Over the years, we at Power Athlete have had an amazing opportunity to help sport and strength coaches improve their craft. Natural born educators, we help them make connections between the weightroom and the field to improve performance of their athletes. Sport coaches know what they need from their players on the field in terms of positioning, execution and timing. All we have done is provide an expanded perspective of what to look for in the weightroom and the warm up, linking these together with the position and movement needed for the athlete to succeed in their given arena.
As we begin to transition from summer into classes and practices, and eventual games; a coach’s attention to detail with movement is reserved for position drills or scrimmages. We challenge coaches to expand this focus a little father each practice by dialing in on their player’s movement during the warm up.
This is a change from the norm, and sounds like more work for a coaching staff that is already putting in long hours. Understand, the mindset of focus and attention to detail of an athlete’s pre practice warm up presents an opportunity for the coaching staff, the players, and the team as a whole to accelerate improvement.
The endless benefits of the warm up have been discussed multiple times in previous articles, and we understand the physiological and decrease of injury values very well. No doubting these, but there are countless opportunities for growth and development missed every practice. Change your previous mindset of warming up before practice!
Power Athlete is here to arm you with education and renew the purpose in the first part of practice. No matter if you are a sport coach, a strength coach, or the captain of your team, this is the opportunity to get it right. The following opportunities to pre practice warm ups will help make the connection between the weightroom training and the practice field, and eventually the game field. We often say you get what you emphasize, so if coaches are not dialed in on their athlete’s warm ups, the players won’t be either, and no opportunity truly exists.
The following article will present opportunities for sport coaches and athletes recognize and build upon in preparation for Game Day.
This appears on many layers, from an athlete learning to accept criticism in technique to having an athlete becoming more coordinated through understanding his body moving through space. This also presents an opportunity to reinforce necessary vocabulary terms and positions they use during practice during position drills.
Athleticism Comes Out:
A challenging warm up, moving through all necessary positions and transitions an athlete sees in a game will help coaches identify who their real athletes are. As well as measure progress of a developing athlete. Push some competition among players and incentivise players to perform the warm up as seamless as possible because the coach is watching!
Introduce a Mindset:
“..it’s not the pursuit of excellence. It’s the disdain for anything less.” – Dr. Fred Hatfield
Perfect position and execution of every play in a practice and Game Day is preached constantly! But where is this approach during the warm up? This is the opportunity to introduce the mindset consistently preached among the coaching staff and the captains. No matter the message you are trying to get across, instill it from start of practice to finish.
Psychology of Discomfort:
The warm up is not a beat down tool or simply a break a sweat tool. It’s a tool to help an athlete get comfortable at being uncomfortable. Some days the shoulder pads won’t fit right or something is off with your shot. The expectation is still for an athlete to come out and do their job, no matter how you’re feeling. The responsibility to teammates and coaches is always to play, and play to the best of their abilities. Kill the excuse bug, and focus on what matters, performance.
This concept was first introduced to me by Jeff Gonzales of Trident Concepts. In speaking with the attendees of the CrossFit Football seminar about the margin of error and working with tactical athletes, Jeff brought up an old Lombardi concept, mutual accountability. Simply put, mutual accountability is about focusing on the team, rather than the individual, and building comradery among a team. Ever since that talk I have made mutual accountability a key component to training my teams and working with the leaders.
The warm up is not only a time for an athlete to focus on preparing themselves for practice and Game Day. It is also an opportunity to watch their teammates move, communicate any positive or constructive talk effectively, and most importantly, remind them who they are playing for.
Athletes Can Get Noticed:
Coaches play favorites, reps may not be distributed even in practice, so on and so forth. These can either be excuses for a player, or a reason to look for an opportunity somewhere else…like the warm up! The opportunity comes through showing off potential to help the team as an athlete with quality, controlled movement or being explosive and fast. Athletic potential and improvement is one thing coaches look for, as well as the focus, attention to detail and out moving the other athletes at the same position. When that athlete who half-asses the warm ups is off their game, they will look for someone who is consistent and reliable.
There are natural born leaders, no question about it. Then there are leaders that need to develop confidence and find their voice. The pre practice warm up offers opportunities to communicate, organize, and command a group in a controlled setting. This approach is most effective for the hard workers who need practice being vocal. I suggest beginning with getting the groups lined up and organized, and gradually working towards owning and leading the warm ups while holding everyone to a high standard of movement.
A coach who is searching for a leader, or a coach working with a team for the first time, can also use this as a ‘tryout’ for leaders. Picking one or two individuals a day to organize the group for the warm up, and see who the team responds to best that fits the ideals of the program.
A warm up is not as simple as ‘gettin your chili hot’, it needs to prepare an athlete mentally and physically for the tasks ahead of them. Includes all planes of motion and axes of rotation will best prime an athlete for success on the field. The magic comes when the athletes perform movements combining multiple axis of rotation and moving through all planes of motion. These will not only prepare an athlete for the tasks ahead of them, but also increase their athleticism through consistent practice.
No matter the sport; sight, hearing and proprioceptive senses need to be firing on all cylinders prior to the start of competition, not a quarter of the way through practice. Recall the reaction times from the quickness training article, these senses need to be integrated into the warm up. Responding to a leaders vocal calls or a coach blowing a whistle prepare the auditory sensory system. Observing a teammate’s position or reacting to movement begins to prime their ocular sensory systems. Applying and receiving force from another athlete prepares the proprioceptive senses.
Proprioception is present in all position drills and scrimmages, but I have never seen this in a warm up for an opposing team I have gone up against as a player and a coach. There is true value in preparing the proprioceptive system with applied force, and even more value with consistent exposure in the pre practice warm up. This signals body position, movement and most importantly, anticipation of how much force to be applied in certain situations. This process can be jump started by integrating some drills that will be featured in the Pre-Practice Warm Up: Protocols, and will make the drills practice and pre-game warm up drills more effective.
Coaches often make strides with players by teaching them what to look for on the field or court. This is the goal of this piece, help coaches see these opportunities that present themselves every single day during practice. We often use the term ‘accelerated adaptation‘ when discussing strength training, but the term applies to pre practice warm ups as well. The athlete-body connection that and athleticism are valued by sport coaches in every arena, but what we want them to understand is that it can be developed through dialed in movements.
Practice simply offers a consistent opportunity for the athlete’s to practice using their body! We have followed up this new mindset with several protocols for building and implementing a pre practice warm up around the demands of the sport and the needs of the athletes.
John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and Fuse Move. He is also creator of the online training phenomena, Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year veteran of the NFL. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft and went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for starter for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early with him retiring in 2009. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John has worked with the MLB, NFL, NHL, Olympic athletes and Military. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie and at Power Athlete.
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