Home Posts tagged "John O’Neil" (Page 3)

The Best of 2015: Guest Posts

I've already highlighted the top articles and videos I put out at EricCressey.com in 2015, so now it's time for the top guest posts of the year. Here goes… 

1. 3 Reasons Powerlifting Beginners Should Train More Frequently - Greg Robins wrote this article about two months ago, but I wish he'd done is ten years ago, as it could have really helped me when I was starting out with my powerlifting career!

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2. 7 Ways to Optimize a Young Athlete's First Day in the Gym - Former CSP intern John O'Neil discusses many key points for bringing a young athlete into the training fold the right way.

3. 5 Lessons Learned From Training Those With Low Back Pain - Dean Somerset offers a very insightful piece on improving function in those with lower back pain.

4. How to Cultivate Intrinsic Motivation - John O'Neil makes his second appearance on the list, again with a piece on training young athletes.

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5. How to Stand Out in a Crowded Fitness Industry - My business partner, Pete Dupuis, writes about what distinguishes successful fitness businesses and highlights a case study to make his point.

I'll be back soon with the top strength and conditioning features from 2015.

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How to Cultivate Intrinsic Motivation in Young Athletes

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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Long-Term Athletic Development: Optimizing A Young Athlete’s First Day at the Gym

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance - MA Director of Performance, John O'Neil. I'd like to devote more attention to long-term athletic development here at EricCressey.com, and John will be helping me do so.

This article is geared towards working with a youth athlete who is in a gym for the first time. I have identified steps that I believe to be important with getting the ball rolling toward the athlete’s long-term athletic development, both from a physical and a mental standpoint.

The Physical

1. Establish Point A.

While athletic goals can be diverse, they all fall under the simple structure of getting from point A to point B in an efficient and appropriate manner. We need to be able to address the biggest differences between what an athlete’s current Point A is and what their potential Point B is, and provide them the skills to achieve them. It doesn’t matter what assessment system you use--just that you have the ability to identify where an athlete is the first time they are standing in front of you. For youth athletes, who may not know where their Point B is yet, it’s important that we give them a variety of motor skills that allows them succeed in a number of potential athletic goals years down the road.

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It’s our job to determine what lies within the arrow, and understand that if an athlete’s goals change, we have still put him closer to his new Point B than he was at the original Point A.

2. Give the athlete success.

Success is not something you can learn about on paper and enact. It is something you have to experience. While I understand it is not always practical depending on the schedule of your facility, in my opinion, it is important to give the athlete some type of training effect on Day 1. As a beginner athlete in the gym, success is given via the instant gratification of knowing that you got better today--in essence, you are one (small) step past Point A where you started. The sooner we can give an athlete confidence in their ability to execute the necessary motor skills in a gym to build strength, move more efficiently, and perform on the field, the sooner they will take ownership of their program and be able to convert what you are teaching them from their short to long-term memory.

3. Know which motor skills you want a youth athlete new to the gym to have in place.

Dan John’s basic human movement skills are a great place to start. Every advanced athlete, regardless of their sport, should be able to hip hinge, squat, push, pull, carry, and perform single-leg movements. While not all of these are always realistic to truly pattern in on Day 1, give the athlete the knowledge of and the physical basics of what you are trying to get them to do. In a baseball population, some of the most important movements will also include teaching the athlete true external rotation, scapular control, and the ability to safely get overhead. As an example, here’s a basic drill (usually included in the warm-ups) to educate athletes about where they should and should not be feeling exercises in their shoulder as their arm goes into external rotation.

4. Know which practical weight-room skills you want the athlete to have in place.

Identify the basic implements, grips, and stances used in your programming, and select exercises to teach these while also teaching the basic movement skills. A perfect example is an Anterior-Loaded Barbell Reverse Lunge, which teaches the athlete to get strong on one leg with an efficient lunge pattern, and also teaches them a front-squat grip with a barbell. We have to ask: How much of the overlap in the Venn Diagram can we get athletes proficient in, or at least give them a comfort level with, on Day 1?

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Another great example is a kettlebell goblet squat, as the athlete learns both the goblet grip and the squat pattern. As Eric has written in the past, barring any contraindication, a majority of Day 1 Cressey Sports Performers learn the trap bar deadlift, but many athletes new to lifting may need more direct work to effectively pattern the hip hinge component of a deadlift. One of my favorite exercises is a tall-kneeling banded hip hinge with a dowel. This teaching tool puts the athlete in a position where they cannot fail without knowing it, thanks to having a physical external cue in both places that are important to the hip hinge--hinging at the hips (the band) and maintaining a neutral spine (the dowel).

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The Mental

1. Put the athlete in an environment where they are comfortable and want to be.

For someone who has never been in a gym, it is important to schedule their assessment and first training session at a time when the gym is not busy. In order to really promote athletes taking ownership of their programming and truly wanting to pursue long-term athletic development, the gym needs to feel like a safe haven rather than an overwhelming place of chaos. The athlete could be coming from a difficult situation at home or in their personal life and it is our job to make the gym a place of comfort and enjoyment. If the gym is very slow/quiet, you might even have the athlete choose which music they want to listen to. The places we learn the best are the places we are the most comfortable and the happiest being in.

2. Assess the athlete in a way that tells them that you’ve seen, dealt with, and given success to many, many people just like them.

A majority of your athletes won’t have a clue what you’re looking at, but they’ll know if you come across as confident and sure of what you are seeing. In the baseball population at CSP, this is easy to portray to an athlete because they know the success that professional baseball players have had while training there. During the assessment, you might even be able to figure out whether the athlete is a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner, which will be invaluable when you are cueing the bigger movements.

3. Create context with the athlete that allows you and your staff to optimize your relationship with them, both as a person and an athlete.

Athletes are comfortable with coaches they know truly care about them, and, they respond best to cues that are already within their existing schemas. As coaches, we are always working to expand the amount of schemas we can tap into because we need to know what clicks best with the athlete. If talking about video games makes the athlete want to be there and listen to you, relate to them that way. If talking to a 14 year-old about why they don’t use Facebook anymore and how they only use Snapchat and Instagram is the best way to make them think you’re someone who’s cool to be around and worth listening to, then that’s the route you should take. The best time to create said context is when you are showing the athlete how to foam roll. The correctives/warm-ups and the lifts will be more task-oriented, and hopefully by that point you know what to talk about and how to talk to the athlete.

Conclusion

The challenge as a coach is choosing how much information you can give the athlete that they can actually retain. One of my favorite ideas to think about as a coach is Miller’s Law--the idea that a person can only hold approximately seven items in their working memory. At the end of the day, you can’t expect an athlete of any level to retain everything from their first training session, but you can give the athlete a concept of a few basic motor patterns and a few different grips, implements, and stances in the weight room. Most importantly, you can send that athlete home with the knowledge that they are one step closer to their goals.

If you're looking for more insights on training youth athletes, be sure to check out the International Youth Conditioning Association High School Strength and Conditioning Certification.

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About the Author

John O’Neil (@OneilStrength) is Director of Performance at Cressey Sports Performance in Hudson, MA. You can contact him by email at joh.oneil@gmail.com and follow him on Instagram.

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