CHAPTER 2 PART 1: Assessing the Needs of an Athlete

Chapter 2 is quite dense and broken down into two parts

What you will read today is“Part 1”, which will talk about how we utilize the “biopsychosocial model” in determining needs of the athlete based on things such as genetics, personality, mindset, and maturity.

“Part 2” will provide details on specific parameters, tests, and metrics we are evaluating when conducting a movement screening.

Whether you are a longtime AW athlete, or someone who has just signed up for our program, we are assessing you daily in some capacity. 

With our primary demographic being “youth athletes”, these kids are changing at such a rapid pace. Even if I have worked with an athlete for months prior, they could walk through the door next week and seem to have grown 2” and gained 10 pounds. This makes constant assessment crucial. It allows us to make adjustments to training at a very accurate rate in accordance with the athletes development. 

During “PART 1” we will sit down with Dr. Brett Poniros, DC, CSCS to talk about how he has taken charge of our ever changing evaluation process. Dr. Poniros take it from here…

“PART 1” 

In 1977 George Engel coined the term “biopsychosocial” as it pertained to medicine and psychiatry1. This, in his mind,  was an upgrade from the biomedical model that had been used for years prior. The biomedical model looked at each human as being broken in some way, and that the exam and treatment should be designed around finding and remedying that one abnormal physical finding. For example, a runner with a stress fracture in their foot. This model would treat by simply putting the foot in a boot and giving it time to rest (i.e. treating the symptoms).

The biopsychosocial model instead considered the whole person, including their mentality, outlook, support systems, belief systems, self-image, etc. Using our example of the broken foot, this both encompasses treating the structural issue of the broken bone (i.e. putting the foot in the boot), but also looking into other factors such as, what type of movement error may have caused the injury? Did this injury occur as a result of a rapid change in training demands? You can see how this model encompasses a much more holistic approach and gives the practitioner or coach a tremendous amount of information to base training around. While the biopsychosocial model has now become the supposed standard of care across a host of fields, at Athletes Warehouse we have embraced it both as our evaluation standard as well as our training standard.

What does this “Biopsychosocial” Model look like in terms of assessing the needs of the athlete?

If we break it down for what the word really means…

BIOLOGICAL TRAITS… PSYCHOLOGICAL STATE… SOCIAL CHARACTERISTICS

BIOLOGICAL TRAITS- What are your physical, genetic traits given to you that can determine how you may function as an athlete. This includes questions about previous participation in sport, height, weight, or body type. Other questions are in regards to your parent’s activity level or previous athletic experience. This can give us an idea about expectations, and what to expect with an athlete. We can find out more information on  previous, and future growth spurts. In fact, we have found that by timing properly executed strength training during peak growth spurts we can dramatically change the gene expression of a young athlete. The term of this is “Peak Height Velocity” and this will be a chapter in itself to come.  Finally, we can also hone in on genetic predisposition to injury tendencies.

When dealing with the injured athlete…  if they came from a referral from a physical therapist or sports medicine practitioner, we look to gain as much information as possible in terms of the physiology of their injury. This includes the injury, the recovery time, the rehab they were prescribed, who did the rehab. You get the point.  Communication with the referral doctor or professional is paramount to allowing us to understand exactly where the athlete is at in terms of their return to sport.

Psychological State- This starts from the very first interaction we have. Bluntly put, our professionals have found that training can be awkward and sometimes even anxiety filled for a youth athlete. Youth athletes usually have never had exposure to training, especially not training in front of someone they have never met. On top of that, we’re often performing movements which are designed for them to fail. Within the first few minutes of our eval, we try and have an idea about the general personality of the person that we are working with. After creating an open space for the athlete we can begin to pull out information in regards to their level of dedication to their sport, and their readiness to train. Is this person outgoing? Shy? Uncomfortable? Are they going to be somebody that needs to by pushed? Pulled Back? And all of this is noted and factored into our eval notes. The sooner that we can answer these questions, the sooner we can understand how to interact with that individual athlete. 

When dealing with the injured athlete… Physical problems heal, especially in young people. A torn hamstring will eventually heal. It is what our body does best. However, what recent literature has brought to light is the importance of outlook in the presence of an injury, and the capability of pain mechanisms to become ingrained within the central nervous system2,3. When you are an athlete, sport can be a large part of your identity. When injury occurs, your identity gets called into question. The mind begins to question “how long will I be out”, “is this going to inhibit my future performance”, “am I ever going to be the same”, “is this season ending”, “is this career ending”? Injuries are traumatic and stir up real anxieties in many athletes. This is why we take extreme precautions when talking and interacting with our return to sport athletes (For more on this, here is the link to Coach Brett’s article “Words Matter” http://aw-blog.com/uncategorized/words-matter-why-coaches-have-a-unique-position-in-return-to-sport-after-injury-by-brett-poniros/).

Being that the psychological approach to physical rehab is ever changing, here are some recent findings…

-Inflammatory responses can be completely driven and perpetuated by the brain and negative thinking 4,5

-Research is moving in the direction of exploring the relationship between the perception of pain and actual pain experienced.

-Professionals working with athletes are as much educators to young athletes as anything else. We can spur curiosity and ingenuity in them. 

Social Characteristics: The final portion that we take into consideration is the athlete’s social background and tendencies. Above all else, this allows us to better relate to the athlete and to respect cultural or ideological values that they hold dear. Within minutes of meeting an athlete we attempt to start a “normal” conversation; gauging what their interests are, their level of comfort in a gym, their level of comfort around us, and their social support system. Do they use sports as a release? Do they use sports as a social gathering? Are they more comfortable training with a male or female coach? While brief, this information is so important to us setting up an environment for the individual to train in. 

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

In the end, much of our initial evaluation has nothing to do with strength and conditioning. We are utilizing the biopsychosocial model to begin to formulate the environment in which we are going to be placing our athlete into. Rather than deciding what movements we are going to perform, we start by figuring out how we are going to interact and build a relationship with an athlete. By creating this environment first we begin to set the stage for an athlete to begin their pursuit of success in whatever it is they are looking to accomplish.

THINGS TO IMPLEMENT TODAY:

FOR COACHES: 

  • If you have a younger athlete, provide them the opportunity to explore strength training during their peak growth periods.
  • Start to ask your athletes what their parents’ athletic background is.
  • Figure out the personality tendencies of each individual you train and adjust your interaction with them in accordance.

FOR ATHLETES

  • While your biological potential is widely determined by your genetics, the right strength prescription can be the greatest factor in how they are expressed.
  • Changing your outlook on your current state and of the world around you vastly impacts your performance and your recovery.
  • Decide why you play sports and why you train. Once you answer this question, your focus towards what you really want out of sports becomes very accurate.

STILL TO COME IN CHAPTER 2 PART 2

In “PART 2” we will cover every detail in regards to how we conduct a movement assessment. Part 2 will go into more detail about how we begin to design programs and select exercises to meet the needs of each athlete.

1 Engel GL. The need for a new medical model: a challenge for biomedicine. Science. 1977 Apr 8;196(4286):129-36.

2 Schlereth T, Birklein F. The sympathetic nervous system and pain. Neuromolecular medicine. 2008 Sep 1;10(3):141-7.

3 Cavanaugh JM. Neural mechanisms of lumbar pain. Spine. 1995 Aug;20(16):1804-9.

4 Rosenbloom BN, Khan S, McCartney C, Katz J. Systematic review of persistent pain and psychological outcomes following traumatic musculoskeletal injury. Journal of pain research. 2013;6:39.5 Holmes A, Williamson O, Hogg M, Arnold C, O’Donnell ML. Determinants of chronic pain 3 years after moderate or serious injury. Pain Medicine. 2013 Mar 1;14(3):336-44.

CHAPTER 1: Methodology, Environment, and Culture: The foundation of a training methodology begins with the platform is it performed upon.

Another busy day on the training floor. Coach Matt June found a $5 bill on the indoor turf of our fitness area. So he put it on top of the plyo boxes right next to where he found it… assuming that whoever was looking for it would go back to the spot they had lost it. One week goes by, and the $5 still remains in its exact place upon the plyo boxes. So Coach Matt takes notice and informs me how the money has still not been claimed. This area of the gym being a very high traffic area, people are constantly pulling the boxes out and putting them back. Not to mention we have hundreds of athletes who enter our doors each day. We decided to leave it and simply observe. Two weeks go by, the money is still there. At this point we just thought this was hilarious, so we added a couple dollars to create a small pile of cash. Three, Four, Five weeks go by, and the money has not been taken. We noticed athletes would need a plyo box for training and would actually move the money, take the plyo box, and then replace the money on top of the box beneath it. The money ended up being there for over two months before we finally were sick of looking at it. This taught us something about our facility but also about young humans. It illuminates how they will act in accordance with their environment. How easy would it be for someone to walk by and grab the money and continue on with their day? The lesson learned from this story was how much respect our athletes have for Athletes Warehouse. And this brings us into our first discussion of how the right environment is the platform to shape success in whatever it is a young athlete chooses to pursue.

Located in Pleasantville, NY, Athletes Warehouse is a 17,500 square foot athlete oasis. The design of this facility is based around the idea that it could provide an athlete with everything they could possibly need to reach their performance goals. Speciality services here include strength and conditioning, baseball and softball skills, nutrition, chiropractic service, massage therapy, rehab and return to sport, and mental skills. Each team member who brings forth their respective services and expertise is a full-time member of Team Athletes Warehouse. Collaboratively we make up the Performance staff. Our inevitable goal through everything we provide is to drive top level performance coaching to our athletes.

What is a PERFORMANCE COACH?

We don’t use the term trainer. We rarely use the term strength coach. We consider ourselves performance coaches. While many of us provide the service of strength and conditioning, labeling ourselves as strength and conditioning coaches does not fully encompass what we do. For now, I’m going to leave it at that. In the coming paragraphs and chapters you will see why our service provides WAY more than just strength and conditioning.

The Athlete-Coach interaction…

Training at AW always starts with the person first and athlete second. We look to create an environment and culture that allows athletes to succeed in sport but also in everything else they choose to pursue. Our team of coaches act as gatekeepers into a safe space where an athlete can truly explore what it is they want to achieve as an athlete and as a person. Through our time we’ve had the opportunity to send student-athletes into the top division 1 athletic programs in the nation, as well as sending students-athletes into the top academic institutions in the world. Our team of educated coaches facilitate an environment that commands and produces excellence in all areas of an athlete’s life. Like I stated before, I intend to hide nothing and be completely transparent. So from my perspective, there are a couple characteristics that our coaches share that facilitate a culture that produces success. 

RELATABLE

You just put a 5×5 squat on an athletes program, do you know what that feels like yourself? Your athlete has been battling a chronic injury over the past few months, do you know what that feels like yourself?  When interns ask me what my number one tip is for them as a coach my answer is to never stop training like an athlete. Going off my last statement, I am by no means telling anyone to go out and seek a sports injury just so you can relate with the athlete. But being completely transparent,  the hard truth is that it is very difficult to work in an industry with high level athletes when you have not yourself competed at a high level. The daily rigors of being a high level athlete are very hard to relate to when you have not experienced such. With that being said, regardless of whether you were a high level athlete or never played a sport in your life, if you are a coach working with athletes you must always continue to train like an athlete. This allows a coach to relate to an athlete on a different level. Having the immediate reminders of what training feels like allows a coach to program more effectively as well. WE TRAIN LIKE ATHLETES!

NURTURING

The age of the belittling coach is gone. Creating a safe space allows an athlete to devote their energy into their physical and psychological development. The age of the belittling coach is over. We do not believe that this style of coaching creates the most efficient path to growth. Performance coaches are not responsible for “toughening” kids up. We are responsible for getting athletes to move well, be focused and aware, and achieve whatever it is they want to achieve. If you’re looking to harden someone, keep it out of sport. Yes we must facilitate a relationship with our athletes that commands respect, however this is accomplished through a genuine relationship. DO NOT MISTAKE, this is not saying we just dish out high-fives all day and tell everyone it’s going to be okay. Which leads me to the next point of “honesty”. WE GO OUT OF OUR WAY TO MAKE ATHLETES FEEL AS THOUGH THIS IS THEIR HOME!

HONEST

Growth can never take place if someone is not aware of their flaws and failure. Honesty is the only way we can get an athlete to see when they need improvement. It provides direction and clarity for both the athlete and the coach. It’s easy to tell an athlete when they’ve succeeded. We must have the ability to tell an athlete when they are not good at something, when they fail, or when they are not putting forth their best. While these sound simple, it’s not an easy thing to tell athletes who you have just met. We have found that the earlier honesty can be established in the coach-athlete relationship, the less personal and more constructive it will be. UPON FIRST INTERACTION WITH AN ATHLETE WE SET THE INTENTION OF BEING COMPLETELY HONEST.

RELENTLESS

(RE-LENT-LESS) showing or promising no abatement of severity, intensity, strength, or pace (1). A coach must possess a relentless demeanor and accept nothing less of their athletes, because in sports, we are all about the long term game. It’s easy for an athlete to push through one, two, three, or even a dozen hard training efforts. It’s the job of the coach to mitigate training in a way that allows an athlete to reproduce this over the course months or even years.. 

FINALLY…

PROVE IT

Now this is what it’s all about.

Everytime we get a new athlete, we approach them with the mentality of, “Let me PROVE to this athlete what we can achieve together.” This creates a level of trust where the athlete’s and coach’s efforts are truly collaborative. I’d love to share a story about a high school lacrosse player who we trained this past off-season. This athlete came in with an absolutely flying 40 yard dash of 4.58 seconds. Being that this athlete was division 1 bound in a year, we were definitely looking to build strength. Yet, the end goal was to see if we could push his speed boundaries as we got closer to season. As we began volume strength training protocols, naturally the athlete gained weight. This was the plan. We utilized principles of 1×20 and then even principles of german volume training (more on these later). A decent understanding of physics can tell you that through a simple mass equation, this athlete was going to slow down. That he did. While the athlete showed moments of frustration as he was flashing slower times every week, we simply brought him back to the process. We showed him the plan. We continued to earn his trust. Little by little we began implementing more power work and contrast training and bam… two weeks out of season he flashed a 4.42 second 40 yard dash.

This story was not intended to show off our ability to train speed. In fact, his program could have been designed by anyone who has a basic understanding of periodization. Yet this is to display communication with an athlete, show them the plan, earn their trust, then PROVE IT with the outcome they are looking for. This is how you build clients for life.

Things to implement immediately into training from this chapter:

For coaches: 

-Do not talk “at” your athletes, but communicate with them. 

-Create a safe-space for athletes and allow them to be able to devote more energy and focus into training.

-Practice what you preach. Train as if you are preparing for an event or sport.

-Constantly address and re-address the athletes goals and how they line up with your plan for them.

-Test your athletes.

For Athletes:

-Find a coach who you genuinely appreciate the presence of. This does not mean they are your best friend, but if you enjoy being around them, that means they provide you the right energy to succeed.

-Understand that the coach to athlete relationship is one that is 50/50. What this means is that the athlete and coach bring equal energy to a training session to create a full effort. Do not expect a coach to put forth more than their ½, and do not entrust a coach who does not put forth their ½.

-Carry a relentless approach with everything you do. 

COMING UP NEXT…

CHAPTER 2: Assessing the Needs of an Athlete

This chapter will discuss more specifically…

-The process by which we decide what an athlete needs.

-How the athletes needs lines up with their own personal goals.

-An introduction into early stages of training.

Sources: 

  1. relentless. 2020. In Merriam-Webster.com.Retrieved May 12, 2020, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/relentless 

INTRODUCTION: Book of Athletes Warehouse

Prelude (Part 0/8)

Welcome to an Eight Part Series (0/8). Over the course of this series you’ll be introduced to an open look as to what goes on behind the scenes at Athletes Warehouse (AW). This will cover everything from overall training methodology, how we’ve developed a state of the art sport performance facility, our perspective on rehabilitation and injury prevention, how we carve resilient and sharpened minds of young athletes, and basically anything an athlete or coach would need to facilitate training for themselves or others. The goal of this series is to be completely transparent with our readers, hide nothing, and share what we do. In the end, we do not fear someone “stealing our secrets”. Much of our methods are original and created in-house, yet we’re humbled to admit that we’ve had the pleasure of being influenced by so many amazing professionals who consider themselves a part of the sports performance industry. This humble and open attitude will be highlighted in our vast and broad use of so many different training methodologies. In all honesty, we do not fear you stealing our secrets, because there are just some things that we do that simply cannot be recreated. Our team, our personalities, and the way we communicate is something that cannot be learned through reading this series, but can only be experienced by spending time in our facility.

WHO am I? And WHY am I writing this?

My name is Jack Gladstone, and I am a Strength and Conditioning Coach at Athletes Warehouse as well as a Licensed Massage Therapist. While I am the writer of this series, I am simply a scribe. You’ll recognize my constant use of the word “We”. This is because everything written in this manual is a by-product of every single coach that has walked through the doors of Athletes Warehouse.  The reason I have elected myself with writing this is I’ve had a unique perspective over the last six years to experience the progression of training at Athletes Warehouse. 

Let’s take it back to the BEGINNING.

Let’s go back to when I was 19 years old and the place where the foundation of Athletes Warehouse methodology was created; “The Shop”. “The Shop” to some is a legend, only to have heard about it through the tales of athletes who hit some of the most epic training sessions there. I feel as though all great training facilities have some of the barest beginnings. This was AW’s bare beginning. The Shop was a barn that was half a training facility, half an equipment and repair shop for Michael Serio’s (Coach Nick Serio’s Father) Arborist company. In the shop were 2 squat racks, a pull up rig, a bike, and a set of olympic jerk blocks. Along with some kettlebells, that’s about it. No AC, no tech savvy equipment that Athletes Warehouse utilizes today. That summer I was home from my sophomore year of college lacrosse, and heading into my junior season, Coach Nick had the plans of putting me through the most rigorous training schedule of my life. 

Here was a typical day…

6AM: 45-60 minutes of mobility, followed by 20-30 minutes interval conditioning session or sprint work.

8AM: Meal #1

11AM: Meal #2

12PM: 20 minute warmup, followed by 60-90min of strength work (Squat/Press/Deadlift), followed by another conditioning session in the form of an EMOM (Every Minute on the Minute). 

2PM: Meal #3

4PM: Quick warmup, followed by 60-90 minutes of Olympic Weightlifting, followed by accessory lifts to fill in the gaps of what had not been accomplished from the beginning of the day.

7PM: Meal #4

9PM: Attempt to recover.

This was my introduction to the field of strength and conditioning and knew at that point that spending my day in a training facility was not work, but true passion. To this day Coach Nick and I look back on this time (note: he did every single rep alongside me), and laugh at how over-trained we were, but how a passion for training and desire to find the boundaries drove us to massive performance gains. Fearful of nothing, we executed training as a test of self limits, rather than the meticulous prescription of volume and intensity that we utilize with our athletes today. Our methodology has come a long way. And as a direct result of surrounding ourselves with the smartest coaches, our methods transformed into what our athletes experience on a daily basis. The Athletes Warehouse methodology is a culmination of everyone who has ever entered our facility. No matter if you are an athlete, a coach, an intern, you have helped shape the methodology of Athletes Warehouse. The next coming chapter will go into more detail regarding methodology.

Athlete Spotlight: John Kowalski

John Kowalski is a senior standout soccer player out of Fox Lane High School. During his time at Fox Lane he was a 2-time Varsity Captain and a three year starter. He was also 3-time FC Westchester Captain. He received section 1 AA all-league honors in both the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 seasons. In 2017 he and his team won the NY State Cup Championship. John’s current training is dedicated in preparation for his upcoming career as a Division 1 Soccer player. He is set to attend Holy Cross this coming fall of 2020.

From a coach’s perspective, John is the type of athlete that thrives at AW. His success in athletics are simply highlighted when witnessing him train in the weight room. “Coachable” is a term that is often thrown around, however John is not just coachable, he pursues training with an open mind mentality to always make an adjustment. This mentality is the root cause of his progression and why he will continually smash personal bests in strength and power metrics.

So here we sit down with John Kowalski to ask an array of questions related to training (and some not so related).

What initially drew you to becoming an AW Athlete? I realized that to perform at a high level during the season you have to work even harder during the off season and what better place to do that than AW.

What has been the most drastic change in performance you’ve felt since training at AW? I definitely feel more powerful when playing my sport (strength/ speed wise). But training also drastically changed my physique!

Reflect on your high school career… what would you tell your freshman self? Make the most of what’s in front of you. Play with confidence and enjoy the ride.

In the car on the way to train at AW, what are you listening to? Lil Wayne, Kanye West

What is the most questionable thing you’ve ever eaten before a training session?
A chicken parm wedge or a chipotle burrito. Both were very questionable before a training session.

Squat, Bench, or Deadlift?
Deadlift.

Jacked arms or ripped abs?
Ripped abs.

Favorite local pizza spot?
Gianfrancos- Mount Kisco or colony grill-Stamford 

Any strange intra-workout habits?
I sometimes find myself singing while working out. It keeps me focused.

What’s your post workout recovery look like? Immediately drink a protein shake (preferably strawberry banana muscle milk) and eat a really big meal.

Pro sports or college sports on tv?
Pro sports.

Do you have any odd rituals before playing sports or working out?
I always tape my socks before a game.

Favorite part of AW?
Working out with a great group of coaches and bettering myself as an athlete and as a person!

3 Factors That Go Into In-Season Training Programs

Introduction: As the spring season is right around the corner, we’re sending off a large amount of our athletes to the arena of competition. While our population of athletes training in season has grown tremendously over the years, we tirelessly educate our athletes on how important it is in the year-round training process. While we can delve into the science behind injury prevention and performance maintenance and progress during in-season training, we must answer the question that concerns every athlete and sometimes even prevents them from beginning in season training… “what is my program going to look like?” For starters, the primary focus of our in season training is to prescribe exercises, sets, and reps in a manner that is going to mitigate the overall volume on the athlete. Overall volume is taking into account minutes played, time and intensity at practice, amount of conditioning done at practice, as well as the intensity of the training that we are going to complete at Athletes Warehouse. Think about it like this…

The Formula Overall Volume = Amount of playing time in game + Practice duration and intensity + Conditioning executed at practice + Training Volume executed at AW. 

As the strength and conditioning coach we are only one factor in this athletes overall volume. We allow our workout to be flexible, moldable, and as adaptive as possible in regard to all the other factors that are going into the overall volume of the athlete. So this is where our programming becomes very specific and individualized to that athlete. Here are some of the major implications to how an athlete’s in season training program is formed.

What does the athlete enjoy? Arguably the most important factor in terms of mitigating emotional and mental fatigue. Even though this factor is not as definitive or scientific, if an athlete feels as though they are coming into the gym and needing to grind through exercises they don’t enjoy it is going to be way more taxing from a psychological standpoint. 

What is their sport? Preseason field sports such as lacrosse or soccer are essentially track practice with the amount of running volume. Preseason baseball or softball can be thought of more of a power event. For our lacrosse, basketball, soccer, football, field hockey, and other field athletes, we will most likely avoid any form of sprinting, jumping, or high impact eccentric exercises. These programs will be designed around preventative and rehabilitative exercises, and strength work that promotes maintenance of performance. For example, they will find themselves utilizing resistance bands, sleds, and Keiser equipment alongside main strength lifts (Squatting, Pressing, Lunging, Pulling) in a manner which limit the amount of soreness the athlete experiences while maintaining strength.

When we talk about in-season training for our large baseball and softball population, we are able to prescribe more intense sprinting, jumping, and lifting. While we are still trying to mitigate soreness, the goal of these in-season programs is to continually allow them to peak throughout the season. Because of the fact that these athletes are participating in a power sport (requiring quick expression of force) with the absence of large amounts of running and jump volume, we can prescribe a good amount of sprinting, jumping, and high weight/low volume (e.i. Heavy set of 3) to these athletes. With consistent in season training, we almost always see baseball and softball athletes setting new personal records in events such as the 10 yard dash, 40 yard dash, and broad jump. These increases in power measures are indicators that these athletes are continuing to peak performance.

Sets and reps. This can often be the most structured way to describe in season training and we cannot discuss the topic without this. As stated before we prescribe volume based on sport and fatigue of the athlete, which can often be very individualized and varied. However, some consistent rep schemes and mini workouts that we will utilize are the following: that an athlete will find themselves completing are somewhat based on the Westside/Conjugate dynamic effort schemes. Sets such as 10×2, 8×3, 6×4, allow the athlete to perform squat, press, deadlift, and lunge at weights that are relatively high in load and maintain a moderate total volume (i.e. 10 sets of 2 totals 20 total reps). We will also utilize bands and chains to emphasize the concentric phase of the lift at moments where the athlete are stronger (i.e. heavier at the top of the lift). These sets are less taxing as they reduce the time under load, as these sets are not going to require the athlete to be under a load for more than 15 seconds. 

Final Thoughts: The greatest benefit to in-season training is injury prevention. At the end of this discussion of sets, reps, peaking performance, and exercise selection, regardless of what you get out of in-season training, we always find athletes stay healthy through the season. It doesn’t matter how strong, powerful, or talented you are in your sport, if you are not healthy you cannot perform. 

4 Change of Direction Drills Valuable to the Lacrosse Athlete

As the spring lacrosse season is upon us, we are prepping hundreds of lacrosse athletes for their up-coming season. While our goal is to not mirror the exact game of lacrosse, we utilize these drills in order to break down specific technique involved in the game in a controlled setting.

You will notice when we talk about agility through this article, there is no mention of agility ladders or complicated/rehearsed drills that are commonly seen on social media. These drills emphasize power production and reduction in ground contact time in order to move the body faster from point A to point B. Along with building reaction time, that is the true transfer of agility onto the field.

Lateral Shuffle to a Crossover Reach.

In a lateral shuffle drill that can seem as basic as it can be, I noticed Coach Matt June making a very slight, yet critical adjustment in the hand placement of the athletes. Notice when performing this drill when reaching to touch the cone with the same side hand you can notice how easy it is for the athlete to get lazy with their position and simply bend over to touch the cone.

Notice now when performing this drill with a cross-body reach with the opposite side hand. The change that this makes in the athletes position is massively different, and the latter mirrors the position we would deem optimal for sport. By crossing the body it forces the athlete to hinge at the hips and rotate through the mid-back, all while maintaining their universal athletic stance (Universal Athletic Stance = stable and upright chest + knees slightly tracking out + weight on the center foot if not slightly on the toes). 

Shuffle to Vertical to Shuffle

This drill is highly effective for any sport where one must utilize fast lateral movement in both a defensive and offensive positions. For example, if we watch this drill in real time, we can see how the vertical jump allows the athlete time to gain proprioception of when their foot is going to hit the ground. This offers a platform for the athlete to begin to decrease their ground contact time after landing. 

Say when we ask an athlete to split dodge (Split Dodge = A basic movement of offensive attack in lacrosse), the athlete must have incredible awareness of when their foot is going to make contact with the ground so that they can accelerate themself in the opposite direction. Simply put this drill teaches an athlete how to be faster out of their dodge.

Figure-8 Variations

We have found figure 8 drills to be incredibly effective in simulating play around the crease for both offensive and defensive players.

Acceleration to 180 Turn Deceleration (Advanced)

I began utilizing this drill with many lacrosse athletes as I realized this foot work can expose an athlete at incredibly high sprint velocity. A drill like this must be progressed, however by training this movement pattern in a controlled environment we can prepare the athlete to absorb these forces in a way that will greatly reduce the risk of injury on the playing field. During transition play in lacrosse (When there is a change in possession and the ball is moving to the opposite end of the field) athletes will often hit their max velocity sprint speed, which is very rare in sports other than track. In this play athletes have upwards of 60 yards of open field to reach max velocity sprint speed. During this phase the athlete is generating their peak forces during sprinting. These athletes must then stop on a dime and turn a complete 180 degrees to drop into a defensive position. By forcing an athlete to complete this footwork in a shorter distance, we reduce the speed and therefore the forces that they can generate while approaching the turn. As we progress this drill the athlete will take longer distances between turns, allowing them to generate more speed.

Dr. Nick Serio on Special Strength Training For Pitchers

Last week Dr. Nick Serio dropped some knowledge bombs on Joel Smith’s, “Just Fly Performance Podcast.” (https://www.just-fly-sports.com/podcast-183-nick-serio/

In this podcast, Coach Nick goes into detail on how he has developed special strength training methods for rotational athletes, especially for the baseball pitcher. This podcast was PACKED with information. It is necessary for all athletes, parents, and coaches in the baseball community to listen to this. Nick shares his most informed methods in training the baseball athlete and specifically the pitcher. Today I attempt to break down the mass of information stated in this 52 minute podcast. Here were my major takeaways.

With the alarmingly high increase in baseball/pitching related injuries, especially at the youth and high school level, there are a number of factors at play.

  • The recruiting and showcase format is not advantageous to the athletes recovery.
  • The pitcher’s performance is becoming highly predicated on velocity, and therefore many are striving to achieve high velocity with very high risk training methods.
  • While a degree of specialization is necessary to develop the required skill sets to pitch at a high level, there must be a necessary time away from throwing. This time off of throwing should include special exercises related to baseball (more details on this further on). 

As professionals in any field that works with athletes, we must do a better job of illuminating new research to the athlete and parent.

  • Many old school methods no longer have a place in sports.
  • Far too often our population of athletes and parents will never see necessary research and methods in a way that is digestible to them. 
  • The more informed our population is, the more equipped they will be to make good decisions in sport.

“Specialization” has become a villainous term. 

  • While time away from baseball is important, the athlete can gain tremendous strides in their performance by focusing on specialized strength training.
  • With more access to strength and conditioning at the high school level, it is not necessary for athletes to search for “cross-training” of benefits by playing multiple sports. Strength and conditioning should become a season in the athletes yearly sport participation.
  • By implementing special strength training methods during the off-season, and simultaneously giving throwers a 4 month window away from throwing, it has been proven that we can increase performance and decrease the rate of throwing related injuries. 

Pitch count is irrelevant.

  • The baseball community must take into account multiple factors beyond pitch count when monitoring a pitcher’s throwing volume. This includes the amount of pitches during high pressure situations, as well as physical preparedness of the athlete. In short, just as we would not prescribe the same weight to all athletes in the gym, all athletes should not be prescribed to the same pitch count when throwing.
  • A more accurate test to monitor fatigue of the pitcher would be grip strength. Due to the necessary force absorption capacity of the forearm and hand flexor group, monitoring this fatigue directly may be a better method to predicting overuse.

As coaches, we can give athletes a very accurate depiction of where their progress is solely by evaluating certain foundational movements.

  • SIMPLE, SIMPLE, SIMPLE when working with youth athletes.
  • The Overhead squat will tell us a tremendous amount of about everything from ankle mobility, to hip rotation capacity, to thoracic spine function, as well as arguably the most important for this population, how their shoulder functions in an applicable way under load and challenged position.
  • The Bear Crawl exposes cross-body coordination, as well as challenging the midline strength of the athlete. This movement has become crucial in return to sport from labral surgery, as it allows the athlete a controlled, yet dynamic way to load the shoulder joint.
  • The Reverse Lunge has become one of the greatest transfer strength exercises to throwing. Those who are able to increase their reverse lunge strength almost always are going to throw a baseball more effectively.
  • Finally, those that throw a baseball well also tend to sprint and run very well. 

We need to emphasize the importance of athlete screening and implementation of corrective exercises.

  • Our evaluation process begins with the belief that not all postural based dysfunction leads to movement based dysfunction.
  • Contrary to the old school belief that baseball players should not go overhead, we are constantly striving to improve the scapular and shoulder function through movements that get the athlete into the overhead position. (One of Nick’s favorites is the Landmine Press)

During the 4 month window away from throwing, throwers will partake in a very specialized medicine ball strength program that allows the athlete to improve sequencing of the actual action of throwing a baseball. (All of which can be found on the Athletes Warehouse movement library:

  • Through a progression of phases, we allow the athlete to be incredibly aggressive in their throwing actions.
  • While the drills may mirror the action of throwing, the athlete is able to disassociate from throwing a ball while still working on sequencing and power production.

There must be a massive focus on the front/blocking leg in rotational sports

  • Across the board, when looking at high velocity throwers, there is a common theme of a stiff front side after the front leg hits the ground.
  • In order for the thrower to do this, they must require a large amount of strength on the front leg. We will often take athletes through drills like single leg drop jumps to increase their eccentric capacity.
  • Forcing an athlete to land on an elevated surface on during medicine ball throws, we can force the athlete to generate force sooner, which in turn will allow them to create a stiffer front side.

If you are a baseball athlete in the New York City or Westchester area and you are not training under Coach Nick, you are doing yourself a massive injustice. He has maximized the potential of so many baseball players in this area. From the most elite recruits, to those just trying to make a high school team, this program has proven to succeed with athletes time and time again. Drop the ego, and hand over the reigns to Dr. Nick. 

Characteristics of Successful AW Athletes

Success in athletics is often defined by accolades, verbal commitments, or recruiting status. I want the reader (whether you’re a parent, athlete, or coach) to take a moment to reflect on how powerful an impact sports has had on their Athlete’s development. Athletics had a profound impact on shaping me as an athlete. They transformed me into the person I am today. At Athlete Warehouse, we pride ourselves on developing youth athletes into the greatest physical performers that they can possibly be, however success in our facility is not solely predicated athletic performance. As a former AW athlete and now AW Coach, I want to share my reflections on how I’ve seen success manifest itself in those who call themselves a part of team AW.


Training during this time of year is my favorite of all the seasons. It’s an opportunity we have to work with our new greenhorn high school athletes and our veteran college athletes at the same time. As we train our elite college athletes in awe of their physical feats, academic performances, and professional success, I often forget about where they came from. They were once those same inexperienced high school athletes. I find myself so impressed by their college majors, the jobs they are pursuing, or their athletic success that I forget about the children they once were. As we begin to impact more and more youth athletes each year, we are gaining new light on the impact our training environment has on the success of so many young athletes.

So during these two weeks where I have the ability to train both our newest high school athletes alongside our veteran college athletes, I can begin to pinpoint characteristics in both populations that are indicators for success. Here are the three that resonated most with me.

CONSISTENCY: Consistency is something that will undoubtedly drive a student athlete to success. This is one of the most important lessons that can be learned through training and carried over to other areas of life. It will show an athlete of any talent level, that relentless and unwavering effort will breed success in spite of external circumstances. Training is one of the few activities in life that we have total control over. There is no teacher’s opinion grading your performance and effort. At the end of a training cycle, your success is solely based on the relentless effort you put forth. The timer, weight on the bar, or the number on the scale does not have an opinion, it solely tells you the way it is. Many times, this is the first exposure a student athlete may have to evaluating their own effort and consistency in the absence of any external factors.

POSITIVITY: regardless of an athlete’s goals, the believe that one is in an upward trajectory in their life is critical. One of Coach Cassie’s biggest pet-peeves is negative self talk. An athlete doesn’t experience the immediate feedback of a negative mindset, it just slowly breaks them down and then slowly begins to leak into other areas of their life beyond sport. Whether a negative outlook is triggered by a team coach, a professor/teacher, or a social situation, we must encourage our athletes to find positive outlooks on situations that are out of their control. Athlete’s who are able to do this rarely find themselves in a training rut or hitting a performance plateau. They find enjoyment out of the process and therefore and pulled to their goals rather than pushing towards them.

IDENTIFICATION: At the moment where an athlete finds themselves breaking through their ego, is the moment when they will find themselves maximize the benefits to training at Athletes Warehouse. As humans, we are innately pack animals. We thrive in groups and this is something that we have lost in a world that is about “me” rather than “us”.  Identifying oneself with a highly motivated group is rare in this world. All athletes experience this at different times, but this was one of the greatest benefits I found to training at AW during my time in college lacrosse. 

I have felt and witnessed the impact that training at Athletes Warehouse can have from both an athlete and coach’s perspective. As I witness our experienced athletes train alongside our new athletes, I see both the short and long term effects of success in our facility. Going well beyond sport, facilitating this process is the greatest part of working with the student athlete. Through this blog post, I hope to shed light on how impactful sport and the training process can be in facilitating success in whatever the student-athlete chooses to pursue.

Three Ways We Utilize Isometrics at Athletes Warehouse

By Stephen Portee

When a new athlete enters our doors, regardless of previous training experience, they can find themselves executing Isometric exercise variations to some extent. In turn, this allows the athlete to spend time in very specific positions of a movement. We also utilize isometrics (in a somewhat different, but similar way) with some of our most elite athletes for a wide variety of benefits that they provide. Here is an article defining an isometric contraction as well as details of the many benefits we find by utilizing these exercises for every athlete, no matter of training experience.

Intro 

Muscle contractions can be simply broken down into two different phases or types. Isotonic contractions involve muscular contractions with changes in the length of the muscle. The word isotonic indicating iso=same tonic=tone. During these types of contractions one can see both shortening (concentric) and lengthening (eccentric) of the muscle fiber. Isometric contractions are muscular contractions without changes in the muscle length. When training Isometrics, it allows us to challenge very specific positions of exercises or sports.

Before going into more detail, we must first distinguish two very important types of Isometrics. Overcoming isometrics involve applying maximal force to an immovable object (think trying to push into a building wall), while yielding isometrics involve holding a load at a specific position with the goal of resisting eccentric forces (examples of this would be holding oneself at the top of a pull up bar, or holding the bottom of a squat position). Overcoming isometrics involve recruiting the maximal amount of muscle fibers and involve a higher level of neurological demand. They are generally performed for short durations and are closely related to strength and power potential. I generally utilize overcoming isometrics with more experienced athletes who are preparing for a power and peaking phase of their training program. 

1) Yielding isometrics are closely related to eccentric strength and are less neurologically demanding so they can be held for longer periods of time. Yielding isometrics can be used to teach proper technique/positions to beginner athletes with low training ages with minimal risk. Positional holds can be mentally and physically challenging, and gives the beginner athlete a modality where they can push to a great deal of exhaustion without the risk of high loads or complex movements that they are not prepared for. It allows me to prepare a beginner athlete both mentally and physically for higher volume training, as they are going to experience immediate fatigue, but will not experience extreme soreness in the days to come following their training session. Muscular soreness is generally caused by breakdown of muscle tissue during exercise. Isotonic exercises involve repeated changes in muscle length which lead to a greater amount of tissue breakdown. Isometric exercises generate maximal muscular contractions without the constant deformation of the tissue. Minimal tissue distortion leads to less tissue breakdown, which in turn prevents soreness. This is a very important concept when dealing with new athletes.

2) Yielding isometrics can also be utilized to train the Amortization phase of HIGHLY skilled and trained athletes. We train the amortization phase of movements to help to teach the athletes to absorb and transfer of force properly through the body. Imagine an athlete performing an overhead toss with a medicine ball. They will use what we call the “stretch shortening cycle” to stretch and load the muscle tissues then rapidly shorten and contract to produce force to throw the medicine ball as high as they can. Our objective in training the amortization phase of movement is to maximize that transfer of energy from the Stretch (Eccentric) to Shortening (Concentric) muscle action with maximal control. 

3) Finally, I utilize isometric exercises at end ranges of motion, in order to create strength and stability through positions that lack active range of motion. Our bodies are capable of both active range of motion, defined as using muscular contraction to achieve positions (hip flexion), and passive range of motion, think static stretching. End range isometrics involve setting your position to the highest point then creating a concentric muscular contraction in attempt to go further into that range of motion. For example, if we take a general hamstring stretch where we will have the athlete lay supine (on their back), and use a band to pull their leg up into hip flexion (INSERT PICTURE), it’s commonly thought that this end range position is the weakest for that hamstring group. Now, if we take the hamstring to that same end range and then force the muscle to create an effortful isometric contraction, we can begin to build strength through the muscle’s weakest point.

5 Introductory ISOMETRICS that we utilize in on-boarding programs

There are a variety of educational exercises that we use in our onboarding program for athletes. Each exercise is used to teach proper positioning and muscle activation. We start with these exercises because they are easily coachable and display minimal risk to the athletes. All of these exercises generally begin with no external load, then as the athlete progresses and acclimates to training we can apply load. 

Isometric Squat

Isometric Deadbug

Isometric Glute Bridge or Hip Thruster

Isometric Lunge

Pushup Plus Plank

5 Elite Level ISOMETRICS that we utilize in Specific training phases of high level athletes.

Pin Hold Deadlift

Split Stance Unilateral Load Drop Landings

Copenhagen Plank

Long Duration Loaded Iso Lunge holds

Loaded Chin Up Isometric Holds

Two Major Improvements I can expect in my sport after doing a phase of Isometrics

  1. Increased strength and stability in less mechanically advantageous positions
  2. Increased muscular work capacity and rate of force development during athletic movements.

Concluding 

There are many applications for the use of isometrics in an athletes training program. We use them as tools of education, physical and neurological prep for a heavy lift, and ways to increase strength and stability in difficult positions. For the in season athlete, isometrics are a way we can still train hard without the same level of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) that might occur with general isotonic training. End range isometric contractions are used to increase both muscular strength and range of motion.

5 Ways to Utilize The 10 Yard Dash in Evaluating Athletes

By Coach Matt June

OVERVIEW

The majority of field athletes play a sport that requires them to accelerate quickly over a short distance. This alone is a reason enough for us to test a 10 yard dash. During the assessment of athletes, we have found benefit in utilizing the 10 yard dash for every type of athlete that enters the facility. 

-In a very short period of time, a 10 yard dash test will simply tell me if this athlete is fast or not. That’s for starters. I’ve found the 10 yard dash is a fantastic tool to expose technique, for good or bad. Looking at how an athlete attacks their first 3 steps can showcase the game speed of the athlete.

-In more detail, our 10 yard dash test is used beyond a metric of speed. Often times we utilize the test as a day to day measure of training preparedness. Done on our laser timing systems, we can get an objective measure to determine the recovery level of the athlete from previous training days. 

-From a safety standpoint, the 10 yard dash is one of the safest forms of sprint training you can be doing.  Once an athlete starts getting near max velocity, they run a greater risk for injury. Rarely do I see someone get a sprint related injury in the first 10 yards.

-Finally, Let’s also not forget about the general concept of a young athlete simply having fun, running fast and getting their time.  This goes a long way and the training intent increases when you start timing sprints.  

1: Are you fast or not

During assessment of athletes, we have found benefit in utilizing the 10 yard dash from youth to professional. In a very short period of time, a 10 yard dash test will simply tell me if this athlete is fast or not. That’s for starters. 

2: Tests Daily Preparedness of the Athlete

Often times I will have athletes perform a series of 10 yard sprints immediately following their warmup. This is a tool that I use to assess how prepared this athlete is to train that day. Major decreases in 10 yard sprint time will show me that an athlete may not be prepared to train at a high intensity that day. More importantly, if an athlete is consistently getting lower and lower times on a daily 10 yard sprint test, it may be time to adjust program volume and intensity and explore recovery and lifestyle strategies that they athlete may be struggling to implement.

3: A Functional Assessment tool

By watching an athlete run multiple 10 yard sprints we can get a pretty accurate idea of what TYPE of athlete they are. Are they elastic or muscle dominant? In short, elastic dominant athletes utilize stretch in fascia and connective tissue to produce force. Muscle dominant athletes utilize the contractile properties of the muscle itself to produce force. While both types of athletes may in fact run the same 10 yard dash time, a trained coach can see and hear the difference in the type of contact the athlete’s foot makes with the ground. This tells us how we will likely have to train them in the weight room. For example, an elastic dominant athlete might not need a large volume of plyometrics in their program where as a muscle dominant athlete might benefit greatly to an increased volume of jumps and plyometrics in their training.

4: A Personality Assessment Tool

What KIND of athlete are we training.  Regardless of age or training experience, we see a broad range of competitive expression when athletes perform a sprint test. I can identify the ego-oriented competitor, who may be overly concerned with another athlete’s time in relation to theirs. On the other hand, we have the confident competitors, who regardless of anyone around them they are on a mission to breaking their previous times. Lastly, I can identify the non-competitors, and more specifically, the nervous competitors. These athletes are those who generally fear failure and therefore don’t invest emotional energy into the task.  Regardless of the type of competitor, it is critical to time every 10 yard sprint to allow the athlete feedback in the intent they are eliciting every rep. In those who may shy away from being evaluated, it is important that the coach implements specialty exercises to allow the athlete to increase their acceleration ability. 

5: Answers the Important Questions

From a technique standpoint, the 10 yard dash is going to show me how this athlete accelerates. Are they standing tall, short, hunched over? How is their head position? What do their arms look like?  Are they moving too much side to side? Is their foot getting underneath them? What does their shin angle look like? How is their foot striking the ground? All of this happens in 8-12 steps. For many of our field athletes, this is sometimes all I need to see to assess whether or not this athlete is running with the proper technique that will allow them to maximize their speed potential.

Five Drills that Can Help Improve My 10 yard Dash

1. Bounding 

2. First three steps through low hurdles (working on foot placement shin/torso angle) 

3. Hill Sprints 

4. Resisted Sled Sprinting 

5. Barefoot Sprinting


Concluding thoughts

With so many different metrics being tested on athletes with incredible new technology, do we really know if any of these tests are answering the major question… Does the measurement have transfer to the field of competition? The 10 yard sprint is a simple test that I have utilized with all athletes in providing objective information in evaluating an athlete. From tracking speed and acceleration, to determining the functional and psychological predisposition of the athlete. More and more professionals in our field work tirelessly to create amazing, in-depth movement screenings, however my message to leave the reader with is to not forget about the simple tool of putting an athlete on the starting line. 

Words Matter: Why Coaches Have a Unique Position In Return to Sport After Injury. By Brett Poniros

“Brett Poniros is a Performance Coach at Athletes Warehouse. He was an NCAA Baseball player for Franklin and Marshall College. He is currently studying at the University of Bridgeport School of Chiropractic. In this article he talks about his unique outlook on how to work with an athlete who is returning to sport after an injury.”

Strength coaches have this incredible role to bridge the gap between the rehabilitation facility and the playing field. It is far too often that we see athletes leaving rehab and being sent back onto the field without having addressed many important foundations of sport. They leave being structurally sound, however not prepared for the physical or psychological demands to return to the playing field.

It is hard to deny that compared to rehab offices, a strength and conditioning facility simply offers a different environment that is critically important for an athlete when they are transitioning back to sport. The majority of rehab offices fail to provide an environment that mirror the energy of sport leaving an emotional gap in an athlete’s return to play. Physical injuries can often impact athletes on a psychological level as they can threaten the identity of being an athlete. There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty with an injury as it can endanger the longevity and future of an athlete’s career. Contrary to the typical rehab facility we work to create an environment that is focused on them as an athlete and not centered around the diagnosis that they were given.

At Athletes Warehouse we have a very unique way of communicating with our athletes who are returning to their sport after an injury. Words matter, and that’s the bottom line. Your choice of words as a coach can not only set the mindset of a training session, but can alter the way in which an athlete perceives their injury. We’ve observed athletes who have a more positive outlook on their pain and injury have a more rapid and successful return to sport. This becomes tough for our coaches, because we will not be the first person to make contact with the athlete after an injury or surgery. An athlete’s athletic trainer, MD, PT, DC, DO, etc. will be the person who sets the tone for their recovery process, and while understanding the pathophysiology of an injury is the most important step toward diagnosis and treatment plan, poor communication strategies during this process can often set a threatening outlook on the athlete’s path to recovery. Hearing terms like, “there may be a tear”, “you won’t be able to play this season,” or “you probably shouldn’t perform _________ activity for a couple of months,” while accurate in some sense, can be traumatizing to the athlete. During the return to play process, our coaches communicate with athletes in a way that eliminates the idea of “cannot” and “should not”. While we remain honest with our athletes, we utilize different language. Rather than saying “you can’t do a box jump with your knee right now,” we’d say “we’re utilizing a controlled landing drill in order to progress you to a box jump”. This projects the future as positive and progressive rather than threatening and degenerative.

The return to play process is complex beyond structure and function. As a coach we are accounting for physical and psychological variables that can manifest themselves in a variety of ways. At the end of the day energy and emotions play an integral role in preparing an athlete to return to the field. The combination of the right professional and the right facility can change the way that we bring athletes back from injury.

Teaching Agility and Game Speed

Game speed is an abstract concept. Sometimes athletes who are slow on the track appear as though they have a totally different gear on the field. For a long time, coaches struggled with this concept. They would often say, “That kid just has that type of speed you can’t teach,” or “That’s natural born speed.” But what is it about these athletes that makes them appear so fast on the field, when on a timer they are not nearly as impressive? This type of speed is called agility, and it is something that has been attempted to be taught through the use of speed ladders and complicated rhythmic drills. In Athletes Warehouse, we have the answer to unlocking agility, and it is no longer something that can’t be taught.

Agility is the ability to accelerate, decelerate, and change direction in any combination. However, we have found the number one determinant of agility to be reactive ability. This can explain how someone is able to continually gain a step on a defender who has faster acceleration times on the track. Once we determined that reaction determines agility, agility in game speed no longer becomes a skill that can’t be taught. In fact it can be taught very easily to athletes who are exposed to a specific training progression at a young age.

Agility drills that require the athlete to memorize and in-grain patterns into their memory fail to transfer to the requirements of sport. For example, if I’m a lacrosse defender and an offensive player is attempting to go 1-on-1 with me to the goal, there is no time for my mind to operate in a rhythmic order like a speed ladder drill. My subconscious mind is going act on the first hint of body language the offensive player gives away. Sports are chaotic, and therefore there are moments when we must train in chaos.

When we look at sports in terms of reaction to chaos, we realize how simple it can be to mirror this in training. No athlete should be in an agility drill by themselves because no athlete is on the field by themselves. Every action performed on a field is in response to another person. Utilizing a partner in our agility drills allows our athletes to accumulate repetitions reading another person’s body language. Even the best athletes will naturally express body language that will expose the direction they intend to move. When we progress athletes through a series of reactive agility drills they begin to become more efficient at reading their opponents.