Charlie Guthrie Training

Always looking to get better

Author: Charlie Guthrie (page 1 of 2)

Can’t See the Forest Through the Trees

After training people for about a year-and-a-half, I finally decided to attend my first seminar in October 2015. I was still very new in this field and did not know what I did not know. Turns out, the first seminar I attended was THE seminar, the SWIS Symposium. This is where not only the best of the best go to speak, but they go to learn. I was swimming in the deep end of the pool with no float.

At SWIS, the first presentation I sat in on was by Matt Nichol. Little did I know that at 8 a.m. that Saturday morning I was going to learn a lesson from Matt’s presentation that would stick with my to this day. I’ll admit, it’s hard to retain everything you hear at these seminars because of the sheer volume of information you get, especially at a conference like SWIS. SWIS is the equivalent of jamming in 10+ Master’s level classes in one weekend. But, whenever I find myself in tough situation training someone or feeling like I’m not worthy of doing the job, I always go back to what Matt said during this presentation.

Matt talked about not being able to “see the forest through the trees.” He mentioned how there is so much information out there that it can bog you down and not allow you to see the forest through the trees. This was a message I needed to hear because I was already overwhelmed and the event just started.

I was able to get a picture with Matt Nichol after his presentation at SWIS 2016.

In training terms, when your athlete is faced with an issue that you need to address, you need to stay in your lane. You need to come up with the best solution based on what you see and what you know. This isn’t the time to start using assessments and exercises that you briefly saw online and heard were good. You shouldn’t be trying to mimic things you’ve seen other top coaches do that you don’t fully understand because you won’t do it properly and it will only complicate things. See what you see and use what you know.

I needed to hear this, especially as I continue to learn more and more from other coaches. I have been guilty in the past of trying something new out that I thought would work because I saw another great coach use it. The problem was that I didn’t fully understand it and wasn’t able to utilize it effectively.

As beneficial as it is to learn from the best, it’s also created doubts in my head. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to be half the coach that some of these coaches are. It can be demoralizing when you see the top coaches showing the tremendous progress they’ve made with an athlete in a short period of time. It led to me questioning myself on whether I can really do this or not. I kept looking all the way to the top of the mountain and it clouded me and stopped me from embracing the small victories. If a client added 5-10 pounds to a PR, I questioned to myself why it wasn’t a 20-30 pound PR instead of just being happy that progress was made. No matter what happened, it wasn’t good enough for me and I felt like I was letting people down.

It used to really eat at me. It still does at times, but not as much. I refer back to what Matt said, “see what you see, use what you know.” Now, when I learn something new that I know will be helpful to my athletes, I don’t incorporate it until I have a solid understanding of it. I don’t completely change the program because I learned something new over the weekend.

I don’t compare myself to other coaches and only focus on becoming the best version of myself. It sounds cliche, but, at the end of the day, I’m not competing with any of these coaches so it doesn’t really matter if I am at their level yet. I just need to keep taking strides forward so I can continue to close the gap. This past year has shown me that sticking to a long-term approach, making the small fixes, sticking to what I know and learned and embracing the small victories will lead to the major improvements in performance that I am seeking.

CVASP is Once Again the Destination for Sports Performance

Man, there’s so many good thoughts going through my mind after the weekend at CVASP. The hardest part about writing this post is getting them all organized. Fair warning: this is going to be a long post.

The best way I could summarize the trip is this: After driving home five-plus hours in the pouring rain and getting home at 2 a.m. on Saturday, the first thing I wanted to do was look through the three volumes of “The Manual” that I just bought.

Volumes 1, 2 and 3 of “The Manual”.

I was running on such a high after the trip. This was my second time attending the Central Virginia Sports Performance Seminar down at the University of Richmond and each time I’ve come back with this intense motivation to study more. When you see the lineup of speakers Jay DeMayo is able to put together and the complex information being shared along with the caliber of people in attendance, it’s no wonder why this event simply goes by The Seminar.

2017 RECAP

If you don’t leave there a better coach and wanting to raise your game, then you’re in the wrong profession. Jay does such an awesome job running this event and he’s played a role in my development as a coach, even though he doesn’t know it. Through this event and his podcast, he’s exposed me to many of the top coaches in the field who aren’t internet stars, but know training backwards and forwards. Through both platforms, he’s introduced me to training modalities and concepts that I never knew of before. After being a bit overwhelmed from the event last year, I swore I would study harder so I could better understand and appreciate the knowledge being shared. Last year I left with ideas I needed to explore deeper. This year I left with things I could implement right away.

I might be wrong, but I believe Jay is also a big baseball fan. It was only fitting that on the weekend following the MLB All-Star Game he brought together a cast of speakers that resembled the American League’s starting nine. Dan Pfaff, Chris Korfist, Jeff Moyer, Devan McConnell, Keir Wenham-Flatt, Patrick Ward and Teena Murray all delivered on stage and I will get into that more shortly.

Last year’s event gave me a look into the application of Dr. Michael Yessis 1×20 system through Matt Thome of Michigan Tech’s presentation. I knew there would be some 1×20 practitioners in attendance, so I bought the book and studied the system. With a base understanding of how it worked, I wanted to use the time during the social to dig deeper and make sure I got the chance to meet Yosef Johnson, the owner of Ultimate Athlete Concepts and publisher of pretty much all of the major training books in this industry. I got far more than I ever expected.

Yosef couldn’t have been better. He really took the time to go over the 1×20 system with me and was ready to hook me up with any person could be of help. He treated me like he had known me for 20 years. If you could see inside my head, you’d see my brain trying to latch on and remember every little detail he was sharing. It was hard because in the back of my head I was thinking, “I can’t believe there is one of the best guys in the industry willing to pull me aside and break things down for me.” Every time you hear someone shout him out on a podcast, understand that it’s the truth. He’s has good of a person as everyone says he is.

That would have been enough, but then he calls over Chris McCormick, the head strength and conditioning coach for Olympic sports at Florida Atlantic University. Now I have both of them talking to me and Chris is talking training with me and explaining how he uses the system. Chris then took my email and wound up sending me a boatload of information on 1×20 from power point presentations, notes he’s taken from other coaches along with Excel sheets on how he’s used the program. I was blown away.

I was good to go, then all of a sudden I get to talk to Scott Hobbs, the associate strength and conditioning coach at Army.  Scott was just another awesome guy who told me his interesting backstory on how he travels over to the US from London and broke down how the training is at Army. I always love to hear from strength coaches of collegiate and pro teams to hear how they structure training and he was more than willing to answer any question I had. Same could be said of Cristian Plascencia of Onnit. I’ve always had good interactions with the people of Onnit and Cristian continued that trend. He was another stand-up person as he answered a bunch of questions I had about Onnit and discussed what they had going on with the pro and college football players they were training. He also gave me some free samples of my favorite supplement, Shroom Tech Sport, which is always a plus.

Remember, I’m not always the most social at these gatherings because I don’t know if I’m up to par with these coaches, so having all this happen all at once was unbelievable for me. I’ve been snubbed plenty of times. I was starting to lose faith in the industry and just didn’t have that same desire to meet people. There’s coaches who preach growth, helping others and seeking out help, but then are the complete opposite when you meet them. CVASP showed me there’s still plenty of good in the industry if you look in the right places.

Keir Wenham-Flatt going through his training progression matrix.

Now, it’s time to get into the presentations. Keir Wenham-Flatt, an assistant S & C coach at Richmond who’s also been a rugby strength coach all over the world, led it off on Friday discussing his system on getting athletes back after injury. What stood out the most to me was what I call the “CVASP slide”. It’s the one I’ve noticed at CVASP the most where some presenters have this one slide that’s just loaded with information. Keir’s had this entire system broken on how they progress an athlete coming off injury through linear speed, agility, combat, jumps, throws, plyos, ballistic and strength exercises. His “training progression matrix” laid it all out for us and showed how each exercise builds off of the previous one. I just got an athlete come to me after suffering an injury and he Keir delivered a line that stuck with me: “our job is to prepare the tissues and the athlete has to earn the right to use intensive loads. Sadly, none of his entertaining Instagram stories were included.

Patrick Ward of the Seattle Seahawks closed out the first day giving us a look into what sport science really is. I’ve heard plenty of presentations on the new technology being used, but Patrick really focused on the why. He showed that it’s not just about having all of the gadgets, but making sure you have the right tools necessary to measure exactly what you’re looking for. Even though I probably won’t be using any of the new-age tracking tools out there, I loved the part of his talk where he had to tinker with things so he could see the effect of every players movement on the field. I’m not the right person to give his presentation it’s proper due, but hearing his process and finding your “why” behind what technology you use was pretty interesting to hear from someone who works with an NFL team.

Saturday started with a familiar face as I got to hear Devan McConnell, the head hockey performance coach at UMass Lowell, speak again. I heard him speak in December in New York and he was the perfect coach to hear after Ward’s presentation the previous day. Devan explained the why behind all of the tech he uses with his hockey players and showed that you can use technology on a budget. This gave me a little hope that I may be able to get into technology game if I get my own facility. I like how he broke down how he tested the jumps and any questions I thought I would have, he answered throughout his presentation.

PRO COACHES CLINIC RECAP

Dan Pfaff gave a complete presentation on sprinting at CVASP.

Then, for the first time, I got to hear the legendary Dan Pfaff present. His speed presentation lived up to the hype. There was so much to take away, but I loved how he gave us all of the key performance indicators for acceleration, broke down all of the stages of a sprint and then went through slow-motion video to give us a visual look. When it comes to learning about speed, I need to hear and see what’s happening at the same time to understand it and this presentation did it for me. The presentation stuck with me even more because I got to listen to Justin Kavanaugh talk sprinting with some coaches at the social the night before and he hit on some points that Dan discussed in his presentation. What also made me think was how he discussed teaching athletes to run out of unique positions or recovery positions, since they are rarely in a stationary start during the game. His “mailbox system” for working with groups was also an interesting tidbit I never considered. Just listening to Dan question trends and just easily rattle off all of the factors necessary for being a proficient sprinter was just a great experience. His presentation made me think about what I do, as well as give me things I could change immediately.

Jeff Moyer, of Dynamic Correspondence Sports Training in Pittsburgh, was another coach I was anxious to hear and because of him, I now have a better understanding of sports vision training. Before, I thought it was just about touching things on a screen or hitting light switches, but he showed the why behind it. He discussed how there’s so much more behind it and gave us specific methods to use for different performance issues. He went deep into the muscles of the eye and showed how vision, not just physical skills, could be the missing link for an athlete. As a former baseball player, he showed how certain drills could be implemented to help a hitter. He gave us stuff that was cheap and could be used right away. He was even gracious enough to take the time to give me five drills I could use with one of my players who is struggling with picking up the ball while hitting. I never thought I would be able to include vision work into my athletes program, but am a hell of a lot more confident about it now after Jeff’s talk.

As I said earlier, I love hearing about the dynamics inside a college or pro organization. Teena Murray, the director of sports performance at Louisville, gave us a glimpse through the Louisville High Performance Model. It was interesting to hear about all of the different things Louisville uses to bring all of its groups inside of the department together. I was also intrigued to hear how Louisville is not only trying to model itself similar to how some of the best pro sports teams are, but taking things from some of the best companies in the country. It was eye-opening because these aren’t things you consider while watching these teams play in person or on TV. All you see is what happens on the field and not all of the other components working.

Chris Korfist closed The Seminar with an amazing presentation on the feet and ankles in regards to sprinting. It was only a year ago through a podcast I heard from Jeff Moyer on the drive down to CVASP and through some of the presentations last year where I began to realize the importance of the foot and ankle. Chris explained that the feet, ankle and toes account for 70% of running speed and we need to make sure our programs address that. He then made us take off our shoes and socks and put us through some drills we could use with our athletes to help them address it. The information he shared in his presentation, along with the slow-motion videos he showed, really built upon what I knew about the feet and ankles and gave me a much better understanding of them. This was a great presentation to end the event and I already have athletes with their shoes off and standing on their toes.

As you can see, there was a lot I took away from this event. There was more than the 2,000-plus words I used, but I tried to make it all somewhat digestible. This event had it all for me, from top-to-bottom stellar presentations and a social where I was able to meet and talk with some great people in this industry. Not that he needs my affirmation, but Jay DeMayo is one of the best this industry has to offer. I might not have the experience yet, but I’ve met a lot of people in this industry and I’ve seen through everything Jay puts out that he has the best interests of everyone in the sports performance community’s best interests in mind.

I’m ready to start getting into these books, training up my athletes and preparing for next year’s event because I know it’s going to be another good one.

 

 

The Speed and Power Summit has the Right “Culture”

The first word that comes to mind when thinking about the Speed and Power Summit is ‘culture’.  Nearly every conference I attend has at least one presentation centered around culture. While I’ve heard it discussed from different people, all of the discussions have common themes. If I was to take all of those themes and give you a visual representation through a seminar, I’d give you the Speed and Power Summit.

If there was a culture discussion centered around conferences, the Speed and Power Summit would check all of the boxes. What I’ve seen through attending the New Jersey event at Reach Your Potential Training the past three years is how Athletes Acceleration has developed a community of coaches with these events. Pat Beith and Alison Culley have done such an outstanding job growing this event to what it is today and developing an atmosphere that is welcoming with egos checked at the door.

2016 SPEED AND POWER SUMMIT STORY

2017 SPEED AND POWER SUMMIT STORY

Bobby Smith has given me a ton of information that I’ve used in my training.

The speaker lineup of Speed and Power Summit veterans Lee Taft, Adam Feit, Bobby Smith, Wil Fleming andRobert Dos Remedios and heavy-hitters Joe DeFranco and Boo Schexnayder embodies what this summit is about. These are some of the best coaches in the field and are also solid people. They are willing to engage in a full conversation with you and are always willing to help. A lot of people preach that in this industry, but these guys actually follow through.

I go to the Speed and Power Summit with different expectations than I do with other seminars. On top of the information I learn, I go there looking to reconnect with coaches I’ve met at previous events and always leave meeting someone new. I go there to catch up with all of the presenters, who know you by name and ask how you are doing. These guys remember things that I told them from a year ago and ask me about the progress I’ve made. Alison always makes sure to say hello and that’s just one example of the individual treatment you don’t get at a lot of other events.

Some of my best seminar social event experiences have come here. This year I was fortunate to spend most of my time in a small group listening to Lee Taft and Justin Kavanaugh talk about speed. This was one of those times where I just sat back and listened. Hearing Lee talk about how he video records everything and Justin talk about Lee’s coaching eye gave me insight into Lee’s process and made his presentation on how to train the core for speed training that much better. It gave me a better understanding of what he was seeing when he showed video examples. The exercises he showed to train the core specifically for speed and change of direction were things I’ve never seen before.

It was great to catch up with Joe DeFranco and take part in his hands-on with the prowler. Joe has played a bigger role than he knows in my development as a coach and his recommendation to attend the SWIS Symposium in 2015 was what got me started in seeking out and attending all of these seminars. The prowler has become a big part in my training with my high school athletes and it was pretty cool to have him coach me up on my sprints and prowler work.

Adam Feit and Bobby Smith are two others who have been nothing but helpful to me. Adam’s presentation on leadership resonated with me because he’s such a good presenter and I knew where the message was coming from. When you hear so many presentations on character, culture and leadership, they can go stale either because the message shares nothing new or you know the presenter doesn’t have the character that matches his power point. Adam is a pro who commands the stage and his presentation was one of the few I’ve heard on the topic that actually made me question myself and what I could do better. You know it’s going to be good when his name is on the speaking roster.

Bobby is the same way. He’s one of the few coaches who is willing to share everything he knows. He wants to pass on everything he’s found that works, so we can use it in our coaching. Having used so much of his materials on my own athletes, it was great to be coached up by him during the hands-on and taken through all of the progressions. My demos could use some work and it was nice to get some practice under his eye. His products have helped expand my coaching and have given me the tools to be able to teach speed and agility better and progress my athletes, especially the younger ones I train, better. He’s always given me time when I come up to him and it was great to catch up with him and thank him for what he’s done for me.

Boo Schexnayder said he would have no problem taking a picture with a Yankees fan.

This year’s summit was the first time I got to hear Boo Schexnayder present and he delivered a home run on speed development. He thoroughly broke down how he trained speed and gave us his template and how he mapped out the training week. Speed training is an area I’m always looking to improve and he delved into how he sets up the stance during his hands-on. This was more of a “thinking” hands-on as he gave some of the ways he assesses runners and showed us how we could use the wall to help teach our athletes to run properly. His tip on only focusing on one side of the body was something I never heard before. He also told me he’s a big Yankees fan, which makes him an even better coach.

Going to the Speed and Power Summit the past couple of years has really gotten me interested in the Olympic lifts. I’ve been fascinated with how to progress these and incorporate them in my training. Thankfully, I was able to learn from one of the best in Wil Fleming. His products have helped me understand them a lot better, but nothing topped getting to take part in his hands-on with the snatch. I’ve never done snatches before and I left the hands-on feeling pretty comfortable about doing them. There’s obviously more work that needs to be done, but his hands-on was good. I was able to go through each progression of the lift and do it all under his professional eye. I’ve always enjoyed his presentations and his hands-on was one of the highlights for me. It was one of the main things I was looking forward to doing.

Coach Dos’ hands-on, while tiring, always give me things I can use with athletes, as well as my general population clients. The space he works with is slightly bigger than what I have at the gym I work with, but it gives me ideas on different things I could implement for speed and conditioning work. I like his presentations because I work with a wide range of people and the things I take away from listening to him can be applied with all different groups of people. All of his stuff is also done with the idea of developing either speed, power, conditioning or a mixture of the three and its purpose is to give any client you work with the tools to not only get into better shape, but to be a better athlete.

The Speed and Power Summit has become my unofficial start to the summer. The past two years it’s fallen on the weekend before my last week of grad school, so I usually come in on Saturday pretty groggy. But, through all of the interactions I have with the speakers and attendees, the social and all of the information I learn from the presentations and hands-on, I always leave this event ready to attack my summer training. There’s few places that match the atmosphere the Speed and Power Summit has created.

Professional Power Summit Covered All Areas of the Industry

The landscape of the fitness industry has changed the past couple of years. Coaches and professionals are required to do more than just be experts in their field if they want to build a successful business.

Heather Pearson covered everything about recovery in her presentation.

Over the course of two days, the Sport and Speed Institute brought in some of the best coaches, influences and entrepreneurs in the world to help fill all of those buckets with the Professional Power Summit. The seminar featured a stellar lineup comprised of Amanda Sains, Alison Culley, Christmas Abbott, Nancy Newell, Amanda Wheeler, Ana Tocco, Julia Ladewski, Heather Pearson, Nicole Rodriguez and Elsbeth Vaino.

The event had a more personable, intimate feel as SSI owner Justin Kavanaugh had a personal story on how he knew each presenter and I was able to meet and network with the presenters and other attendees at the two post-seminar social events.

This made for a much more comfortable learning experience and I was able to gain insight from those in the know on a variety of topics ranging from business and marketing to the interpersonal relationships with your clients and to my favorite subjects, rehab and sports performances.

The online business and marketing side was fully covered by Amanda Sains and Alison Culley. Sains, the Director of Marketing & Business Development at B’more Organic, discussed all of these little tips and tricks I’ve never heard of before that she used to maximize her viewership on social media and help her company grow from a regional to a national brand. I’ve used social media primarily as a means to network with other coaches and she even showed how she utilized Twitter and Instagram to meet and be seen by the top influencers. She literally worked her way up from the bottom and, as someone who’s at the bottom with aspirations of opening my own facility, I enjoyed hearing her talk about her hustle to gradually rise to the top.

I was very interested in hearing Culley’s presentation because it’s the first I’ve heard that went into building your website. She’s also always been very gracious with her time to me at the Speed and Power Summit and would be presenting from the point of view of Athletes Acceleration, a company I have a lot of respect for. My website is still in the beginning stages, but I do plan on pushing out more content and growing it this year. Alison touched on all the areas I’m looking to improve such as making your website more viewer friendly, writing better content and develop a mailing list. And, like Amanda’s presentation, Alison showed the growth of AA from its humble beginnings to the juggernaut it is now. She gave us all of the tools that AA used to grow its brand and it was all built on serving and treating the customer with respect.

Christmas Abbott, who’s seemingly done everything from be a best-selling author to NASCAR pit crew member, Crossfit Games competitor and reality TV star, among things, discussed knowing your legacy. What I took away from her talk is you need to know your “why” for being in this business. You need to know what your contribution to the world will be and what your core values are because they will serve as your compass for deciding what decisions to make and opportunities to take.

Communication and relationship building with your athletes has become a real hot topic the past year and I got three different perspectives on the subject from Newell, Wheeler and Tocco. As someone interested in training baseball and softball players, Newell’s talk intrigued me because of her work with softball players at Cressey Sports Performance, one of the industry leaders in baseball training. I work with a lot of female clients and some of them have trepidation and misconceptions about training in a male-dominated gym. Newell presented a four-tier approach that helps females eliminate that fear and build confidence in the gym.

Wheeler, the fitness manager at Mark Fisher Fitness and creator of Formation Strength, gave a presentation that was as informative as it was entertaining. As someone that goes to a lot of seminars, it’s great to hear a speaker that can own the stage and Wheeler brought the juice. She had the crowd reciting phrases from her talk well after it was over. Sometimes I find myself having trouble getting someone new to the gym into the proper positions and am always looking for ways to make the cues as easy to understand as possible. Wheeler showed some of the colorful lingo used at MFF and their “outside of the box” verbiage gave me some ideas on how I could make movements new members struggle to grasp – such as the squat and the hinge – much easier to comprehend. It doesn’t matter how many fancy terms you can throw at your clients to sound smart. To be a good coach, you just need to find a way to get your clients in the right positions.

Most of the new people I train are youth and high school athletes and, along with teaching proper movement, I need to make sure they know the standards and expectations. This can be harder than teaching the movements. Tocco, who is a strength and conditioning specialist at St. John’s Preparatory School in Massachusetts and coach at Mike Boyle’s Strength and Conditioning, discussed strategies she uses to establish expectations that I could employ in my business. Most importantly, she went into how I could make these “stick” and she didn’t give this presentation in a stern or bossy manner. Her philosophy is to make sure we gain a mutual understanding with our clients and reinforce and teach behavior which will eventually empower the athlete.

Julia Ladewski gave a thorough breakdown of the “Big Three” lifts during her hands-on presentation.

The end of the second day shifted towards the training side. Ladewski, a former Division 1 strength coach, former physique competitor, powerlifter and elitefts sponsored athlete, took us over to the power rack and broke down the “big three” – the squat, bench press and deadlift. She said since she knew Kav the longest, she was going to through him a curveball and head to the racks. She apologized for not having a Power Point presentation, but at a training event, what’s better than getting technical, hands-on advice on how to maximize your strength on the three main lifts from a highly-regarded powerlifter and coach? The power rack was exactly where I wanted her presentation to be and she broke down every minute detail of each lift. It only enhanced her presentation.

Recovery is often misunderstood and underutilized. Pearson, who is the only female Lead Instructor for ART in Europe, provided clarity in her thorough presentation. Pearson, who works with soccer teams and elite athletes in multiple sports at 1Body4Life, works with medical staffs and is also a continuing learner who travels the country to learn from the best doctors in the country. She went in-depth on nearly every recovery method at our disposal from hot and cold treatments to ART and massage, stretching and foam rolling and sleep, diet and meditation. So many times, and I’m guilty of this myself, we give recovery strategies just because we know it works, but couldn’t really explain the reasoning. I got the chance to listen to one of the best rehab specialists in the world thoroughly explain each type of treatment, give the reasoning behind why each is used and how to properly incorporate it. And, she presented all of this information in the simplest way possible. She certainly has the background to throw all of these fancy terms around, but, like any real great professional, she was more concerned about educating everyone. Listening to the depth of her presentation gave me flashbacks to some of the high-level presentations I heard at the SWIS Symposium.

After hearing from one of the best in strength training and one of the best in rehab, I got to see one of the best in athletic movement. Rodriguez, who I’ve heard speak before at the Speed and Power Summit, is an international human performance coach who has worked with teams all over the world and, most recently, was the Education Department Head for Team EXOS. She mentioned earlier in the day that she was trying to grow her social media presence and I just found that so hard to believe. Her follower count is nowhere near her coaching acumen and that’s just unacceptable.

What’s so entertaining about any talk Rodriguez gives is she is equal parts lecturer and coach. One minute she’s presenting, then, when she has to demo an exercise, this switch flips, the voice changes and she gets in coach mode. Even though she isn’t really “coaching” anybody at the moment, it is cool to get a glimpse of a high-level coach in action, even if its brief. What I loved about her presentation is I got expert insight on how to get the most out of every session with your athletes through her three layer system on teaching movement. Time and space are two things that work against me and she seemingly has a fix for everything. Like me, she considers every second and rep of a session valuable and none of it can go to waste. Whatever situation I thought of in my head, she came up with a solution during her talk. I’ve actually employed some of the plyo prep exercises she demonstrated with my youth athletes already.

Vaino, the owner of Custom Strength in Ottawa, closed out the event with a presentation that was part lecture, part hands-on on motor control. I haven’t seen a presentation on this before and it was big for me because it covered an area I encounter often: an athlete not “feeling” an exercise in the right areas. Vaino, who, like me, didn’t start off as a trainer, showed how she used her background in engineering to break down a movement and regress it to help show your athlete how to fire the proper muscles during a movement. This was refreshing because I’ve seen a well-known coach online say, “if you want to fix your squat, just f’n squat more.” Elsbeth actually gave me real answers to my questions. And, as an added bonus, I got paired off with Tocco, Rodriguez, Coach Kav and Allan Africa during the hands-on portion. We were suppose to each take turns “coaching” each other, but I was selfish and had them all coach me up. It’s hard to pass up an opportunity to learn different cues and techniques from four coaches I highly respect.

As you can see, the entire group of speakers was female. But, that wasn’t the main focus of this event. As Coach Kav said throughout the event, it was gathering of the best this industry has to offer in multiple areas. Taking out the names and just looking at the bios and information provided, it can be seen that this event covered all of the different aspects needed to run a successful business and was given by leaders in the field.

A Night in the City at the Pro Coaches Clinic

Anthony Renna admitted during his opening that he had some trepidation about the timing of the Pro Coaches Clinic. And that’s understandable. It’s hard to gage how many people would attend an event on a weeknight in the city just a couple of days before Christmas.

However, attendance isn’t that big of an issue when you have four of the top hockey strength and conditioning coaches presenting at a seminar organized by the best in this industry. There was a standing-room only crowd at Body Space Fitness in New York City to listen and learn from Mike Boyle, Reg Grant, Mark Fitzgerald and Devan McConnell.

Cameron Josse, the director of sports performance at DeFranco’s Gym, also presented on the 1080 Sprint. As someone who has followed Cameron and Joe DeFranco for a long time, I know that the 1080 Sprint has been beneficial in the training of his athletes and it was interesting to hear him explain how it worked in person. After the presentations, there was the added bonus of a Q & A where the attendees were able to ask the presenters some questions.

This was the first event Renna organized and I think it was huge success. I’ve listened to his The Strength Coach Podcast and Stop & Give Me 20 Podcast and knew this event would be a good one with him helping set it up. They gave away a ton of free stuff and I came away with Boyle’s “Advances in Functional Training” book and a free month membership to StrengthCoach.com.  From going to a lot of these seminars and seeing the organizers work during them, I’ve seen that it takes a lot to put these together, including a lot of stuff behind the scenes. He said they would like to do this again and, after attending this event, I certainly hope they do so.

Me with New York Rangers strength and conditioning coach Reg Grant. He took the time to talk to me after his presentation about training the Rangers and some tips to help with me with the youth hockey players I train.

This event also had an interesting back story. Grant, the New York Rangers strength and conditioning coach, told everyone that this seminar was part of an idea he and other coaches tossed around for a while. Since the NHL season is so long, strength coaches in the league only have a small window where they can attend seminars. Grant and the other coaches he’s talked to wanted to create another avenue for coaches to meet and share information with each other. Even those who hold the most coveted positions in the field are eager to learn as much as I am.

Through the presentations, I also learned that even strength coaches at the collegiate and professional level have to adapt and overcome issues that we all face. They aren’t just given a blank check and access to million-dollar facilities, like we might think. There was a lot learned from the presentations, but, there were three main points I took away: know your purpose, don’t overthink things and adapt.

1-KNOW YOUR PURPOSE

Mike Boyle talked about the proper way to program conditioning for athletes.

Knowing your purpose has two meanings: knowing why you’re in this business and the purpose behind every exercise in your program. First, as Reg illustrated in his presentation, you need to figure out why you’re there before you get concerned with the athlete’s motivation. He said this is a “labor of love” and you can’t be in this profession if your sole objective is to be a millionaire. You need to be confident in what you are prescribing to your athletes. Knowing your purpose also involves knowing the group you are working with. Reg didn’t walk into the Rangers weight room and push his ideas on the players. Instead, he looked at the veterans, saw what they were doing and asked them what worked for them and built off of that.

“A combination of interval training and common sense.”

-Mike Boyle on how he programs conditioning for his athletes. 

When you’re working with athletes, your job is to help develop the physical tools they need to succeed at their sport. Boyle, owner of Mike Boyle’s Strength & Conditioning facility and one of the most recognized coaches in the world, went into this during his presentation on conditioning. We need to ask three questions: why am I doing this? How am I doing this? What am I doing? Boyle said our job is to “fill the empty buckets” in our athletes training and not pour more water into the ones that are already full. You are not suppose to fill the buckets with what you like to do, but select the right stuff to put into each bucket. He comes to these conclusions by watching a game and watching the best players.

Once you have the program in place, you need to be able to monitor the performance of your athletes. McConnell, the head hockey performance coach at UMass Lowell, discussed some of the forms of technology coaches use to gage performance, as well as the the types of ways he monitors things on the front end and back end with his team. Not only is he measuring performance, but also the players readiness before a session. You need to figure out what and why you want to measure certain things and build from there.

2-DON’T OVERTHINK THINGS

Mark Fitzgerald talked about recovery and the methods he uses with the Anaheim Ducks.

This takes me to my next takeaway, which is not to overthink things. Fitzgerald, the Anaheim Ducks strength and conditioning coach, said we should be chasing simplicity, not complexity. He believes less is more when it comes to training his team during the season. Since they are training after games, he focuses on the main points he wants to address and does it in the most efficient way possible.

Boyle’s presentation style was about making the information easy to digest. He even said in the beginning he wasn’t going to use all the terminology used to describe the different energy system. I’m paraphrasing, but he said if you can’t explain it in simple terms, then you don’t really understand what you are talking about. He actually brought up a story where a scientist came to his facility and said he was doing things wrong. That was something I never expected to hear. But, Boyle was focused on training his athletes to be the best in their sport and not the best weightlifters. He saw what worked for the best players and stuck by it.

3-ADAPT

Devan’s presentation might sound like it was overly complicated since it dealt with technology and

McConnell discussed the monitoring systems he uses with his team.

data, but it was the opposite. What I loved about his presentation was how he kept it simple and showed us how we could monitor without the most expensive equipment. He told us that he doesn’t have access to all of the highest-priced data trackers out there and gave us the alternatives he uses. In fact, for each thing he discussed, he gave us a cheaper alternative that could be just as effective. He showed that you can track data in many ways without spending thousands of dollars.

Even though you’re training pro athletes, you can’t expect everything to go perfectly. There will be times that they don’t do everything asked, like recovery. In times like that, Fitzgerald talked about embracing the small victories. When you notice that they don’t look right before a workout, you need to change things up and not stick to what’s on the sheet because they might not be ready for it. He discussed how he hydrated his players before after flights and how he had to serve as the team’s nutritionist. I was surprised to hear that. But, he focuses on the basics and does what he has to do to keep his athletes ready.

Just because they coach the pros, it doesn’t mean they have everything. Grant talked about learning to be efficient with the space you have. Even though he works in New York and at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers don’t have an enormous, state-of-the-art weight room like you see at other places. The visitors training area at arenas is even more sparse. I was shocked because I figured this was only a problem I had to deal with by working at a commercial gym with other members using equipment.

If the pros still have to find ways to adapt, I certainly have no excuse.

***

This is just three common themes I found from all of the presentations. There was a lot more discussed, but, if I was to detail everything I wrote down, this post would become a mini novel. Instead of diving into all of the details of their presentation, I wanted to focus on those three points because I believe they are points any coach could relate to. When I saw this lineup, I didn’t expect these high-level coaches to discuss issues that related to my situation.

The Elite Pitching Performance Seminar Covered Every Aspect of Pitching

One of my dreams is to have a stable of baseball players from all levels that I could help train and develop. I have played the game my whole life and know that an effective strength and conditioning program can make a big difference for these athletes.

I know there are special considerations that need to be taken when training overhead athletes like baseball players and made it one of my goals to attend a baseball-specific training seminar this year. The problem is, it is hard to find this type of event.

Throughout the year, I searched the internet to see if any of the baseball trainers I followed would be speaking at an event I could attend. It did not look like I was going to be successful until I got home from the Yankees-Indians ALDS Game 3 playoff game when I found the 2017 Champion Elite Pitching Performance Seminar on my Facebook feed. My trip to Massachusetts was booked shortly after and it was one of the best investments I have ever made.

Champion Physical Therapy and Performance is a one-stop shop for baseball players.

I found out about this event through Mike Reinold and his Elite Baseball Performance group, which has been one of my go-to resources for baseball information. Mike was joined by Brent Pourciau, Dan Blewitt, Lantz Wheeler and Paul Reddick to discuss all aspects of pitching from development, strength and power training, mindset, mechanics and the art of what it takes to be successful on the hill. Baseball is also a data-driven sport and we were treated to demos by industry-leaders Rapsodo, Motus and King of the Hill on some of the tracking technology and tools used to gage performance.

Atmosphere is everything and Mike’s facility, Champion Physical Therapy and Performance, was the perfect venue to host this event. If I was asked to put together my dream facility with an unlimited budget, it would look very similar to this place. This facility is an all-in-one stop that must have players salivating when they come in. Once you walk in, you see the physical therapy room which is adorned with jerseys of the Boston Red Sox players Mike has worked with.

Then you walk out to the training area where there is a section for conditioning, a strength training area lined up with all the necessities to build athletes and “The Farm”. The Farm is special. It is a netted-off turf area equipped with five batting areas and pitching mounds with buckets filled with official balls from all the leagues. It was an amazing experience just to walk around and see and I would love to observe it while they are in business training athletes.

Mike Reinold gave an in-depth presentation on training for pitchers.

Reinhold opened the seminar with a very interesting presentation that challenged a lot of what I read and learned about developing arm strength.  He talked about how to properly long toss and how it can have diminishing returns if you are throwing from too far back. Weighted balls have become a hot topic in baseball and Mike talked about how all they do is get the arm to move faster. All the rage in baseball has been the increase in velocity, but Mike countered that by saying the top 20 players in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) value had an average velocity of 93 miles per hour, which I have heard to be considered an average fastball these days on TV broadcasts.

When it comes to developing pitchers properly, Mike, like most smart coaches, believes in low-risk, high-reward methods. The easiest way to develop pitchers, he said, is to optimize the body and clean it up through strength and dynamic stabilization. There are four buckets we need to consider to help pitchers reach their full potential and we need to make sure they are filled equally for kids — strength, arm care, throwing mechanics and age/maturity. There was a lot packed into this presentation as he went into how to approach each bucket and gave the biomechanics of velocity.

Mike also helped make my lunch break a productive one by answering every question I threw his way. The

Brent Porciau broke down how he trains strength and power with the pitchers he works with.

same could be said about Porciau, of TopVelocity.net and owner of Guerrilla Baseball Academy. His presentation went into ways we could develop high-velocity pitchers in the weight room without stressing the arm. He showed how he uses his 3X program with the two phases of a pitchers delivery: the stride phase and the throwing phase. What intrigued me about his talk was how he stressed the importance of strength and power training, which I did not expect, and how everything he discussed was science and research driven. Right after I talked to Mike, I was able to talk with Brent and broke down everything with me and had a great team with him. He introduced me to former big-league pitcher Mike Linskey, who could not have been nicer, and one of his athletes, Adam. Adam is only in high school, but he knew training like a seasoned coach. It took me a while to realize he was not one of Brent’s coaches. That is a testament to how well of a program Brent runs.

The seminar then shifted more into the art of pitching with Blewitt, who owns the Warbird Academy and hosts the “Dear Baseball Gods” podcast. What I loved with his presentation is how he gave you a template to use on how to assess yourself to develop your approach on the mound. I liked how he was able to present this information in a simple manner where anyone, regardless of age or skill level, could comprehend it fully. I wish I had this information in my hands when I was in high school. He provided an ideal pitch selection based on your arm slot and the pros and cons of having a high-spin, low-spin and average-spin fastball. It was interesting how he discussed the three important things that make  up a good pitching sequence and how to use the information a hitter provides to your advantage. He even went into how to effectively pair your pitches for pitch tunneling. I went into this seminar focused on the strength and conditioning side, but his presentation made me want to toe the rubber on The Farm and try some pitches out.

Wheeler, the founder of The Baseball Think Tank, really made me think about how I communicate with my athletes with his three laws of development. The first two really stood out to me. The first law is inputs become outputs. If we are not clear with our communication, the movements will not be crisp. He stressed that it is so much more important for us to get into a player’s mind than their mechanics. This made me think of all the times I worked with a client and they were not able to perform a movement properly because I could not explain it well enough. The second is intention begat actions and he used a story about Bartolo Colon to explain it. Intent matters and there is a big difference between throwing while trying to hit a target as opposed to trying to break down a door with a ball. He said it is “mind over motor”.   The third law is form over function. He went into how mechanics are developed through the body, how we need to disarm the body’s built-in alarms, since its main goal is to protect at all costs, and the “caveman mechanics” of pitching.

The presentations closed with Reddick, of the 567 Academy. I got the chance to hear Paul speak when I was at the CPPS weekend and heard him on Joe DeFranco’s podcast a few weeks prior to the event. Paul’s talk was more geared towards the athletes and parents in attendance, but my main takeaway was on doing the invisible work. This is the work that is self-directed and nobody sees. This is Kobe Bryant practicing at 5 a.m. and Manny Ramirez having his friends turn their cars on in the wee-hours of the morning so he can take extra hacks before school. This is the work I need to continue to do to get to where I want to be.

Overall, this was a fantastic event from top-to-bottom. It had been a long couple of weeks for me and I questioned whether or not I would be able to make the trip. I am certainly glad I did. After the presentations, Pourciau and Wheeler provided live demos on The Farm and King of the Hill, Motus and Raspodo showed us all the ways to use their devices. I left the event meeting some great people and with a much better arsenal on how to properly work with pitchers.

CVASP Had Everything I Look For in a Seminar

 

The Central Virginia Sports Performance Seminar was an outstanding event and the highlight of my summer. I really enjoyed this seminar because it was like a buffet of the aspects I enjoyed from all of the other seminars I’ve attended. CVASP had the higher-level, scientific approach to training that you’d see at the SWIS Symposium, ways to apply the methods like the Speed and Power Summit and it was strictly for sports performance coaches, just like the EliteFTS Sports Performance Summit and PLAE Summit.

If I had to make a rough estimate, I’d say 85% of the coaches in attendance worked at the collegiate level or higher. Those who didn’t work in a team setting worked at well-established performance centers. Whatever the number may be, the moral of the story is I was surrounded by some serious coaches. It was a motivating atmosphere to be around. I got to be a fly on the wall for two nights and join some small groups to listen to these people discuss the intricacies of training.

When I look at where I am in my career, it’s crazy to think of the people and the topics of conversation I got to listen in on. Some of those people included Dr. Bryan Mann, Yosef Johnson, Jeff Moyer, Keenan Robinson, Matt Thome, Bret Bartholomew, Jay DeMayo and Coach Kav, among others. I got to hear these guys share stories and talk about the principles of Dr. Yuri Verkhoshansky, Dr. Michael Yessis, Dr. Mel Siff and Dr. Anatoly Bondarchuk. You don’t hear those names thrown around too often, but it shows the level of coaches I was surrounded by. The social was a nice, relaxed setting outdoors with the barbecue grilling all night and, for me, was a unique mixture of taking mental notes for all the knowledge that was being shared and hanging out with friends.

One night of that is more than enough, but I got to do it for two. I thought that was a great idea and goes back

Dr. Brad DeWeese broke down training with plenty of 90s rap references.

to what I’ve learned from all of these seminars I’ve attended: these events are only as good as the person running the show behind the scenes. Jay DeMayo, the head strength and conditioning coach at Richmond, did an outstanding job putting this together and making it a hub where the best and brightest in the field gather to share ideas and get better.

Jay’s CVASP podcast is one of my go-to listens in the car because of how in-depth he goes into sports science and training with his guests and all of the top trainers he “introduces” me to. This seminar felt like an in-person extension of his podcast. I have to admit, some of the information being shared I didn’t fully grasp because I’m not at the level these other coaches are at. What I learned from the seminar will be much different than what others with more experience took away.  Even though some parts might have went out my head, I still left there a much better coach.

What I took away from the seminar could be broken down into two parts: one being what I learned, the other being the experience of being there. Part of the experience I already described with the company I was around during the social. In regards to the presentations, I got the chance to listen to Doug McKenney, who was the first full-time NHL S & C coach and been in the league for 30 years, and Keenan Robinson, who is the U.S. National Team’s High Performance Director and has trained Olympic swimmers. Going back to what I mentioned earlier, just to be in the presence of these people is an experience within itself. I might not grasp everything that’s being said or be able to apply every bit of information, but it’s unbelievable to be able to sit back and here the best in the world talk about complex topics.

“If you know where you are, where you’re going and how to get there, you can get there.”

– Dr. Bryan Mann

My knowledge of Yessis’s 1×20 system is minimal, but I was able to get a glimpse of its application in the collegiate setting through Matt Thome of Michigan Tech. He stressed the importance of quality of training and using the minimal effective dose. Another topic that I’ve seen pop up is velocity based training and CVASP brought in the go-to person to speak on it in Dr. Bryan Mann. Mann broke it down simply, gave you ways to incorporate it for other exercises outside of the “big three” and explained what to do if you don’t have access to all of the new software. The quote above, where he compares how we used to use maps to get to our destination before GPS, perfectly states what to do if you don’t have any of the gadgets to use.

Through my experiences with Kav and reading Conscious Coaching, I’ve learned that bad traits can be used for good in coaching. In terms of the art of coaching, it’s been the most eye-opening thing I’ve learned. Having heard Brett Bartholomew speak before, I was glad he chose “The Upside to Your Darkside” as his topic for CVASP. It’s the area of his book I’ve found to be the most interesting and one I’ve tried to apply slowly into my own coaching.

“High intensity sprinting seems to develop maximal strength and power.”

– Hakan Andersson

Hakan Andersson breaking down sprinting.

The area I feel I’m the weakest in, but left CVASP more confident about, was teaching sprinting. Hakan Andersson and Dr. Brad DeWeese really helped me get a better understanding on how to teach sprinting better. These guys showed specific exercises to develop speed and DeWeese explained how certain Olympic lifts at specific percentages positively effect different aspects of sprinting. What made their presentations so useful to me was how they showed footage and looped it multiple times of top level sprinters running while they talked. This allowed me to see things like how high on their toes sprinters land during the acceleration phase and even something as simple as how to properly get out of a pushup-start. I’ve never sat through a presentation on running as thorough as Andersson’s. Even when the form wasn’t “optimal”, DeWeese explained what was wrong and by showing it multiple times, it allowed me to see the mistake as well. DeWeese’s presentation was on more than sprinting, but that’s just what left the biggest impact on me.

Once the weekend wrapped up and I had a few days to sit and reflect on it, I was glad I was finally able to make the trek down to Richmond. I think before writing these because I don’t have the coaching experience to fully give these coaches and presentations justice. I’m only at the point where I can take away small little chunks from each talk. But, the ultimate takeaway is I’m exposed to the extensive amount of information that’s out there and given another reminder of how much I don’t know. What this does is make me better in steps. Even though I don’t grasp everything, the seed is planted and begin to do a little more research. The terminology isn’t foreign to me anymore and I start to understand it better. This allows me to have an even greater appreciation for the information being shared when I hear it in the future and, in turn, become an even smarter coach.

Speed and Power Summit is Only Getting Better

I’ve now been to the Complete Speed and Power Summit twice in less than a year. When I went in September at Reach Your Potential Training in Tinton Falls, NJ, it was just the second time they’ve held the event. I didn’t expect much to change in just nine months, but I managed to leave with a completely different experience than the last time.

Making two trips has given me the chance to see how the event is evolving and growing in popularity. Even though the two-day seminar was solid the first time I went, the people at Athletes Acceleration are always looking for ways to make it better.

That was the message I got after talking to both Pat Beith, the CEO and Founder of Athletes Acceleration, and Alison Culley, the Vice President. Both were very gracious with their time after long day and showed genuine interest in my feedback. Alison talked to me about some things they are looking to do in the future and the passion they have for continuing to make this summit a go-to destination is obvious.

Me with Nicole Rodriguez of Exos.

Athletes Acceleration added some speakers to its lineup and I got to see two different coaches speak this year with Nicole Rodriguez, the performance education manager and performance coach at EXOS and Wil Fleming, the owner of Force Fitness and accomplished weight lifter.

In addition, they changed how they run the hands-on portion, making sure everyone is involved with each group. You’re no longer able to hang out in the back, like I’ve done a couple of times. They make sure you are out there on the floor and it helps you grasp the information a lot better.

They also changed the venue for the social. I wouldn’t have minded hanging out on the beach like last time, but I did interact a lot more at JRs Bar and Grill. There were a lot more coaches at this year’s event and there wasn’t a moment where I wasn’t talking to someone at the social.

One constant between the two visits was the quality of the presentation. Coach Dos, Robert Dos Remedios, kicked us off with programming for power. What I liked about Dos’ presentation is that he discussed how power training isn’t strictly for athletes. This was information I could apply with my general population clients, and he encourages that. He explained how our explosive capabilities decrease as we age and how this type of training helps with strength, balance and is metabolically taxing. Anyone can train for power; it’s all about intent. Whenever I talk to my general population clients about something we are doing from a seminar, I’m usually dropping a few things I learned from Dos.

“Expect the best, plan for the worst and prepare to be surprised.” – Adam Feit

Adam Feit followed with an interesting presentation where he related making cookies with his son

Me with Adam Feit.

to coaching. “Cookie-cutter programs” is a dreaded phrase to coaches, yet Feit said we all have them to a certain extent. The cookie-cutter part is the foundation that all programs need. What separates your program from others is your flair or how you dress up your cookie. That’s where your coaching and the type of system you use comes in. He also discussed having a “triage system” in your system where you address the most serious matters first and “do the best you can with what you have and where you are.” The description doesn’t do the presentation justice. RYPT has a fantastic system and Feit’s presentation was one of the best I’ve heard out of all the seminars I’ve been to because of his style of presenting.

“You need to work through the (speed-strength) continuum and teach the athletes different expressions of force.” – Nicole Rodriguez

Rodriguez gave us an in-depth look inside the EXOS system and ways to go about developing speed and power. She went into putting exercises into three buckets of position, pattern and power and showed us a jump profile relationship with the eccentric utilization ratio (glad to see one of my CSCS words in a presentation). She discussed how to utilize the full speed-strength continuum and went into how the tendons and muscles work during movement. Her hands-on presentation brought everything together and she showed us how to apply the three buckets, along with one of her “money-making” drills.

Dave Gleason closed out the first day with a talk on culture and finding your why. Above any program design, culture is the most important aspect for running a successful facility. He went into all the tiny details your gym should have to create the right culture and creating POMO — the position of maximal opportunity for your athletes. His presentation can be perfectly summed up with this: “when your culture is strong, your athletes will carry the day. They will quickly and effectively homogenize any new athlete into your program.”

“You need to stay in your lane while teaching until you can expand your lane.” – Lee Taft

The knowledge bombs continued on Day Two, starting with the Godfather of Speed, Lee Taft. As someone looking to improve their knowledge of speed, it was interesting to hear and see Lee go through ways he assessed different athletes. The main takeaway was to work with what you know. Lee said you need to assess what you can find answers to and don’t assess what you don’t understand. There are three questions you need to keep in mind while watching your athletes: what did you want to see? Did you see it? Why did you want to see it?

“Why coach away errors when you can program them away.” – Wil Fleming

One presentation that I had starred when I first saw the lineup was Fleming’s talk on Olympic lifting. I’ve made a real effort to try and learn and understand the Olympic lifts and there’s not many people more knowledgable on the subject than him. His presentation delivered more than I expected as he thoroughly broke down the hip, knee and floor position and taught ways to fix various weaknesses. He made it so simple and his DVD on Olympic lifting became an instant buy.

My haul from the weekend.

Finally, the second day concluded with the closer, Bobby Smith. Bobby’s energy is unmatched and he wears his passion for coaching on his sleeve. His energy isn’t the most motivating part of his presentation though. What always strikes a chord with me is when he goes into the story of RYPT and how he saw his vision of building the facility through. On top of that, he’s transparent. He’s not afraid to tell you exactly how they do things at RYPT without holding anything back. Last year he gave his system for developing max velocity, this year he went into their dynamic warmup. He literally lays it all out on the table.

Every time I see him present, I leave with another sheet of exercises and progression of drills I could use with my athletes. My programs are filled with information I’ve learned about the RYPT system. He’s always available to talk and share information. That’s what everyone is like at the Speed and Power Summit. Above all the information you’ll learn from the presentations and hands-on segments, you meet a lot of good people. This is the seminar I feel the most comfortable at because of the people. They make you feel welcome and a part of the team. No matter what else they change and add on in the future, that will always be the best part of the Speed and Power Summit.

Found a Gem with the PLAE Summit

Sometimes I find great seminars by pure luck.

I was browsing Instragram in early March and stumbled upon a post by Brett Bartholomew, who spoke at a PLAE Summit in Indiana. I saw he was a part of a great group of speakers and decided to investigate more.

Turns out, there was one in Baltimore.

My next trip was planned and I’m glad I found out about it in time. This was such a well-run event by Ron McKeefrey and his crew at PLAE. Ron, who I’ve followed for a while through his “Iron Game Chalk Talk”  podcast and CEO Strength Coach book, did such a great job organizing this event. He was always on the move to make sure everything ran smoothly and on-time and he deserves credit for that.

With Aaron Wellman, the New York Giants strength and conditioning coach.

This event had everything I look for in a sports performance seminar. For starters, it’s hard to find a better venue to hold a sports performance seminar than the Under Armour Performance Center. On top of that, there was plenty to take away from a group of presenters that included NFL strength coaches Craig Fitzgerald and Aaron Wellman, Maryland football sports performance coach Rick Court, UMass strength coach Joe Connolly, the “Mobility Maker” Dana Santas and Underground Strength Gym owner Zach Even-Esh.

Also, what made this seminar unique from the other ones I attended was there was a 40-minute group discussion. The audience was broken up into small groups and we had to discuss our “biggest pain point”. I got to talk about and receive feedback on how to deal with my biggest struggles as a trainer from a group that consisted of gym owners, college and high school strength coaches and performance coaches. Each member gave me detailed feedback in what was basically a free consultation.

“Execution over innovation.” – Craig Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald, the Houston Texans strength and conditioning coach, started the day and drove home the importance of simplicity. With so much out there, it’s easy to want to go out and try the new, fancy training method out there. I’ve certainly been guilty of that. To elaborate on the quote above, your athletes have to be able to do what you’re asking of them before you can progress them. The fundamentals never get old and they set the foundation for everything.

It’s presentations like this one that make me respect these coaches so much more. Fitzgerald went into how he maximizes the four pillars of training — mobility, speed, strength and conditioning — for his athletes, but did it in a simple, practical way where anyone could understand it. Conditioning is an area I’ve been trying to learn more about and I found it interesting  how he periodizes his conditioning work, similar to how you would for strength training. Also, even though he works with top-level athletes, he stressed the goal is quality over survival and that hearing his athletes say “hell yeah” about conditioning work beats “hell no”.

“You’re training as soon as you walk into the weight room.” -Rick Court

Court took the stage next and I felt like I was getting an inside look at him coaching in the Maryland weight room. I was just so impressed and motivated to see his attention to detail on coaching. To Court, everything done in the weight room is considered training. He doesn’t label parts of the session the warm up, main lift or auxiliary lifts because the athletes will perceive them differently. He wants his athletes to get the maximal effect out of every drill. When he had Antonio Turner, the assistant strength and conditioning coach for football, go through the warmup ladder drills, Turner had to finish each drill with a power step out of the ladder.

He then took us over to the power rack and showed how he coached and cued some lifts. Everything was exact and the emphasis was on making sure his athletes were strength training and not just flinging weights aimlessly.  I love watching how the best in this industry coach up their athletes and Court gave everyone a small snapshot into the art of coaching. He didn’t even have to present anything. He could have just brought a few athletes in and trained them and that would have been more than enough for me.

“Success is not an accident. You get what you earn.” – Zach Even-Esh

The quote above perfectly sums up Even-Esh’s presentation. Zach’s presentation was different because it wasn’t so much about the technical aspects of strength training. You get what you put into this business and it’s all about making your athletes better. He literally built his business from nothing and his love of training radiated through his speech. He started off as a teacher and trained athletes part-time out of his car at local parks. He then moved his “gym” to his house and told a funny story about how his neighbors would look on in disbelief at all the unconventional exercises he would have his athletes doing in his backyard. Despite it all, he kept plugging away and wound up building three gyms and has worked with the Rutgers and Lehigh wrestling teams.

It was a great presentation to hear for two reasons. I’ve known about Zach for a long time because he trained a lot of the athletes I covered as a sports writer and I had a chance to visit his Edison gym. Also, it hit home because his situation in the beginning is similar to mine. Right now, I’m training part-time in addition to my school job and grad school.

“The system has evolved over 20 years. I reserve the right to change my views.”

– Aaron Wellman

 Wellman’s presentation was a nice blend of developing as a coach, weight room culture and training philosophy. Wellman, who’s been a Division I strength coach for 20 years before working for the New York Giants, talked about how he is still searching for more and broke down the four developmental stages of a strength coach: informational accumulation, settling in, epiphany/revelation and mastery. First, the little information you have creates a blissful ignorance and then you settle in with the knowledge you have and continue to grow at your own pace. That leads to the epiphany stage, where you realize how little you know and answer questions with “maybe” or “depends”.  You realize there’s so much more out there and he said he’s perpetually in this stage. You never really reach the mastery stage. I’ve been in that first stage and through seeking out more, saw that I don’t know much.

He then discussed culture and that it determines your success or lack of it. Leaders design and create an environment and “you get what you emphasize or what you tolerate.” This applies to the private sector as well because if I allow sloppy reps and clients to show up late, it’s going to become the norm. Wellman also gave us some insight into his training philosophy and I liked how he said he only programs one-to-two weeks at a time because it allows for corrections of errors, omissions and the unforeseen. There’s more to it and this is just a snapshot of the presentation.

Dana Santas demonstrating how she improves shoulder mobility.

Next, the summit shifted outside to Under Armour’s outdoor turf field and I got to take part in Santas’ hands-on lecture. As someone who wants to train more baseball players, I was particularly interested in her presentation since she is the mobility coach for the Atlanta Braves, Toronto Blue Jays, Philadelphia Phillies, Tampa Bay Rays. She showed how she uses diaphragmatic breathing to help open up the shoulder, thoracic spine and hip. Not only are these are three important areas for baseball players, but for anybody.

I was able to see an immediate increase in range of motion performing these three movements. I had a pinch in my hip when I did the pre-test and it was gone moments later. These are three areas I need more work in and incorporated all three movements into my routine. What I liked about them was they were simple to pick up, the results could be seen quickly and they are easy to implement.

“You have to know your why, then you’ll be fine.” – Joe Connolly

The day closed with an information-packed presentation by Connolly. There was a lot to take away, but I’m going to focus on his discussion on training new athletes and the Olympic lifts. Joe talked about the importance of “slow cooking” his new athletes. For some of them, it’s their first time really lifting weights and you have to teach them slowly to build that foundation. Your athletes dictate your program, not the other way around. You can’t train your freshman the same way you train your seniors. You have to make sure your athletes see things the way you do, so they understand what they are doing.

Connolly has an Olympic lifting background and has all his athletes perform the lifts. This was interesting to me because you hear much about the Olympic lifts, since some coaches view them negatively. But, this goes back to knowing your why behind your philosophy.  He gave a thorough breakdown of his progression scheme for each Olympic lift and why he has been able to incorporate them safely and efficiently. I’ve wanted to learn more about the Olympic lifts and Joe kindly spent some time after his talk telling me about all the available avenues to learn more.

Overall, this was a fantastic event. I didn’t get much sleep the night before, but was wide awake the second I walked into the Under Armour facility and heard the speakers. These events have a way of lighting a fire under me and keeping me positive. You know it’s a good event when you walk out the door on four hours of sleep wanting to get after it and train some athletes.

This event was also special because it was the first time I left with some CEU credits towards my CSCS.

A Week in the Big Leagues

There’s a lot that goes into running a successful facility. As an outsider, all you see is the beautiful facility, the turf, state-of-the art equipment, jerseys mounted on the wall and the college and pro athletes walking through the doors.

There was a time, early on when I was starting, where that was all that I saw, as well. But, through hearing different coaches at the collegiate and pro level and those who ran top-of-the-line facilities in the private sector, I learned that a lot more goes into it than you think.  Owners need to wear many hats to keep the place running smoothly and there’s a lot of 12-to-16 hour work days.

I never doubted what these coaches said. But, like with anything else, you can’t fully understand what they are saying until you experience it firsthand. Back in February, I had my “welcome to the big leagues” moment. This moment lasted a week and it was a chance for me to be surrounded by some of the best coaches this industry has to offer.  Four of those days were spent observing and getting into the trenches during the most hectic time of the year — NFL Combine preparation — and another at the elitefts Sports Performance Summit at Ohio State University.

The first four days were spent with Justin Kavanaugh at the Sport and Speed Institute (SSI) in Chantilly, VA. This was my second trip to SSI for the NFL Combine prep. Last year, everything was new to me and I sat back and observed the combine training. Combine training alone is a long day and this year I got to see that it was only part of a day in the life of Coach Kav. This year’s trip included the Nike Coach of the Year Clinic, 7-on-7 team practice, a mock pro day and food shopping for the future pro’s.

After heading home for a few days for grad classes and to train clients, it was off to Columbus, OH for the elitefts event. There, I got listen to three NFL strength coaches in Buddy Morris (Arizona Cardinals), Justus Galac (New York Jets) and Mark Uyeyama (Minnesota Vikings) speak, as well as Dr. Ken Kinakin and Dr. Eric Serrano speak on muscle testing and nutrition. I wrote about the event for elitefts.com and that article can be found HERE.

Dabo Swinney, fresh off a National Championship with Clemson, speaking at the Nike Coach of the Year clinic.

Right after school ended Friday, I got in my car and made the trip down to Virginia. I got there late at night and was told I needed to be up early because Kav was speaking at 8 a.m. He was the only strength coach speaking there out of a lineup that featured some of college football’s best coaches like Dabo Swinney (Clemson), Dave Cutcliffe (Duke), Gary Patterson (TCU), Larry Fedora (UNC), Kirby Smart (Georgia) and Jeff Brohm (Purdue).

Kav discussed ways to develop speed in the weight room. Since the audience was high school football coaches and not trainers, Justin tailored the message properly so it stuck. From the outside, the presentation looked pretty basic. But, he went into areas of speed development that are not talked about at the basic level — like the importance of the hip, back, ankle and foot — and gave simple drills that could be implemented immediately. I didn’t take any notes, but remembered most of what he said, even on little sleep, because of the way he presented it. These coaches have so many other things to worry about and don’t have the time to delve into exercise science.

After the presentation, it was back to SSI to check on the gym and see Josh Schroeder and Allen Africa working with the groups on a busy Saturday morning. Even though it was combine season, SSI still caters to over 200 youth, high school and collegiate athletes. They don’t get neglected when the future pro’s are in town. Once the morning sessions were completed, there was some time to talk shop and then it was back to the Nike Clinic until the night.

The Combine guys had Sunday off, so we were back at the Nike Clinic where Justin interacted with different coaches about a variety of things. Some wanted to talk more about his presentation. Others wanted to talk Xs and Os and about football. He’s the leader in the area for football training for a reason. Later that day, Coach Kav shifted from performance coach to football coach. It was an unusually warm February afternoon, so we went down to Hayfield High School where he and his staff held practice outdoors for their 7-on-7 team.

After the 7-on-7’s wrapped up, Kav then shifted into caretaker mode. The players are given customized meal plans catered by Ed Mays and EatSimpleGrill,  which still ranks as the best meal delivery service I’ve ever had. But, football players do require a lot food, and he gets them some extra steaks, chicken, water and household items with his right-hand man Austin Givens, who is the director of SSIs Combine Program. While possibly the most insignificant thing I saw in terms of training, this stuck out to me the most. Both Justin and Austin have loaded schedules. Austin, outside of all the planning and logistics he does for this program, also runs a gym and Kav has a lot on his plate with the coaching and talking to agents, among other things. Despite all of that, they still had to do the minuscule tasks and they made sure to get everything so their athletes are comfortable. That meant a lot to see.

Finally, on Monday it was time for the mock pro day. The guys went to Centerville High School to do the field drills and positional drills. One thing I learned from the coaches is about having a quick trigger finger on the timer. I always knew hand time was not as accurate as an electric timer, that’s obvious. But these guys were able to stop and start the watch in .03 seconds. When I tried, I was anywhere from .14-.2. That makes a huge difference during assessments.

We then headed back to SSI where I got to speak to the guys about talking to the media. I explained

Spotting Trey Edmunds during the 225 Bench Press Test.

a couple misconceptions athletes and fans have about the media and why they ask certain questions. I then discussed some strategies on how to develop a good relationship with media members and how to be accessible. Next, was the 225-bench press test and I was caught off-guard when Kav told me to step and start spotting these guys. One thing I’ve seen from these athletes through watching them workout and go through the drills is the level of effort they give. You hear the term “100% effort”, “no quit” and things of that nature thrown around, but these guys showed it. You could hear the grunts and the impact of the foot striking the turf during each cut. On the bench press test, they literally went until the tank went empty. This is what giving your all looked like. The competition could be felt and the support they all had for each other made for an awesome environment. It was pretty cool to be spotting an athlete while all his “teammates” were huddled around yelling and pushing him. It was the type of environment I dreamed of being in. It was an awesome way to close out the trip.

Arizona Cardinals strength coach Buddy Morris speaking at the elitefts SportsPerformance Summit at Ohio State.

A few days later, I was at Ohio State with Kav for the Sports Performance Summit. Since I already wrote about it, I won’t go on too much about it. But, it was the perfect venue to hold this type of event. You pass the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on the drive over and see The Horseshoe as your walking into the Fawcett Center, where the seminar took place. Plus, your surrounded by all these high level coaches, even those in attendance. There were other NFL and collegiate strength coaches in attendance. I got to hear Morris speak about the importance of recovery, Galac outline the entire program he uses with the Jets and Uyeyama discuss thinking “big picture” and not getting caught up in the dogma of training.

It was also great hearing Dr. Kinakin and Dr. Serrano speak, who I both knew from attending the SWIS Symposium. These guys didn’t have the title of working with an NFL team, but you could clearly see their presentations resonated with the crowd. Dr. Kinakin broke down simple ways to perform muscle tests and quick fixes for some of the dysfunctions you will encounter. Dr. Serrano broke down nutrition and how to plan for the different types of athletes you will encounter. His nutrition presentation is on YouTube and I send it to clients who are looking for more information on the topic.

When I left Ohio Saturday night, I was exhausted, but feeling good. It was a long, but productive week. It gave me better insight into what it takes to run my own facility. It didn’t turn me away from the idea of running my own place. It just showed me that it’s going to take a lot of work. Even as an observer the days were long and I didn’t sleep much, but I also woke up the next day eager and ready to see what the day would bring. It was a great experience to be a part of.

 

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