Discover the Secret Used to Build Great Athletes

Lessons on building Olympic Athletes

The world’s leading sports organizations have spent decades and millions of dollars to discover the formula to build great athletes.

Dear Parent,

We’ve been in the sports profession for decades, and have helped over a million athletes. We’ve examined athlete development systems around the world. And most importantly, many of us are parents as well.

We know the awesome, positive aspects of youth sports participation. It can help athletes develop a fit lifestyle, learn to work hard and build a growth mindset.

Like you, we believe in the work ethic, attitudes, and character developed through sports training and competition. We help young athletes strive to pursue their goals. That’s everything from making the team, getting more playing time, or even becoming a professional.

We are inspired when we see an athlete or team striving to be their best. Operating at elite levels, we see the stage of international sport as a showcase for the human spirit. Our love of sport includes the process of building great athletes.

This why we love what we do! Some days though, it is hard to see good people, with the best of intentions, making mistakes developing young athletes.

We understand it is hard to know what’s best for your young athlete. What’s best for them to have success now and in the long term. There is so much conflicting information.

There’s so much pressure to win now. There are the demands of sport, life, and school that make it hard sometimes.

What does it take to create GREAT athletes?

Organizations like the US Olympic Committees, US Soccer, USA Hockey and others have a mission to develop great athletes. The world’s best. They’ve spent decades researching and testing these different methods. In international sport, it’s a race to build the best.

In youth sports today, we all know that there is tremendous pressure for an athlete to “win now” so they can make the elite team. The coach and the club are under pressure to “win now” or they risk losing their players to another team or club. Parents feel like if they don’t get their young athletes in the right place early the future opportunities will be gone.

All of this “win now” leaves little time for actually developing. Don’t get it wrong, we want the young kids to compete.   We want there to be winners and losers in games. Yet, if we sacrifice developing a well-rounded athlete for winning at 10 years old, we are mortgaging their athletic future for a win today.

A great athlete in most sports starts with athleticism. Without question, there are also different key sports skills you must start early. For example; dribbling in basketball, groundstrokes in tennis, and ball touch in soccer. You need to play the sport at a young enough age to start developing this.

In an athletes’ earliest years, they might rely on this skill to stand out. It’s the sport after all! Looming underneath is a need for athleticism. It becomes important more and more as they move up in levels and competition gets tougher. As the other players also have high-level skill, then athleticism becomes another route to gain an advantage.

Does Playing Multiple Sports Help Athleticism?

If you’re not sold on it yet, let’s look at a few examples of this playing out in the real world.

Urban Meyer, a famous football coach at The Ohio State University, recruits multi-sport athletes. In fact, some reports show that a whopping 89% of his football recruits are multi-sport athletes.

Ohio States recruits multi-sport athletes

image from @ohiovarsity

Let’s go wider than only football and look across all Olympic Sports. The United States Olympic Committee has done extensive research for decades on what builds a champion. They’ve looked at hundreds of Olympians and medalists to see when they specialized.

Many would expect to be an Olympian you had to specialize early and give up other sports and some times that’s true. But the data shows a different story. Olympians are arguably some of the most elite athletes on the planet. Yet, the USOC study shows they play multiple sports through their high school years!

US Olympians play multiple sports

But it’s not just about specializing in one sport; it’s about the training that often goes along with it. Developing only “sport-specific” skill, without a route to increase overall athleticism does them much more harm than good!

Our job as a Sports Performance organization is to create a better athlete, which means a well-rounded athlete.

Skipping Well Rounded Athletic Development Can Have Harmful Effects…

As coaches, we hope to create great athletes who have a chance at being successful for the long haul. To support this, our programs are based on the concepts of Long Term Athletic Development.

Just like a baby needs to follow steps in development, so does a young athlete. A baby must learn to roll over before crawling, crawl before fore walking, and walk before running. Athletes need to build a solid foundation for elite athletic performance before they can reach their full potential.

The Injury Problem

When athletes skip critical steps in building this athletic foundation, they are at a much higher risk for injury and burnout. We’ve seen it in our centers across the country and we’ve seen it in Olympic development systems around the world. Olympic Committees have contracted with us to help solve the problem of injury due in large part to overspecialization.

• In a Loyola University study of 1200 youth athletes, researchers found that early specialization was one of the strongest predictors of injury. Athletes who specialized were 70-93% more likely to be injured compared to multi-sport athletes.

Without a well rounded athletic base, missed pieces act like cracks in the foundation. They might not be a problem now, but they can lead to future problems down the line. Small cracks have a tendency to grow over time and under pressure.

The trouble is building the foundation early isn’t always sexy. And it is really hard for parents and young athletes to find the time.

Your Long Term Athlete Development System

The Long Term Athletic Development model has been developed over several decades. It’s been adopted by many successful elite organizations. The best know expert might be Dr. Istvan Balyi, a coach and sports scientist. He helped implement this model in professional tennis, with USA Hockey, in the UK to prepare for the 2012 London Olympics and through Sport Canada.

The concept is simple. There should be a long term view of developing an athlete with the highest chance of success at the elite level. To do this we need to have some outline of what they should be doing from the youngest ages all the way through their pro and Olympic career.

A Model For Developing Champions

Now don’t misunderstand, this isn’t some fluffy “they all win and there is no competition” model. It comes from elite sport and supports competition. It doesn’t support winning at the earliest ages at the expense of being a great athlete later. This document from LTAD.ca is a great summary:

From the start to finish, we progressively build an athlete’s foundation, skills, and mindset so they can reach their full potential. But we know every athlete doesn’t have the potential to succeed in a Gold Medal in every sport.

So doesn’t that make this a waste for most athletes?

NO. Because it helps athletes reach their best potential. Because an athletic foundation of fundamental movement and sports skills improves the likelihood and opportunity to participate in sports and fitness life long.

This balance of elite development and sports participation is why so many sports organizations have adopted this model. These examples help show how Sport Canada and USA Hockey are applying it to their systems;

Since 1999 the Velocity model has incorporated the LTAD concepts and has evolved with continued research and experience with over 1 million athletes. We think about athletic development as a pyramid and if we are going to build this pyramid to great heights we need a broad and comprehensive base.

By building a broad base of athletic skill and movement we create a foundation. An athletic movement foundation that they can build on and without wide cracks. This way a young athlete has more movement skills and physical resources to draw from. Then they have more opportunity to find their best position or sport as they get older.

RELATED: Learn Velocity’s Proven BIG 4 Speed Formula

Just go back to that USOC graphic about how many sports Olympic athletes played. They had the athleticism to pick the one that they could excel at, in part because they had a broad athletic base.

How Can a Parent Help a Young Athlete in Todays Sports Environment?

As we know, the demands of time, year-round participation and advancing technical level make it hard for young athletes and their parents. You don’t want your kids to fall behind because they took the time to play another sport or training. You fear they won’t be on the right team or have the opportunity later.

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide To Speed Training

It’s a real concern and as parents, one many of us have felt as well.

Sport coaches can be as frustrated. They fell pressure to focus on skill development. So often they cant incorporate the overall athletic development they might want as well. They only have a few hours a week and parents bring a lot of pressure to succeed now.

But we have insider knowledge. You can do both. While our young athletes in the US are playing club and school sports, they can still develop as athletes.

Through the year they can just continue to develop athleticism. Not just sport skills. Not only sports training, just general, all-around athleticism. For our youngest athletes, this means as little as 2 hours a week that builds fundamentals.

Then as they enter middle school and high school training becomes more focused on strength, speed, power, and fitness. Just 2 – 4 hours a week adds to their athletic foundation and develops movement patterns beyond their specific sport.

During some parts of the year, they can increase the time spent on developing these qualities. If they want to be their best and can spare 2-4 days a week, they can do more to reach their full athletic potential.

Developing Athletes Is About AND, Not OR.

We hope parents understand; it’s not a question of sport-specific skill OR overall athleticism. It’s a matter of AND. You can develop your sports skills, compete AND keep becoming a well-rounded athlete.

Our experience in elite sports and youth sports confirms this view. We’ve seen what works and building better athletes in key in our belief.

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!

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!

Those interesting looking tools & Graston Technique

graston technique

Graston Technique

Ever Wonder What the Graston Technique is?

The Graston Technique® is an innovative, evidence-based form of instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization that enables clinicians to detect and effectively break down scar tissue and fascial restrictions, as well as maintain optimal range of motion.

The unique protocol uses specially designed stainless steel instruments, along with appropriate therapeutic exercise, to specifically detect and effectively treat areas exhibiting soft tissue fibrosis or chronic inflammation. The instruments also are used diagnostically to follow the kinetic chain, to locate and treat the cause of the symptom as well as the specific area of pain. Graston Technique® is also frequently used as an effective protocol to maintain range of motion.

Graston Technique® does not need to be considered “painful” to be effective. Please inform your clinician if you are experiencing discomfort anytime during treatment. Patients usually receive two treatments per week during a four-to-five-week period. Most patients have a positive response by the third to fourth treatment. Graston Technique® is accepted nationwide by elite athletes and everyday patients, as one of the most effective treatments for rehabilitation and range of motion maintenance, especially when combined with other treatment modalities such as exercise.

Graston is just another effective way for athletes to recover faster. Combined with other recovery techniques, athletes can return to play much quicker than with traditional rest and icing techniques. If you are interested in Graston contact your nearest Velocity Sports Performance.

Is your injury ready for the GAME READY system?

game ready system

 

Game Ready Technology

The Game Ready system and getting you back to competition.

Game Ready’s innovative ACCEL® Technology (Active Compression and Cold Exchange Loop) sets a new standard in injury and post-op treatment, integrating active pneumatic compression and cold therapies in one revolutionary system. The system progressively increases and releases pressure while also rapidly circulating ice water through separate wrap chambers.

Until now, the RICE (Rest–Ice–Compression–Elevation) principles have been used only to passively control symptoms, moderating pain and swelling. But Game Ready® does more. Going beyond static cold and compression applications, ACCEL Technology mimics natural muscle contractions while cooling the tissue, helping the body to proactively aid lymphatic function, encourage cellular oxygen supply, and stimulate tissue repair. That is, it helps accelerate and enhance recovery.

Technology is advancing, and that means your recovery should be too. Don’t be scared of trying new things, and learning to be healthy.

What is the NormaTec?

NormaTec

 

What is the NormaTec?

You have probably seen thousands of pictures of individuals sitting in a chair with giant pants that look like balloons. They claim they are working on recovering their muscles, but what exactly are they using? The Normatec.
NormaTec is the leader in rapid recovery—the system gives a competitive edge to the world’s elite athletes, coaches, and trainers. The NormaTec Recovery Systems are dynamic compression devices designed for recovery. All the systems use NormaTec’s patented PULSE technology to help athletes recover faster between training and after a performance.

So how does the NormaTec actually work?

The systems include a control unit and attachments which go on the legs, arms, or hips. They use compressed air to massage your limbs, mobilize fluid, and speed recovery with the patented NormaTec Pulse Massage Pattern. When you use the systems, you will first experience a pre-inflate cycle, during which the connected attachments are molded to your exact body shape. The session will then begin by compressing your feet, hands, or upper quad (depending on which attachment you are using). Similar to the kneading and stroking done during a massage, each segment of the attachment will first compress in a pulsing manner and then release. This will repeat for each segment of the attachment as the compression pattern works its way up your limb.

The NormaTec is used to help athletes recover as quick as possible to get them ready to train again. Are you interested in trying a NormaTec? Call your local Velocity Sports Performance!

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!

2 Words For Athletes To Avoid At All Costs

By using negative words like HAVE TO and CAN’T we vocalize our fear of failure. Teaching athletes to keep a positive and growth mindset is important because being an athlete means you will fail multiple times a day, and that’s okay! However, you must learn to fail, and not be afraid of that failure. Here are two words that athletes should avoid using to stay in the right mindset.

HAVE TO– Instead of saying have to, say you WANT TO. When we say, we HAVE TO do something we create a belief that someone is forcing us to do something. For example, when a coach gives an athlete a specific workout, and the athlete asks “do I HAVE TO?” This athlete is creating doubt, and does not have the desire to accomplish the workout or their goals. To have a productive training session change your word choice to WANT TO, and the overall atmosphere and morale of you and your teammates will increase. Have a drive and a WANT to work towards your goals, and not do something because someone is making you do it.

CAN’T-Instead of saying can’t, say not yet! This is the most used, and most hurtful, word to our goals and mindset. When we say, I CAN’T, we are telling our brain that our body will not be able to perform the action. We have put up a mental road block on our path towards success. By changing the outlook, and saying NOT YET to something, we are keeping our path clear to continue towards our goals. Coaches may even respond to you when you say can’t with “not with an attitude like that!” If something seems hard try it anyways because you never know what you are capable of until you try.

Are you having a hard time finishing your training sessions strong? Do you/or your athlete feel defeated before even attempting your session? Watch what you say, and try changing a few words in your training vocabulary. Teaching athletes to keep a positive and growth mindset is important for their mental health, and goals.

Failing is part of life and all sports. When we learn to fail, and learn to overcome that failure we learn to have resilience. When we get knocked down we learn to get back up!

3 Ways to Break Out of a Slump

Slump_velocity_sports_performance_ortiz_0513

We all go through times when things just don’t go our way. We try to break out of it, but no matter what we try we can’t seem to shake it. This could be in sports, in school, at work, or in the gym. It happens to even the best of us.

Here are three ways to help break you out of a slump:

  1. Acknowledge the Slump

Accept it, don’t fight against it. Like getting stuck in a strong current, fighting the waves only tires you and worsens your chances of making it to shore. Fighting it can make a slump last longer and feel much worse. Ask yourself, what are my body and mind telling me? Acknowledge that maybe this is its way to tell you to slow down. The best athletes learn how to take advantage of the adversity that they face and come out stronger as a result.

  1. Write It Out

Try a free-writing exercise where you spend 10 minutes writing whatever you want. The only rule is that you have to keep writing. More often than not, writing exercises like these can help you get to the bottom of any problem you might be having. It takes time to master, but having a daily journal like this can help you understand your habits over time. It is also quite valuable to look back and see if you have had this problem before, and how you dealt with it.

  1. Positive Mental Attitude (PMA)

Don’t throw yourself a pity party. The only people that want to attend are the ones that want to tear you down. When you’re in a slump don’t give into it. Have a positive mental attitude and surround yourself with other like-minded individuals.

Remember everyone gets in a slump. Acknowledging that it happens is the first step to breaking out of it. Try free-writing exercises to discover your habits. This will help guide you in making the right adjustments to break those bad behaviors. Attack your slump head-on with a positive mental attitude and surround yourself with others that exude that same positivity and you’re sure to be a success.