The “Business” of Training Youth Athletes

Years ago I worked at a facility and near the end of the fiscal year when the budgets were being finalized the same question would come yearly from management; “What sports are we going to target for training?” I hated this question and each year I would answer with the same, “who cares, let’s just train athletes.”  And as usual the group would try and target hockey, knowing full well there were groups like Crash Conditioning that were doing a great job and had that market covered.  Why go head on with that? It has been about 7 years since the original conversations and two things are still true; I still dislike the question and my response remains the same.  Just train kids and people to be athletic.

To be truthful that is a pretty bold idea and would take a cultural shift to get people thinking about training for athleticism and not a specific sport.  People have made a living from classes that are targeting a specific event and sport.  As I said previously, there are groups who have been doing a niche market for years and have a wildly successful following.  However many businesses or management groups fail to see the larger picture.  In many circumstances the sport specific training is attempting to take place over 6 to 8 weeks.  The level of learning and actual adaptation that could occur over that time is moderate and unfortunately the level of success is measured by how much the athlete sweats during the training.  It becomes little more than a boot camp attempting to look like a sport specific daily training environment.  Where many groups fail to succeed is in their model of training the groups for the long term process and securing the by in of the athlete and even more importantly, the parent or coach.

I am going to rock a number of people and go out and say, so called sport training is missing the mark when it comes to youth development.  I am not saying all but many talk about Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) and claim that the training is in accordance with the LTAD document.  But the document is an idea, a road map.  Following it means that the athletes are trained according to the windows of training opportunity.  However many fail to measure growth and maturation, and the programs are once again classic programs that are similar to the programs delivered to the senior level counter parts.  The programs lack the physical literacy, the fundamental movements and the play/ games aspect that help to develop true athleticism.

I was recently at a camp and one of the most refreshing statements I heard was the general manager of the team state three key concepts that the athletes must have in order to be in the program.

  1. Be a good person. Represent yourself, your team and those that have helped you along the way (parents / family / coaches) in every situation you are in, from the daily training environment, to competition to even traveling and being seen wearing your team issued gear.
  2. Be a good athlete. Strive to make physical and motor improvements in training that gives you tools to be…
  3. A good (specific sport not divulged) “sport specific” athlete.

I was pleased to see that this successful general manager said good athletes before good at the specific sport.   They understood that the tools developed from the daily training environment will transfer to help foster the sport specific environment.

In March of 2013 former NHL coach Brent Sutter made headlines for stating that Canadian kids play “too much hockey.”  https://ca.sports.yahoo.com/blogs/jrhockey-buzzing-the-net/red-deer-rebels-brent-sutter-joins-too-much-175701944.html.  This ended up grabbing the attention of Don Cherry who defended minor hockey.  http://en.canoe.com/Slam/Hockey/Junior/WorldJunior/2014/01/06/21378941.html.  The debate will continue.  Hard to say who is right?  However I was able to work with a group of athletes, 108 in total and all were tested on general field tests.  When the teams were chosen it was found that those who made the team were not the best at all the tests of physical abilities, nor did they stand out on one or two of the tests.  But a majority of the athletes that made the teams tested well in all the test.  They were athletic.

This article on Active for Life (http://activeforlife.com/what-elite-athletes-have-in-common/) draws a pretty clear picture.  Yes there are going to be those sport specific athletes that started young and make it big.  These are the outliers.  Giving the athletes the tools necessary to be successful roots in general athleticism, not in specialization, and specifically in early specializations.  To truly develop an athlete means to build a robust and structurally tolerant individual that can adapt, with a huge set of abilities.  Build better all-around athletes and you build better sport specific athletes.

Great Learning Opportiunities

As I write this I am standing in line at Costco.  Judging by the line, I have nothing but time.  Say what you want about Costco, but the place has almost everything you need.  Almost one-stop shopping.  Sure there are going to be the specialty items that will make recipes amazing, but a majority of purchases could be made at Costco.  Same thing can be said for education.  University is your equivalent of Costco.  You learn a great deal in post secondary, but there are those specialty experiences that make good coaches great, and great coaches recognized as leaders in the field.

I would be cautious to state how much I have spent on courses and learning experiences over my 15 years of coaching.  A great deal started when I met a very influential mentor who maintained that I “do not let my mind weld shut.” Canadian track coach extraordinaire Les Gramantik said it best. “I could put down all books, continue to coach with the knowledge I have, and still do a tremendous job.  But I don’t want to be known as a good coach… I want to be a great coach.” And Les has been coaching as long as I have been alive.  A good coach is seeking those opportunities to differentiate himself or herself.  And I will be the first to state that I have been to learning experiences that at first seemed to be a waste of time and money.  Learn 3 things that were beneficial and 500 that were not.  Upon further reflection I learned 3 things that worked and 500 that I would not use with any of my athletes.  There is something to be learned from every experience, and it is the sum of experiences that make good coaches great.

So hopefully someone other than my mom is reading this because as she knows, I work with some of the greatest strength coaches and physiologists working in amateur sport.  Coaches like Matt Jordan, Scott Maw, Jeremiah Barnert, Jamie McCartney, Mac Read, Quinn Sekulich, Nick Simpson, Chris Osmond, Tess Galligher and Anna Alywin.  Physiologists such as Dr. David Smith, Dr. Erik Groves, Rosie Neil, Jessica Kryski, Erin Sargent and Kelly Quipp.  You mean they are not household names. Why haven’t you heard of many of them… because they are busy coaching and helping athletes reach podiums, win World Cup titles and answering the questions that advance the field that we are coach in on a day to day basis.  Those who are humble, they shall be exalted, and these are some of the most humble of coaches and physiologists I have met. They do not coach for the money (god knows it’s not for the money) or the recognition (because many of them do not announce the teams/ athletes they work with), but for the absolute love of what they do. They do it because every day presents challenges and opportunities to rise to greatness. The very act of listening, asking questions and watching is invaluable.

For a long period of time, these experts were not available to share their knowledge unless you were in the High Performance Practicum at the Canada Olympic Oval or you were a master’s student at the University of Calgary. I completed the under graduate degrees and a masters degree, the Costco of knowledge. And I think back to all the courses that I have attended over the years, the specialty items you may say, that have helped me to become part of this inner circle. There were some courses that were better than others, but none will compare to this May. This group of highly recommended strength coaches and physiologists are going to share their information and experiences. Is this a pitch? No, it’s a statement that this is something that young and aspiring strength coaches can gain invaluable experiences. That established strength coaches could confirm and reassure that they are at the top of their game and develop great connections. This is something that if I was in a different position could not afford to miss. This is that specialty item that can make the recipe of a young strength coach amazing. And don’t worry; I will not bring down the intellectual average of the group. I unfortunately (fortunately for me as I love this team) will be traveling with a team. If I wasn’t I would be there learning with hopefully all of you. Mom, not sure you would enjoy the week though.

Looking for information, here’s the link

Strength and Power Course

http://csicalgary.ca/en/?option=com_dtregister&Itemid=548&eventId=241&controller=event&task=individualRegister

Internship

http://csicalgary.ca/en/?option=com_dtregister&Itemid=551&eventId=242&controller=event&task=individualRegister

 

Why I Am Not Going To Be Men’s Health Next Top Trainer.

I have been reading Men’s Health Magazine since the age of 14. It was my first venture in fitness magazines so it became a place of inspiration to me. I know that sounds funny but I was 14 and impressionable. And for whatever reason, this publication captivated me. So 22 years later, I still have a subscription. My one regret, I did not keep every issue. It would have been quite a library of the evolution of the health and fitness industry; like a time capsule of sorts.   But the newest issue has a contest… Men’s Health Next Top Trainer.

Contestants can enter in to be the considered the next top trainer, the next contributor to the magazine. Would that be cool? Sure as hell would be. For a kid who actually dreamed of being visible on the pages of the magazine that you grew up reading, that would be a bit of a defining moment. To have your voice “heard” in those pages as an expert in your field would be a milestone to some degree. Let me clarify though. I work in more of an high performance/ academic realm, and when we talk about people who inspire use to be better than we are, the people we look up to are actually people you have never heard of. The “ghosts” of training that the general population would never hear about. It is those that are researching and contributing to the professions that are not on the pages of the popular magazines that I want to be like. But, who would not want 15 minutes of celebrity status, right? I want to be known at the end of my career for my contributions in advancing the knowledge, the processes that coaches use and the ability to place athletes on the podium. When I look back in 30 years (I hope) I want my legacy to be athlete upon athlete that I have had some hand in developing, holding a medal (gold of course) on the podium at world championships and Olympics.

But here is the real reason I am not going to be on the pages of Men’s Health.

  1. My contributions are long term and the effects of what I do will not be seen for a number of years. Testimonials of what I do are not immediate and are in progress. I am enjoying a role in which I have a hand in developing youth athletes. And we are refining the processes by which we develop and coach a young athlete though the continuum from a club based athlete to a national or professional program. And at the end of all of it, a small percentage of the athletes I work with will go on in the sport they have chosen. In fact, many will leave the sports they are in. It is reality. But I will have been successful if they become life long active adults as well. So how do I measure that? Pretty difficult if I am not doing longitudinal studies.
  1. As much as I would like a little more spotlights, it is not about me. It is about the athletes. My job is to help athletes that represent the centre I work for, the clubs they compete for and for the country they live in. I have seen relatively unknown athletes become celebrities. That to me instills pride, and at the end, I am creating change that is very small. I work as part of a great team of service providers that are all there to support the athletes that we work with. We are the providers of marginal gains. 5% or less is attributed to what I do for the athletes. For them to medal requires a number of years to accumulate skill and adaptation, the right sequencing going into a competition and the stars to align. I can and do measure my impact of a small percentage change and to some degree, luck or chance but it is over a number of years. Very little that I can show someone now.
  1. I am a very boring trainer. I am not here to entertain clients or to develop interesting new exercises. I respect and admire those that can and do that, but my job is different. I am here to OODA – Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. I test; I observe the gaps in training. I orient or develop the training plan. I make the decision on best practices and then I act or implement the program. It is not done to entertain or set up to be fancy. It is set to produce a given physiological response in a given time. When the adaptation in seen, I repeat the process. And what I measure and find impactful is not interesting to the average individual. It is the knowledge of the human system, a bit of prediction and some luck once again thrown in for good measure.
  1. I am going to be a life long learner. I am never going to be a good, as I want to be. I am always chasing for answers. When I completed my masters, I realized how little I actually knew. To be honest, most days think I am terrible at what I do. Only once in a while do I have what feels like a break through. And that passes rather quickly. But that is also a product of the environment of which I work in. The people I have surrounded myself with are some of the most intelligent people I have ever met. When asked whom I would like to meet for professional development, I was at a loss because most of the days with my co-workers are “professional development”. I have amazing people who I learn from every day. When that day comes that I have answered all the questions I had, and I think that I am at the top of my game, I am going to walk away from it all. But I know that day will never come. So retirement for me will honestly be just cutting back hours. You have never truly worked a day in your life if you love what you do. I am 36 years old and I have yet to then have a job. I am not where I am today because I am individually good at what I do. I am where I am today because the support team of brilliant co-workers make me better each and every day.
  1. When I read the entries for the contest, and I see the accomplishments that some of the contestants have, the things that they measure as benchmarks, I don’t really have any of that. I cannot take a picture of the notes, the emails, the pictures and memorabilia on the walls to measure as a measure of success. . To some that is rather “cool” but to me it is the memories and the time spent with those athletes that I see when I look at the walls of my office. This past year was a chance to see a team I had a very minor part with stand and receive the highest accolade they could in their sport. But I didn’t see the gold medals, the flashes of cameras. I saw the years of hard work, the tears of frustration, the countless sacrifices that they endured to become champions. It was funny, I watched the ceremony, and as soon as the last medal was handed out, I went back to my office and began working again. Because I know for my part, I can still do a better job.

As much as I would revel in the ability to be on the pages of an international magazine, that just isn’t me. I am not an individual trainer or coach; I am the product of a great whole. I have embraced the anonymity that I have as a coach and as a professional. And I am fine with that.

Choose Your Battles.

I may be getting old. I may be getting tolerant. Hell, I may even be getting a touch of “I Don’t Give A S@#T -itis”.   But the “industry” side of what I do still entertains me.   I grew up in a small town in Manitoba and close family friends had a farm. I would be out there almost every day. I loved that place and the family who owned the farm is still to this day dear to me. On that farm they had all the animals. But the one thing that entertained me was the Roosters. You put two of those buggers in close proximity and out comes the puffed chests and sure enough a fight would ensue.   So how does this relate to the “industry” side of fitness? Enter Internet and social media.

We are inundated with information. And the issue of the Internet and social media is any body with an IP address can put their opinions on the Internet for the world to read or hear. Heck, you are reading me right now and I would not profess to be an expert on anything. I have a few letters behind my name but in some cases that doesn’t amount to a hill of beans without adequate knowledge and common sense to back it up. And one thing I have begun to accept is that there are two sides to the Health/ Performance/ Fitness game… Industry and Profession. And trust me when I say there is need and there is room for both in this world. I had a very stimulating conversation with an athletic therapist this past weekend stating just that. Let me explain.

Note… there is no line between the Industry and Profession. It is not black and white but one giant grey zone.

Industry – In my opinion these are the niche markets, the fads, personal training and the big globo-gyms. There are people who make their livelihood via training and coaching. Now this is where things get grey, because the people who are the practitioner, they are a professional but they are servicing an industry (consumer).

Profession – This is your person who is set out to not only coach, but also contribute to advancing the profession, the knowledge and research of what we do. These are the educators. And once again, there are those who service the industry who do an amazing job of education. Everyone has a job to educate and motivate (just keep it within the scope of practice, right?). Once again… grey zone.

This is once again just my personal view on the world I live in and I write this not to paint everyone with the same brush, not to offend anyone. But I am getting to a point.   And that is, start putting people into categories, start challenging opinions and beliefs and right away people turn into Bantam Roosters, puffing their chest and starting a verbal dispute… most of the time on social media.   Very few fitness trends have polarized the masses like Crossfit, they take a tonne of crap and also sling a fair amount back. Both sides to blame!

crossfitjoker 2

 

But what ever you do, be it Zumba, Crossfit, Susan Sommers videos in your living room, endurance races or competitive mall walking, whatever fitness people may find embrace it and just be happy that people are active.   Is it the best for them? Could they get better results doing something else? Sure, possibly, but they enjoy it.   And really at the end of the day they may try a few different things. As the educator, either in the “industry” or the “profession” your jobs are to guide and foster the positive benefits of being active.

If you are an “industry professional” do not go out and state that your training method is the be-all or end all, and then not expect to be slammed on social media etc.   And if you are a “profession” professional keep an open mind and don’t necessarily let your knowledge weld your brain shut. That was some of the best advice I was ever given from a very smart and influential person to me (Yes Andrew G, that is directed at you). And I am the pot calling the kettle black. When I got out of my Masters, I was the smartest (far from it still) and mouthiest person out there.   And the reason I was hesitant to start a blog in the first place was to not get slammed for my view because I was sensitive to criticism… What a hypocrite. There are a lot of people that need our help, and there is a continuum of an individual on their path of a healthy life style. We all have a role along that path.   Know your scope and know how you can best help those that seek you out, whatever role you fill in that continuum.

Yours in Performance

Jeff Osadec MKin CEP CSCS

 

 

 

In Defence of Crossfit?

I sit here and gingerly type with with a very sore and unstable right shoulder. It is not something I am proud of and from what I hear, some people in the ice house at Canada Olympic Park thinks it is somewhat hilarious, but yes I caused a subluxation to my right shoulder. How did I do this? Well, for a matter of fact it was during a Muscle Up! Que the… Haha Crossfit chants.

I did not acquire this injury due to Crossfit. I got this during a muscle up. If people think that this is purely a “Crossfit” exercise then why do we still train our athletes with cleans and snatches. There is no exclusivity in exercises. I got hurt doing a complex movement improperly… without proper progression… and most likely without a proper warmup. Let’s just say in the last few months I have put the cart before the horse.

Let’s back up a few months.
I had come to the conclusion that I do not have the time to train as I once did; for an hour and a half to two hours four times a week. I do not have to move the weight of a small car off a child so what was the purpose of lifting be so heavy as to sacrifice form. I am training to slow down the clock. I want to look good naked. I want the function to demonstrate exercised with proficiency and at least look like I know what I am talking about. I was neglecting areas of my fitness such as cardio and mobility for other areas. I was becoming the athlete I preach against. Do as I say, not as I do!

So… It was a time change. Do things that make me uncomfortable. Become a little more well rounded. Try the things that I was normally skipping because I was not immediately successful at them. In the process I was hoping to challenge my thought process, and expand my ability to be creative as a coach. So I started juggling again… poorly. I was practicing hand stands and double unders (once again, just an exercise).
And since I was not bad a pull ups, why not progress. What could go wrong?

Well, my ego for one. I want immediate satisfaction of success from an exercise. I want to be great at it. Did I learn the proper progressions? No, just got to the bar and attempted to rip off a few muscle ups. And yes I was getting them, but then the day a week ago occurred. No real worry, concern and that lead to me getting sloppy. So I caused a subluxation to my right shoulder. THERE ARE NO BAD EXERCISES. THERE ARE IMPROPERLY COACHED EXERCISES AND IMPROPERLY SEQUENCED. PERIOD. Exercises are not exclusive to a type of training. We have to constantly look at what is the adaptation that you are looking to achieve.

So is this a set back? Yes, to some degree. But in reality this is more of an opportunity to have a hard reboot. Pull the plug on my old training regimen and start over again. I did this a few years back when I broke my hand. I regrouped, reorganized and refocused. This is a chance to practice Kaizen… Japanese word meaning “continuous improvement” or “philosophy of improvement”. In the end this will workout for the best, but just too bad it took such a drastic measure to achieve something that was in the works. Lets see that I am not practicing this “kaizen” again in four years which seems to be the case. Ha!

Yours in Fitness,

Jeff Osadec, MKin CEP CSCS

Some Things Are Classic.

I recently met and older version of myself at a Christmas party.  He and his wife have mutual friends and he was in his mid 40’s and well dressed.  I wasn’t until later in the evening that I found out that he was the regional manager of Harry Rosen.  I laughed and said that my dream job would be to own an old school apothecary… a cool barber shop that had unique colognes, men’s products.  It would be the best thing I could think of next to the position I have right now.  I had a great conversation about things that had that “old school” cool or classic element of style.  So I followed that up on Saturday with a visit to Knifewear in the Inglewood community of Calgary.  Now this place sells Japanese knives, but in the back they have a section of straight razors, hard to find aftershaves, badger brushes, and mug soaps.  WICKED.

And this started to make me think.  It was something that I would not talk about much, but I have a few little things that I love outside of my family and my career.  I am not going to pretend that I have a great sense of style but I do well for myself.  It started many years ago when I got my first Men’s Health magazine and took off from there.  At 15 I got my first real cologne… a blue bottle of Polo Ralph Lauren Sport.  And the love affair took off from there.  Over the years I developed a schema of what it was to have my own personal style.  Over the years I grew a love for unique colognes, and studied the components, the notes and houses that create the great colognes.  I gravitated to the House of Creed, Le Labo and the newly launched Tom Ford private blend.  I garnered an obsession with salvage denim jeans.  I spend $60 on a cab ride in New York just to visit World Brand Jean Shop in New York where they make custom jeans.  Great shoes and as some know coloured laces are just part and parcel of the ideal I have developed.  I find these things fun to learn and research about.   Watching Skyfall inspired me to attempt to shave with a straight razor.  Now the art of shaving is a ritual, not just something that I do.

So what does this have to do with a site about performance and training?  People spend countless hours training to, as one gym puts it… “Look Good Naked”.  That’s a great concept and I too train to look good naked.  But in reality what percent in the case of guys are you walking around with your shirt off?  Yes you workout but I always look back to the little old men who get up and still put on their suit with no where to go.  It is about dressing to represent you.  Taking pride, and when you dress well, you carry yourself with a different swagger.  You have a greater sense of confidence when you are dressed up.  And I am not talking about a suit like a scene out of Mad Men.  And you do not have to dress to break the bank.  It is about some simple staples, like the feeling of putting on a good pair of jeans that fit.  You should not have to pull your pants up or your shirt down.  Tossing on a pair of old school Chuck Taylors.  American classics.  It is about pride.  Not in a boastful but in a way that shows you carry yourself with class.  And that is something that I think has taken a back seat in the past few years.  Something so simple that needs to make a comeback.

Sit Down Son, I’m Gonna Tell You A Story

I am by no means an expert. And nor do I pretend to be. But I have been asked in the last few weeks to talk to undergrads thinking about time post graduation, about what it is I do. Yes, I have a unique job. AND I LOVE IT. I like to think that I have had some level of success to make it 10+ years in this career. Sure, there are days that I am frustrated, disappointed, but in general, and you can ask my wife… I love getting up and going to work. I love the teams I am with, and the projects that I am involved with. And I have said this before, and well, I will say it again, the road that I have traveled is a shitty one. I have been asked to be at a career fair in January to speak to a student body and the coordinator asked that I be as honest as possible. So this is a little start to the preparation. There are situations as I move forward in this career that I wish someone would have sat me down, and said, “this is how it is. Suck it up, get used to it or don’t do this at all.” And here we go…

1. Your hours in the first stage of this career will suck.. most cases you will work when others do not. You need to put in extra hours proving you want to be in this career. And at no point should you ever thing a job is below you. I was done my masters, had 8 years of experience and I still did shifts manning a fitness desk handing out equipment. You know why? Because it had to be done… it is called work. Be grateful you are doing what you are doing. The hours can get better.

2. This can be tough on your family. And with the tough hours comes the strain on the family. I was lucky enough to marry a saint who has been patient with me, my career choice and has been one of my biggest supporters. Be realistic and understand the rough spots of the job because you need to be…

3. Patient young grasshopper. If you do all the things that need to be done… put in the time, shadow, volunteer, sacrifice good things happen. Every one wants the corner office. We dream of it. But guess what? There are only 4 corners. There are only so many jobs at the top. And sure you have the skills, the swagger what ever you want to call it. There are still alpha dogs running the show and you have to wait your turn to eat. You do not walk out of school and get handed a team and say run with it. You need to shadow, put in your time learning the dynamics of working with athletes or clients. Things are not just given to you be cause you deserve it, YOU EARN IT. So with that you have to…

4. Champion something… do not be a jack of all trades, master of none. What gets you out of bed in the morning and excited to go to work. And what is going to set you apart from the next kid who just got their degree and is going to be a coach. It is fine to be well versed in the trades but there is a point at which you are dabbling in so many things that you are unfocused. That is what I was like when I was young. It was great to experience many theories but do not try to be so versatile that you become handcuffed by your inability to focus on what matters. Learn to recognize the fly shit from the pepper.

5. Be humble but be confident. This is the one that I wish someone would have told me day one. There are a lot of good people out that and there is more than enough people to work with. There is no need to be guarded about who is working with who. This is one that I still struggle with today and from time to time I need someone to call me out. Be confident in your skills but do not at anytime think what you are doing is so unique that you have to keep it from others. All good coaches are doing something similar… with their own flare. So with that it sometimes means that you need to be a…

6. Coaching ninja – you are a coach. You are not the front and centre of the athletic universe. You are there to help that athletes be the front and centre of the athletic universe they are in. YOU ARE SUPPORT STAFF. In reality at the higher levels that athletes is world class for a reason and your contribution yes, plays an important role, but is not as grand as it is in your mind. Coach, but do not look for the immediate glory of coaching. Your glory will come when you see those athletes you are working with compete and be successful.

7. EVERY program needs some form of individualization. You cannot write one program and hand it to a team. It would be beautiful, but your athletes are all different. They have different training ages (years of training) structural tolerance to training loads, etc. So you have to find a way to make that program individualized to each athlete. I work with national water polo and although the program appears to look the same across the board, there are variations for each athlete to accommodate for their individual differences.

8. If you do not understand the program or the athletes back ground, ask. Do not assume that you know. And do not assume that you know your program is working. If you cannot measure it you do not know what the out come is. If you think your programs is successful, measure it and prove it…

9. So there for you cannot believe everything you read on the internet. There are a lot of experts out there. You have to be able to critically evaluate what you read. Any asshole can post to the web… why the best example is the fact that you are reading my material right now.