Home Posts tagged "Charlie Weingroff"

Performance Programming Principles: Installment 2

As I promised back in November, I've decided to dedicate a regular series to the principles that govern a lot of our program design at Cressey Sports Performance. Here's the second installment:

1. A few positional breathing drills can be a game changer, but don't let them take over the training session.

Positional breathing drills have really surged in popularity in recent years, largely thanks to the great work of the folks at the Postural Restoration Institute. Forceful exhalation in certain positions can both activate certain muscles and inhibit others. Take, for instance, TRX Deep Squat Breathing with Lat Stretch.

We're firing up several muscles of exhalation: rectus abdominus, external obliques, serratus anterior - and toning down our lats, rhomboids, lumbar extensors, and calves (to name a few). It's not uncommon for folks to get up from this exercise after 30 seconds and feel dramatically different.

That said, as is often the case in the fitness industry, if a little is good, then a lot must be better, right? It didn't take long for us to find the zealots who are spending 30 minutes doing positional breathing at the start of every training session. It's somewhat analogous to the folks who foam roll for an hour every day.

You're better off doing 1-2 breathing drills at the start of a warm-up (and possibly as a cool-down) and then following it up with good resistance training technique to make those transient changes "stick." Patience and persistence always win out over short-term "overindulgence."

2. Follow these two great Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA) strategies.

SFMA was one of the better courses I've taken in the past few years, and two programming principles they discuss really stand out:

a. Chase dysfunctional, non-painful patterns first.

Let's say someone walks in with a cranky shoulder that's limited into internal rotation: a dysfunctional, painful pattern. If you just throw caution to the wind and stretch that shoulder into internal rotation, more often than not, you're going to flare things up even further.

Let's say that individual also has a pronounced scapular anterior tilt and very limited thoracic extension and rotation. If you do some soft tissue work on pec minor and work in some thoracic spine mobilizations, there is a  very good chance that when you go back to retest shoulder internal rotation, it'll be improved and pain-free. Sometimes, the best way to get from A to B is through C or D.

b. Find and address areas were passive range-of-motion far exceeds active ROM.

There's a reason a lot of gymnasts and dancers retire with stress fractures in their lower backs; they have a lot of passive range-of-motion, but not always much motor control to stabilize those ranges of motion. This is why it's important to have assessments that test both passive and active ROMs (straight leg raises and supine vs. standing shoulder flexion are great examples). And, you need to have training initiatives that build control in those passive ranges.

3. Check out the Acumobility Ball.

I posted this on my Instagram and thought it might be of interest. The Acumobility Ball has been a game changer for us. You can save 10% on it at www.Acumobility.com with the coupon code cressey.

Here's a little example of how we'd use it on the pec minor/coracobrachialis/short head of biceps attachments on the coracoid process.

4. There's nothing that says you have to progress or regress programming - and there are many different ways to make lateral moves.

As few years ago, Charlie Weingroff coined the term "lateralizations" for times when you don't progress or regress an exercise, but rather, move laterally.

An example would be something along the lines of going from a standing 1-arm cable row to a split-stance 1-arm cable row. There really isn't any change to exercise complexity, but it does give the trainee some variety in their programming.

I'd say that lateralizations are the most useful with adult clients who don't have crazy lofty fitness goals - and therefore aren't interested in taking on a ton of risk in their training programs. They might not crave being sore all the time from all the innovative new exercises you can throw at them. Lateralizations can keep training fun via novelty without adding a steep learning curve.

Additionally, remember that exercise selection isn't the only way to progress or regress the challenge to the athlete or client in front of you. You can increase or decrease volume, alter the tempo, modify the load, or adjust the rest intervals.

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Expanding the “Safe” Exercise Repertoire

In his outstanding new book, Back Mechanic, spine expert Dr. Stuart McGill speaks frequently to how he works with patients to “expand pain-free abilities” over the course of time. This begins with practicing good “spine hygiene” throughout daily activities while avoiding any positions or movements that provoke symptoms.

Back-Mechanic

As a patient gets some asymptomatic time under his/her belt, new movements and exercises are gradually introduced. Over time, the individual’s pain-free movement repertoire can be integrated into a comprehensive exercise program. Effectively, it’s a way to test the waters without simply jumping into the deep end. This is an especially important process for patients who have lived with chronic back pain and need to break the cycle to relearn what it actually is like to feel good. As Dr. McGill writes,

“The approach that has produced the best results for us over the years has been to teach the patient pain-free movement. This is based on the ‘gate theory’ of pain. Finding simple movements that do not cause pain floods the proprioceptive system with joint and muscle sensor signals, leaving little room for pain signals to get through the neural ‘gates.’ These pain-free movements are repeated to encode the pattern in the brain. Slowly, the patient’s ability repertoire of pain free movement increases until they are able to move well, and for longer periods. They successfully replaced the pain inducing patterns wired into their brains with pain-free patterns.”

As I read through Dr. McGill’s work, I couldn’t help but think about how it can be adapted to other realms of the rehabilitation and fitness communities. As an example, speaking to my main realm of interest – training baseball players – we have to consider how this applies to return-to-throwing programs in the baseball rehabilitation world. Truth be told, this approach traditionally has not been applied well in most rehabilitation scenarios in overhead throwing athletes because they have just about the most specific kind of mechanical pain there is. In other words, the elbow or shoulder only bothers them in this position, and usually at higher velocities:

layback

Most of the significant upper extremity throwing injuries you see don’t involve much pain at rest. Rather, the arm only hurts during the act of throwing. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), nothing in our daily lives really simulates the stress of throwing. As such, for a thrower, expanding pain-free abilities really have just traditionally meant:

throwingprogression

You’d actually be surprised to find that there often aren’t any progressions that “link” one phase of this progression to the next. In the “not throwing” phase, we often see a lot of generic arm care exercises, but little attention to speed of movement, integrating the lower half and core, and incorporating training positions specific to an athlete’s arm slot. Unfortunately, just laying on a table and doing some exercises with a 5-pound dumbbell won’t necessarily prepare you to throw the ball on a line at 120-feet.

For this reason, we always seek out physical therapists who treat the athlete “globally” and appreciate the incremental stress of various phases of throwing. The name of the game is to incorporate several “test the water” steps between each of these three categories. We do the exact same things as players ramp up their off-season throwing programs. As physical therapist Charlie Weingroff has astutely observed in the past, “Training = Rehab, Rehab = Training.”

How do we bridge the gap between not throwing and flat-ground throwing as much as possible? For starters, rotator cuff exercises need to take place near 90 degrees of abduction to reflect the amount of scapular upward rotation and shoulder elevation that takes place during throwing. Moreover, it’s important to work closer to true end-range of external rotation in testing strength that “matters” during the lay-back phase of throwing. And, we need to test how they do with the external-to-internal rotation transition.

To this point, in my career, I’ve seen a lot of throwers who have passed physical exams of cuff strength in the adducted (arm at the side) position, but failed miserably in the “arm slot” positions that matter. Picking the right progressions really matters.

Additionally, more aggressive rotational medicine ball drills can help to teach force production, transfer, and acceptance in a manner specific to the throwing motion.

Unfortunately, at the end of the day, the only thing that can truly reflect the stress of throwing is actually throwing. And this is also why there have to be incremental steps from flat-ground work to mound work (where external rotation range-of-motion is considerably higher).

Fortunately for most rehab specialists and the fitness professionals who pick up where they leave off, most return-to-action scenarios aren’t as complex as getting a MLB pitcher back on the mound. A general fitness client with a classic external impingement shoulder presentation might just need to test the waters in a progression along these lines:

(Feet-Elevated) Push-up Isometric Holds > (Feet-Elevated) Body Weight Push-up > Stability Ball Push-up > Weighted Push-up > Neutral Grip DB Floor Press > Neutral Grip Decline DB Press > Pronated Grip Decline DB Press > Barbell Board Press (gradual lowering) > Barbell Floor Press > Neutral Grip DB Bench Press > Low Incline DB Press > Close-Grip Bench Press > Bench Press > Bottoms-up KB Military Press > Barbell Incline Press > Barbell Overhead Pressing

Different people might start at different places on this continuum, and some folks might not need to progress all the way along. The point is that there needs to be a rhyme and reason to whatever continuum you create for expanding individuals’ pain-free abilities.

A lot of folks have a pretty good understanding of “progression.” This, to me, refers to how we sequentially teach movements and make training more challenging. Unfortunately, not nearly as many professionals understand “pain-free progression” under the unique circumstances surrounding injury.

This is one of many reasons why I think understanding post-rehab training is so important for the modern fitness professional. It’s a tremendous competitive advantage for differentiating oneself in the “training marketplace.” Moreover, on a purely ethical level, having a solid understanding of various injuries and their implications helps a coach deliver a safe training experience.

With all this in mind, I'd really encourage my readers to check out Dean Somerset's resource, Post-Rehab Essentials. It's a fantastic product that also happens to be on sale for $50 off through Sunday at midnight. You can learn more HERE.

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Building Aerobic Capacity with Mobility Circuits (Another Nail in the Coffin of Distance Running for Pitchers)

If you've read EricCressey.com for any length of time, you're surely aware that I'm not a fan of distance running for pitchers. I've published multiple articles (here, here, here, and here) outlining my rationale for the why, but these articles have largely been based on theory, anecdotal experience, and the research of others. Today, I wanted to share with you a bit of data we collected at Cressey Sports Performance - Florida not too long ago.

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First, though, I should make a few important notes that "frame" our training recommendations and

1. Athletes absolutely must have a well-developed aerobic system in order to recover both acutely (during the training session or competition/games) and chronically (between training sessions and competitions/games). It's relatively easy to improve if approached correctly, and can yield outstanding benefits on a number of physiological fronts.

2. As long as the intensity is kept low enough during aerobic training initiatives, it won't compromise strength and power development. I wrote about this all the way back in 2003 with Cardio Confusion, but many industry notables like Alex Viada, Joel Jamieson, Mike Robertson, Bill Hartman Eric Oetter, Pat Davidson, Charlie Weingroff have done a far better job describing the mechanisms of action in the 12 years since that article was published. Speaking generally, most folks put the "safe zone" intensity for aerobic development without strength/power compromise at approximately 60-70% of max heart rate (Zone 2, for the endurance savvy folks out there).

3. It might be a large amplitude movement (great ranges-of-motion achieved), but baseball is a low movement variability sport. Pitchers are the most heavily affected; they do the exact same thing for anywhere from 6-9 months out of the year (or up to 12, if they're making bad decisions by playing 12 months out of the year). Distance running to me does not offer significant enough movement variability to be a useful training option for developing the aerobic system.

4. The absolute best time to develop the aerobic system is early in the off-season. For the professional baseball player, this is Sep-Oct for minor leaguers, and Oct-Nov for major leaguers. This is one more strike against distance running; after a long season of being on their feet in cleats, the last thing players need is a higher-impact aerobic approach.

With these four points in mind, two years ago, I started integrating aerobic work in the form of mobility circuits with our pro guys in the early off-season. The goals were very simple: improve movement quality and build a better aerobic foundation to optimize recovery – but do so without interfering with strength gains, body weight/composition improvements, and the early off-season recharge mode.

The results were awesome to the naked eye – but it wasn’t until this week that I really decided that we ought to quantify it. Lucky for me, one CSP athlete – Chicago White Sox pitching prospect Jake Johansen – was up for the challenge and rocked a heart rate monitor for his entire mobility circuit. A big thanks goes out to Jake for helping me with this. Now, let’s get to the actual numbers and program.

Jake is 24 years old, and his resting heart rate upon rising was 56 beats per minute (bpm). If we use the Karvonen Formula for maximum HR (takes into account age and resting HR) and apply our 60-70% for zone 2, we want him living in the 140-154bpm range for the duration of his session. As you can see from the chart below – which features HR readings at the end of every set during his session – he pretty much hovered in this zone the entire time. The only time he was a bit above it was during an “extended” warm-up where I added in some low-level plyo drills just to avoid completely detraining sprint work (he’d already had a few weeks off from baseball before starting up his off-season).

MobilityCircuitsHR

When all was said and done, Jake averaged 145bpm for the 38 minutes between the end of his warm-up and the completion of the session.

Graph1

He bumped up a little bit high in a few spots, but that’s easily remedied by adding in a slightly longer break between sets – or even just rearranging the pairings.

Graph2

To that last point, I should also note that this approach only works if an athlete is cognizant of not taking too long between sets. If he chats with his buddies and heart rate dips too much between "bouts," you're basically doing a lame interval session instead of something truly continuous. Jake did 44 sets of low-intensity work in 38 minutes. You can't get that much work in if you're taking time to tell a training partner about the cute thing your puppy did, or pondering your fantasy football roster.

Think about the implications of this....

What do you think this kind of approach could do for the foundation of movement quality for a typical high school, college, or professional pitching staff?

Don't you think it might make them more athletic, and even more capable of making mechanical changes easier?

Don't you think they'd be less injury-resistant performing an individualized mobility circuit instead of one-size-fits-all distance running?

Do you think that maybe, just maybe, they'd feel better after an 11-hour bus ride?

Don't you think they'd bounce back more quickly between outings?

Designing a low-intensity mobility circuit like this is not difficult. I have a ton of examples on my YouTube page and in products like Assess and Correct and The High Performance Handbook. Stuff like this works great:

What is difficult for some coaches, though, is admitting that distance running to "build up your legs" is like changing the tires on a car with no engine, or studying for the wrong test. Just because "that's how it's always been done" doesn't mean that's how it has to stay.

Give some of these a try in the early off-season - and even during the season in place of "flush runs." They'll be a big hit with your athletes both in terms of performance and health. 

And, for those of your looking for another Z2 training option, look no further.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 4/7/15

I'm making the drive from Florida to Massachusetts over the next two days, so there won't be time for new content. However, I've got some awesome reads and a "listen" to hold you over until I have a chance to blog again:

Red Flags that You're Working Out Instead of Training - My buddy Tim DiFrancesco, the strength and conditioning coach for the Lakers, just got his blog up and running. He's already got some great content up and running, too!

Charlie Weingroff Integrates All Aspects of Performance - This was an excellent podcast with Charlie at EliteFTS.com.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 10/6/14

It's time for this week's list of recommended strength and conditioning reading:

Elite Training Mentorship - In this month's update, I include an in-service on the top 10 mistakes I see with medicine ball training. I also have two new exercise demonstration videos, and an article on how to prevent "training boredom."

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5 Thoughts on Sprinting - This informative post from Mike Robertson draws on insights from his own experience and what he's learned from others.

Squatting Semantics - Charlie Weingroff presents a quick, but informative look at the different kinds of squats and benefits that each affords - assuming technique is correct.

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Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training: Installment 3

My random thoughts on sports performance training always seem to be a hit with readers, so I figured I'd turn it into a series I update every month or two.  Here are five thoughts that have been rattling around my brain, in no particular order:

1. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that we use a ton of positional breathing drills.  If you'd like some example, just check out Greg Robins' post from a few days ago here.

With that said, one of the biggest mistakes we made when we starting integrating these drills was not encouraging a "reset" at the end of the full exhalation.  Basically, when you cue an athlete to fully exhale, you want a count of 3-4 "one-thousand" before they inhale again.  Effectively, this gives an athlete a chance to a) get familiar/comfortable with this less extended position and b) regulate breathing rate (to turn off sympathetic activity). I've also found that it slows athletes down a bit so that they're forced to focus on doing things perfectly, too.

2. One thing that drives me absolutely bonkers is when I see people opening their hands up while doing Turkish get-ups.  First, the obvious: do you really want to hold a weight right over your face without gripping it?  Second, there are so many remarkable benefits from just gripping something, most notably increasing reflexive recruitment of the rotator cuff.  If anyone has a legitimate rationale for opening the hand with the kettlebell overhead, I'd love to hear it - but nobody has been able to justify it to me as of yet.  

3. I just finished up Charlie Weingroff's new DVD set, Lateralizations and Regressions, and particularly enjoyed the section he devoted to the "packed neck." Back around 2008, it was a change I made with not only my own training, but also how we coached our athletes - and it's yielded profoundly positive results.

As Charlie pointed out, neck position impacts everything else in the body, particularly with respect to optimizing thoracic mobility and scapular control. I think that sometimes, people discount the importance of neck positioning when teaching beginners, assuming they can just teach it later on in a training plan.  In my eyes, when you allow people to deadlift (or perform any lift) while looking up (instead of maintaining a neutral cervical spine with eyes straight ahead), you're really just giving them a faulty compensation pattern to reposition their center of mass.  It's a cue that should be provided from day 1.

For more information on Charlie's new resource, click here.

4. If you train athletes who commonly experience shoulder and elbow concerns - including those who have had surgery - and you don't have a safety squat bar handy, you're missing out on a hugely important piece of equipment.  When it comes to axial loading (bar on the upper back or anterior shoulder girdle), it's the bar we use more than any other - and it's saved my squatting career, as I have a shoulder issue that doesn't like back squatting.

They aren't cheap, but to me, if you deal with these types of athletes/clients often, it's an awesome investment, not an expense.

5. With the MLB Draft a few weeks away - and several Cressey Sports Performance guys expected to be selected early in the draft - one of the things I hear scouts talking about all the time is "projectability" - or where an athlete will be in the years ahead. This is especially important in a sport like baseball, where a player doesn't just quickly ascend to the highest level, as you would see in the NBA or NFL. Instead, players usually log several years of minor league baseball, and the overwhelming majority of them never even actually make it to the big leagues.

To that end, in terms of projectability, scouts are always looking for players who might make big jumps in pro ball - whether it's due to physical improvements, baseball-specific coaching, positional changes, or any of a number of other "windows of adaptation."  When you think about it in this context, the ideal would be to find a kid who hasn't been involved in organized strength and conditioning programs, is weak and undeveloped, and hasn't received good baseball coaching. There's no place to go but up, right?

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Well, the corollary to that is that these woefully underdeveloped kids are usually the ones who have the most wear and tear on their bodies. If they are throwing hard or demonstrating great bat speed, they've often spent years hanging out on passive restraints (e.g., ligaments) because the active restraints (e.g., muscles) haven't been sufficient to pick up the slack. In other words, they're injuries just waiting to happen. And, we know that having even just one surgery while in the minor leagues dramatically reduces a player's chance of making it to "The Show;" in face, one MLB strength coach told me that it reduced the likelihood of a player making it to the big leagues by 50%.

So, you could really say that projectability is a balancing act for teams. You want athletes who aren't completely tapped out physically, but at the same time, aren't so fragile-looking that you think they'll fall apart on you before you can even develop them.  I think it's why a lot of scouts love to see multi-sport high school prospects; it automatically shows that they're "middle-of-the-road" athletes. They've got solid general athletic development and less wear and tear (because of no year-round baseball).  Plus, they can pick up more advanced skills easier because they've expanded their motor learning pool with a wide variety of activities over the years. Coaching them once they're in pro ball is generally easier than it would be with a kid who's spent 12 months each year learning bad habits without ever wiping the slate clean for a few months. Plus, because they've played multiple sports, you know that they've learned to roll with different social circles - and playing professional baseball will certainly test their abilities to interact with a wide variety of people.

Just food for thought from a guy who's not a scout, but can't help but make observations from a pretty informed perspective.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 5/20/14

I've recharged the batteries after last week's product launch, so it's time to kick this week of with some recommended reading:

Lateralizations and Regressions - This is the new DVD set from Charlie Weingroff.  I'm about 2/3 of the way through it and enjoying it.  If you liked Charlie's first DVD set, you'll enjoy this one as well. Charlie does a great job of bridging the gap between rehab and high performance, so this is a solid resource for strength and conditioning professionals and rehabilitation specialists alike.

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4 Ways to Fire Up Work Capacity - There has never, ever been a Dan John article that wasn't worth reading. It's like when you were little and your grandfather told you a bedtime story, except Dan's not that old yet, and he's way more jacked than your grandfather (no offense, Grandpa). Always entertaining, and always educational and readily applicable.

CP Client Spotlight: Jake Sprague - This is a feature on one of my favorite Cressey Performance clients, who's been with us during his professional rugby career and beyond.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 12/23/13

Here's this week's list of recommended strength and conditioning reading:

Squatting and Pulling with the Taller Lift - I always enjoy Charlie Weingroff's writing, even though it doesn't come frequently.  This was an excellent piece that reflects a lot of my own views on training taller athletes; just because a guy is taller doesn't mean you blindly contraindicate movements with him.

Is Post-Exercise Muscular Soreness a Valid Indicator of Muscular Adaptation - This is a great review in the Strength and Conditioning Journal from Brad Schoenfeld and Bret Contreras, and it covers a topic that has long been debated in training circles. 

9 Tips for Consistent Workouts - This is a solid article from Charles Staley, and it's timely, in light of how many New Year's Resolutions folks will fall off the bandwagon in the next 6-8 weeks.

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Energy Systems Development: A Presentation You Need to Watch

You know how everyone has that one friend who is just absurdly smart?  You know, the kind of person who could hear something once, instantly remember it, and then instantly apply it in a productive manner?

Unfortunately, not all these people are all that motivated, so they may take their impressive ability to learn and leverage it to the max by studying everything they can get their hands on.  However, when you do find one of them who is ultra motivated, you wind up with game changers.  In our industry, guys like Bill Hartman and Charlie Weingroff are two that come to mind: quick learners who love to learn and apply.

That said, you can imagine my surprise and excitement when I realized that I had one of these in the making as an intern at Cressey Performance in the summer of 2011.  You may have even heard of him by now: Eric Oetter.  And, as this somewhat recent photo demonstrates, he's only 13 years old.

Oetter_1

Okay, the age was a joke, but the brain power isn't. In addition to interning at CP, he's also spent a lot of quality time at Mike Robertson and Bill Hartman's facility in Indianapolis, and undertaken a bunch of continuing education coursework (PRI, DNS, and several other schools of thought).

That said, to make a very long story short, Eric's making a name for himself in the industry - and as a little example of it, I'd strongly encourage you to check out this free video on Energy Systems Development he did as part of the pre-launch for Robertson's Bulletproof Athlete resource.  You'll need to opt in to view it, but I guarantee you'll find it to be well worth it. 

In this presentation, Eric discusses a lot of the myths surrounding aerobic exercise and energy systems development.  Most importantly, though, he provides practical recommendations to help you put this knowledge into action to improve your training programs, regardless of whether your goal (or your athletes' goals).  I learned some good stuff, and I'm sure you will, too.  Here is the link to check it out.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 7/11/12

Here's this week's list of recommended strength and conditioning reading:

Elite Training Mentorship - The most recent update includes quite a bit of content from me, including two exercise demonstrations, an article, as well as two staff in-services: "Scapular Positioning During Table Arm Care Exercises" and "Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core." If you haven't checked out Elite Training Mentorship yet, I'd strongly encourage you to give it a shot.

Rehab = Training, Training = Rehab: Top 10 Takeaways: Part 1 and Part 2- This was a two-part post I wrote about 20 months ago as a review of Charlie Weingroff's outstanding DVD set. I'd highly recommend the resource, but even if you don't pick it up, you'll walk away with some valuable tips from these two articles.

By the Coach for the Coach: 10 Things I Learned During the 2011-2012 School Year - I loved this post from my buddy Todd Hamer. Todd, the head strength and conditioning coach at Robert Morris University, is one of the best college strength and conditioning coaches I know. He's a tremendous motivator and has loads of experience in the trenches, even if he doesn't have a big internet name. Up-and-coming coaches need to read stuff like this as often as possible!

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