Coaches Journal 7.27.23

Quote for the Week: “Do not pray for an easy life; pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.” ~Bruce Lee

Female Athletes and ACL Injuries, What Can Coaches Do? – In conjunction with the Women’s World Cup Soccer Tournament, ESPN recently made a deep dive into ACL injuries and their impact on the tournament. Several teams have top players on the sideline due to ACL injury. The cause of these traumatic injuries is very complex; however, in the article, there is a listing of things coaches can do to reduce the occurrence of this injury to their athletes. “Silvers-Granelli was part of a group that developed one of the first PEP Programs (Prevent Injury, Enhance Performance), which comprised a 15-minute dynamic warmup — without the ball — of exercises designed to improve strength, balance, jumping technique, etc. The program was tried on 14- to 18-year-olds in Southern California. The results were staggering, including an 88% drop in ACL injuries.” You can access a sample of a PEP dynamic warmup HERE. Additionally, “Silvers-Granelli is also in favor of what she calls “movement diversity” as a way of combating the tendency of young athletes to overspecialize at an early age. A wider variety of sports and activities will help aid in the coordination and strength of the entire body rather than one set of muscles.” Given the current model of youth sports specialization, it takes courage for coaches to encourage their athletes to participate in other activities. However, indications are that participating in a broad spectrum of activities is in the long-term best interest of the athlete. READ ENTIRE ARTICLE

Interesting Video that Might Be Applicable to Volleyball – In this brief video (link below), the focus is on Joshua Waitzken (whose book I’m currently reading) and teaching (and learning) from “end game” principles. Spoiler alert, the video primarily focuses on business. However, there might be a potential crossover to the sports world. The high school seasons are approaching, and many coaches are already planning for the first practice sessions. Most coaches will begin with simple, controlled, and only marginally game-like drills, then proceed to more live situations. Suppose you incorporate the concepts in this video. In that case, a coach might budget time to reverse the sequence by first implementing small group, game-related activities to focus on the strategies of the game that might exploit the opponent’s weakness in a competitive atmosphere. Then, examine the play and work on the aspects of the game that impacted performance. Waitzken believes that pursuing the larger concepts with fewer chess pieces (players) first will promote a greater understanding of the important aspects of the game and expedite the learning process.

To watch the video:

Using Checklists in the Learning Process

One of the primary themes of my book, A Game Plan for Better Practices, is using checklists to organize practice sessions. Successful execution of a skill is incorporating the smaller components of the skill. So often, players focus on the final result of a skill, such as passing or serving success, while ignoring the smaller elements that will impact the final product. Focusing on how to move, the correct posture, jumping, or armswing mechanics will impact the final result. Using a checklist will allow both the coach and player to focus on the skill underpinnings that will allow for successful execution. In addition, players that are focusing on the skill components are more likely to be practicing in a more deliberate manner.

I’ve provided a sample checklist for the young player just learning to spike. I will correlate the key point to the picture.

  1. A four step approach with the first step is small with the Right foot. Drop the shoulders and hands forward
  2. Second step with the Left foot, a slight longer step, notice how the upper body is in a forward lean with hands and shoulders forward.
  3. Third step is a long step with Right foot, arms come back to assist with the jump, the athlete gains speed in preparation for the jump.
  4. The athletes jump off of two feet, the left arm/hand comes up assisting with the jumping action, right arm draws back in preparation to initiate the throwing motion of the armswing.
  5. Left arm is drawn down to the body midline and the attacking arm comes forward to contact the ball.
  6. The elbow is rotated upward, the ball is in line with the shoulder
  7. The hand is throw up to the ball, contact at full extension in front of the shoulder.
  8. Landing is balanced.

The coach can emphasize various aspects of the attack on a daily basis and provide feedback for the players by providing a check when competency in a specific aspect of the attack is accomplished. In the book, we go through each skill at a beginning, intermediate and advanced level. The takeaway is players learn the best when they focus on fewer items at a time as opposed to the primary focus being the result of the pass, serve or attack.

In order to successfully attack, the athlete must master other components such as running, jumping, throwing, landing, etc. All of these movements must be taught by the coach.

Articles That I Found Interesting

Getting to Know Your Players – In an effort to foster an environment of open communication, many coaches will schedule regular meetings with players. The University of San Diego President James T. Harris will do the same thing in a less formal environment. He has open walks around campus with any student that signs up to walk with him. “The routine I have established is a three-mile loop that includes walking in a canyon adjacent to the campus. And in the approximately 45 minutes we spent together, I have found that students tend to let their guards down and share information about themselves and their experience at the university that I would normally not have access to if we were meeting in a more formal setting. I, too, feel more at ease and comfortable bringing my authentic self to the conversation, and because of those interactions, I feel I have become more deeply attuned or grounded in the situation of my flock.” READ MORE

Marijuana Use Linked to Mental Health Risks in Young Adults – States are falling over themselves to legalize the use of marijuana. The motivation for this effort is mostly financial, as the sales are heavily taxed. Of secondary importance is the physical or mental health of the user. New York City psychiatrist Dr. Ryan Sultan is concerned by what he sees as a health red flag. “Of all the people I’ve diagnosed with a psychotic disorder,” he said, “I can’t think of a single one who wasn’t also positive for cannabis.” Sultan, an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia Irving Medical Center, is one of many experts raising serious concerns about the increasing marijuana use by adolescents and young adults. Evidence is growing of marijuana’s association with psychiatric disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, especially in young men. READ MORE

Participation Trophies A Problem, Really? – Here is an interesting take on the challenges facing youth sports. You may have heard that North Carolina lawmakers have passed legislation that outlaws trophies based on participation. Per usual, our lawmakers take their eyes off of the real problem and focus on the low-hanging fruit. The real problem is that participation rates in youth sports are dropping. “It’s a mess. Youth sports are becoming another domain of the haves, threatening the overall health of the sports themselves. The talent pool gets limited. The late bloomer is discouraged. For those who play, burnout rises, not to mention anxiety over playing time and repetitive stress injuries.” Instead of focusing on participation awards for our young athletes, these lawmakers might pursue solutions to this problem. We all know the benefit of participation in sports, especially team sports. How I wish we could return to the days of required Physical Education classes and the positives of playing on your high school team. READ MORE

As always, let me know if I can ever be of assistance. I hope the summer is going well for all. For coaches with fall seasons on the horizon, enjoy the last few days of relative calm.


Jim Stone Consulting