Archive for March, 2012

Excellence: Nature vs. Nurture

Posted in Guest Authors, Injuries, Training, Training Females, Uncategorized, Youth Training with tags , , , on March 9, 2012 by mboyle1959

Great guest post from Kevin Neeld

We live in an era where the human genome has been mapped, gene cloning is available, and specific physical traits can be traced back to the presence or absence of specific genes. This is “nature”, or maybe more appropriately, mankind’s discovery and manipulation of it. In understanding how much peak performance in any category (physical, psychological, etc.) is pre-determined by genetic limitations, it’s easy to see why so much attention is being paid to the nature component of athletic excellence. After all, it’s extremely unlikely that the son of two short, overweight, generally unathletic parents will grow up to be a world-class hockey player. It’s a sad reality.

That said, extremely unlikely certainly does not mean impossible. Athletes in every sport have gone on to compete at high levels despite having the cards stacked against them. Using height deficiencies as an illustrative example, look at what athletes like:

  1. Muggsy Bogues, who at 5’3″ was drafted 12th overall in the 1987 NBA draft, competing 14 years in the world’s most elite basketball league as the smallest player ever to reach that level. He still holds records as the Hornets’ career leader in minutes played (19,768), assists (5,557), steals (1,067), turnovers (1,118), and assists per 48 minutes (13.5).
  2. Wes Welker, who at 5’9″, entered the NFL, a league that boasts largest, fastest, and strongest athletes in the world, and is 2nd all-time in all purpose yards during his first three seasons, holds the Dolphins’ all-time records for total kickoff returns, kickoff return yardage, total punt returns, and return touchdowns, has led the Patriots in receptions twice (2007 and 2009), holds the four highest single-season reception totals in Patriots history, as well as four of the top ten receiving yardage totals, including the franchise record. He also holds the franchise records for most receptions in a single game, most receiving yards in a single game, and longest reception. He had three consecutive 110-reception seasons, is the only receiver in NFL history with at least 110 receptions in any three seasons.
  3. Theo Fleury, who at 5’6″ and having been drafted in the 8th round of the 1987 NHL draft, went on to have 1,088 points (455 goals, 633 assists) in 1,084 NHL games. He also won a Gold Medal with Canada at the World Juniors and Olympics, a Stanley Cup with Calgary in 1989, and was elected to 7 NHL All-Star games.

 While all of these athletes surely have/had other redeeming qualities, the point is that they succeeded despite clear genetic disadvantages. It’s worth pointing out that, while the genetic ceiling is very real, only an exceptionally small percentage of the athletic population ever converges on that limitation. Most don’t put in nearly enough general and specific preparation work to ever fully realize their potential. And while some do possess the raw genetic gifts to still succeed at high levels despite this lack of preparation, this provides a distinct advantage for the athlete that, whether among the world’s elite talents or relatively average, is willing to maximize his or her potential. In other words, 70% of 100 (the raw talent) isn’t as high as 90% of 85 (the potential filler).

The more important question that arises out of this discussion is what should we be emphasizing to our youth athletes? Do we discourage participation simply because someone does not have the genetic gifts thought to be important in any given sport?

This raises an equally important question about the true purpose of sports participation. Expanding the capacity of the game is undoubtedly a goal of athletic development programs, but on a wider scale, for reasons related to nature and nurture, this only applies to an exceptionally small segment of the athletic population. At USA Hockey’s ADM Symposium last year, Kristen Dieffenbach presented that roughly 10.9% of high school hockey players will go on to play NCAA hockey, and roughly 3.7% of NCAA players or 0.31% of high school players will go on to play pro hockey. So for the other 99.69% of high school players, a system solely designed toward expanding the capacities of the game doesn’t seem worthwhile. Not to mention that our current systems force most kids out of sports before they even reach the high school ranks.

 In reality, many of the major benefits of sports participation stem from the character-building opportunities associated with playing. Amongst other things, this includes setting and hunting goals, building confidence and resilience through practice and competition successes, learning to appropriately process criticism, and developing social skills related to teamwork and leadership. These are all qualities that will serve to enhance the athlete’s quality of life long after his or her “career” ends. Theoretically, this would make playing sports inherently valuable, regardless of the athletic outcome. Of course, the development of these qualities is dependent upon a system of inclusion and relative equal opportunity.

In the U.S. the well-documented flaws of early talent identification haven’t prevented most youth sports programs from forming elite teams and funneling kids into single-sports participation with short-term success aspirations despite participating in long term athletic development sports. This system has created PHENOMENAL youth athletes that quit, sustain unnecessary injuries or simply plateau when they reach the age of actual elite competition, causing many advisers, junior programs, colleges, and even pro teams to regret their early commitments. These athletes win the race to the wrong finish line. And in the process, have the fun, freedom and development associated with unstructured play stripped from their youth. Surely, this is not the answer.

We have created a development system that produces worse athletes, which is largely masked by the absolute growth in sports participation. More athletes participate, so a few succeed DESPITE the system, not because of it. Without question, sports participation should prioritize athletic development, but not at the expense of all of the other benefits. Placing an excessive emphasis on genetic limitations undermines the path, and all of its associated lessons, an athlete could take to fulfilling his or her potential. From an athlete perspective, they need to focus on what they can control, and not be victimized by the things they can’t. From an athletic development systems perspective, we need to make a significant change toward the restoration of sanity, toward allowing kids to develop a love for playing before we superimpose adult paradigms of pressured competition. It starts with parents and coaches standing up for what is right, and spreading the word to as many people as they can. What are you going to do today to help right the ship?

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. Arguably the best long-term athletic development model, to maximize participation and fun, as well as long-term peak performance and excellence, can be found in USA Hockey’s American Development Model. If you haven’t already, check out their site: USA Hockey’s ADM

Human Locomotion- Great New Book.

Posted in Core training, Injuries, Low Back Pain, Updates, Training, Training Females, Youth Training with tags on March 7, 2012 by mboyle1959

I just got a copy of Dr Tom Michaud’s new book Human Locomotion. It is a Sahrmannesque read ( long, detailed) that I have only skimmed but it is a keeper for sure.

Why the Rock?

Posted in MBSC News, Media, Updates, Training, Training Females, Youth Training with tags on March 3, 2012 by mboyle1959

My daughter’s video caused a little tempest in a teapot on my Youtube Channel. She’s proud of her strength and so am I. To be honest I am more proud of the way she attacks the bar than of her strength.

Every time we post a clean video we get the same questions/ criticism. Some politely ask “why the rock?”. Others are not so kind and call us out on our execution of the lift. Because the topic comes up so often I figure an explanation is in order.

First, let me explain the evolution of the rock ,or the shift, or the scoop depending on your choice of name. My athletes have been performing the hang clean in this manner for over twenty years. To be honest, initially I never taught it. It just happened. Our better lifters soon realized that trying to hang clean a heavy weight from a dead stop was difficult.  Many began to rock or weight shift. They also began to hang clean a lot of weight. For a few years I simply let the lift evolve and at numerous points in the eighties and nineties had 30 football players hang cleaning over 300 lbs. Not bad for 1AA football.

A few years later I made the foolish mistake of listening to my critics.  They said that rocking was wrong and that we needed to stop. Like a good coach I agreed and vigorously coached my athletes. I forbade them from rocking. The results were simple and obvious. Our numbers dropped and dropped a lot. One of my athletes actually came up to me and said “nice job you’ve managed to make us all weaker”. His hang clean max had dropped from 370 to 340. ( Please note- this players vertical increased 12” in 4 years from 20 to 32”). I was conflicted. I just wanted to do what was best for my athletes. However, no one was injured rocking and, everyone could lift more weight. I began to do some analysis of the situation and came to the conclusion that rocking was a normal part of both athletics and of Olympic weightlifting.

I can remember reading Carl Miller’s Olympic Lifting manual in the early 80’s and reading about “double knee bend”. Boy do I wish I still had a copy. My first reaction to the concept of “double knee bend” was to think it was impossible. However, after watching lots of good Olympic weightlifters on video it became obvious that it was not only not impossible but that every great lifter did it.  Watch some video in slow motion and you see it.  In order for the bar to clear the knees the hips  and knees extend. After the bar clears the knees, the knees actually flex or rebend to move the hips into position. In the jump portion of the lift the knees extend again. The cycle is extend-flex-extend. This has been referred to as rocking, scooping, or double knee bend. In any case, it is real and it happens.

The rock you see in our Olympic lifts is this same action. Weight shifts back to the heels, knees extend. Weight shifts forward, knees flex. Hips explode and hips and knees extend. What we are doing is what every athlete does to create maximal explosive power. Watch the vertical jumps at the NFL Combine. What do you see? Rocking, pre-stretch, weight shift. Call it what you want but it is the best way to produce a powerful, maximal effort. Since that one time  I have always said, damn the critics, full speed ahead. I have lots of females cleaning 135 lbs for reps and the majority of my male hockey players hang clean between 250 and 320? Am I wrong? You be the judge. Healthy athletes, great clean numbers, great speed improvement, great vertical jump. Where do I go wrong? As Lee Cockrell says in  Creating Magic what if the way we always did it was wrong?




Will the FMS Cure Most Communicable Diseases?

Posted in Core training, Injuries, Low Back Pain, MBSC News, Media, Random Thoughts, Training, Training Females, Youth Training with tags on March 1, 2012 by mboyle1959

I wrote this a few months ago for in response to some forum threads on the site. Let me know what you think.

Will the FMS Cure Most Communicable Diseases?