Sometimes it’s hard to see if you have truly made a difference on a young person’s life. In all professions we have a chance to make that impact. For strength coaches it may be increasing athlete poundages or, in the case of Weightlifting, totals. Although, I’ve noticed something different lately that has stood out as crucial in what I have done to make a large impact on one of my teams. Movement.
Fountain Valley School
I have been working with the Fountain Valley School hockey team for the past four seasons and entering my fifth with them. FVS is a private boarding school. They used to play in the traditional high school league in Colorado, but have since moved into travel play. Since then they have done very well against some tough competition in tournaments all over the country. They always have a great group of kids; some from other countries like Finland.
Week of Testing
We had our first few days of testing this past week and I always use this as my chance to examine a few things…
- New player attitudes
- New player movement quality
- New player performance traits
- Returner performance traits
- Returner development (from summer)
- Returners’ attitudes
- Returner movement quality
This is something that every coach should pay close attention to in the first few days of working with a team. Who stands out as a leader? Who are the trouble makers? This is extremely important because this will show you exactly which players will be a help or hindrance to you throughout the season. The problem children will most undoubtedly have the biggest egos and cause the most trouble to team chemistry and development. They are like the spark that lights a forest fire; they must be put out immediately or they will run rampant and infect your whole system.
The leaders can usually help you with these “problem children,” although sometimes it’s better to handle it on your own. There’s always that chance that the two sides may not mesh well and further damage team chemistry. In any case, it is player attitude that will determine team chemistry and development on the whole for the season. Good attitudes fuel hard work and bonding; bad attitudes fuel the separation of team members.
Here, I am simply looking at the returning players’ physical development. Did they train over the summer, or are they coming in “soft?” This is often easier to determine in older athletes (college and beyond) because the high school-aged athlete goes through growth spurts that can hide inactivity. Of course, you can always ask them if they trained over the summer, but this will almost always lead to a ‘yes.’ So, we test them to see where they are actually at in terms of their performance traits.
This is a MUST. Testing for performance traits will show you where each individual is starting so that you will be able to determine if your program is working for them. What does each athlete need to improve? I usually will only test new players in what we call the “performance tests,” which include vertical jump, broad jump, 10-yard sprint, and pro-agility (5-10-5), along with maximum pull-ups and push-ups. This is because I have never seen them move (other than the warm-up) and I am not about to load them up with weight until I see them in a couple training sessions.
I test the returners in all of the performance tests, as well as a few strength/power tests including back squats and power cleans. That is, only if they have done these in the previous season. If they have not, I follow the same paradigm with them as I do with the new players. You see, the players must earn the right to lift heavier loads through showing me they possess higher quality movement skills.
This is what I was getting at in my blog title. This is how I see that I have impacted these young athletes for the rest of their lives. Sometimes strength coaches forget that strength is a fitness trait, not just a performance trait. We are setting these young athletes up to be active and move for the rest of their lives, not just for sport. If they move well, they will be more confident in their movement and enjoy it much more than if they moved poorly. This, in turn, fuels their enjoyment of being more active as they move through their lives.
This past week, while testing the team, that first warm-up told me everything. I looked at my returners and they were crushing their movement patterns, while the “newbies” were not-so-great. That’s completely fine, though. I hope to have a few years with them to follow the same pattern.
This is how I can contribute best to the world; by teaching young people how to move properly, reduce their risk of injury through improper movement, and fuel their desire to be healthy and active for the rest of their lives.
Are you making a difference? If so, what’s your impact?