Home Posts tagged "Sports Specialization"

A Quick Lesson on Long-Term Athletic Development

On Wednesday night, the Vanderbilt Baseball team won the first men's national championship in any sport in school history.  I'm absolutely ecstatic, as we've trained several current Vanderbilt players as well as some of their former players who are now in professional baseball, and I have a great relationship with the coaching staff.

To make the moment even more special, a long time Cressey Performance athlete, Adam Ravenelle, came on to get a six-out save in the deciding game three:

While Vanderbilt baseball's 2014 season is a amazing story in itself, there's a sub-plot that warrants mention as well, and Adam serves as a perfect example. "Rav" was a 5-10, 125-pound 8th grader when he first timidly walked in to Cressey Performance back in the summer of 2007.  At the time, he was a baseball player - but also a golfer, tennis player, and basketball player.

As a freshman and sophomore in high school, he played golf, basketball, and baseball. As a junior, he pared it down to basketball and baseball. Only when he was a high school senior did he trim things down to one sport - and even then, it was after he was already committed to play at Vanderbilt, and a serious MLB Draft prospect (he was drafted in the 44th round out of high school in 2011, and then again in the 4th round this year).

His teammate, Tyler Beede, is another one of our athletes. Ty played football, basketball, and baseball as a freshman. He went to football and baseball as a sophomore, then down to baseball only as a junior. He regretted leaving football, and went back to playing his senior year - and was still a 1st round draft pick in 2011 (and again this year).

I vividly remember a conversation I had with Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin in the winter of 2009-2010 when he talked about how he's always reluctant to recruit baseball-only guys. There are so many incredible benefits to playing multiple sports, from avoiding overuse, to developing general athleticism, to making friends in different social circles. If you look at the roster that just won a College World Series for Vanderbilt, you'll see that recruiting perspective is readily apparent. Look at their roster, and only 9 of the 34 guys come from states that could be perceived as "year-round baseball" states: Georgia, Florida, Texas, California, etc. There are a heck of a lot more guys from Massachusetts, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Kentucky and (of course) Tennessee - all states where it gets cold and snows in the winter, making year-round baseball a lot tougher. Most of the guys on the Vanderbilt roster were great athletes in other sports as well. In fact, of the 9 to which I alluded above, two - Carson Fullmer (FL) and Dansby Swanson (GA) - were praised by the ESPN announcers for their success in other sports (karate and basketball, respectively).

Early specialization might work out for a small percentage of young athletes, but it fails miserably for the majority. And, you can never go wrong with finding and developing general athleticism. Look at Vanderbilt's track record of success over the past decade (and their significantly lower injury rates), and it's impossible to argue. Let kids play, and not just baseball...they might just "surprise" you by winning a national championship.

Congratulations to the Commodores!

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Developmental Systems – The X & O Factors for Training Young Athletes

Today's guest blog comes from Brian Grasso. The Youth Fitness and Sports Training explosion has happened. More than $4 billion are pumped into the niches of personalized training and coaching for young people every year in the United States alone (Wall Street Journal, November 2004) and roughly 1 million kids and teens hired a Personal Trainer in 2006 (msnbc.com). Given those stats and the enormity of both the problems (youth obesity and sports-related injuries) as well as the market size (see above) you'd think that we, as a profession, would have a relatively good working knowledge of how young people need to be trained and guided through a physical education process.

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Unfortunately, this is as far from the truth as it gets. I won't bloviate or preach. I won't reveal my thoughts regarding how ineffectual we choose to be when working with this demographic. And I certainly won't use any sardonic overtones about the role of responsibility we should employ when opting to work with such a sensitive and cherished client base. I will simply appeal to your sense of logic and intelligence. For the purposes of this article, let me say this: "Kids" is a term I will use to encompass everyone who inhabits the ages of 6 - 18. Athletes and Non-Athletes alike. Miniature superstars, bench-warmers and the overweight, will all be lumped under the same umbrella. And simply stated, I do this because the development parameters of physical stimulus needed for ALL "kids" is the same - at very least in the beginning phases of training spectrum. Training stimulus with this demographic is guided, primarily, by physiology. You train to the organism, not the apparent needs of the young athlete or any potential concerns - for example, increasing the speed of an 8 year old running back or arm strength of a 10 year old pitcher would amount to "apparent needs" of a young athlete.  Attacking measures of calorie restriction and "fat loss" protocol would be examples of "potential concerns." Instead, your focus must be on the organism itself.

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What a young organism needs to experience in the way of physical stimulus can largely be deduced by chronological age.  Certainly biological age (relative body maturation), emotional age (psychological maturation) and even personality (temperament) can all be factored into the equation, but I have found in my 13-year career that chronological age determents can be successfully applied in 90% of the cases.  The remaining 10% can be accounted for through proper coaching and identification. Having said all that, the following is a brief rundown of the physical needs of 'kids' based on chronological age: 6 - 9 Years Old:
  • Guided Discovery - implying that Coaches and Trainers must create games and exercises that involve a variety of movement and guidelines in terms of execution, but allow the 'kids' to explore on their own.  This phase is terribly critical for establishing "Athletic Intelligence" and sets the seeds for increased complexity of training in the future
  • Outcome-Based Coaching - Coaches and Trainers must restrict their commentary and praise to that of "outcome" oriented verbiage.  For example, when asking a 7 year old to pick up a medicine ball and throw it forward using a chest-pass motion, provide praise on that and that alone with respect to successful execution.  Comments pertaining to form are not required and can impede the natural development of "kids" with respect to establishing "Athletic Intelligence."

10 - 13 Years Old:

  • Learning Exploration - Not dissimilar to Guided Discovery, "kids" must still be encouraged to discover what proper execution feels like on their own.  However, as emotional maturation increases (and while neural plasticity or adaptability is still high) it is also critical to start teaching the essence of primal patterns.  Educating "kids" on how to produce and resist force, create angles or accelerate/decelerate becomes an increasingly important part of the training process.
This is a rough overview.  I admit it. But learning exactly how to work with "kids" in a training environment is a process of education unto itself. Just know this for starters: It's not about Sets & Reps - it's about instructing technique through a developmental process. There's more, MUCH more I need to cover... And fortunately will be able to. Next month I'll be back with another installment. Until then,  re-read the above. The "kids" are worth our best effort. Brian Grasso has trained more than 15,000 young athletes worldwide over the past decade.  He is the Founder and CEO of the International Youth Conditioning Association - the only youth-based certification organization in the entire industry.  For more information, visit www.IYCA.org Related Posts The Truth About Kids and Resistance Training Developing Young Pitchers the Safe Way Preventing Injuries in Young Athletes
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A Good Lesson for Endurance Athletes

I’ve spoken on many occasions about how you need to get fit to run, not run to get fit. This is applicable not only to staying healthy as an endurance athlete, but also to performing at a high level. You don’t have to look any further than the results of this past weekend’s U.S. Olympic Trials in the marathon. For those that missed it, Ryan Hall not only broke the Olympic Trials record with a 2:09:02 finish, but also bested his nearest competitor by over two minutes. This adds to a celebrated list of accomplishments for the former Stanford standout; this list includes the American marathon debut record and American record in the half-marathon (59:43). The most impressive part? Hall started as a miler – and didn’t even do his first marathon until April of 2007. Everything else was 1500m, 1,600m, 4,000m, and 5,000m – nothing that involved running for more than an hour. So, the next time you’re told that the secret to “breaking” into the running world is to simply up your mileage, think of Ryan Hall…running fast.
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Powerlifting Set Progression

I have been following your high, medium, super high and deload weeks concept that you outlined in your Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual (which is awesome btw) and I was wondering if the way i am implementing it for powerlifting is ok.

On the high weeks i usually do 4 sets of anywhere between 6-8 reps for my second exercise, on medium weeks i drop it down to 3 sets, on super high weeks i go up to 5 and then on deload weeks i go down to 2 sets.

would it be a better idea to say do 4 sets of 6-8 on high week, 3 on medium week and do something like 3 sets of 6-8 along with 1-2 sets of 15-20 either same exercise i am doing or different. Do you think that is to much volume?

Thanks for the kind words. You're on the right track with fluctuating the number of sets you do from week to week. I also like to vary the loading on the first assistance exercise depending on the day (we'll use lower body days in a Westside-influenced template as an example).

DE Squat: First assistance might be a deadlift variation - sets of 3-6
ME Squat: First assistance might be a heavy single-leg, rack pull, front squat, GHR, etc - sets of 6-10

Example of first assistance movements over the course of a month:

Week 1 (high):

DE Squat: 4x3
ME Squat: 4x6

Week 2 (medium):
DE Squat: 3x3
ME Squat: 3x6

Week 3 (very high):
DE Squat: 5x3
ME Squat: 5x6

Week 4 (deload):
DE Squat: 2x3 (with 5RM)
ME Squat: 3x6

Eric Cressey
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