Since the inception of Team Works Sports Academy in 2013, it has been our mission to use sports and performance training as a vehicle to build teamwork and leadership abilities, to enhance fitness and health, shape values, improve sports skills and more importantly develop friendships and a passion for all sports.
We live in a day and age where adults - coaches, parents and sports trainers are pressuring kids to show "commitment" by specializing in one sport. Pushing them to play in multiple games / tournaments each weekend while the adults are busy obsessing over all-state teams, scholarships and pro contracts.
When you consider the overuse injuries, emotional burnout and research studies that reveal that kids who specialize in a single sport don't have a better chance of earning a college scholarship, the question becomes, "Why are we doing this to our kids?"
I’ve been training and coaching student-athletes for the better portion of my career, working with athletes ranging from 9-16 from every sport, so I’m fairly confident I have the experience (10+ years) to chime in on such a steamy topic.
So let's do this :)
3 Things to Consider When Training Youth Athletes
#Early Sports Specialization is NOT the answer.
Yep, I said it. And I am pretty adamant on this point.
Nothing derails a young athlete’s development more – both mentally and athletically – than being a one-sport-wonder.
When I was kid growing up my parents had me in one a sport for every season. Now, it is debatable whether this was on purpose or just to keep me out of the house, but whichever the reason, I one hundred percent believe that playing a variety of sports throughout the year allowed me to excel in soccer, which is what I ended up playing in college.
Playing multiple sports helped me to develop a variety of athletic abilities and made me not just a better soccer player, but a better athlete and teammate. Moreover, it kept me open minded, healthy and prevented me from developing overuse injuries that are quite common in sports like baseball.
I stress these points with every young athlete and soccer player that goes through my program. Playing more of the same game is not the answer. It saddens me when I start working with a youth athlete and I ask him or her which sports he or she plays, and they respond with “soccer” or “football."
The numbers don’t lie: 92% of NFL Draft – rounds 1-3 – were multiple sport athletes in high-school.
And I have to assume that that stat mirrors other leagues such as MLB, NBA, and the NHL.
#Kids Are Not Professional Athletes
There’s zero need to get fancy with kids in the weight-room. They need to learn how to move, sprint, throw and jump.
Many people are quick to ask how “so and so (insert any elite athletes name, Steph Curry, Tom Brady) trains?” or “what program is he or she using?” The implication being….do what they’re doing and you’ll get the same results.
Smh. It doesn’t work like that...
The better question might be “what did they do 10 - 15 years ago to help set the foundation that allowed them to succeed further down the road?"
Listen, Dad. Speed work and agility drills at this stage are kinda like giving a Volkswagon Jetta a sweet paint job and rims to give it the appearance of being fast. However, until we address the horsepower – i.e., work on the basics, mechanics & getting stronger – it’s still going to be a Volkswagon Jetta.
Youth athletes need Goblet Squats and to learn how to perform a push up well, not parachute resisted sprints, flipping enormous tires and CrossFit.
#Sport-Specific Training Does Not Exist
There’s no such thing as a “soccer-specific program” or a “football-specific exercise.” I understand there are some exceptions to this, but for all intents and purposes the statement is true.
Ask anyone of our student-athletes, they hear it all the time; "Our end goal is to make you a better athlete." To immerse he or she in an environment that allows them to explore all facets of movement and motion.
If you have ever caught our training videos and clips on Facebookor Instagramyou will observe that we never go out of our way to emulate what’s accomplished on the field or court. Athletes get enough “sport specific training” playing their respective sport(s).
Our time with our athletes is used as a tool to marinate kids in movements and exercises they’re not accustomed to; to address weaknesses and build resiliency; to help build confidence and self-esteem; and, you know, ultimately to make their competition wish they didn't show up.
Written by Andrew Haas
#Mental Preparation Looks Differently
Every student-athlete prepares differently for competition. It is a mistake to assume that all athletes prepare the same way or that they prepare the way you did when you were a student-athlete. It is important to be observant and learn what your athletes like to do to prepare themselves and then create an environment where they can prepare in that manner.
#Focus on Process
Use reminders to focus on the process of playing well. Avoid emphasizing the importance of winning by saying things like, “We need this win" or "This is a big game." Performance anxiety is real and chances are your student-athletes already know the implications of the game. The process of playing well is much more under your athletes’ control and they will be much less stressed or anxious if they have specific aspects of the game to focus on rather than the outcome. Try using system of play and team tactic directives to build the results you desire. "We focus on our game - Move the ball. Be involved. Execute."
Do not provide them with an out or a "Plan B." For example avoid saying things like "I know you are tired” or "We are banged up." Statements like these only provide your student-athletes with built-in excuses if things aren’t going well or they are tired.
Following these three keys will help you communicate more effectively before competition and give your athletes a better chance to succeed.
Written by Andrew Haas
#Be Available student athlete development sports preparation
Players need to feel that their coach cares about them as a person; not just as an athlete who can help them win games and establish a successful program. Relationships are a two-way street; it requires listening as well as talking because it involves both inputs and outputs. Players are people first and great coaches make time for the person as well as the player.
Communicating effectively allows coaches to teach players leadership and the necessary skills to produce peak performance and increase the possibility of having a successful program.
It is very common among young athletes to see weakness or imbalances in core, hamstring and lower back muscles. Too often this region is neglected only because this muscle group isn't seen as often in the mirror as other parts of the body. The lower back, hamstrings and glutes are perhaps our biggest strengths when attempting to produce power and precision through any sport-specific movement. The key to any true sports performance training is a consistent focus on balance and stability. Balance and stability are key drivers in reducing risk of injury and overall athletic development and performance. They increase center of gravity, allowing to produce greater force and strength to make more precise movements. Without them, one cannot expect to perform at an optimal level or make gains in the weight room or sport. sports preparation student athlete development
Here are 3 Exercises the help improve strength, stability and athleticism.
#Single Leg Russian Deadlift
This variation is done with a straight leg targeting the hamstrings and lower back muscles as stabilizers. By working one leg at a time, the athlete eliminates asymmetry and also challenges balance and coordination. Lifting the back leg into the air allows for an increase in range of motion and challenges your balance. Other Single Leg RDL variations are done with a bent knee by lowering the body into an athletic position (one can jump out of). s
#Reach Back Lunge
This is essentially the previous exercise, but with a larger range of motion. This exercise requires more hamstring activation thus increasing hamstring strength in the athlete. The Reach Back Lunge is more of a sport-specific movement than a Forward Lunge and is great for developing speed and power. In contrast to a Forward Lunge, which places too much body weight on the ball of the front foot, the Reach Back Lunge movement swings the back leg forward into a standing position developing power in the front leg in the proper direction for athletic performance.
#Bounce to Drop Lunge
This is a more dynamic version of the Reach Back Lunge, which helps groove a rhythm with the movement. It also helps teach the athlete body control, timing, coordindation, rhythm and force absorption which is vital in all sports.
Written by Andrew Haas
(MAR 26. 2018)
HAPPEN IF YOU FAIL?
(JAN 20. 2018)
(DECEMBER 23, 2018)
(DEC 5. 2017)
#Don’t Hide It student athlete development sports preparation
There is no need to “secretly” change a culture. In fact, you should wear that culture change like a badge of honor. Be the change you wish to see. You are the leader, their role model, you must be everything it is you want to see in your players. Bring the bad habits and poor culture that has developed to light and claim that you’re ready to throw it away. Changing an ingrained culture requires a strong leader; no one is going to do it willingly, you must show them the way and be the focal point of the change.
#Don’t Falter student athlete development sports preparation
If you want your players to buy-in to your culture change, you must first buy-in to your own plan.
Stick to your guns and don’t give in to playing players with negative attitudes or those who refuse to get on board. If you’re going to be the hardnosed coach who plays an old-school, grind-it-out style, then be the hardnosed coach who plays an old-school, grind-it-out style. If you’re going to be a rah-rah-type player’s coach, then be a rah-rah-type player’s coach. There are no half-measures.
Make adjustments as necessary, but do not give up on the overall direction and goal of YOUR plan.
Written by Andrew Haas
#Supporting Cast student athlete development sports preparation
Once you’ve removed the distractions from your team, you must identify the players who embody the culture you desire and get them in prominent positions to lead your team.
As a coach, you’re only around the team so much and you can’t change an entire culture on your lonesome. You need to have players who follow your lead and advocate for your culture in order for the rest of your team to move in the right direction on its own.
That means team leaders must understand the basic principles of the culture you want to install and comprehend the plan you have in place. Empowering student-athletes goes a long way to changing a culture.
One thing I've learned rather quickly in 10+ years of coaching is that the profession is ever-changing and coaches at each level of competition need to know more than just the X's and O's in order to be successful. Eventhough athletic performance (i.e.,wins and losses) can become a focal point for coaches to build programs, attention to detail, accountability, urgency, skills mastery etc. are primary responsibilities when attempting to increase the development of a team. sports preparation student athlete development
Developing a healthy team culture is as important in the sports world as it is in the business world. In applying these concepts to a sports team, it's important to first understand what a team culture is and why it is of essential value. A "culture" is the expression of a team’s values, attitudes, and beliefs about sports and competition. It determines whether the team’s focus is on fun, mastery, or winning or whether it promotes individual accomplishment or team success. The culture is grounded in an identified sense of mission and shared goals.
Team culture is a very meaningful and important idea in the overall body of a team. Culture is essentially the heart of what motivates your body to keep moving forward. A team with a strong heart beat; a deeply-rooted connection to past and present teammates, coaching staff, family etc. have a greater sense of "togetherness" and are typically a contender at the end of the season, while teams on the opposite end of the spectrum are usually bogged down in mediocrity and dysfunction. That’s why, at nearly every Major League Sports press conference when introducing a team’s new coach, someone mentions that the team is in need of a “culture change.”
Of course, changing a collective culture is much easier said than done. Culture is like a habit; it’s a way of being, a way of doing things, a way of life that becomes the norm of acceptable behavior on a team. These norms can dictate how players behave, communicate, cooperate and deal with adversity. It literally defines everything about the team.
If your team or program is in desperate need of a culture change, here are a few steps you can take to spark that change.
Your first act should be to take a page out of Chip Kelly's book and cut your DeSean Jackson. In other words, allow those individuals who perpetuate a negative culture to "weed themselves out" or take action and remove those individuals yourself.
Unfortunately, this is not always the easiest task. Just look at what cutting Desean Jackson did to the Philadelphia Eagles, as losing their most dynamic weapon stunted the rest of their offense. But Coach Kelly set out to change the culture of the organization by removing a “me-first” guy for team players and not star powered players.
Whether they’re a starter or a third-stringer, cutting the negative players loose sends a strong message to everyone else.
A COACH WITH THE RIGHT ATTITUDE WILL SET HIS TEAM UP FOR SUCCESS.
A coach presenting a positive attitude during the parents meeting and the first few interactions with the players will set the tone for the rest of the season. It will be a direct indicator of how he will handle the players, what he will and won’t accept and will be a strong support for his season long goals.
It’s extremely important for a coach to have a positive attitude and good conversations with the parents. The parents want to know who they are entrusting their child with and it’s as much about how you will handle yourself as a leader as it is your competency on the dry erase board regarding X’s and O’s.
The coach must be the personality model for his players as the team will often take on the personality of the coach. That may sound crazy, but it's true. By midseason, I often saw my players imitate certain mannerisms and sayings displayed by our coaching staff. Sometimes even cracking my "dad jokes." But this is especially true in difficult and challenging situations as the players will revert to what they have experienced to be successful – and they can’t go wrong if they do what they think the coach would do. Make sure those mannerisms and sayings are ones you want your kids to repeat.
Here are my 4 Keys for Creating a Positive Attitude Among Players:
#Develop an Attitude of Praise
Celebrating a player’s efforts by letting her know she tried hard and you’re proud of her can go a long way in fostering a positive climate. There are lessons to be taught in winning and losing, successes and failures. Remember, a yelling coach will create deaf ears, and a coach that constantly yells at his players has nothing to escalate to.
Coaches' negative behaviors affect athletes' performance by causing low-expectancy performers to perform more poorly because of less reinforcement, less playing time and obviously less confidence. When a coach focuses on the negatives, the players will immediately feel failure. When the coach accentuates the positives, players will feel success. My high school coach once told me that if I'm not making mistakes, I'm not doing anything. His point was that it’s our responsibility as coaches to teach every kid what is correct and empower them to go out and give their best effort. When you show negativity to a player, even if you hope it motivates her to improve, little by little it will eat away at her confidence, and therefore, her decisiveness.
#Stress the Positives
Effective coaches understand that success is not always measured by wins and losses. Success can be the freshman that always struggles with shooting form, connect a solid strike on net. It could be measured by the senior defender that put in extra time after practice learning how to slide tackle execute a clean and timely tackle on an attacker in a game. My point is confidence is a learned action. When coaches stress the positives, we are cultivating self-confidence. When coaches continue to provide players opportunities and a positive climate needed for self-confidence to thrive, players become unstoppable.
#Apply Positive Discipline
The key to positive discipline is not punishment, but highlighting the positive actions the player could have taken, ensuring to show that she is capable of taking them, and reinforcing the effects if she had taken those actions. For example, take the two players messing around waiting between sets on a drill. A coach approaches them and says, “Hey you two. Did you take notice to the rest of the players watching the drill. You two can do the same thing... And in doing so, you gain mental repetitions and use that to make yourselves better. Then, you’ll be the ones with your names called on game day.” Coaches can be both firm (ensure your intent and expectations are clearly stated prior to the action) and kind (positive and supportive when desired actions or attitudes are shown), with the ultimate goal of self-discipline and no loss of confidence from the player. This will reinforce social skills in a manner that is directly applicable to on and off the field discipline, as well as a good player/coach relationship.
Coaches, please don't feel that constantly being positive is a sign of weakness. Coaches should always remain firm and strong with their actions and outlook. By keeping a positive beat and championing a positive climate each day, coaches will improve players self-confidence and produce a shared identity among the team. Confidence is the key to their success and YOURS! The more your kids WANT to play for you, the less you will have to MAKE them play for you.
Written by Andrew Haas
I can’t tell you how many student-athletes I have worked with that fall into Fear of Failure category. You want to be perfect, so you work really hard. Then when there’s something on the line (“win 3 games and you’re in” or “a college coach is watching”), you tense up and hold back. You get so focused on not failing that you get conservative, you don’t go big, you don’t do what you always do, and you fail.
This fear isn’t all bad. It drives athletes to bust their butts, to put their all into training. But, it’s also a major cause of “choking” under pressure.
So, how do you keep the fire lit for training without getting overly stressed out on game day?
I believe there are 3 things you must do to start getting more consistent under pressure:
#FOCUS ON THE RIGHT THINGS
Every practice/game should have a focus.
For example, my goalkeeper used to always focus on the goals she allowed. She would work herself up almost every game and always hold herself accountable for losses although soccer is a team sport.
I had her start focusing on being present, in her body at practice, doing one thing at a time. Supporting her defensive front for passes, distributing to open areas on the field, becoming a vocal leader and dictating play. This was an entirely different kind of goal for her. Interestingly, when she took the focus off of making saves and goals allowed, her team started having a lot more success.
Do one thing at a time
Get in the habit of doing one exercise at a time. Pay attention to how you are executing your skills in each drill. That way, if you make a mistake, you’ll know exactly what to work on in practice. Failure becomes your friend. Your best teacher. It gives you valuable information to improve your training.
Focus on what you can control
Here’s an exercise I like to do with clients who struggle with Fear of Failure: take out a piece of paper and fold it “hot dog style.” On the left side, write a list of things you can control (i.e. effort, attitude, focus, preparation etc...I call these “Controllables”). On the right side, write a list of things you can’t control (i.e. officials, parents, injuries etc... I call these “Let-go-ables”).
When you make a decision to let go of the factors you can’t control, and focus on what you can, it prevents you from burning up energy unnecessarily. It makes it so that you can focus in school, not be stressed out all day thinking about things you can’t even change.
Focus on the process
Goals can be very motivating for some people. Some people, not all. There are lots of different types of goals. For our purposes, I’ll break them down to these three types:
Outcome Goals – “Win the game”
Performance Goals – “Score 1 Goal and Tally 1 assist”
Process Goals – “Follow through on my shots for second chances”
Outcome goals have their purpose. They make you train hard, and push through discomfort. Goals like “get into my dream college” and “win states” are great fuel for hard work in practice. They do not belong at games.
The kind of goals that help you overcome fear of failure and perform well under pressure are process goals.
For example, set your intention to follow your shots for rebounds and second chances. These give you a sense of self-achievement that is based on your personal improvement. They are about mastery, progress, and self-improvement. From where you are, not where you wish you were. Set performance and process goals. Set your sights on continual forward progress. Constantly stretch yourself in comparison to yourself.
The only place you can be truly free from either regret or worry is in the moment. Right here. Right now. When you start to stress about things that haven’t even happened yet, do your best to come back to right now.
Start where you are
If you tend to compare yourself to other athletes, I guarantee it doesn’t feel good. Also, if you’ve come back after some time off, or an injury, mental block or setback, etc… Comparison is not your friend.
Learn to get rid of self-judgment and start where you are. Not where you “should” be or where your teammates are or where your coaches or parents expect you to be. You can only improve from where you are now.
Accept what is
The fact is: you’ve put in the amount of training you could. You’ve shown up, done the work. Or maybe you haven’t. Either way, every practice and game is a chance to learn. Not a chance to fail. A chance to learn something about yourself as a human and a competitor. If you’re stuck dwelling on failure, you’re missing the complete picture.
When I work with my team, after a game or practice, I have them reflect. ALL. THE. TIME. The main questions I ask them are:
What went well?
What could have gone better?
What did you learn?
When you get in the habit of paying attention to successes, failures, and lessons, there is no such thing as a “bad” game or a “bad” practice. They’re all stepping stones to your best performance.
#LEARN TO BOUNCE BACK QUICKLY
First, whatever you believe to be true will be true. If you expect to lose a game your body will do what you tell it to do. It will make a “BAD GAME” a reality. Your brain is in charge, the body just follows what you believe to be true. It’s very cooperative. If you keep repeating “BAD GAME” to yourself, your body will say, “OK!” and sabotage your performance. Believe me. I’ve seen this over and over and over as a HS Soccer Coach and a Sports Performance Coach. There’s nothing more powerful than what you believe to be true.
Second, if you are terrified of anything going wrong, you will tense up without realizing it, then your skills won’t flow, and you’ll make mistakes you don’t usually make.
Have a plan for failure. When you know exactly what to do to re-set yourself and start fresh, you don’t have to fear it. Then you won’t tense up. You’ll be free to let your training shine through. Champions aren’t people who don’t fail, they just fail quickly.
We’re impatient. We want it now. We want our hard work to pay off. We want to measure up. We want to reach maximum potential. NOW. Then we fall short. And we’re devastated. That’s why you have to start where you are, and pay attention. Become more aware of what you’re thinking to yourself, what your expectations are, and come back to the present. Do one thing at a time, and it will pay off. Let go of the outcome, the future, what other people think of you, and it will pay off.
Be consistently accountable
Consistent practice, along with setting the right kind of goals will release you from the fear of failure and allow you to perform at your absolute best. Repeated practice will change the way you think and operate. The younger you are when you start this process, the better.
Find a group of like-minded people, and work together to improve your thinking. This doesn’t mean you proclaim to the group, “I’m going to be All-American!” and then don’t change anything. This means you set a goal for the near future, and every day set an intention to improve (your personal best). This means even when you’re tired, burned out, or afraid, you keep moving forward. The accountability of your group or team will give you strength when you feel depleted.
If you see failure as a tool to help you improve, you don't have to be afraid of it. If failure is a reason to punish yourself, its something to fear. The more you practice this way of thinking, the more consistent you are, the more quickly you will learn to let go of the fear and perform to your maximum potential.
Written by Andrew Haas