, for some reason people think running at sub max speeds(repeat 200s, 300s, miles in some cases) are the answer. Got to get stronger to run faster, nothing ever been further from the truth. Well unless you get kids in your program that run 21.10, then yeah just give them strength and they will be fast quarter milers but if you don't do some sort of speed work even they will eventually lose what they are not using.
Why not improve their fly 30 time and then improve the 120m-150m range then improve the 150m-250m range?  This seems more common sense since they would be sprinting and that is what they do. Vince Anderson, the sprints coach at Texas A&M once said you keep a sprinter safe by keeping them in the intensity zones that they will work in at a meet. Nothing could be more true. We keep football players safe by rehearsing plays at full speed (maybe not as many reps to start off, but this soon increases as well.), the same in basketball, why don't we do this in sprinting?
Train fast to be fast.

Work that works.

Since becoming the Head Coach at Converse College, I have been able to really sit back and analyze my program. Our sessions usually last about 60-90mins. My goal has been to use what works and not to just work. We get in the things that are going to help us, if it doesn't help then get rid of it. I see a lot of coaches that are consumed by work (some of it is productive and some isn't.). They don't know what's working because they are doing so much stuff. I like to trim the fat off the steak.
Also with the extra paper work associated with my new position, I don't have time to just hang out at the track and do the NICE to do stuff, don't get me wrong sometimes we will have fun with things we do. However in a regular session, I have to make sure what we are doing is going to be beneficial, anything other than that can possibly lead to fatigue, injury, overtraining or miss out time that could have been used on something more beneficial.
If you are at the track for 60-90minutes, that's more than enough time. Our kids are sometimes surprised at how exhausted they are from workouts that they thought were easy.
Bottom line is we are getting in the work THAT WORKS.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

No Restrictions!!!

Keeping your run unrestricted means you aren't cutting any movements short in an attempt to be fast.  Some kids do it naturally and some don't. Some have it programmed out of them by a coach that's always trying to race in practice. For others it's a learned behavior thru great coaching.
Stress full ranges of motion in acceleration and max velocity, all the way thru the finish line, NO RESTRICTIONS. Let the finish line come to you, don't try to race to the finish line.
In hurdling the only thing that's cut short are the strides between the hurdles however the actual hurdling itself is a huge dive. I hate when coaches try to get athletes to snap lead legs or trail legs. This is possible because of velocity across the hurdle. If you are moving fast enough across the hurdle, then the result will be a fast lead and trail leg. You have no choice when you are moving at high speeds. However the dive at the hurdle can't be restricted, in other words, you can't cut your dive short in an attempt to begin snapping the lead leg down or snapping the trail leg thru. Those two things happen as a result of the velocity across the hurdle. However the velocity happens as a result of a hard dive. For a lot of kids this velocity across the hurdle never happens because they are focusing on some cue that is initiating an action that it is not ready to happen yet. You can't cue action B before you cue action A. Don't do things out of order or too quick. Let motor learning take place and as you learn the action correctly at comfortable speeds the action will be able to be initiated faster and faster. So don't go for quickness, by shortening up movements, go for correct technique and a speed that is controllable (I call this controlled speed development hence the name of the blog).
Very rarely do you need to restrict movements. Keep everything unrestricted, smooth and rhythmic.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Coaching Mentors

Since the last time I wrote on this blog ALOT HAS CHANGED. My mindset on training has progressed and I am now the Head Cross Country and Track and Field Coach at Converse College, a division 2 school in Spartanburg, SC. Sitting in my office prompted me to think of where I started and how I got to where I am. This made me feel a feeling of thanksgiving to all my mentors. Mentors are very important in this profession because they help mold you by showing you what, when, where and how. It is up to you to go do the looking. Your mentor is important but they are not the only authority on training, so count on them to teach you but don't count on JUST THEM. Learn the sciences that backup the training, then learn the art in making those sciences work for your athlete. This will help you form your philosophy which will change or progress as you get more experience.

I am very thankful for my most influential mentors (Jim Patchell (Arkansas State University) and Ted Whitaker(Savannah State University)). They have both taught me to use common sense when training and also to understand the situation I'm in. For example I can't give Justin Gatlin's workouts to a girl that is running 13.1 in the 100m. We as coaches have to do things in the right order, isn't that the rhythm of life? Starting at point A and progressing to point B. This progression is used in business, training, and every endeavor in life. Rarely do we start at point B because the goal is point B.

I say all this because this philosophy stemmed from their common sense approach and their willingness to give me whatever they could from their knowledge base and experiences but also they urged me to look in other places to get knowledge. They even told me where to look in some cases.

To some this may not sound like a big deal. But if a older coach or mentor is insecure and feels like you may surpass him (which isn't possible in my opinion without the years of experience), they may make you think their way is the only way you need to know, and in that way try to control your ability to expand your knowledge base. This is crippling to a young coach.

  They could have attempted to kept me dumb and made me think their way was the only way or the best way. As long as you do it one way, then its already predetermined who your program will work with. Your program and philosophy should be like clay doe, it should change and mold with the situation. Some coaches know how to develop but if you train an elite athlete, you can't continue to develop that which is already developed. Some coaches are good at maintaining talent, however if you are blessed with a 13.1 100m sprinter, then they need to be developed because you don't want to maintain a sprinter at that level. So be ready for all situations by learning the sciences, coaching and making mistakes and having victories. Experience is the best teacher but a great mentor can be a safety net and guide.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Movement Competency Spectrum

It has been a long time since I've written and a lot has happened. I've since accepted a position as assistant cross country and track and field coach at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, SC. I've learned a lot since coming here and been able to continue my growth as a coach.
Now to the meat and potatoes of this blog article. I want to talk about improvement in sprints and hurdles through improvement of movement. I began really hammering home the concept of executing technique in practice without worrying about the speed of the technique. I saw instant improvement but eventually went back to racing in practice and I'm not saying racing has no place in practice but there is a proper place and time for racing in practice.
Why try and do something fast that you can't do slowly yet? Sprinting is a skill that requires physical competency of a force application through a specific range of motion in a specific window of time. Now with this being said the question arises, "how do sprinters get faster without sprinting fast?" The exercise isn't necessarily to sprint fast more than it is to sprint correctly at a speed that will allow you to do so. Why try to sprint at max speeds when you can't sprint CORRECTLY at sub max speeds.
Teach the correct technique and movements to physically incompetent sprinters at lowered speeds, until they become physically competent sprinters and can go thru the correct ranges of motions at higher and higher speeds. Once the movements become second nature then you can start clocking IF YOU WANT TO. Sprinting or hurdling at controlled speeds gives the sprinter or hurdler an opportunity to feel the movements and as a result, they will advance thru the movement competency spectrum from incompetent of the correct technique and movement to being competent of the movement. Now at this point you can choose to start sprinting them all out with teammates out of blocks (which isn't irresponsible since they understand the movements now). You as a coach have a choise to make at this point and this is where a quote from Vince Anderson played in my head over and over again. He said "A lot of what it takes to get faster may seem counterintuitive to what many thinks it takes to get fast." The reason I say this is because I would choose to continue sprinting them at submax speeds focusing on not only understanding the technique but progressing to mastering the technique. You may say "why not speed up the movement, shouldn't the sprinter or hurdler learn the movement in an environment that would cause them to do it faster?" My response is turnover isn't going to go anywhere and I want more force application than turnover. So continued practice of the movements until they have been mastered would be more beneficial in my opinion. Reason being is because everyone's turnover is pretty much the same on a world class level, even on a good college level. The difference is stride length and who can apply THE MOST FORCE in the SMALLEST AMOUNT OF TIME. So that's what I train when we continue to master the movements in the absence of an effort to turnover fast. I want a mixture of force application and foot speed not one without the other. Learn how to use the force you have gained from the weight room as efficiently as possible.

 I honestly think when the movements or techniques are rehearsed at 85-95%  of max speed, that they will carry over to the race. This is my philosophy, do it right and gradually speed of the rate of movement without sacrificing range of motion. Become physically competent then become masterful of your movement or mechanics. When you reach this point it's time to race, IN PRACTICE. Sad to say but most don't even reach this point and they are racing in practice from day 1. The coach is later wondering why the kids aren't improving anymore, after initial improvements, which are usually from strength gains and being in a program with structure and consistent practices. But after the easy improvements are made how do you keep your athletes improving? In my opinion a lot of sprinters are physically competent of the wrong movements. So in other words, don't perfect the wrong movements and techniques.

SO the spectrum goes from physically incompetent > physically competent >a master of movement.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Technical Installation over any and everything!!!

The more I coach the more patient I become. I think I've said that plenty of times to mentors and mentees. It's amazing how fast your coaching philosophy can be changed based on your experiences. I began my coaching career thinking sprint fast and lift heavy. This is part of what it takes to run fast but what about doing things right. My old philosophy helped with my younger undeveloped kids. However as the kids became more developed this stopped working. They hit a glass ceiling. The problem was that I knew what I wanted out of my kids from a technical standpoint but I didn't know how to go about getting them to actually execute some of these things. I guess I needed more tools in my tool box because the method of just getting them strong and sprinting them had exhausted it's time in my program. IT WASN'T WORKING ANYMORE.

Thanks to Coach David Johnson joining the East Tennessee State University staff, he has educated me on training stride length patterns. It was the extra tool I needed to help my kids learn how to push the ground both during acceleration and during max velocity. I had to put DOWN the stop watch and ask them to slow down, push the ground and hit the marks on the ladders with good technique. DO IT RIGHT THEN DO IT FAST. Putting down the stopwatch was very hard for me, because I couldn't see how fast they were running and that was scary because I didn't know if they were making improvements. As we stretched the ladders they showed great technique while actually pushing thru the ground and hitting the marks on the ladder. When we removed the ladders and pulled out the stop watches at week 8, it was amazing what they were able to do technically and the times were faster then previous years. It was like a lightbulb going off in my head. We spent 8 weeks instilling the technique at lowered speeds and it was there when they went fast.

 This change in training philosophy allowed me to see things on another level. I just dropped alot of what I thought it took to get faster. All I wanted to see was correct technique, so during technical installation I left my stop watch in my office.  In the weightroom  I took the same mentality, we went very light to focus on general conditioning but also to instill technique. We wanted to utilize the correct muscle groups in a wholistic approach. I continued to train movement and added some bodybuilding. Both of these changes in the weightroom and on the track took alot of discipline and patience on my part. I usually want to see how fast they are running and how much they could lift for however many of reps they were lifting. That philosophy changed to one that stressed doing things right before we sprint fast or lift heavy in the weightroom.

The improvements are amzing when this philosophy is used. We have been in training for 8 weeks and I took the stop watch out for the first time for short sprints on week 8. I was really happy with the times I saw but I was happier about how they were achieving the times. They were using correct technique. I'm not saying all my kids are perfect sprint models, we are very far from that but that's why I'm in coaching. One thing is for sure, I will be doing alot more technical instilling, it may seem boring but it works.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

First magazine article

I got my first article published and Track and Field Technique Magazine. It's entitled "Sprinter Needs Analysis." Thankful for the support of my family and coaching staff. God has been good to me.
Hope you enjoy the read.