Friday, December 23, 2011

More, More, More!!!

Happy everything!

It is that time of year when everyone thinks more is better. The kids need more cookies in the cookie jar. The kids keep asking for more stuff. There needs to be more food around for Christmas dinner. The kids love more gifts around Christmas. I won’t even mention what some people think they need more of on New Year’s Eve.

Athletics is the same way. The college bowl season started December 17th with the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and ends January 9th with the BCS National Championship. (They are actually hosting a bowl game in Boise, Idaho –REALLY) Basketball had a 16 team postseason tournament back in the day. Now, 64 for teams were not enough, so we have a play in game. Apparently, they want even more than that.

Although, some country songs will say you can’t get enough of a good thing. It is this guy’s stance that more rehab is not always the best approach. It is one thing when an athlete sprains an ankle and it is the size of a watermelon. You can work on the swelling and ROM as soon as it is tolerated on a very consistent basis. Rest, ice, elevation, and compression. It’s another thing to have an athlete try to do 250 quad sets (contractions) one day after spraining the medial collateral ligament in their knee.

Generally speaking, athletes know what they need to play the game. They are not going to accept a therapist telling them to do something “just because I said so.” The same thing applies in the weight room and working with the strength and conditioning coach, the athlete is not going to load the bar on the back and do sets of 20 squats without any explanation. Training smarter, not harder is the approach that the athletes have now.
I may not be the smartest guy in the world, but it is not for the lack of effort. If you are giving an athlete an ice bag, educate them why. Explain the reasons behind certain exercises when you design a program. Be able to justify what you are doing to help this athlete get better. Training and rehabilitation is not comparable to the Coney Island hot dog eating contest. More, more, more, is not going to the job done, unlike eating way too many hot dogs.

Once again, happy holidays and safe travels.

Chris Ham, MSA, ATC, CES
Athletic Trainer
Vanderbilt University Baseball

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Track What You're Doing

The off-season is in full swing, and now is the time to get bigger and stronger. With this being said how are you tracking your progress, how do you know you are getting better and how do you know if your doing enough, or too much?

On the strength and conditioning side of a players development keeping track of progress is pretty easy. The player records the resistance being used and how many reps and sets he completes. If the player has some experience with resistance training, the player may also utilize percentages of maxes. The maxes can be estimated or actual. Determining which to use will usually be determined by the experience the athlete posses in resistance training. A player should be proficient in an exercise before attempting to do a maximum lift. If the player keeps track of the weight being used and challenges himself everyday, he should see progress in strength every few weeks. Not every movement will increase strength but expect some to. Tracking of this progress is also very motivating, getting stronger increases a player's motivation to improve and will increase confidence in his own abilities.

The principle of tracking can also be used for conditioning purposes. Knowing how far and how long it takes to complete drills is just as important for conditioning as resistance training. Knowing these stats can keep the player on track for increasing conditioning and speed of the athlete. We all want to know how fast a player is. But we also want to know how he adapts to conditioning and how much is enough to keep him in peak form before, during, and after the season.

Keeping track of your progress for performance factors is not a new idea. Getting into a routine and making sure you record your progress is a habit that will pay off in confidence as well as increased performance. Recording even your skill sessions will help increase your performance and become more effective in practice sessions. For the last few years I have been working with many players that record everything, and when I say everything I mean everything. They record every swing with a bat, what they were working on, and how successful the session was. They record every ground ball, every throw in practice and special workout sessions. We chart this progress to increase the player’s performance; we know exactly how much work they have done each week. This allows us to increase or decrease special practice time based on the target reps and sets of specific skills. We enter each week knowing what we need to accomplish and then get it done in an organized and effective manner.

To help players and coaches, a few sample record sheets have been posted on the website. These sheets can be printed and used, or serve as a design for your own. Remember if you want to know where you are, you have to know where you have been.
Go to the Training Resources Page.

Brian Niswender MA,CSCS

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pay It Forward

Perhaps it's a little late, but it's worth noting that November was "Inspirational Role Models Month". As I am sitting here contemplating what topic to discuss with you this week, it is no coincidence to me that the Thanksgiving holiday is also in November. In the past couple of months my career has taken another step and of course, I am very thankful for this. But it got me thinking about those who have been very influential to me in my journey and how I attempt and have attempted to pay it forward as I continue.

It goes without saying that my parents have been big influences and role models to me. However, I don't want to turn this article into a mushy dedication. What I would like to do is take you through a somewhat abbreviated tour of how I got to my current place and talk about those who have guided me professionally.

My journey began in high school. I'm not quite sure exactly how I got into it. Perhaps it was because I was a high school athlete who saw the benefits and needs of being in top physical shape to perform my sport and stay healthy. At that time, I worked at a health club which allowed me to trade out my services in exchange for the personal sport coaching that I needed, use of the facility for practice, and eventually personal training and conditioning services. At first, I helped teach group sport lessons and manned the phones and appointment books in the fitness center. Then, I gradually progressed into assisting the fitness professionals and performing personal fitness evaluations. I'm sure it was here that I really began to develop my interest in the fields of sports medicine and sports performance. By my senior year, I had the opportunity to get involved with a personal training and consulting company that, while they made their money on the typical fitness / weight management client, really emphasized the training and conditioning of athletes in the area where I lived. As luck would have it, the company rented a small office at the club and used the fitness center area to train their clients. The owner/president of the company was a man named John Philbin. At the time, he had worked with the Washington Redskins and was currently the Head Coach / Strength and Conditioning Coach for the USA Bobsled Team. He allowed me to shadow him and his staff. They took me completely under their wing and as time went on, I began to be involved much more than just shadowing. It was here that my love for this profession began and grew much more than "What kind of job do I want when I grow up?" It became a passion.

Once I entered college, I was just as determined to learn more about the field. At the time, there were a handful of curriculum education programs. However, the dominant mode of education was the internship or work-study program for athletic trainers. I was relentless. I turned in a resume for application in both the university's athletic weight room and the training room. And for the first month I was on campus, I contacted or visited them almost daily. I was granted a student position in both the weight room and athletic training room. For the remainder of the school year, I proceded to attend class and work. I remember spending an ungodly amount of time at the athletic complex. Needless to say with the stresses of school (obviously there are many adjustments to make your first time away at school) and the stresses of a job, my grades suffered. My superiors in the weight room and athletic training room sent me home for the summer after my freshman year with a decision to make. Having spent the summer returning to my previous mentors from high school, I felt that I had acquired a fairly good background in the strength and conditioning arena. When I returned to school for my second year, I devoted my attention to the sports medicine side. Over the course of the next few years, I was blessed to be taught and mentored by several graduate assistants who came from a variety of backgrounds. As graduate students, they too had very stressful school demands. Yet, they took the time to organize a make shift athletic training curriculum for the student athletic trainers. A couple even went above and beyond to make sure that those of us who were serious about continuing on in the profession received extra attention and mentoring. It was through these young professionals that I really began to see the benefits of a wide range of experiences and began to develop my own philosophy of training.

In the real world (after school), you find mentors everywhere. I've found that the further along I've come to learn that all of my colleagues and co-workers are mentors. Everyone has a different background and set of experiences. It's up to us to take what we can learn from each other, blend what we like and can use, and discard the rest. (Yet, it's important to keep the discarded in the back of your mind - you never know when it might be useful.) This is how we continue to grow, adapt, and mold our professional philosophies. Over the years, I have again been blessed to find individuals and small groups that share my passion. These people have allowed me to continue to enjoy what I do and fuel my desire to get better at it.

How do I pay this type of inspiration forward?

1. Throughout my career I have had the pleasure of corresponding with high school students who are interested in the sports medicine / performance professions. I am always willing to share my story. As an athletic trainer performing high school outreach, I mentored several students and eventually worked with the Health Occupations teacher at the school to develop a pilot High School Sports Medicine Curriculum and team taught this class with the Health Occupations teacher for 2 years.

2. Once I completed my undergraduate degree and became a graduate assistant myself, I made sure that the student athletic trainers that I helped to supervise had the same time of support and learning environment that was provided to me. As the university was looking to maybe one day add an athletic training curriculum and added some of the necessary course work to the catelog, I took it upon myself to help create a clinical learning environment in the athletic training room. We created a clinical competencies program and tried to establish more student oriented learning environment each week when the physicians were around to see injured athletes.

3. Later in my professional career, I have searched for opportunities to present / speak at various conferences and meetings. I try and instigate or spur on informal discussions with individuals / small groups about relevent topics. I have hosted interns. And, it is this desire to "pay it forward" that has led me to co-found's web and blog sites.

I know that I have mentioned it before in my blogs, but one mentor of mine in particular - Dr. Jack Hughston - used to say, "If you're green, your still growing. If you're ripe, you're next to rotten." We should never stop trying to learn, grow, and pay it forward.

We should all stop for a moment, take a look at the path we've taken to get to where we are, and remember those who have helped us get there. Then, just as it was important for us to absorb what those mentors taught us, it is important for us to become mentors ourselves and "Pay It Forward". It is only then that we can continue to grow our professions and fuel the fire of those future professionals and leaders.

David Yeager, ATC, CSCS