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Tag Archive: cricket

  1. How to get more agile and low to the ground for cricket fielding

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    Become more agile in 5 days.

    cricket fieldingWhen fielding in cricket, you are putting your body under a lot of stress and strain due to the stretching/reaching and diving to catch the ball.

    If the underlying strength and mobility behind these movements is poor then an injury is more likely.

    To do these movements successfully you will need to have good hip and knee control, and good flexibility too.

    I will be talking about how to improve agility and flexibility in order to get closer to the ground and show you a 5 day routine to help.

    Learning to co-ordinate and control your body when you are off centre or unbalanced will help. Exercises on one leg or one arm that challenge your body to balance and control are particularly useful Some of these are included in our regular 5x5x5 work that all Excelsior athletes do.

    Example exercises

    Pigeon walks will get you to the ground in a low and long position where you are stretching and also working on moving through the stretch and keeping the joints strong and stable.

    Arm reaches and lawnmowers will incorporate rotation which may be necessary to catch the ball. You could do the lawnmowers in a lunge position rather than a front support to feel a stretch and learn to control that low movement/position.

    The important areas to stretch

    Muscles that should be stretched are the hip flexors, hamstrings adductors, iliopsoas and glutes. All these muscles will be under pressure if you are lunging forwards to catch the ball.

     Static stretches

     Hip Flexor stretcheship flexor stetch

    hip flexor stretchThis picture shows a hip flexor twist stretch. It is the more advanced version and will also stretch your quads when you pick up the foot at the back.

    Adductor stretch adductor stretch

    Hamstring stretch –hamstring stretch

    Glute stretch –glute stretch

    Iliopsoas and hamstring stretch –

    iliopsoas stretch

     Example session plans for 5 days

     Aim – to work on control of own body and start to improve stability of hips, knees, ankles (very important for braking, turning and moving efficiently in game play).

    Some shoulder stability too. The first few days will include basic movements that concentrate on control and stability. Later on, more complex drills will be included.

     Day 1

    Warm up – 10x lateral squats, 100x skips – repeat x5

    Main activity – Hip series 1 (repeat x2-3)  Mini band walks (forwards, backwards and sideways)

    Circuit

    10 x scorpions 2 x rows of bear crawls 10 x overhead squats 2 x rows of crab walks

    10 x lunge and lean  Repeat x 5

    Stretches – include the above stretches. Hold for 20-30 seconds.

    Day 2

    Warm up – 10 x sit through, 10 x overhead squats – repeat x5

    Main activity – Hip series 1 and 2 (repeat x2 each)

    2x 10 single leg squats  1x row of pigeon walks, 10x overhead squats at the end 1x row of bear crawls, 10x lawnmowers at the end 1x row of side rolls, 10x lateral squats at the end  Repeat x 3-5

    Stretches – include the above stretches. Hold for 20-30 seconds.

    cricket agility Day 3

    Warm up – Multi-directional lunges, 100 x skips – repeat x5

    Main activity – Mini band work (forwards, backwards, sideways)

    Agility drill – set up 4 cones into a square roughly 10metres space between each.

    From cone 1 to 2, sideways bear crawl with 5x lawnmowers at 2.

    From cone 2 to 3, pigeon walks with 5xlateral squats at 3.

    From cone 3 to 4, sideways rolls with 5x back twists each side at 4.

    From cone 4 to 1, bear crawl with 5x lateral hop and holds at 1.

    Go through once slowly and controlled for practice, then repeat x2 timing yourself.

     Stretches – include the above stretches. Hold for 20-30 seconds.

    Day 4

    Warm up – 10x walk out press ups, 10x 6-way lunge – repeat x5

    Main activity –  Hip series 2 and 3

    Overhead squat and single leg squat work (re-enforcing lower body control and stability)

    Rolls – forwards, backwards, sideways. Running / crawling into and out of rolls. Circuit

    10x scorpions 2x rows of bear crawls 10x overhead squats 2x rows of crab walks

    10x lunge and lean  Repeat x 3-5

     Stretches – include the above stretches. Hold for 20-30 seconds.

     Day 5

    Warm up – 100x skips, 10 x alternate v sits x5

    Main activity – Mini band work (crossovers, single leg push back and single leg push back with reach)

    Agility drill (partners) – for this drill we will be adding the ball in to work on reactions.

    Set up 2 cones, 10-20 metres apart. Person A will stand in the middle of the cones, Person B will stand in the middle, 10metres away from Person A.

    Person B will roll the ball (slowly at first) to one of the cones and Person A will get there by any of the drills practiced, throw the ball back to Person B and run back to the centre.

    Bear crawls Sideways bear crawls Rolls (forwards, sideways)

    Repeat 3-5 times and swap over


    Stretches
    – include the above stretches. Hold for 20-30 seconds.

    This is just an example of training. Try it and see how it works for you.

  2. Cricket Fitness

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    Cricketers need to be fit to play.

    cricket fitness training

    Shoulder to hip training

    On initial appearance cricket may not appear to be the most physical of sports. Brief periods of activity are followed by longer periods of rest. Apart from fast bowlers who can perform long series of overs, the rest of the team do not look to be that active.

    However, this is a mistaken concept as it is precisely this intermittent high intensity activity that requires the Cricketer to be very fit. The movements are fast and dynamic and have to be sustained throughout a morning or afternoon in the field.

    The Cricketer’’s body has to be very strong to be able to withstand the high impacts and forces that are produced when bowling and throwing. We have looked at agility training for fielding here, but now we look at exercises to help throwing and batting.

    Cricket Upper body and trunk Fitness Programme

    The following exercises are a good way of starting a fitness programme. Once you have developed the ability to do these activities well, you can add more exercises using weights such as dumbbells and barbells.

    Shoulder exercises:
    The shoulder does not work in isolation of other body parts, so these exercises help develop overall shoulder strength before moving onto throwing and bowling actions. This sequence works on connecting the hip to shoulder:


    You can also do more traditional exercises that utilise multi joints.

    Press ups – perform a normal press up with your chest touching the floor, but as your arms straighten try and arch your upper back to its full range of movement, then go back down to the floor.

    Dips- Place your hands on two parallel bars and jump up until your arms are straight and your weight is supported through your hands, keeping your feet off the floor. Bend your arms until your shoulders are level with your elbows, and then straighten up again.

    Pull ups- hang from an overhead bar and pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar. Lower yourself until your arms are fully straight, and then repeat.

    Crawling is a great way to develop the hip-shoulder complex too:

     Medicine ball exercises.

    These can be performed with a 2-3 kg medicine ball for beginners and junior athletes, as you get stronger and more proficient, work up towards using a 10kg medicine ball. Try 5 repetitions of each exercise, having about 30 seconds rest between the sets.

    • Hitters throw – stand in a normal hitting stance with the medicine ball held level with your back shoulder in both hands, then throw it forward with maximal effort in line with a normal swing.
    • Standing figure 8– Stand back to back with a partner and exchange the medicine ball behind your back at waist level as quickly as possible receiving on one side and returning on the other side.
    • Speed rotations– Similar to the figure8 s, but this time with throwing and catching with arms fully extended instead of handing.
    • Standing side throw- Stand in a batting stance, this time with the ball in two hands at hip height, then throw forward maximally with hip and torso rotation.
    • Granny throw –Start with the medicine ball above your head in two hands, lower quickly between your legs and bum into a parallel squat position and then use your legs and shoulders to throw the ball directly above your head.
    • Standing backwards throw- Same as the granny throw, but throw the ball up and behind your head.
    • Squat and throw.– same as the Granny throw, but this time start with the ball held at chin height with extended arms and the elbows pointing outwards.

    Here are some exercises put together in a sequence.

    Intermittent exercises:

    Try these following intervals as a way of developing cricket fitness. Make sure that you have warmed up thoroughly before starting.

    •10 metre shuttle runs. Run between two cones 10metres apart as many times as you can in 20 seconds. Rest 10 seconds, and repeat 7 more times.

    •Run for 45 seconds, 60 seconds, 75 seconds, 60 seconds, 45 seconds as hard as you can. The rest interval is the time of the next run.

    •Run at about 75% of your fastest pace for 30 seconds, then walk for 30 seconds. Do this for a total of 20 times.

    Weekly routine

    Try and do some activity on every day that you are not playing cricket, even if it is just doing the cricket warm up. You can either do the shoulder exercises and medicine ball throws on separate days from the intermittent training, or immediately before them, depending on your schedule. Do not do the same exercises on consecutive days.

    Unfortunately, the England Cricket Board (ECB) appears to have adopted a flawed stance in its coach education programme: it is telling coaches that posture is linked to personality! It actually tells cricket coaches to use the Myers Briggs personality test to see how a player moves.

    The Myers Briggs Test has been debunked (see here) as a personality test, let alone then trying to use it base fitness work on!. The ECB is paying £1000 a day for a consultant to deliver this “education”. The money would be better spent on developing a sound, systematic approach to cricket fitness!.

    Cricket coaches looking to help their team improve fitness why not attend our 1 day Foundation in Athletic Development course.

  3. How to practice: should we teach this first?

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    “Rather than teach what to practice, I should start with how to practice”

    golf warm upThis was the lesson I learnt from working with golf coach John Jacobs on a recent training day.

    John had set up a simple pitching task for the 10 golfers: they had to try and pitch 10 balls into some different spaces he had marked out with cones.

    He clearly said 3 times “work out the distance to the target” before they started pitching.

    10 minutes later, despite each owning £300+ rangefinders (I know, me too!), only 2 of the golfers had managed to measure 1 of the targets! What had they been doing?

    They had done the usual thing of just getting out their pitching wedges and having a go. The results reflected that: the 10 best boy golfers in the South West were unable to hit a target 30 metres away.

    My fellow coach Matt and me are no golfers, but we were amazed that the boys (15-16 years old) were unable, or unwilling, to even measure the distance. That is definitely a “controllable” that they could “control”.

    (The uncontrollables include things like: weather, quality of opposition, bounce of the ball, selection for squad, competition draw.)

    However, this is typical of this age group, whatever the sport.

    Controllables that we should control

    It is easy for old and supposedly wise heads like myself and John, to be astounded at this. But, I need to put myself back 29 years and see where I was then. Here are a few things I tell the young athletes that they should be able to control.

    • Fitness: that is within your control. Yes, you will need guidance on the correct exercises, structure and progressions. No, I am unable to get out of bed and do the run for you. 
    • Warm Up:as mentioned previously, this is important before practice and competition. It is part of a routine. By focusing on this, you are less likely to be distracted by external events and your opponents. Get this sorted, and stick to it.
    • Nutrition: we are in control of what we put in our mouths. Having a blood sugar crash on the 13th hole because you have failed to prepare a snack is down to you. One of the golfers had missed breakfast that morning: that is simply careless and is giving the opposition an advantage.
    • Kit: having the right kit for the job at hand. It is alright having a £300 range finder (!) but if it is at home,  how can you use it? Waterproofs, correct shoes, spare laces, safety pins for vest numbers, and so on. Think ahead and pack it the night before you go away.

    There are more (and please leave suggestions below) but if you get these 4 things right, then you will be better prepared than 95% of your opposition.

    This may seem simple, but I see it every time, every practice, every squad. At the SW Fencing Hub, we have been looking at “coping with adversity“. I told Coach Tristan Parris that there was no need for us to creat adverse situations: the fencers were brilliant at creating their own adversity by neglecting the 4 points above!

    The good news is that those of the golfers who have taken the advice, such as Tom Trowbridge, have seen immense benefits already.  

    How to practice

    golf practice tipsOnce you have got the above things right, then it is time to sort out your own practice. I have asked the golfers to sort their warm ups out, and to do 5 minutes of exercises a day. 

    This is to start the exercise habit and get into routines (how to practice). But, most have failed to do this.

    Why?

    • Is it because I have failed to emphasise the benefits for golf? They all like to hear “golf specific” before every exercise. 
    • Is it because I have demonstrated too quickly? One of the girls’ parents said the exercises were impossible (my 4 year old son is able to do them all) everything is tricky at first, those who practice pick this up in a week.
    • Or is it because the actual organisation of time and structure is alien to these young people? If your golf coach, personal trainer or Mum do everything for you, then you never learn how to do things on your own.

    John gets all the golfers to carry a notebook and pencil, so they can write down any thoughts on their round or practice. I am going to try and get the golfers to write down what their plan is for the next week. This means minute by minute, rather than “go for a run twice“.

    Then I will ask them to write down the aim of every session, and 1 key thing they need to focus on. They can then write down their warm up, and how the first 10 minutes of practice is going to start.

    Hit 50 balls with each club” is the wrong answer! As is “go to the gym and follow the golf specific app exercise plan on my phone“.

    I have incorrectly assumed that young people can organise their own time to a certain extent. The practice session with John showed that this is a generic trait, rather than an exercise related trait.

    It took 30 minutes of the training session before the golfers really took control of their practice. Things improved from there. But, that is 30 minutes of wasted time every practice.

    If young athletes learn “how to practice” first, then the “what to practice” will become more effective.

    Further reading

  4. Using profiling to help improve your coaching

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    “Coaching is about interactions”

    coach profilesDave Doran s4pcoaching

    Ideally, coaching is about long term relationships where all parties work together with the same goal in mind, it is athlete centred rather than coach driven. 

    Unfortunately, I have seen far too often that sport is funding driven and the athlete is passed around from coach to coach to meet the demands of the NGB.

    Petty administrators hide behind emails and excel spreadsheets and forget that they are there to help remove barriers.

    Here at Excelsior, we work hard at creating long term, meaningful relationships with other coaches and athletes alike.

    Duncan has recently been looking to sharpen his coaching practice under the guidance of an old (some might say very old) University colleague of mine: Dave Doran

    Here are some of his thoughts and lessons.

    Does your personality influence your coaching style?

     We all have different coaching styles & personalities, these can influence how we progress as a coach and how we interact with others. 

    When coaching do you find you work better with some athletes than others?

    adaptable coachingOver the past couple of years coaching, there have been some athletes with whom I get on well  and others with whom I have sometimes struggled to form a relationship,

    As coaches you then have to decide whether you can build the relationship or if the athlete is better suited to a different style of coach.

    Working with teams you are going to get all types of personality so you need to be adaptable in your approach (like this chameleon).

    We hear about this in football a lot, managers clashing with players sometimes to the point that the manager gets sacked or the players leave a club. If both had been more adaptable then they may have been able to build a relationship even if only for the benefit of the team. 

    Can we improve our adaptability and skills at building relationships? 

    rugby coach educationDave Doran presented a workshop titled “Profiling for improved coaching performance” over the summer which can help coaches understand more about themselves and their relationships. 

    Dave has over 30 years working within the police, the last 3 as a performance coach. He has been a level 5 coach at rugby league and studied Sports coaching for his Masters, so has plenty of experience and knowledge in performance coaching.

    Personal Profile Analysis uses the DISC profiling system, it’s based on our perceptions of how we work in situations, and works out general characteristics, motivators and what values you can take to an organisation.

    It uses four personality traits:DISC profiling for coaches
    The profile tells you how strong the four traits are when you are at work, under pressure and your self image. This shows how you work/communicate and prefer to be communicated with. For example; 

    1. If you are high dominance and are working with someone high in compliance, your direct coaching may not give the compliant athlete all the details they would like.
    2. If you have 2 athletes, Athlete 1 high steadiness and Athlete 2 high dominance, you will need to be more methodical in your approach with athlete 1, but direct and decisive with athlete 2.

    If you read the statements for each you will probably see ones that match you. 

    How I have used the profiling to help me

    I have been working with a hockey team for the last 2 seasons now and started off being more of an influencer and steady. This season I wanted to move forward from last and became more dominant and compliant, with the athletes I have this has failed and how we have played has shown this. 

    By looking at how my coaching style has changed I can see what worked before and what iis failing now. I am now trying to get the right balance between all 4 that is appropriate for the team. 

    Duncan Buckmaster 

    If you like this blog, then you might like these on:

    Coach development  Communication in coaching

  5. DARE to be different: Vern Gambetta lecture

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    “Dissect, Appraise, Reflect, Examine: Evaluate yourself constantly”

    Vern Gambetta giving sound advice to the MSc Strength and Conditioning students at the University of East London last night. 

    Vern gave two lectures, the first on planning training and the second on coaching. It was a small group of students, plus myself, course leader Nick Bourne, and some football coaches. 

    “Periodisation is a concept not a model”

    periodisation trainingThe interaction and interdependence of the training components” is what planning training is about.

    Unfortunately periodisation research over the last 20 years has been mainly strength based. 

    Strength is easy to develop and it is easy to measure. But, how does it interact with skill, speed or flexibility? These were the questions that Vern was asking. 

    He started off with an historical background; looking at the devastation of the second world war  and the impact it had on manpower in the USSR and East Germany (n.b. to our U.S. friends: it started in 1939, not 1941!). The sheer amount of casualties meant that training had to be a lot smarter.

    This, coupled with the Stalinistic cultural approach of 5 year plans, led to periodisation being developed to the degree it was. 

    But, when faced with an athlete who wants to win a medal in 2 years time, abstract concepts have little impact. Instead, Vern emphasised the need for developing themes, but “winning the workout” today is what is important.

    Planning concepts

    training accumulationEvery time you train you put money in the bank, every time you compete you take money out“.

    The accumulation of work done day to day, week to week and month to month adds up, 

    Whilst we are led by the competition schedules, it is important to put the money into the bank when you can. This can be done at in small parts, or bigger parts, but it has to be done.

    Adapatation times are different depending on the biomotor quality (strength, speed, stamina, skill, suppleness) you are training, the combination of qualities and also the individual athlete.

    • Tasks that require complete recovery are NEURAL: max speed,lifts and highly techncial sessions.
    • Tasks that can be trained with incomplete recovery are METABOLIC: aerobic work, low level skills, some strength work.

    This is important to understand when you set up the training week. Vern uses a 14 day or 21 day cycle to prevent the congestion which happens in the normal 7 day microcycle. 

    Each cycle has 3 distinct phases:

    1. Preparation
    2. Adaptation
    3. Application

    (I use similar but add regeneration as our 4 cornerstones of training).

    “Coach is God syndrome”

    coach plannerAfter all the planning takes place, it is easy to think that the athlete’s day revolves around the 2 hours that we spend with them.

    Vern emphasised the need to understand the athlete first: it is the other 22 hours that dictate what we do in our 2 hours!

    This includes understanding lifestyle, academic stress, the current state of physical education as well as:

    • Biological/ Chronological/ Training ages of the athlete
    • Adaptability/ Recoverability of each athlete
    • Cognitive ability: how smart are they at picking things up in training?

    Tapering with a team is a nightmare” said Vern and “peaking is a bit of a crap shoot rather than a darts match“. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact moment of peak performance, instead you can plan to peak in a window.

    The rest may be down to mental preparation and rehearsing those tough competition decisions in practice. Structuring the sports practice is an essential part of planning.

    If the practice is planned and executed correctly, then it will have an impact in your game. “Rather than train like you play, adapt an attitude of play like you train” Dean Benton.

    (I see this a lot with a strength coach living in isolation in the weights room being told to make the team faster, whilst the practice on the field is making players slower through poor design).

    However, “Peaking starts with the first training session of the year” according to Gary Winckler so what you do in June will impact how well you peak in the following April.

    Summary

    vern gambetta periodisationVern took some questions and then presented on his coaching journey and some lessons he has learnt. To me this is the crucial part that is missing in education in this country.

    We’re athletes. We’re not integers in a formula” said Chris McCormak, Ironman champion.

    Vern gave some great examples of what has worked, what has gone less well and how he has developed in his 44 years of coaching including:

    • “Make connections among seemingly unrelated information” 
    • “Specialise in being a generalist”
    • “Know it’s not the links,but the linkages that make the system”

    This requires effort, dedication and a desire to improve. It also requires looking outside of our own narrow field for ideas, practices and inspiration.

    I have seen Vern talk on planning a few times now, but it is usually at the end of GAIN when my brain is like a bowl of mushy peas. It was good to see him when I was fresh!

    As usual, I came back with a reading list, some areas for me to look at my own practice and a renewed sense of enthusisam for trying to coach my athletes better. 

    Further reading: 

  6. Coaching community of practice

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    “Learning is a social phenomenon”

    coaching community of practiceEver been on a course or workshop and struggled to implement the ideas you have learnt back at you club, team or school?

    Ever been on a course, thought I would like to know more, but the thought of going on a 3-4 day course is too daunting/ expensive?

    Ever bumped into someone at a coffee break who gave a snippet of information that lit a light bulb and you thought “brilliant”?

    Ever seen another coach or teacher do something and you thought “that’s really clever, I can use it”?

    Me too. That is what a Community of Practice (CoP) is all about.

    The opening quote is from Wenger’s work, who first came up with the concept that “sharing and hence, developing knowledge” is essential for learning (1).

    You may well be part of an informal “community of practice” already. What follows are some more details and ways of making it more effective.

    Interaction, participation and knowledge acquisition

    cstrength and conditioning coach educationHow do we as coaches learn? Is it an”Interactive experience with practical coaching concepts as the principal knowledge source of both neophyte and experienced coaches” ?(2)

    Compare that to a lot of courses which are fact acquisition and recital.

    People learn through the active adaptation of their existing knowledge in response to their contextual experiences, and the subsequent sharing of that knowledge.” and “learning is not viewed as an individual process and the direct result of teaching” instead “engagement in social practices is the fundamental process by which we learn.” (2).

    When we understand this, it makes sense to put ourselves in situations where we can share, discuss and interact. For example, the difference between GAIN which is a CoP and the UKSCA conference which is “lecture driven” means one is a deep and meaningful learning experience, the other could be watched on video.

    A cyclical practice of alternate action and systematic reflection is an important part of learning:

    • Observation
    • Interpretation
    • Action
    • Reflection (3)

    Doing this on your own is part of coaching, but doing it with others sometimes is also important. “Sharing, and hence developing knowledge” is a fundamental concept of the CoP (1).

    Three most crucial factors in an effective Community of Practice

    community of practice for coachesDave Collins gave me these three pointers:

    1. Common and well understood concepts and vocabulary. Makes sure you understand each other.

    2. Common performance goals and parameters. Makes sure you talk about the right things.

    3. Openness to discuss and consider-positive attitude to conflict, lack of “Preciousness” and all “IPR” issues addressed up front.

    Makes sure you really discuss instead of mutual grooming!! (4)

    Getting it done

    coaching community of practiceI was first introduced to the idea of CoP by Will Roberts when working with the South West Talent programme.

    Will ran a few workshops and then tried to organise the coaches into “clusters“,where we would meet up and observe each other and share ideas.

    Geography and time were against us, so it never took off, but I liked the idea.

    It is something that I now do with all the coaches who have taken the Level 1 / Level 2 strength and conditioning course and also our partner coaches in the South West.

    For example, Kevin Skinner, of the Exeter Harriers was a great contributor to our fitness testing workshopHe shared what he did as a jumps coach, and kept everyone from getting too excited about theory.

    I run quarterly cpd workshops, plus use an online forum to facilitate the sharing/ discussing of articles, training plans or video clips from the coaches. For those participating, it has been a worthwhile experience.

    Luckily, those contributing are really trying to develop as coaches, this then has an impact on their athletes/ players or pupils.

    Want to know more?

    Sign up to our newsletter and get regular updates on upcoming courses. Or contact James for details about running a course with your coaches.

    References

    1. Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger (1991) Situated Learning. Legitimate peripheral participation, Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press.
    2. JONES, R. L.; MORGAN, K.; HARRIS, K. Developing coaching pedagogy: seeking a better integration of theory and practice. Sport, Education and Society, 17:3, p. 313-329, 2012.
    3.  Allen, W. J. (2001) Working together for environmental management: the role of information sharing and collaborative learning. Unpublished Ph.D thesis, Massey University, New Zealand.
    4. Collins, D. Personal communication 29/9/13.
  7. Fit for fencing: part 2

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    Getting young fencers fit

    fencing fitnessWe are currently working with the South West Junior Fencing Hub introducing and developing fitness protocols. The first session was an introduction to fitness by me, Matt took the second session. 

    Part of the Hub’s remit is coach development, and self-reflection is an important part of that. Here are Matt’s thoughts on how he managed the day.

    Fifty fencers in a room and no kit!

    how to get fit for fencingAs James mentioned here, we are often given large numbers of people to train at one go.

    This day saw 50 fencers from across the South West region come to take part. It included sessions in psychology, technical skills and athletic development.

    The task of coaching athletes from a new (from my perspective) sport was undaunting , as the first step is to look at the individual, rather than the specific sport. The prospect of taking 50 young athletes for a warm up however was a different story!

    After a warm up involving some interesting interpretations of the core pillars exercises, the fencers went through a self-assessment in pairs. As well as making this more manageable for myself (only needing to asses half the group at one time), the process of coaching each other helps the athletes remember the main points more easily.

    We talked about the importance of regularly practising the exercises in order to improve technique and reduce likelihood of injuries.

    “We do a lot of strength training; we are lifting really heavy now”

    When asked about the conditioning that they were currently doing, the answers ranged from none at all to 3-4 times a week. However those that were regularly completing conditioning training seemed to describe most sessions as heavy load strength training.

    Although strength is an important factor in both performance and injury prevention, it is the application of strength which is more important. Therefore it is just as important for athletes (and especially fencers) to work on spatial and temporal overload rather than just resisitive overload.

    Working with other coaches

    fencing warm upAs a novice with regards to fencing, all the coaches on the day were very generous and took a lot of time to explain the differences between the different disciplines (was quite a lot to take in).

    Spending time with the coaches during the technical parts of the training was also useful as I was able to pick up coaching points relating to footwork and posture. With more experience, I may have been able to apply these points during the day, but I will learn from them and apply them next time round.

    On the other hand, I also hope I was able to offer the coaches some useful insights. Many of them explained that lack of time with athletes meant that they did no conditioning work at all as part of coaching sessions. I suggested taking a few exercises from the session I had delivered and using them as a warm up, as for some fencers, this would be the only time they may work on those skills.

    It was great to be around so many athletes and coaches working hard to improve themselves and each other, and I look forward to the next opportunity of working with them. 

    Matt Durber 

    Read more on fencing fitness

  8. 6 ways to get better as a strength and conditioning coach.

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    Reflections from tutoring an S&C coaching course

    I am pleased to announce that on Saturday 6 people passed the level 1 Strength and Conditioning for Sport Course, and 2 passed the level 2.

    There were some excellent examples of coaching practice on the day, using skills and knowledge gained from the previous workshops, their studies and their own experiences.

    I always learn something from these days, especially on how the candidates approach the task. Most seem quite concerned about exercise choice, rather than how they deliver and stick to the plan.

    I was especially pleased that 1 candidate who made a complete hash of his first assessment, managed to turn it around on being given a 2nd chance later in the day and showed that he is actually quite a good coach.

    Reflections on the course.

    One of the aspects of this course that has changed is that the final task is now a look at Reflective Practice and how this can help with Continuing Professional Development. This is sometimes a tricky period as people may have failed on the day, but it is an essential part of Coaching that is often overlooked. I don’t count the “score on 1-5” aspect of feedback, it is more random number gathering that doesn’t help.

    Some points came up from this group:

    1. Read the online resources (I add research articles or practical drills every month to the resources section of Excelsior for every candidate to access).
    2. Use reflective practice: Whether this is daily, weekly or half termly (teachers especially struggle with anything more than firefighting in term time). We talked about using tools like Dictaphones (Evernote is my preferred option at present) or notepad and paper to help.
    3.  Do something different. It is very easy to get institutionalised and work with the same group of people in the same environment and not be challenged. That leads to staleness and not enough critical analysis. Working with other coaches in the same environment, or change sports, or get out of sport all together will help. One of the coaches mentioned using Twitter as an opportunity to learn from others, people outside of your usual contacts and see what they say. Seth Godin, Vern Gambetta, Mike Boyle all add value. “Twitter is coffee break learning.” It is a “stream of consciousness and knowledge, that you can dip your toe into at any time.”
    4. Courses. Further down the list than you may think. Going on a course may seem like the easy answer, but you have to question how that course will help you. If it requires you to learn by rote some specific text in order to get an “accreditation” , then how is that helping? Of course, some stuff like First Aid is mandatory. Learning is changing, and the current group of A level students will soon realise that there is more to education than “teaching to the test”. If you have to spend £30,000 on  90 weeks where you have 6 hours of contact with a faculty member in a class of 100 people, is that good value? How else could you invest £30,000 and that amount of time?  (PLEASE SUGGEST IN COMMENTS).
    5. Books. Again, everyone mentioned time. Those of us who work for a living, find the time to read a book cover to cover almost impossible. I suggested a couple that are easy to read and in digestible chunks. There is something to be said for learning from a sequence of thoughts and experiences in a well structured book, compared to random journal articles.
    6. Do it yourself. It has to be said that there seems to be a fear of “having a go”. No it may not be perfect, but all the coaches I saw at the weekend can help their athletes get better. Interacting with athletes, making mistakes, learning and improving is far better than just theorising or paying money out to go on courses.  It does take guts and a bit of a thick skin to put yourself out there, but “If not you, then who?”

    The Future of Learning

    Everyone then wrote down 3 things they were going to achieve in the next 2 months. I emphasised the need for communities of practice, and not to get isolated. Hopefully I will see some of them in the future.

    If you are interested in developing your skills, and improving your craft, then why not host one of our cpd coaching courses?

  9. Coaching Legends: Learning from the best.

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    Standing on the shoulders of giants.

    Frank DickI spent Monday in the presence of some Coaching giants: Frank Dick, Bill Sweetenham and Vern Gambetta at the Global Coaches House.

    Olympic Legacy?

    The Hot Topic in the morning was about the Olympic Legacy. Who is going to light the fire of the next generation of coaches, athletes and teachers?

    I made the point that Parents are at the frontline of all that needs to happen. Either as role models or taxi drivers.

    Vern said “make it small, make it local, make it neighbourhood“. It starts from there.

    Frank emphasised the need for encouraging aspiration not expectation in our younger generation.

    How are you going to make a difference after the Olympics?

    Creating a Winning Profile

    Bill Sweetenham talked about how to create a winning profile in your athletes, support staff and coaches. He wants his athletes to focus on their best performances, and look to improve from the bottom up. It is hard to improve on oyur best all the time, but you can improve your 11th best performance.

    If you do this every 6 months, then you are making progress. Your best performance is the one that is yet to come.

    Bill then talked about identifying 9 key aspects of your performance, then looking to get each one of those better by 1%. If you can do that, then your chances of achieving your goal have will improve by 25-30%.

    The importance of emotional stress was then covered, especially as this is a big factor in the Big Championships. Physical and mental stress are common in training, but the emotional stress is often under rated (British Cycling response to Winning the Tour de France?).

    In domestic and International competitions, there is less recovery time needed for emotional stress, as it is not such a factor. Things change when you get to the big games, and coaches and athletes need ot be prepared.

    All the time Bill referred to the athlete and to the Coaching team. It is not just down to the athletes. The team has to be the best it can be: either through training or through recruitment. The Coach has to keep progressing and working.

    He had some really useful metrics that I shall be using with my athletes and on myself to help us improve. I haven’t seen him present before, but I was very impressed with his simple but effective tools, and his emphasis on the need for accountability from everyone in the team.

    How are you going to improve your Coaching after the Olympics?

    Decisions, Decisions.

    “The opposite of right isn’t wrong, it’s left” was something Frank had been told in his past. He then expounded on some specific case studies and real life examples and asked us what decisions we would have made and why.

    This was a really useful exercise, and I benefitted from hearing how other people think. (Of course, you need a supportive, no blame no fear environment for this to work in!)

    Andrea del Verrocchio,Who was Andrea del Verrocchio?

    He was Leonardo Da Vinci’s mentor.

    Frank talked about how the athletes get all the attention, but who is the person standing behind them? Who has helped them along their path?

    Who was the person who got Da Vinci started?

    Da Vinci “Took the process of homework as being important”. His mentor instilled this in him, and his use of this and practice, practice, practice allowed him to develop into greatness.

    Some things can’t be taught, they can only be learnt. “Experience is a cruel mistress because she gives you the exam before you have had the lesson.” So, how can we accelerate that experiential process?

    • Take time out to reflect. 
    • Grow regularly and use a network of people who think differently
    • Decide to be the best.

    I last saw Frank present in 2000 on a Coaching Day for Health Club Managers. That inspired me to set up Excelsior. He is just as inspiring now. Coaches need motivating too!

    Food for thought

    CoachingAs usual on these days, it was just as useful mingling chatting before and after the seminars.

    There were some great coaches present, and it helped clear up some thoughts for me.

    I was both inspired and challenged.

    It was great to catch up with people I had last seen on GAIN in Houston. 

  10. Continual Professional Development in the Digital Age

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    How Technology Aids Learning

    Sharing of information has come a long way in the last decade. A quick search on the internet can reveal text, photos and videos on virtually any topic. The quality may vary, but whether we like it or not the information is out there.

     In fact, it now seems ridiculous that when I was an undergraduate in the 1990s, I used to get the tube around London to visit varying medical libraries to photocopy articles to read as part of my studies. It would often take a whole day to collect the information I was looking for.

    Nowadays, if I want to pick up some tips from recognised experts across the globe, I use my laptop or phone. Many sites have free videos and downloads, which are instantly available. A quick browse on YouTube, or a link on Twitter can instantly update me with the thoughts of respected individuals. This would have seemed impossible 10 years ago.

    On this note, I have just filmed a video for a Golf Specific iphone app. This will be accessible to anyone across the world. It will also be freely available on YouTube. I couldn’t have comprehended this concept during my undergraduate days. 

    Don’t let technology distract you.

    Continual learning is a big topic in Sports Medicine, as it is in most Professions. There are of course, many ways to learn including: reading; systematic reviews; randomly controlled trials; reading specialist books; watching DVDs; attending courses; and speaking with recognised experts. All these methods are valid, and continual learning is critical to improving your skills and outcomes. Most of us do all of these things almost sub-consciously, as we are constantly looking to improve.

    However, I have always been a big believer in learning by doing. I find that taking time away from the clinic to reflect, focus and develop can be a huge source of learning. Spending time with individuals inside and outside my own Profession, discussing, observing and interacting is almost always an inspirational experience.

    Like most people, I have learnt that I feed of the enthusiasm of others. Whilst academia in it’s various guises is important; learning by doing has a huge role to play and what’s more it can be great fun too, which is always a bonus! 

    Andy Larmour

    Chartered Physio

    Clinical Director Ocean Physio & Rehab

    Follow Andy on twitter @oceanphysio