Athletes need resiliency; here’s how to build it

One of the traits of legendary athletes is that they usually had to overcome multiple obstacles along the way. That ability to overcome setbacks is part of the trait we call resiliency. As a parent or coach, you can take steps to help athletes develop this quality. After all, you know they will need it eventually.

What Is Resilience

Resilience is not about avoiding obstacles, it’s about what we do when they happen.  It’s that ability to bounce back when there is a setback.  Challenges in an athlete’s path will cause feelings that are uncomfortable, stressful and can be painful, but to be successful they must continue to move forward.

Some of the attributes you’ll see in an athlete who is resilient include:

  • Heightened problem-solving approach to obstacles
  • An ability to bounce back after setback
  • A generally positive outlook on life
  • An ability to manage strong emotions and stress with a clear mind

Resiliency doesn’t have to be left to chance.  It is a trait that can be nurtured. Parents and coaches can help athletes with key steps in developing resiliency.

RELATED: Discover the Secret Elite Sports Organizations Know About Building Champion Athletes.

How to Help Athletes Build Resilience

As a coach or parent, you are often in a position to help frame how the athlete approaches a problem.  While it is something the athlete must experience and deal with personally, those around them can help them explore how they view the setback.

Start in the Past

Revisiting past experiences can be a good place to start.  This can be used to show the athlete where they have previously navigated obstacles before them.  This can positively impact how they interpret the uncomfortable feelings they may be experiencing and envision a way past them.

Ask: What challenges have I overcome in the past?  Finding past success can help lead to a positive outlook and show a path to forward.  Past experience might also provide insight into the strategies that helped.

Ask: Where do you get support and success from?  Most athletes will have someone or somewhere they turn for help.  Can they build on this more and focus on their potential sources of strength instead of an obstacle or perceived weakness?

AskWhat makes you feel energized and optimistic?  It may be connecting with a specific person, going for a run, or playing a game. The key is to find a way to see the bigger picture, so you’re less overwhelmed with the details of a stressful situation.

Build Toward the Future

Along with looking for past success and creating a positive framework, athletes need to develop the skills to deal with obstacles when they occur.  Daily habits can fuel someone’s resilience and are opportunities to build skills, before bigger problems arise.

Nurture strong bonds.  Having a sense of community and support from family, friends and team members can create a stable foundation they need if a problem arises.

Focusing on solutions.  Problem solving is a trait that can be practiced daily.  It’s a lot easier to focus on solving a big problem, when you’ve been practicing this mindset on lots of small problems along the way.

Focus on small goals. When an athlete has big dreams and goals it can be inspiring and fuel them.  However, when things get hard or go wrong those same big goals can start to make it seem impossible.  Adding smaller manageable steps along the way can assist an athlete having a proactive outlook, instead of one of being a victim.

RELATED: How To Meditate to Optimize Your Life and Performance

Resiliency for Success

Resiliency is a trait we appreciate in athletes in part because, we all know overcoming obstacles is part of life.  Whether it’s sport, school, career, or relationships, life will throw some road bumps in the way.  The resiliency to get back up and overcome setbacks is always a key to success.

 

Discover 4 Types of Sports Recovery You Need To Know

sports recovery

Athletes from pros through weekend warriors have recognized the importance of using different types of sports recovery techniques to recover faster, feel better, and train harder. However, with all the different options to choose from, it’s hard to know which one works best.

The first thing to remember is that everything isn’t for everyone all of the time. So, when someone asks “what kind of recovery tool is best?” the answer is, it depends.

Here’s what you need to understand to get more benefit from your recovery strategies.

Recovery works by helping your body through it’s natural processes of returning to a state of internal balance. Training, competition, injury, and even life, are all stresses that add up and push your systems out of balance. Recovery means something to help bring you back into balance.

Returning the body to a state of equilibrium after stress requires you to address the specific type of stress you just endured. This is where a lot of recovery plans and techniques fall apart. If you don’t target the right type of stress or systems in the body, the recovery you try won’t make a difference. It’s like putting more insulation on a house when the real problem is a hole in the roof.

The Velocity sports recovery methodology was developed for the world’s elite athletes – to keep them at their best under enormous pressure. One of the foundations of is that there are 4 big categories of stress. We classify them as:

• Tissue
• Physiological
• Mindset
• Neuromuscular

Tissue

This is physical damage to your tendons, muscles, bones, and joints caused from contact, pressure, and tension in sports. It might be microscopic, but it takes a toll.

Repeated foot strikes while running, repetitive tendon stress on a pitcher’s elbow, or contusions and damage from collisions in rugby, football, or MMA are exactly the kinds of things that add up to potential or actual injury. Tissues need to heal properly on the microscopic level after each practice or competition.

Physiological

This is probably the area people think of most when talking about sports recovery. When you are putting in long hours of training, doing high intensity MetCons, or logging long distances, there’s a large metabolic and biochemical demand on your system. The numerous physiological elements all need to be returned to normal and metabolic wastes need to be removed.

Mindset

Whether it comes from sport or life, mental and emotional stresses have an impact on both mind and body. It can come from from emotional challenges, learning new tasks, or just intense focus for practice and competition. Our bodies’ physical recovery mechanisms are tied to our mental state.

States of mental stress and anxiety trigger particular functions of our nervous system and release stress hormones. While these can be useful during competition or training, they inhibit or even completely block natural recovery mechanisms. Therefore, in order to achieve physical recovery, the mind must be in a state of relaxation.

Neuromuscular

Often overlooked, neuromuscular fatigue doesn’t necessarily make you feel tired in the way you might think. Instead of feeling stiff, sore, or a generally fatigued, you just might lose that “snap” in your movement.

When you perform high power exercises like sprinting, jumping, and weightlifting, you stress the nervous system as well as your muscles. Until you recover, you won’t be able to fire them at full speed or intensity.

Make your recovery specific

Knowing that all regeneration methods aren’t the same or equal is the first step towards getting it right. Make sure you know the specific type of sports recovery you need at different stages of training and even different days of the week to make to make your recovery process better.

At Velocity, our coaching and sports medicine staff can help you decide which combination of regen and recovery tools you need to help you stay at your best.

RELATED CONTENT FOR YOU:

How To Recover Faster Between Soccer Games

Sleep Is the Most Important Recovery Strategy for Athletes

Athletes have the hardest time with this one exercise.

velocity performance center

 

HOW TO DO A PULL-UP

PULL-UPS ARE LIFE SAVERS

Pull-ups are a survival skill. Pulling strength is extremely important for all athletes. We need to be able to hang and support our own body weight, and if we need to pull or climb ourselves to safety. For survival and of course for performance. Having strong pulling muscles helps stabilize the shoulder and can help generate much more power for our athletes.
So how do I go about getting my first pull-up?

Let’s be honest. As an athlete we want efficiency. We want more bang for our buck. Being an efficient athlete, means being a lean athlete. In general the more mass an athlete has the more work it is to move it. The same is true for pull-ups the more mass we have, the more mass we have to pull-up. Our long armed athletes can understand this problem because they have much farther to go. Everyone has their own problems, but the fact remains they must find a way to get their chin over that bar. No excuses!
Best way to start is by ditching the bands. In our many years of experience coaching athletes and adults the band never really helps anyone. It just gives them the illusion that they are doing work. When in fact they are pulling only part of the time and bouncing around the rest of the time.
Isometric holds, and eccentrics are the best way for everyone to start. Climbing a rope is also a great way, but not everyone has that and we want to do a pull-up. So your best bet is to start with Isometric holds. This could be even just hanging on the bar. If you have never done this before this a great place to start. We need to see if we are able to hold just our own bodyweight.

To start try and hold for :20. Try and achieve this 8x. :20 hang, :20 rest.
If you can’t hang from the bar you need to get horizontal. When we lack the strength to do a pull-up we only try practicing vertical pulling, and don’t just pull vertically. We can strengthen our pulling muscles by lowering down, and pulling horizontally like a ring row or horizontal row.

Isometrics are a great way to help develop the strength to start doing pull-ups. At some point doing your hangs you are going to realize that you need more core strength. When you are hanging there you notice that when you keep your core tight it is much less taxing on the grip as you hang. When you get tired or forget to keep your core tight it becomes much more taxing on the grip, and you slide your hands on the bar making callouses or blisters. Don’t wreck your hands! If you’re slipping don’t fight, fall get back up in a better position.

Best drill to understand this tight core position would be hollow bodies and superman rocks. Transitioning from one to the other is also really good helping to understand keeping your core tight. If your core is tight it’s going to be easier to pull-up.
Eccentric work is where the strength is going to come from. This time instead of holding isometrically now we want to lower eccentrically. Fight gravity as long as we can. Best to start with horizontal row first. Start with chest to bar and lower down as slow and controlled as possible.

If that was easy jump up onto the pullup bar. Try to get chest to bar and then lower as slow as possible.
When working on doing pull-ups it is best to focus on it for 10 min at a time. We do not want to over train. 3x a week is best and give a rest day between to give your body a chance to get stronger. Another thing to keep in mind is to make sure to even yourself out. With all of this pulling work we want to make sure we balance it out with some pressing movements. Overdeveloping in certain areas can lead to overuse or cause imbalances and effect efficiency.
These exercises are basic, but stick with them. We need to develop a strong base to pull from first, and this is a way to do it.

Want to be fast? Learn this simple drill.

Youth Speed Training

 

Jumping Rope

Short Time

Time is short we don’t have a lot of it, and most parents want to know something their athlete can be doing every day to help them get faster. To be a faster athlete, you have to focus on one of Velocity’s speed formula principles: short time. The longer an athlete is on the ground the slower they will be.
What is the best way an athlete can practice this at home to help them get faster and improve their coordination?

JUMP ROPE!

We have our athletes jump rope in our warm-ups all of the time. We love this exercise because it teaches our athletes about ground contact time and coordination. When it comes to running faster you need to have both coordination and quick feet. The jump rope helps us to practice how our feet strike the ground, how we absorb and push off the ground. What forces are involved and what muscles are used. It also forces us to pay attention and focus.

The most important thing when starting to jump rope is to make sure that you have the right size jump rope. If it is too short then you will have to jump really high or have a large arm swing making it inefficient. If it is too long it drags on the ground longer and usually whips you in the legs, which is also inefficient and painful. We never want that. We want a rope that when we stand in the middle of it we are able to pull it up between our armpits and our sternum.
Once you have the right size jump rope we can start. I tell my athletes to pretend they are a popsicle, they can only move their wrists to spin the rope and feet to jump up in the air. Everything else needs to stay tight. Doing this creates tension throughout the body making it spring like. This spring like effect is what we want. We want to keep the body as straight as possible to be efficient.

Start with the rope behind you. Don’t jump rope. Rope jump. Spin the rope with the wrists over your head and jump over it as it passes. Try to keep the feet together when you start to teach your body how to be one strong piece.
If you mess up trying its ok. You won’t be perfect the first time this is part of the learning process. Spend at least 10 minutes a day practicing jumping rope. Here are some goals for you to work towards start with the first one and see how many you can do. Remember start at the top and work your way down. Master the basics first. Just like with running you have to walk before you can sprint.
100 jumps in a row
25 single foot jumps each
20 yards Jump rope 2 feet together (no misses)
20 yards Jump rope single leg (no misses) each leg
Double-Unders
Single Leg Double Unders

Flexibility & Range of Motion, Do You Have Any?

flexibility arms raising

 

Flexibility, do you have any?

Flexibility: the ability to flex bend and move through a full range of motion. As humans, all of our bodies are designed for the most part the same. With a few differences between men and women obviously. Why then if all bodies are the same can some bodies move better than others?

Let’s ask Aristotle. “We, are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act but a habit?”

If all our bodies are the same, then the difference between flexible people and inflexible people are their habits!
I imagine during Aristotle’s day there were not many issues with flexibility because back then people moved around more. Today in our society we sit. When we sit down for hours at a time we are constantly telling our body that this is the position we want to be in. Then gravity takes its toll on us. We round our shoulders, and hunch forward making us less mobile in the t-spine. Sitting tells us to shorten the hip flexors, and turns off the glutes because we are sitting on them.

Sitting is human nature now, and is a bad habit that has consequences. We don’t make this connection that sitting is making us immobile. We just assume that our bodies don’t move through full ranges of motion anymore as we age! Or when we move it hurts because we have created muscle imbalances from all that sitting!

We wake up one day and everything hurts when we move because we are not movers anymore we are sitters. We want to get up and move because we know it is good for our health, but our limited range of motion makes it hard.
So what do we do to help restore our flexibility? Well we need to move! We need get up out of our chair and relearn how to move our body through a full range of motion. We have been inactive so long that a full range of motion is no longer achievable and some muscle groups are then forced to work harder than normal to compensate! How can we fix this limitation we have placed on ourselves?

Everyone knows the answer to how to get more flexible, and that is to STRETCH! We pick an area that is tight and we stretch it painstakingly for 2 min a side and viola! We are magically fixed. WRONG! Stretching for 2 minutes never helped anyone get more flexible. Think about it how many times have you reached down and tried to touch your toes hoping that they would come closer? It just doesn’t happen. The 2 minutes you spend on each side stretching, even if it is daily, will never add up to counteract the hours of sitting we do each day!

So then how do we become more flexible? By moving. By getting up and taking your body through a full range of motion! You need to move everyday through a full range of motion. Now be warned it is going to take time to get back to where your body used to be just as it took years of sitting to get you where you are now! But, by moving and doing something every day you can start the good habit of getting back to being flexible.

What should I do then to help improve my flexibility? I really suggest everyone learn how to squat properly. Dr. Kelly Starett says everyone should try to spend 10 min in the bottom of a squat every day. Your body knows how to do this it has just forgotten! You need to reteach it how to be mobile and move through a pain free full range of motion. You can use some assistance with weight to help you get all the way down there or hold on to a chair to get into a good position.

So you’re saying I shouldn’t stretch at all? Now, stretching can facilitate moving better, and there are plenty of good stretches that can help you relearn how to squat by bringing awareness to a certain muscle group by stretching it for a bit. But, if we never actually squat and move, all the stretching in the world won’t help us understand how to move better because we are not moving.

If you want to be more flexible try to sit less and move more. Re-teach yourself how to squat properly and use stretching to help this endeavor. It will take time but it is time you are investing into yourself to make you a healthier more mobile you!

Focus.Mindfullness.Meditation.Regen

 

Focus. Mindfullness. Meditation. Regen.

Visualization

In youth sports the most important thing for an athlete to be able to do is focus. Without focus an athlete will never really discover their true ability. At the youth age, athletes are all growing and developing at different rates. However, the thing that sets good youth athletes apart is their ability to focus, and put all of their attention into what they are doing.

To be fair, the same is true of most professional athletes. When the game is on the line it’s the more focused athletes that prevail. You could say it is because they have better abilities than other athletes but, that athlete was not born with those abilities, they made a conscious choice to put the effort, time and necessary focus to gain those abilities.

Wait, we can improve our abilities with focus? Yes, anything we put time and effort into we will get better at, including focus.

How can we improve our focus? We live in a distracted society. Everything is designed to stimulate and constantly bombard us with things, and information. Our bodies never fully get a chance to relax from information and stress overload. You are like your computer. When you work on the computer you can operate one window pretty well maybe two or three, but when you have many windows and tabs open its hard to get anything done. Even the computer can’t handle it sometimes, and has to shut everything down or turn off so it can run efficiently again. A computer has an on and off/reboot switch. Where or what is our reboot switch?

So what is this magic switch that can shut down our body and allow it to focus, and operate more efficiently? Meditation. The way I can describe meditation is the practice of focusing or being aware of your breath. That’s it only that. Pay attention, be aware of your breath, the life sustaining process. There are tons of way to meditate, but the easiest way to think about it is to bring your attention to your breathing.

Just try and do that for a few minutes, and only focus on your breathing. Breathe all the way in and out. It is harder than you think, to just sit there and count your breaths. All it takes is a few minutes a day! You can reset your nervous system, and escape all the stress of your life by just focusing on your breath.
We can use different breathing techniques to calm us down and relax us. We can also use different techniques to amp us up and energize to focus us on the task at hand.

A great technique to calm yourself down and focus is box breathing. You can use 4 seconds to start. You breathe in for 4 seconds. Hold for 4 seconds. Breathe out for 4 seconds. Hold 4 seconds. Repeat. In the beginning try to get 10 rounds or so in.

This is also a good technique to use if you have had a stressful day. Take a few box breaths to let go of whatever just happened, and remain focused on what you can do! Use your breath as a reset button to help you block out distractions and remain focused for your best performance. You can do it! Try it out!

Failure, from a coaches perspective.

coaching young athletes

Failure. From a Coaches Perspective.

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”- Wayne Gretzky

Failure gets a bad rap. Of course I don’t actively want people to fail, I am not rooting against my athletes. It is my job as their coach to help them view failure differently.

I like these quotes by some of the best athletes in the top of their sport to help athletes better understand failure and how to use it to their advantage. The way I like to teach my athletes about failure is: Win or Learn.

As an athlete we don’t want to lose. No one does. The best athletes do not like to lose either. The difference between the greatest athletes of all time, and just really good athletes, is their mindset and how they deal with failure.

Do they look at failure as an opportunity to fix weaknesses and grow, or when they fail do they blame teammates officials etc?

Two Mindsets

These two mindsets are the growth and the fixed mindset.

A Growth mindset athlete learns from their failures and sees them as an opportunity to grow and be better in the future, if they work on it.
A fixed mindset athlete believes that if they failed it was not their fault. They also believe that their talent is something that you just have, and you can’t improve on it. If a fixed mindset athlete is up against failure they quit, or don’t try, because they will let the fear of failure take over. Sometimes they won’t even participate because they are too afraid to fail.

As a coach, I am always trying to help my athletes identify with the growth mindset. Teach them to learn from their failures. They are not going to be perfect on every rep every time. If they were perfect every time, then why would they need me to coach them in the first place?

If an athlete always does perfect reps what is there for me as the coach to correct? If an athlete is not making a rep, are they getting frustrated or are they trying to figure out why they are not getting it?
This is my job as a coach, to expose them to failure over and over again. To help them deal with it. To not let it cripple them and be afraid to try, and to use it as an opportunity to learn and grow.

Recommended Reading

I recommend all athletes, parents, and coaches read: Mindset by Carol Dweck to help get a better understanding of the growth and fixed mindsets.

What is Visualization?

visualization

 

What Is Visualization?

Visualization

We all do it as kids. We imagine it is the bottom of the ninth, we are down by 1 run, bases are loaded, and we are up to bat. We imagine ourselves blasting a home run clear out of the park. We can see it so clearly its almost real.

We don’t realize the power in this visualization until we make it happen! Visualization is a very powerful tool to help athletes learn and refine their skills, as well as mentally rehearse for a performance.
What it is going to feel like, smell like, taste like to be there? Who is there cheering them on? What time of day is it? What color jersey is the opponent wearing? The more real an athlete can make it feel in their heads the better the positive outward effect.

Positive visualization can help an athlete be mentally ready for a big competition because they have gone through scenarios in their heads already. This means the athlete will know exactly what to do in each situation, and will know what to expect, feel, and they will have no surprises.
Your brain doesn’t know the difference if you are doing an action or if you are thinking about doing the same action. Meaning the same areas in the brain that are active when you think about the movement, are also active when you actually do the movement. Visualization helps athletes learn faster by having them just imagine in their mind doing the movement. Again, the more the athlete can really “see” themselves doing an action the more likely they will perform that action better because they have already done it in their head.

Here is an example from one of our Velocity coaches.

“When I was younger and playing baseball I had some bad hitting days. My dad suggested I try to close my eyes and imagine myself seeing the ball leaving the pitchers hand. Then follow it all the way to the bat, and visualize where it was going to land. So before my next game, I did exactly what my dad had taught me. I imagined watching the ball, and how far I was going to hit it. I was mentally rehearsing all of this in my head before my next game. When my next game rolled around I had two hits, and each hit landed close to where I had imagined hitting the ball.”

Visualization isn’t a quick fix magic pill, and that will be the only thing you will need to do. However, visualization is a powerful tool that all athletes need to add into their toolbox to help improve performance or learn new complex skills!

Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset

fixed mindset vs growth mindset

How a growth mindset helps build great athletes.

We see certain athletes that can get through numerous obstacles, but how are they doing that? What allows them to work through practices, failures, learn new skills and continue to grow? It all comes back to their mindset, and mentally how they are working through these obstacles.

There are also those athletes that are incredibly skilled and talented, but seem to have the mental resilience of a peanut. They seem to crumble with any setback or pressure that comes their way.

It all comes back to their mindset, and mentally how they are working through these obstacles.

How do you help build the right mindset in a young athlete? We want them to strive, to compete, to work hard, but we don’t want their entire self-worth tied to winning or losing.

RELATED: Discover the Secret Elite Sports Organizations Know About Building Champion Athletes.

Mindset and learning

A really powerful answer comes in the concept of a “growth mindset” as proposed by Stanford professor Dr.Carol Dweck. The premise is that there are two basic mindsets that people use in the “talent” paradigm, fixed and growth.  A fixed mindset can limit effort and development while a growth mindset can enhance it.  Importantly, a growth mindset can be taught and fostered.

Fixed Mindset

Those with a fixed mindset believe that talents and abilities are “fixed” by genetics, chance, or other circumstances, and can’t be changed through any means.  They believe they are born with a specific amount of talent. In their mind failure at a task or skill is proof they don’t have enough talent.

People with a fixed mindset often resist challenges that could results in failure because they don’t want others to see this “proof” of lack of talent, or don’t want to acknowledge it themselves.  Challenges are viewed negatively, not as a chance for growth.

Growth Mindset

On the other hand, someone with a growth mindset believes that their actions and efforts can change their abilities. Basically, they believe working at something can help them get better. Because of this a failure or set back aren’t proof of their inferiority, but a natural part of learning.

Practical Mindset Coaching Take-Aways

  • Praise effort not ability.  This is critical in working with young athletes. It relates directly to the point below.
  • Teach that skills are primarily learned through work, not through talent. I thoroughly believe there are minimum thresholds of “talent” you need to succeed in sports. Still, after almost 20 years of coaching I have seen so much talent wasted on individuals who give up because they don’t have a growth mindset. Teach them this directly. Dweck talks about the impact teaching this topic has on college students and their success rates.
  • Create an environment where it’s rewarded to push your limits even when you make mistakes. It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give your athletes. Freedom to make good mistakes. Mistakes that occur when they are trying to use the right technique, or a good strategic idea, or a creative play. There are lots of times when they have to push their boundaries of skill to improve, if we make these types of mistakes feared, then the athlete won’t grow.

Why Athletes Benefit From Group Training

benefits of group training

 

Why should your athlete participate in group training sessions?

Sports are about who can fail the least, and to get good at failing the least we must fail a lot at first. In a group setting you can fail, and are encouraged to fail as you receive corrections from a coach. Athletes in these types of settings get the added benefit of learning from other athletes and their failures. By learning from other athletes mistakes you avoid making the same errors, and with the extra failure the learning curve increases for each individual.

Training with a group also teaches teamwork and accountability. Most sports are team based sports, and the ability of a team to win isn’t based on one athlete’s abilities. As athletes, we need to be the best we can be, but we need to bring the rest of the team with us. Working within a group setting encourages young athletes to inspire others, and teaches them about leadership. Leadership values are hard to teach in a one-on-one setting because there are no other athletes there to fail with you.

The importance of competing is also emphasized in a group session because the athletes are constantly pushing each other both physically and mentally. Learning to compete is a crucial part of athletics. An athlete needs to have the knowledge of competing in order to compete with an opponent. These athletes first learn how to have healthy competition with their teammates, and then they learn to compete with themselves.

There are many benefits for athletes to participate in group training, and by subjecting your athlete to group sessions you are only benefiting them. Remember to keep the groups at a maximum of about 15 to 1 to make sure your athlete is receiving a good amount of attention. After learning how to work with a group your athlete will then be ready for any small group situations as well!