Coaching Management VOL. XIV NO. 1
TRACK & FIELD PRESEASON EDITION 2006
HITTING THEIR STRIDE Perfecting athletes’ running mechanics
Developing a Coaching Philosophy
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Coaching Management Track & Field Edition Preseason 2006
Vol. XIV, No. 1
Bulletin Board . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Hitting Their Stride
Proposal to increase postseason funding makes headway at NCAA … High school coaches challenge strict uniform rules … USOC/NCAA Task Force issues report on state of Olympic sports … New nutrition research helps runners get ahead … Rutgers video program takes on tough social issues … NFHS changes rules for throwers and vaulters.
Q&A . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 The winningest high school coach in the state of Tennessee tells what it took to amass 20 state titles in 26 years. Susan Russ is the Head Track and Field Coach at Harpeth Hall Preparatory School for girls in Nashville.
Marketing Director Sheryl Shaffer Marketing/Sales Assistant Danielle Catalano Art Director Pamela Crawford Photo Research Dina Stander, Signs of Life Studio
Editor-in-Chief Eleanor Frankel Associate Editor Dennis Read Assistant Editors R.J. Anderson Kenny Berkowitz Abigail Funk David Hill Greg Scholand Laura Smith
The Heart of the Matter
Before you can help your athletes succeed, you need to know who you are and why you do what you do. Defining your coaching philosophy is your first mission.
The Latest Buzz
Whether it’s consumed to enhance performance or as part of the daily diet, excessive caffeine can be a negative for today’s competitive athletes.
ADVERTISERS DIRECTORY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
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GUIDE TO TRACK SURFACES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 TEAM EQUIPMENT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 WEB NEWS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37
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LOCKER ROOM BULLETIN BOARD NCAA Discusses Postseason Funding The NCAA Division I Championships/Competition Cabinet has endorsed a plan to help track and field programs afford to send athletes to both the indoor and outdoor NCAA championships. The Cabinet voted 47-1 this past fall to
“The good news is that we’ve made it onto the Management Council’s agenda,” says Mark Bockleman, NCAA Assistant Director of Championships and liaison to the NCAA Division I Track and Field Committee. “However, we don’t know exactly where we’ll fall in the council’s priorities.” As part of its overall $1.9 million in new budget requests
attending the national indoor championships. Currently, Division I schools choose to be reimbursed for either the indoor or outdoor championships, with most schools choosing outdoor because more athletes participate. In effect, this makes Division I indoor track the only championship in any NCAA division that doesn’t reimburse its participants. “The cabinet’s recommendation is that student-athletes in the national indoor championship be treated the same way as student-athletes in the other 87 NCAA championships,” says Chris Dawson, Assistant Commissioner of the Pacific-10 Conference and Chair of the Division I Championships/Competition Cabinet. “Philosophically, we believe all qualified student-athletes should have equal access to the championship, and lack of institutional finances shouldn’t be a barrier to participation.”
AP/WIDE WORLD PHOTOS
A proposal currently before the NCAA Division I Management Council would provide funding for both the indoor and outdoor track and field championships, making it possible for more schools to attend both. Above, Donovan Kilmartin of the University of Texas attempts six feet, nine-anda-half inches during the high jump of the men’s heptathlon at the 2005 NCAA Indoor Championships. reimburse schools for expenses related to both events, instead of just one or the other. The proposal now goes on to the Management Council, which will decide in March whether to send it on to the Executive Committee.
for 2006-08, the cabinet has recommended adding $869,000 ($442,000 for men and $427,000 for women) in new funding for men’s and women’s track and field, which would cover transportation and per diem expenses for
If passed by the Management Council in March, the proposal will be forwarded to the Executive Committee in April, and could go into effect in time for the 2007 championships. If denied, it will return to the Cabinet, which could discuss the issue again in September 2007. And though the committee could decide to fund only a portion of the $869,000, Bockleman believes it will either approve or deny the entire amount. “They’re looking at a whole list of priorities, and it really comes down to which ones the budget can fund,” says Bockleman. “The fact that it passed at the cabinet level demonstrates it’s an important issue, and if it passes the Management Council, it has a good shot at making it the rest of the way.”
Underwear Error Worth a DQ? The joke among members of the track team at Lincoln (Calif.) High School is that from now on, everyone will wear tights with little green apples printed on them. But for a few days in June, green apples were no laughing matter at Lincoln. At a California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) sectional meet leading to the state championships, a runner on the boys’ 4 x 400 relay team was disqualified when the boxer shorts he’d tucked underneath his uniform became unfurled during a qualifying heat. The little green apples printed on the boxers violated National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and CIF rules that any undergarments protruding from under shorts or a singlet be of a uniform color without visible print other than a manufacturer’s logo. “Yes, it’s a life lesson,” says Craig Pearce, Head Track and Field Coach at Lincoln. “But my feeling is that we’re getting carried away with rules, nit-picking little rules. You’ve got to remember: This is for the kids, not the coaches.” Coupled with a similar May incident in San Diego involving a female runner’s earrings, the disqualification prompted the latest round of complaints about the specificity of high school uniform and jewelry rules in track and field. The target of the complaint isn’t so much the rules themselves as the penalty. Pearce says a warning or some type of lower-level penalty ought to be allowed at the meet officials’ discretion. He says it could apply when the violation isn’t flagrant or intentional and doesn’t give a competitor an advantage. In his team’s case, he’d warned athletes about the undergarment rule, and the athlete tried to comply by rolling up his boxer shorts.
LOCKER ROOM BULLETIN BOARD “He started off running and there was nothing to be seen, and then they just accidentally rolled down and showed about an inch,” Pearce says. “I don’t think a fashion thing like that should be a big deal. It’s not like disrespectful or offensive language written on clothes. I think the philosophy ought to change.” Meet officials say they understand the frustration, but they have to follow the rules as written. Tom Crumpacker, Athletic Director at Dixon High School and co-meet director for CIF state meets held in Northern California, says the CIF follows rules set by the NFHS. The NFHS Track and Field Rules Committee took no action on the uniform and jewelry rule when it met this past June. Crumpacker says the rules are purposefully written to be consistent and enforceable without a lot of room for interpretation, so people running meets focus on prevention— warning coaches to tell their athletes about uniform and jewelry rules, and conducting pre-competition inspections so athletes can make adjustments before risking disqualification. “We try to go around and thoroughly check athletes and tell them what the rules are before they step onto the competition site. We try to prevent anything from disqualifying them.”
“I didn’t make a huge deal about it then,” says Pearce. “It’s in the rule book, so I didn’t protest it. But I think we’re losing touch with who this is for. You want to send your best athletes on and give them a chance. I do think the rules have gotten a little out of hand.”
risk.” Sports were labeled at risk through three steps. First, the sport must have been dropped by at least 10 Division I programs between 1989 and 2004. Second, the sport had to display a percentage decrease in the number of institutions sponsoring the sport during the same period. And third, the sport had to exhibit one of the following criteria: recent experience suggesting the programs are continuing to be dropped, the number of current programs relative to the number of programs in the 15-year period suggests that the sport is at risk, or a measurable decrease in squad size.
“Some sports made the list because their absolute numbers have gotten so low,” explains Jack Swarbrick, Chairman of the Task Force and an attorney with experience in both collegiate and Olympic sports. “Others still have high numbers, but they have negative trends. And some have high numbers and decent trends over the majority of the 15 years, but their history in the past few years is not so great.” Men’s indoor track and field currently has 246 programs and experienced a four percent decrease in school sponsorship over the 15 year period—men’s outdoor track and
Task Force Puts Men’s Sport on Endangered List A joint NCAA/U.S. Olympic Committee task force issued a warning in a report released in September: Men’s indoor and outdoor track and field needs an enhanced source of funding and a higher profile, or more programs will join the 594 Olympic-sport teams dropped by NCAA members between 1989-2004. Formed in May of last year, the NCAA and United States Olympic Committee Joint Task Force has met three times to discuss the decline of Olympic sports at NCAAmember institutions. The group’s report contained eight recommendations on what the USOC and NCAA coaches, athletes, boosters, and athletic departments can do to help Olympic sports thrive at colleges and universities. It noted that almost 12,000 student-athletes have experienced the loss of a program since 1990. One of the committee’s first steps was to identify the Olympic sports that are “at
A USOC/NCAA task force has released a report on the state of Olympic sports, including men’s track and field. Bennie Brazell (above) helped LSU win the 2005 college men’s 4x400 at the Penn Relays and also was an Olympic finalist in 2004.
AP/WIDE WORLD PHOTOS
Crumpacker admits the rules for high school track and field seem stricter than the rules at other levels and in other sports. For instance, viewers of international-level meets see world-class athletes wearing necklaces and earrings on TV, but those are forbidden in most high school track and field meets. Even Lance Armstrong-style wristbands are considered jewelry and illegal to run with, though wristwatches are now considered equipment and may be worn by runners.
If there’s a silver lining in Lincoln High’s incident, it’s that the involved runner was a sophomore, so he may have another shot at a state medal, and Pearce vows to be even more diligent about educating his team on clothing rules. As the coach, Pearce took the blame, telling the runner he should have made sure there was no chance his underclothes would disqualify him. And, of course, the team can joke about it—now.
field has 264 programs and experienced a 3.7 percent decline. Both indoor and outdoor have been dubbed “at risk” because of slowly declin-
of a joint charitable foundation to be in place and operational by the end of 2006. The Task Force also recommended surveying NCAA-member insti-
more effectively advocate for their teams. “What we see over and over again with eliminated pro-
The Task Force believes that the relaxation of some NCAA rules would help attract more athletes to play Olympic sports at the collegiate level. ing sponsorship and a recent history of programs being cut around the country.
tutions on how they prefer to control the cost of their Olympic sport programs.
After identifying the at risk sports, the Task Force offered eight recommendations to Olympic sports communities. Among them are increasing funds, building awareness, finding strategies for controlling cost, and increasing Olympic sports’ marketability.
To help build awareness of Olympic sports, the Task Force recommended adopting and advertising a value statement on campuses across the country as well as creating an electronic system to send stories of interest about Olympic sports and participating student-athletes to media outlets. The Task Force would also like to start a continuing education program to help coaches
The first and most pressing recommendation, to increase funds, includes the formation
grams is that coaches are completely blindsided by the decision,” Swarbrick says. “The more coaches can be engaged in the promotion of their sport within the university, the better off they’ll be. This education program would help coaches learn to do that effectively.” A more controversial topic the Task Force took on was whether athletes in Olympic sports should have to abide by the same rules as other NCAA athletes. The Task Force believes that the relaxation
of some NCAA rules, such as practice rules and amateurism status, would help attract more athletes to play Olympic sports at the collegiate level. “One of the challenges with Olympic sports is making them more marketable to fans,” Swarbrick says. “One way you can do that is to have more high profile athletes participating in them. There are also rules governing practice times and who athletes can practice with because some may perceive that as a recruiting advantage. But worrying about recruiting if a sport is disappearing doesn’t make much sense.” For more information about the Task Force, visit: ncaa.org, click on “search,” and type in “NCAA/USOC Joint Task Force.”
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Circle No. 105 COACHING MANAGEMENT
LOCKER ROOM BULLETIN BOARD Falling Short on Fueling Up
odds with fueling for athletic performance.
Three recently published nutrition studies have potentially big implications for track and field athletes and their coaches. Each addressed a separate topic, yet taken together these studies make it clear that athletic performance can depend on eating enough, eating right, and eating with the right attitude.
The shortages were most pronounced when it came to carbohydrates and protein—a particularly large problem for athletes, according to Hinton. Eating too little carbohydrate leaves athletes with depleted glycogen stores and a lowered ability to improve lactate threshold, speed, and maximal strength. Athletes are also left more susceptible to the immunosuppressive effects of exhaustive exercise—more prone to get sick. Without enough protein, muscles cannot adapt properly to training, even if athletes are getting enough overall energy.
Eating Enough: A University of Missouri study found that the majority of athletes do not properly fuel for performance. The study involved 345 NCAA Division I athletes from a variety of sports. Seventy percent
Hinton suggests encouraging athletes to pay attention to how they feel as one way to determine whether they are eating enough. Signs of undereating include fatigue that doesn’t end with rest, inability to finish workouts, an unexplained drop-off in performance, obsessions about food, and mood changes such as irritability, anxiety, depression, and severe emotional ups and downs. Stress and Stress Fractures: Cutting out the stress over eating might help cut down on stress fractures in female runners. Or so a group of sportsnutrition researchers hypothesize after studying the diets,
For track and field athletes, staying healthy means eating right. A recent study found that most college athletes do not ingest enough calories to fuel performance, while another study showed that female runners who are preoccupied with calorie restriction are more likely to suffer stress fractures.
The good news, says Hinton, is that coaches’ efforts to encourage healthy eating can go a long way. Coaches should not encourage athletes to lose weight during a season or while training, and they should explain to their athletes that the simplest way to improve performance is to eat enough and eat well.
eating attitudes, and behaviors of 79 Canadian women with and without stress fractures in their legs. Researchers at the University of British Columbia had the group of recreational distance runners, whose average age was 29, keep journals of what they ate for three days and
The only difference between those with stress fractures and those without was how much they focused on limiting calories, which is called cognitive dietary restraint (CDR). “CDR reflects the degree to which one is constantly monitoring and attempting to limit food intake,” Barr explains. Guest and Barr note that high levels of CDR have been associated with irregularities in the menstrual cycle and increased levels of cortisol, a hormone that is elevated in the “fight or flight” response and can retard muscle and bone growth and recovery from exercise. Will staying relaxed about what they eat help women avoid stress fractures? The authors think it might. “We hypothesize that if women could avoid stressing about what they eat (and what they weigh), it might reduce the cortisol levels that seem to be implicated in the risk for stress fractures,” Barr says. Going Low Glycemic: A third study looked at how the glycemic index (GI) of recovery meals affects the next day’s workout. Many athletes reach for high-GI foods after workouts, assuming that plenty of quickly digested carbohydrates are the best way to restore glycogen stores. But a study in England last year suggests a low-glycemic recovery diet may help distance runners run longer.
of the female athletes and 73 percent of the men questioned failed to get enough calories to fuel their activity levels. Sixtytwo percent of female athletes wanted to lose five pounds or more, which Pamela Hinton, lead researcher and Assistant Professor of Dietetics at Missouri, says is almost always at
answer a questionnaire assessing physical activity, age, height, weight, menstrual cycle history, and perceived stress. Subjects’ diets were analyzed and found to be basically sound and similar to one another, with calcium intakes similar to or slightly higher than those of American or Canadian women as a whole, according to Susan I. Barr, Professor of Nutrition, who worked with lead researcher Nanci S. Guest, a graduate student at UBC. Actual calorie intake did not differ significantly between the two groups, according to Barr.
Researchers at Loughborough University had male runners run on treadmills while hooked up to oxygen-mask monitors for 90 minutes at 70 percent of VO2max. Then they fed half the group a low-GI diet for 24 hours while the other half ate a high-GI diet. Both menus provided equal calories and proportions of carbohydrate,
fat, and protein. The next day, subjects ran at the same pace until exhaustion. The high-GI group ran for about 97 minutes and the low-GI group for about 109 minutes. The researchers analyzed the runners’ blood samples taken before and after their workouts and found increased fat oxidation in the low-GI run-
ners. They theorized that the low-GI diet prompted the muscles to use more fat as fuel. They also noted that other research has suggested high-GI diets retard resynthesis in the body of intramuscular triacylglycerol (IMTG), which is believed to be an important energy source during prolonged exercise.
RESOURCES A more comprehensive description of Dr. Pamela Hinton’s study on under-eating in athletes appeared in the September issue of Coaching Management’s sister publication, Training & Conditioning. It can be seen at: www.momentummedia.com/articles/tc/ tc1506/empty.htm. The study “Cognitive Dietary Restraint Is Associated with Stress Fractures in Women Runners” appeared in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, in April 2005. The study “Improved Recovery from Prolonged Exercise Following the Consumption of Low Glycemic Index Carbohydrate Meals” appeared in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism in August 2005.
Video Takes on Tough Topics At Rutgers University, an educational drama program called “SCREAM Athletes” has been used for several years to prepare athletes for negative pressures they face off the track or field. An acronym for Students Challenging Realities and Educating Against Myths, the program uses athletes as actors in fictional scenarios portraying real-life situations. The skits are followed by frank discussions about aspects of student-athlete life that are not always addressed openly, and the program’s candid approach has made it an effective tool on the Rutgers campus. Now athletic departments nationwide can access the same program. This summer, the Rutgers Department of
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Circle No. 107 COACHING MANAGEMENT
LOCKER ROOM BULLETIN BOARD Sexual Assault Services and Crime Victim Assistance (SAS/ CVA) collaborated with Rutgers Intercollegiate Athletics to produce a 25-minute video version of the program. The creators chose to focus the film on the issue of sexual assault, because research shows that some aspects of college athletics culture make violence against women a particular problem, according to Ruth Anne Koenick, Director of SAS/CVA at Rutgers. Language, traditions, and practices in athletics can create an atmosphere Koenick describes as “rape-supportive,” where violence against
women is tolerated or even promoted. However, the SCREAM Athletes video focuses not on problems within athletics, but on how athletes can be agents for change. “Are there differences between athletics culture and the rest of campus on this issue? Absolutely,” Koenick says. “But we don’t approach this as, ‘Student-athletes are more prone to being sexually violent.’ Our stance has always been that student-athletes have a unique opportunity to take leadership on this issue. Yes, there are some things in their culture that may be condu-
cive to sexual violence, so let’s help student-athletes step up and say, ‘This is not behavior that I will tolerate, in myself or in my teammates.’” Both the on-campus program and the video take an unblinking approach to addressing difficult subjects. “After a production, there is usually dead silence,” says Ryan Westman, a senior on the Rutgers Track and Field team who works as the program’s coordinator. “People are in shock at how realistic the skits are. The theater productions create a very real experience that leaves an impact. And that is something we strive for.” The video program is appropriate for both college and high school audiences, Koenick says, although she cautions that some high school administrators may have concerns about language used in the film. For either audience, she strongly suggests involving an expert in the field of sexual assault when presenting the video. The video is available for purchase on the Web. For more information, visit: http://sexualassault. rutgers.edu and click on “SCREAM Athletes video.”
New NFHS Rules For Vaulters, Throwers
Ryan Westman serves as coordinator for Rutgers’ “SCREAM Athletes” program, an acting troupe that uses theater to address difficult topics faced by athletes. The program has released a video, available to high schools and colleges nationwide.
Risk management was on the minds of NFHS Track and Field Committee members this past summer when they instituted two rules changes aimed at making high school track meets safer. The first change requires coaches to verify that all their athletes’ pole vault equipment meets standards beginning this season. The second makes the 34.92-degree throwing sector, which was optional last year, the standard sector size for shot put and discus beginning in 2006-07.
To comply with the new pole vault safety measure, each state high school athletic association will have to develop a procedure to ensure that all pole vaulting equipment meets required safety standards. “Here in New York, we have a card that vaulters fill out with their name, school, weight, and the poles they’re using in competition,” says Oscar Jensen, Boys’ Track and Field Coach at Baldwinsville (N.Y.) High School and a member of the NFHS Track and Field Rules Committee. “The coach and athlete sign it and assume responsibility for using the correct poles. The cards are turned over to the official running the event, who checks the pole against the card.” Other states will be able to develop their own procedure for verifying equipment before it’s used. Among the procedures that have been used before, Jensen mentions weighing vaulters before the meet and obtaining verification signatures from administrators, such as principals and athletic directors. Making the optional 34.92degree throwing sector for shot put and discus into the standard measurement was largely a safety decision for the committee. Previously, several different sector sizes were allowed, ranging from 40 to 65.5 degrees. “This minimizes the risk to athletes and to spectators alike by encouraging good throwing techniques and exerting better control,” Mike Colbrese, Executive Director of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association and Chair of the NFHS Track and Field Rules Committee, said in a press release announcing the new rules. The 34.92-degree sector is already being used by most track and field governing bodies. “This change is consistent with throwing the shot at levels beyond high school, it’s more convenient to lay out
on a field, and it requires the athlete to be more consistent and not have errant throws going every which way,” Jensen says. The convenience comes from the fact that a 34.92-degree sector can be drawn by taking a line from the center of the throwing circle out to the landing area and keeping it snug against the toe board.
AP/WIDE WORLD PHOTOS
In addition, the rules committee emphasized the importance of properly marking the curved lines on the track used for staggered starts in distance races.
High school discus and shot put athletes will be rewarded for accuracy in 2006-07, when an NFHS rule change makes the standard sector size 34.92 degrees. Above, D’Andra Carter of Red Oaks High School competes in discus at the 2005 Texas 4A state championships. Carter broke the state record with a throw of 163’6”.
More information on NFHS track and field rules can be obtained at the “Sport & Rules Information” section of the NFHS Web site: www. NFHS.org.
Circle No. 108
SUSAN RUSS Harpeth Hall Preparatory School
In 26 years as Head Track and Field and Cross Country Coach at Harpeth Hall, an all-girls’ preparatory school in Nashville, Tenn., Susan Russ has amassed 20 state titles—more than any other coach in the state. She has been named Tennessee State Track Coach of the Year three times, Regional Track Coach of the Year eight times, and Metro Cross Country Coach of the Year 10 times. The 2003 NFHS Sectional Coach of the Year, Russ is also a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Before beginning her career at Harpeth Hall, Russ was as a physical education teacher at Memphis State Uni-
versity, where she created the women’s track and cross country programs. From 1969 to 1979, she built the programs into serious contenders, leading the track team to a second place finish in the Tennessee State Collegiate Track and Field Championships and seeing several members of the cross country team qualify for national competition. At the start of the 2005-06 school year, Russ stepped down after 20 years as athletic director at Harpeth Hall to concentrate full-time on teaching physical education and coaching the school’s varsity and junior varsity cross country and track and field teams. In this interview, Russ talks about treating athletes as individuals, evaluating her own performance, and working with parents.
How do you approach the start of a new track and field season? Most of the new athletes have a basic idea of what event they’d like to compete in, but I also talk about the concept of being part of a team and emphasize that to field a full team we need people in every event. Early in the season, I’ll have each girl try a lot of different events. I encourage them to take risks. Being unafraid to try something new is an important part of track and field. And you really have to encourage athletes, especially girls, if you want them to try a new event, particularly if they feel they’re not going to be good at it.
Do you set goals for your athletes? The athletes and I set them together early in the season. The girls set specific short-term and long-term goals. I don’t want them to say, “I’m going to be state champion in the 800 meters.” Instead, I want to hear what they’re going to do to get there. And every
time a girl comes to practice, I want to know what her goal is for that day. How do you set goals for your assistants and for yourself? Before the start of the season, my assistants and I sit down and talk about our goals for the year: “What do we think this team can accomplish? And how are we going to get there?” Every year, my number one goal is to get to know each of my athletes individually. On top of that, always have specific goals for some aspect of training that I need to improve, drawn from the previous season.
After each season, Russ asks herself, "Did we get everything every girl had to give?" Above, three Harpeth Hall runners finish 1, 2, and 3 in the 1600 meters at the 2004 Tennessee State Championships. All three are now running at NCAA D-I schools.
THE CITY PAPER-NASHVILLE/MIKE STRASINGER
What’s the key to coaching high school girls? The most important thing is to never give up on a girl. Monitor each girl’s progress to keep her at a level where she can be successful. I’ve also learned that it’s really important to avoid over-training and to teach the girls to pay attention to their own bodies and communicate with me so I can head off potential injuries.
How do you assess your athletes’ potential in cross country? With the returning athletes, we already know how to group them. With the new girls, we learn by putting them into workouts. At the beginning of each season, we divide them into training groups because they do so much better if they have somebody to run with. I plan those early workouts so that I can observe which athletes are achieving at similar levels. Then, I have a pre-season scrimmage race where there’s not a lot of pressure, and that’s where we really begin to see who can do what. Some girls work really hard in practice, but have trouble in competition. Others don’t push themselves much in practice, but all of a sudden, they really step it up on race day and you see a totally different person.
CM: In 26 years at Harpeth Hall, your teams have won 20 state championships. What part of that success comes from your approach? Russ: The key is that we work very hard to help each girl reach her potential. We give as much individual attention as we can to each member of the team and make sure each athlete feels important. At the same time, we emphasize a team concept, with everyone pitching in to do their part. Focus, concentration, dedication, commitment, and hard work—those are the ingredients to success and what I emphasize.
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How do you evaluate your performance? Everything my girls do is recorded—in training, practice, and competition. After every competition, I replay the meet in my head, going over every race, every throw, every jump, just like watching a video playback, and I take notes. I have a constant evaluation process going on the entire season, and then at the end I look back and review everything we did. I don’t measure success by whether we win state championships. I ask myself, “Did we accomplish what we were capable of doing? Did we get everything that every girl had to give?” And if we didn’t, I try to think of what we could have done differently. I also sit down after the season and have a conference with my athletes. When the gun goes off, they’re the ones who have to perform, so their assessment of how things went is a very important part of my evaluation process. What have you learned about working with parents? If your program is well-organized, with clearly stated goals, you really shouldn’t have many problems with parents. Occa-
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sionally we’ll have a parent who thinks his or her child should be doing something else, and in those cases we sit down and talk with the parent. Ultimately, they need to understand that the coach decides what the girls do and don’t do. One of the most important things is to be a good listener. You have to listen to parents and work your way through any problems. If they understand that you have their child’s best interests at heart, most problems can be avoided. How do you get girls to come out for the team? One of the biggest challenges for high school track and field coaches right now is getting kids to participate. So we work hard to identify girls who are good athletes and make sure they know about the program. I’ll walk up to a girl in the hall and ask, “What are you doing in the spring?” And if she’s not already in another sport, I’ll say, “I’d love for you to come out for the track team. This is what I think you could do.” I don’t let any of those chances slip by. Sometimes a one-on-one approach and letting a girl know someone is interested is all it takes.
This year, we have 60 girls on our cross country team. It’s the largest group we’ve ever had, and I think what draws them in is that they like working out and being in good shape and they hear it’s fun. How do you help athletes who are being recruited by colleges? First, I identify those athletes early in their careers and explain the demands placed on collegiate student-athletes. If a girl really wants to compete at that level, her focus and concentration will have to be a lot stronger and she’ll have to work a lot harder in the offseason. If it’s something she wants to pursue, then we put a resume together. I find out what schools that girl is interested in attending and contact the coaches at those schools, giving them all of the proper information. But the main thing is to make sure the athlete understands what it takes to get to that level. What do you want athletes to take away from your program? I want them to experience a real sense of accomplishment, learn to work toward their goals, and get used to taking risks. They should understand that life is all
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Q&A about ups and downs, and the key to being successful is knowing how to deal with those peaks and valleys. If a girl has a bad race, I don’t get mad, because that doesn’t accomplish anything. If she had a bad race, she already knows it and doesn’t need me to tell her. So my first question to her is, “If you could do it over, what would you do differently?” By the same token, if you win the state championship, you get to celebrate, but you still have to come back and tackle the next challenge. Everything is a learning experience. What do you tell athletes about Title IX? I get asked all the time, “What did you do in track?” Well, I didn’t do anything. Growing up, I always considered myself an athlete, but I never had the opportunity to compete in organized sports. Apart from intramurals, there just weren’t any teams. When I was playing intramural basketball at Murray State, I found out there were girls on my team who’d played in high school, and I just couldn’t believe it. I said, “You played on a high school team? Like the boys?” I didn’t even know that existed for girls, because
in Illinois, we didn’t have a girls’ team. And at Murray State in Kentucky, they didn’t have a team either. We have athletes coming through now who don’t realize that women’s sports didn’t always exist. So we talk about it from time to time. I want the girls to know opportunities for women have not always been what they are today. How did you become a track and field coach? I was hired to teach physical education at Memphis State, where they already had a women’s volleyball team and a women’s basketball team. I was talking with my husband, who was a track standout at Vanderbilt, and I said, “I want to coach.” So he said, “Well, why don’t you start a track team?” So that’s exactly what I did. In January 1969, I went to the University of Illinois, where they had a coaching institute for women’s sports, and I was just a sponge. It was a learn-by-doing clinic, and that’s all we did morning, noon, and night. I’ve been to many clinics since, and I’ve put on clinics and kept up with all the changes in the profession, but the fun-
damentals that were taught in that clinic are still the fundamentals of coaching today. When I got back to Memphis State, I put signs up in the student center and got girls to come out for the track team. That was before Title IX, so I didn’t get paid to coach, and I already had a full teaching load. But that’s how women of my generation got started in coaching. How do you keep from getting burned out? I just love what I do and I always have. Sometimes it gets hard, but for every disappointment there’s a moment of joy. Earlier this year, when I stepped down as athletic director, it was because I felt stretched in so many directions. I wanted to be the best coach and the best athletic director I could be, but the program at Harpeth Hall has gotten so big that I felt overextended. I wanted to slow my life down. Some people say, “Why didn’t you just give up coaching?” And the answer is, “Because that’s what I love the most.” Why would I give up the thing I love most?
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Circle No. 112 COACHING MANAGEMENT
W Want to help your athletes make the most of what they have? Teach them to perfect their running mechanics so not a drop of energy is wasted.
BY GREG SCHOLAND
At Texas A&M, athletes benefit from Head Coach Pat Henryâ€™s knowledge of when to change their form and when to leave their natural movement patterns in place. PHOTO BY GLEN JOHNSON/TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY ATHLETIC MEDIA RELATIONS
HEN COREY IHMELS WAS A TRACK ATHLETE AT IOWA
STATE UNIVERSITY, HE ONCE ASKED A TEAMMATE, WHO WAS A NATIONAL CHAMPION STEEPLECHASER, WHAT MADE HIM SUCH A GREAT RUNNER. The answer took Ihmels by surprise. “He was from Russia, and when he was 10 years old, he was doing efficiency drills and hurdling to learn proper mechanics,” Ihmels says. “By the time he got here, he was an extremely efficient runner. I told him that when I was 10, I was outside playing.” Today, as Head Men’s Distance and Cross Country Coach at Iowa State, Ihmels is using that teammate’s answer to make his own runners better. “Most Americans don’t really begin learning about mechanics until they’re on a high school or even a college team,” he explains. “That puts
on what not to change—when it’s best to let an athlete maintain his or her own style, even though it violates some of the basic conventions of good running. Training Your Eye The first step in improving a runner’s mechanics is determining exactly what he or she is doing right and wrong. One of the biggest keys is knowing how to get the most out of observation. Vern Gambetta, owner of Gambetta Sports Training Systems and a strength and conditioning coach who has worked with high school, college, and professional athletes, has devised a framework for analyzing running mechanics called PAL—an acronym for posture, arm action, and leg action. It’s a very basic starting point, but Gambetta says it pro-
HITTING THEIR STRIDE them at a big disadvantage, so we’ve made teaching proper mechanics a major focus of our program.” The approach has paid dividends ranging from performance improvements to a drop in his team’s injury rate. “I really think working on mechanics is one of the best things a coach can do for his or her team,” Ihmels says. In this article, Ihmels and several other successful coaches share their methods for analyzing mechanics, teaching the basics of proper form, and helping runners change ingrained patterns of movement. They also weigh in
vides a useful context for evaluating the most important elements of motion. “I’ll always look at posture first, especially the alignment of the body and head position,” he says. “When an athlete is running at full speed, you want to ask yourself: Is there an upright posture? Is there a lot of bending forward or swaying side to side? Is the head in a neutral position? Posture affects every other aspect of running, so that’s where I start.” To evaluate arm action, Gambetta focuses on the range of motion of the arms and the direction of movement, keeping a close eye out for unnecessary
lateral motions. For leg action, he looks at all elements of the stride cycle, from foot strike to stride length to knee lift to whether the athlete has a natural, rhythmic fluidity. Of course, this is only a general framework for thinking about the bigpicture elements of form and mechanics. But whatever a coach chooses to emphasize to his or her runners, there are a few tricks to observing effectively. One of the most important techniques, Gambetta says, is broadening your perspective. “As coaches, we can get locked into seeing runners from only one side as we watch them from inside the track,” he says. “It’s better to observe from all angles, because you see different things.” Watching an athlete run directly at you and straight away from you, for instance, can reveal faults that are difficult to notice from the side, such as crossover steps and excessive rotation. Try going into the stands, bleachers, or even a press box for a bird’s-eye view. “Twisting about the center is one thing that you can see most easily from up high,” Gambetta says. “It also gives you another angle to look for crossing over with the feet. I even find that the runner’s movement appears to slow down a little when I watch from above, which helps me evaluate all aspects of their mechanics.” Gambetta notes that you shouldn’t limit yourself to only what you can see when evaluating a runner—sounds can be helpful as well. Loud, percussive foot strikes, for example, may indicate that an athlete is overstriding and/or landing flat-footed, while extraneous sounds can reveal shuffling or unintentional scraping of the ground during strides. Closing your eyes to listen to the rhythm of ground contact is an excellent way to determine whether a runner’s cadence is even and fluid. When evaluating specific performance faults, sometimes breaking down form into its component parts is the best way to pinpoint what needs to be fixed. At the Greg Scholand is an Assistant Editor at Coaching Management. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
University of California-Los Angeles, Assistant Men’s Track and Field Coach Tony Veney uses this strategy to isolate subtle causes of a runner’s deficiency. For instance, if a sprinter is starting poorly, Veney knows that several things could be to blame. The athlete might lack explosive strength, be slow in reacting to the starter’s pistol, or have difficulty making the transition from a starting stance in the blocks to an allout sprint. To find out exactly what’s going wrong, he starts by testing the athlete in the individual components that make up an effective start. “Standing long jump and vertical jump are both very good indicators of the strength needed for starting,” Veney explains. “So if I test a kid in the standing long jump and find that he does poorly, I know he’s got a problem with explosiveness. Right away I’ve figured out what I need to do—build up that strength. If he has a great standing long jump, then I know he’s got great power, so it must be that he’s not executing well or it’s something about the way he triggers.
“If I know the power is there, I’ll take a close look at what he’s actually doing when he starts, and maybe use video to slow it down,” he continues. “Maybe the kid runs flat-footed out of the blocks. Or maybe when he gets into position, if the starter holds for a long time, he settles back in the blocks.” Veney says this method of deconstructing a specific action can be much more effective than simply using repetition to improve performance or fix a fault. Also, he points out, testing the basics of running doesn’t require expensive, high-tech equipment—just a little creativity. “When I was a younger coach we didn’t have a machine to test vertical jump, so I dipped my athletes’ fingers in a little white paint and had them jump as high as they could and touch a wall, and I measured that,” he says. “I still test standing long jumps in a regular sand pit. Testing those basic things puts some data in front of you so you can focus on the things you really need to do to help your team.”
Drilling Smart In addition to closely observing individual runners, effective drills are often the keystone of running mechanics instruction for an entire team. The drills that are most appropriate for any given athlete are dictated by his or her event, but using drills to teach the fundamentals of running form can benefit all athletes. At Iowa State, Ihmels devotes practice time every week to an extensive drill regimen that incorporates running form drills with flexibility work, strength and explosiveness development, and balance. For flexibility, athletes perform exercises such as leg swings, straight-leg kicks, and several types of hurdle drills, including step-overs and side kicks. Strength work includes plyometric bounding and multiple variations of medicine ball tosses to recruit the muscles of the core. Balance is addressed with single-leg drills that involve squats, hops, and front and rear leg raises. Running and form drills include A walks, A marches, A skips, and karaokes, all performed with a focus on high knee lifts.
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Circle No. 114
ILLOGICAL EXTREMES Want your athletes to understand why running with proper form is so important? Try teaching them how it feels to do it exactly wrong. It’s a concept that Tony Veney, Assistant Men’s Track and Field Coach at the University of California-Los Angeles, uses to help athletes grasp the importance of good mechanics. Veney borrowed the idea from John Smith, coach of track stars Maurice Green and Torri Edwards and currently the coach of the U.S. National Team. Smith once told Veney that to teach proper mechanics, it may be necessary to push elements of running form to their “illogical extreme.” “Sometimes you have to exaggerate a bad movement to get them to feel a good movement,” Veney says. “For instance, if I just tell a kid to keep his shoulders relaxed, he’ll have a hard time
remembering that while he’s running. So before I tell him to relax his shoulders, I’ll make him run with his shoulders very tightly shrugged. If you have someone exaggerate a thing like that, they can feel how different and uncomfortable it is. When they’re in a state of fatigue they’re less likely to notice the slow tightening and raising of the shoulders, but if they can easily recognize that feeling, they can better monitor themselves.” This method is also useful when trying to correct existing faults. “I once had a runner who really pounded on her heels when she ran, and when I watched her walk, I noticed that she was leaning back,” Veney says. “I asked her to lean even further back and try to walk, and she found it quite difficult. Then I had her walk and lean forward in the position that I wanted her in when running—and she said she could really feel the difference.
“When I let her walk in her normal way again, she said, ‘Wait a minute, it still feels like I’m leaning back,’” continues Veney. “That helped her understand. You want to create as much of a disparity as possible between the right way of doing something and the wrong way, so the athlete can clearly feel why one is better than the other.” When he holds clinics for young runners, Veney begins the lesson on avoiding sideto-side rotational movement by having athletes do the twist. While they’re dancing, he tells them to notice what their arms, hips, and feet are doing. Then, he has them run while paying attention to those same things. “They’re amazed at how hard it is to go from twisting to running with good form,” Veney says. “But they can feel the difference very easily, and it teaches them not to twist while they run.”
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“I consider the whole routine to be the equivalent of three to four miles worth of running,” Ihmels says. “If my athletes need additional mileage beyond that, I’ll have them run after we finish the drills, because it’s very important that they are fresh enough to do the drills the right way. The whole point is to develop proper technique.
the changes that will make their running more efficient.” The drills are such a large part of Ihmels’s program at Iowa State that one of his major recruiting criteria is whether athletes will buy into the training program. “I look for athletes who are going to be able to catch on to these drills and really benefit from them, not
An effective cue is quick, simple, and produces the desired result. It reminds athletes to stick to the proper movement when it would be easier to slip back into an ingrained habit. “The development of muscle memory through repetition is a major goal of our drills,” Ihmels continues. “We want athletes to leave the drills knowing, ‘This is the way my arms should be, this is the way my knees should be, this is how the foot should come over the opposite knee.’ If we didn’t break these things down and focus on them individually, the kids would have no reason to make
guys who just want to go out and run,” he says. “I’ve had athletes who are pretty good runners, and I’ll send them away for the summer with these drills. I’ll watch them run when they come back to school, and I’ll say, ‘Wow. You’ve been doing your drills, haven’t you? You’ve become a different athlete.’” Gambetta says he likes creating his own drills that tap into the body’s natural
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reflexes. He finds athletes benefit most when training in ways that the body is naturally inclined to move. One of his favorite drills is called the Drop-and-Go. “The athlete starts in a hips-tall position and leans forward from the ankles,” he explains. “I catch them when they’re at about a 35-degree angle, hold them there momentarily, and then drop them. They drop smoothly into a running action—the forward leaning triggers the natural stumble reflex in the body, so as I drop them they quickly get their foot down and apply force to the ground. A drill like that is useful for both sprinters and endurance runners.” Cueing In While drills can teach optimal running form, they’re only effective if athletes apply what they’ve learned during races. Using well-developed cues is a key to making sure that happens. An effective cue is quick, simple, and produces the desired result. It reminds athletes to stick to the proper movement during times when it would be easier to slip
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back into an ingrained habit—especially during the pressure of competition or when fatigue is setting in. “By the time runners get into a race scenario, they need to be on autopilot,” says Todd Coffin, Head Men’s Cross Country Coach at Colby College. “Oftentimes the only instruction you want to give them while they’re running is a subtle reminder to be aware of the most important things. Usually I’ll just make a quick comment, like ‘Pick up your knees,’ or ‘Run tall.’ Most of the time that’s enough to produce the desired result.” Sometimes a visual cue is the best way to trigger a specific action or running form adjustment. “If an athlete has a tendency to throw their head back at the start of a race, I’ll teach them to watch their first step hit the ground,” says Gambetta. “In order for them to see that first step, they have to keep their head in a good position as they’re starting.” Gambetta adds that you shouldn’t be afraid to use what he calls “false cues” to prompt a particular result. For instance,
if an athlete has a chronically short stride and telling her to lengthen it doesn’t work, try instructing her to overstride when she runs. What feels like overstriding to that athlete may in fact be an optimal stride length. UCLA’s Veney says the key to finding the best cues is getting to know an athlete’s individual learning style and tailoring the cues to what he or she is most likely to understand. “If I tell 10 kids to relax their muscles when they’re running, I’ll get 10 different responses,” he says. “Sometimes the right cue is just a matter of what the athlete can feel or visualize. “For instance, if I’m working with sprinters on hip position, I want them to know that if the hips are rolled back, it robs them of the ability to produce power at top speed,” Veney continues. “So I use the cue ‘Suck in your tummy,’ because they can’t roll their hips back and suck in their gut at the same time. They can picture that, and they can feel their hips roll up tall as soon as they do it. I also tell them to picture their hips
as being like a bowl, and when they suck in their tummy, the bowl levels.” Veney adds that as athletes are receiving cues, it’s important to constantly evaluate their reactions to make sure they’re getting the right messages. “If you tell a kid to run tall, as long as his back is straight between his hips and shoulders he’ll think he’s running tall, even though he might actually be stooping at the waist,” he explains. “Sometimes you’ll find that you need to slow down and start them out with walking, followed by skipping, followed by running, so you can methodically show them exactly what it should feel like when they’re responding to the cue.” Let It Be One caveat for coaches to keep in mind as they teach and drill mechanics is that it’s important to avoid a boilerplate approach to running form. Like baseball pitchers or hockey goaltenders, some runners may need to stick with the idiosyncrasies that work for them. “All you have to say when you talk
Circle No. 117 COACHING MANAGEMENT
COVER STORY about unique running styles is ‘Michael Johnson,’” says Pat Henry, Head Men’s and Women’s Coach at Texas A&M. “I’m sure that everybody who worked with him noticed right away that his knee lift and carriage are quite different from the norm. But you can’t say they don’t work for him.” On the other hand, Henry adds, for every Michael Johnson there is also a Carl Lewis. Lewis’s coach, Tom Tellez, taught him to take off in the long jump with the opposite foot than he had used
all through high school, and after four Olympic gold medals in the event, it would be difficult to challenge the wisdom of that decision. So how does a coach know when an athlete’s unique running style is an asset and when it’s a liability? The truth is there’s no simple answer. “The biggest question to ask is, does the running technique inhibit performance?” Veney says. “If an athlete can get down the track faster than anybody else, I’m not going to change a thing. If some-
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Circle No. 118
one has an unorthodox technique and you work to change it, you might end up inhibiting the things they do well.” Gambetta says each athlete has a “movement signature,” and he, too, recommends making adjustments only when something is hampering performance. “My rule of thumb is, before you start making changes, watch someone run for a couple of days, and watch them at different speeds,” he says. “Sometimes you’ll see a fault that is negatively affecting them, and all it takes is making them aware of it. Other times you’ll find it’s something more remedial, like a lack of strength in the core or legs, and that’s something the athlete will have to work on. And sometimes you’ll decide it’s better to let them run the way they’re most comfortable.” Henry offers a final warning: Never let the unique mechanics of one successful athlete affect the way you coach the other runners in your program. “As coaches we sometimes see somebody run very fast while doing something a little bit different, and all of a sudden we think that’s the way it’s supposed to be,” he says. “In truth, that isn’t the way it’s supposed to be, it’s just the style of that individual. There are basic principles of proper running form that apply to most athletes, and we have to remember that, even when we’ve got an athlete who defies them.” Patience and Progress For any coach who chooses to make running mechanics a training focus, Ihmels suggests remembering that patience is a virtue. Athletes need to buy in long-term to see real results. “Working on mechanics is a process,” he says. “Some athletes may get frustrated because the results aren’t there immediately, so you have to explain that sometimes there’s a lag before they start to see the payoff. I tell my athletes that it would be easy to just go out and run hard and not worry about good mechanics, but they’ve got to be patient and persevere, and know that they’re working to really become better runners. “I tell them, ‘You’re becoming more efficient with your sprints, more efficient with your drill work, and stronger. Eventually, that will get you to the point where you’re that guy at the end of a race who’s very efficient, very strong, and really has it together.’” ■
THE HEART OF THE MATTER Before you can help your athletes succeed, you need to know who you are and why you do what you do. Defining your coaching philosophy is your first mission.
JAMIE SCHWABEROW/NCAA PHOTOS
BY LAURA SMITH
hen Head Women’s Basketball Coach Mike Divilbiss moved from LewisClark State College to the University of Idaho, he felt prepared for the pressure of climbing the coaching ladder. He’d built the LC State program into an NAIA Division I contender, winning 33 games in his last season and taking his team to the Final Four. He was ready for NCAA Division I competition. Or so he thought. “In my first two years at Idaho, we won 11 and 10 games,” says Divilbiss, now in his fifth season at Idaho, with a contract extension that runs through 2010. “Coming off a season with 33 wins, that was a soul-searching time for me. I asked myself, ‘What are you doing here? Who are you? What’s important to you?’ “I expected the experience of moving to Division I to be about adjusting to a higher level of competition and focusing on the scoreboard,” he continues. “Instead, I ended up completely re-examining my coaching philosophy Laura Smith is an Assistant Editor at Coaching Management. She can be reached at: ls@MomentumMedia.com.
At the University of WisconsinLa Crosse, Head Coach Mark Guthrie’s coaching philosophy involves putting athletes into competitive situations where they must stretch their limits.
and really asking myself, ‘Why coach basketball in the first place? What’s so important to me about it?’” Divilbiss’s soul searching resulted in a personal philosophy statement that’s published on Idaho’s athletics Web site. In place of the usual collection of stats and accolades, Divilbiss’s bio describes how he goes about molding a basketball team into a family and teaching his players to handle successes and failures in life. “In the end, I came back to the fact that winning wasn’t the most important thing to me and that success was about much more than the scoreboard,” he
says. “Changing jobs ended up providing me with the chance to truly define my coaching philosophy.” What’s your coaching philosophy? Whether you think about it daily, analyze it once a season, or rarely reflect on it at all, it’s the framework on which your performance is built. Coaches who take the time to clarify and refine their philosophies are rewarded with a roadmap for better decision-making and a deeper, more meaningful experience for themselves and their athletes. Here, we ask veteran coaches in three different sports at three different levels of competition to talk about their
MA KING A S TATEM ENT Along with figuring out your coaching philosophy, consider writing a personal philosophy statement. Developing a concise, written description of your philosophy will allow you to think about what is important to you and communicate that to others. When there’s a decision to be made, your philosophy statement will serve as a personal guide to steer you in the right direction. Here is a way to break the task down into a six-step process. Write a list. The first step is to create a list of everything important to you in life—everything. If family is important to you, list it. If having time to exercise is a priority, list it. How about your professionalism? Winning? Salary? Try to include everything that may impact your daily behavior. Prioritize your list. Next, prioritize each item on the list: 1 = very important, 2 = somewhat important, and 3 = moderately important. Here’s an example: Family: 1 Influencing students: 1 Success of athletes: 2 Friends: 3
Winning games: 1 Championship titles: 2 Lifelong learning: 1
There is no right or wrong in this process. The items listed and the numbers next to them should reflect your true feelings. Create the statement. Look at all the #1 items and write a paragraph or more that links them together. If some of the #1 items do not seem to fit what you want to say, it’s okay to leave them out. And you may decide to “upgrade” a few #2 items because they help to define what you are truly about. Elaborate and add text to bring out what really inspires you on a daily basis. The following is an example of the opening of a philosophy statement: “I love to learn, and learning inspires me to teach others. Through coaching, I hope to positively influence today’s youth, so they might be good citizens tomorrow.
coaching philosophies. They discuss what their philosophies are, describe how they evolved, and recall the experiences that formed their beliefs. Focusing on the Journey Mark Guthrie, Head Coach of Men’s Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, has used a coaching philosophy with three basic principles to guide 19 teams to NCAA Division III titles. The first principle is that the experience belongs not to him, but to his student-athletes. “I had my time, and this is their time,” Guthrie says. “So I let them tell me what
By Dr. Dennis Docheff
Patience, kindness, and love direct my interactions with athletes. Although I like to win, it is imperative that I do so in a fair and just manner. I believe in doing what’s right.” Publish it. When people think of publishing, they typically think of books or magazines. But coaches have many avenues to publish their philosophy statement. The simplest way is to place it in a frame and hang it on the office wall or post it in the locker room where athletes can read it. Other ideas include: placing it on a Web site; printing it on 3x5 cards you hand out to athletes; and including it in a preseason packet for athletes and parents. Put it into practice. The most important part of the process is putting the philosophy into action. Try setting one or two monthly goals that are directly related to your philosophy and check your work at the end of each month. Another idea is to create a term “report card,” either on your own or with a mentor to gauge progress toward your larger goals. Or keep a journal, where you write about your daily activities, then reflect on how well your behavior matches your philosophy. Review it. As people grow and mature, things that were once important in their lives may change and thus their philosophy may change, too. Even if the philosophy statement remains the same from year to year, reviewing the document will refresh your perspective. Certainly, trying to live out a public philosophy puts pressure on a coach. It takes courage to tell people, “This is what I’m about. Please hold me accountable.” However, writing and reviewing your philosophy will help you coach in a manner that truly represents who you are. And the longer you use it, the more likely you will be to reach your goals. Dennis Docheff, EdD, is a Professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance at Central Missouri State University and a former football, basketball, and track and field coach. A version of this sidebar has been published in Athletic Management, Coaching Management’s sister publication.
they want to accomplish. I allow the student-athletes to set their own individual and team goals, and my role is to help them reach those goals.” Based on that philosophy, Guthrie starts each year by asking his team to set a goal for the season. “Not surprisingly, they always come back with, ‘To win the national championship,’” he says. “Everything is geared toward winning the title, from how I plan practices to how I approach meets. If they told me one year their goal was to win a conference title, I’d base everything on that instead.” Second, Guthrie believes in regularly putting his student-athletes into challenging competitive situations—even if they feel they’re in over their heads. “We’re a D-III school, but we run at Wisconsin, Minnesota, Purdue, and the Drake Relays and the Kansas Relays,” he says. “I believe in taking my athletes where they are going to see fantastic talent. It gives them confidence when they get to the most critical situation we face—our national meet.”
A team focus is the third hallmark of Guthrie’s philosophy. “I talk to my athletes a lot about how every member of the team, whether they score points or not, contributes to the final result,” he says. Guthrie says that watching other coaches—both those he respects and those he doesn’t—has helped him refine his philosophy over the years. “I remember early in my career watching a coach chew out a kid who had screwed up in a meet,” he says. “I knew right then that wasn’t going to be part of my philosophy. Some coaches say, ‘You have to tear kids down to build them back up,’ but I don’t believe that. When an athlete screws up, they know it, and the last thing they need is to be torn down. I tell them, ‘Tomorrow is another day. Let’s start over from here and do what we need to do.’” Guthrie also believes in testing his beliefs by watching how they stand up in tough situations. “Going into the D-III indoor championships two years ago, one of my athletes was the top thrower in D-III history in the 35-pound weight, and we were counting on him
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for 10 points toward the title,” he says. “Instead, he fouled three times. It was a big blow, but I followed my philosophy. I told him, ‘The sun is still coming up tomorrow and even though this is pretty important to us, it’s not the end of the world.’ Then at the outdoor nationals, he threw a lifetime PR and won the hammer. If I had jumped down his throat at the indoor nationals and told him he had let us down, I’m not sure he would have had the confidence to put it behind him. So I believe my philosophy served me well, and it goes back to when I saw that one coach early in my career do just the opposite. “The longer you coach, the more your philosophy evolves,” he continues. “You see what works and build on that, and you see what doesn’t work and change it. It’s a slow process. I think it takes at least a decade before you have a fairly solid philosophy. And even after that, you don’t want to get locked in—there is no such thing as a permanent coaching philosophy. Good coaches never stop looking for ways to adapt.”
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Guthrie sets aside a special time after each season ends to evaluate his philosophy. “I go out on my boat, and no one can go with me,” he says. “I don’t bring a cell phone. I just cruise and think about what happened during the season. Are my core beliefs and my approach working? If the answer is no, I start breaking down what isn’t working and figure out how to change it. “The toughest time to evaluate your philosophy is when you’re succeeding,” he continues. “After a losing season, it’s
phrase that has come to stand for a very specific way of doing things. On the basketball court, “play hard” translates to putting in maximum effort every day. Playing smart reminds his players to take care of the little things: boxing out for rebounds, making the sure pass, reading defenses properly. And playing together means an athlete understands teamwork—she knows when to pass the ball and when to take it to the basket. However, “hard, smart, together” extends beyond the basketball court. “It applies to every facet of their lives, and of my life too, because I also ask it of myself,” Divilbiss says. “I expect them to play ‘hard, smart, and together’ in the classroom and socially as well. I expect them to extend maximum effort in their schoolwork and to ‘play together’ by helping each other make good decisions in social situations. “I don’t believe you can be one person in one part of your life and a different person in another part of your life,” he continues. “So my players can’t tell me they’re going to be a mess academically and then become disciplined and accountable on the court. My philosophy is that we have to build quality people who are ready to make good decisions and give maximum effort on and off the basketball court, and ‘hard, smart, together’ has become shorthand for that.” Divilbiss says he deliberately puts time into thinking and reading about coaching philosophy, even after nearly two decades as a head coach. “Reading has shaped my philosophy a great deal and still does,” he says. “I’ll read something and think, ‘I like that. That fits me.’ Then I’ll make it part of my philosophy. “I spend a lot of time listening to other coaches, too,” he continues. “I go to clinics not so much to learn about basketball now as to hear coaches talk about why they do what they do. And of course, my philosophy has also developed through my experiences.” One of those experiences came at Lewis-Clark when his team was 26 and 0 and ranked number one in the country as it entered the conference finals. When his team lost the game on a halfcourt shot at the buzzer, Divilbiss says his own reaction disappointed him. “I
“Above all else, make sure you truly care about your players. If you do, they will remember it for the rest of their lives.” easy to look back and try to figure out what went wrong. But it’s just as important to go back after a great season and ask, ‘Did we do everything we could or is there a better way to do it?’” Over the years, Guthrie says his philosophy has evolved to be much less about wins and losses and much more about the process. “I’ve come to realize that it’s all about the journey, and I’ve developed a little tradition to communicate that to my athletes,” he says. “I make sure we are always the last ones to leave a competition. We wait, and after the noise has died away and all the other teams have left, we just stand there for a minute and look around so they don’t forget the experience. The medals will tarnish and the ribbons will fade, but the memories are what will carry them for the rest of their lives. I tell my athletes, ‘Just stand here a minute and soak it in so you’ll always remember what you’ve been through and what you’re a part of.’” Three Little Words Divilbiss has a philosophy that’s distilled down into three words: hard, smart, together. He freely admits the words are borrowed from legendary basketball coach Dean Smith, but Divilbiss has put his own stamp on the 26
didn’t get down on the kids, but I didn’t lead,” he says. “I lost my perspective and I was making it all about the scoreboard. Ever since, I’ve wished I could have that moment in the locker room back. But evaluating that experience helped me return to who I am and what I believe in.” Along with pivotal moments, Divilbiss uses his daily experiences and interactions to refine his coaching philosophy. “One way that I evaluate how well my philosophy is working is to continually ask myself, ‘What does this team need from me?’” he says. “I also ask my captains that question and listen carefully to their answers. If I’m constantly adjusting my approach to give them more of what they need, I know I am working from a sound philosophy. “There’s really no time when I’m not evaluating my philosophy,” he adds. “It’s synonymous with who I am as a person, and that’s something I think about every day.” From the Heart Ask most football coaches for their coaching philosophies, and you might not expect to hear much about love. But Al Fracassa isn’t most football coaches. He’s won more games than any other football coach in his state and has been honored with an NFL Coach of the Year award. Head coach for more than three decades at Brother Rice High School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Fracassa sums up his coaching philosophy this way: “Work hard and do the best you can every day. Know what you expect from your players and make sure they know, too. Never forget that each member of your team is equally important. Above all else, make sure you care about your kids, because there is a whole lot of love involved in being a good coach. If you don’t truly care about your players, you will not ultimately be successful. But if you do, your kids will remember it for the rest of their lives.” Fracassa says his philosophy began with what he learned from his high school coaches and became solidified when he competed for Michigan State. “The coaches made every player feel they were a part of the team,” he says. “They were disciplined coaches, but they also cared about each player as a person. I believed at the time—and
I still believeâ€”that was the reason we won the national championship in 1952. Iâ€™m going back a long way, but that was definitely the beginning of my philosophy.â€? Fracassa says the biggest developments in his coaching philosophy have reflected changes he sees in the athletes he coaches. â€œYears ago, I was tougher in the things I said to athletes,â€? he says. â€œBut as the culture has changed and the expectations of athletes and their parents have changed, Iâ€™ve eased up a lot. I still let them know when I donâ€™t like their effort, but Iâ€™m more conscious of saying it in a way thatâ€™s not going to hurt their feelings. Itâ€™s important to evaluate and adjust your philosophy as times change.â€? Winning has dropped in importance as his philosophy has evolved, Fracassa adds. â€œWhen I was a young coach, I went into every season thinking we had to win all our games,â€? he says. â€œBut over time I started asking, â€˜Is this really what itâ€™s all about?â€™ Itâ€™s good to teach to win. But whatâ€™s important is that kids
are a part of something. The lessons they learn come from being out there every day, not from winning a state championship, and thatâ€™s become my philosophy now.â€?
â€˜Never give up,â€™ from Vince Lombardi. And how about, â€˜Contentment with past accomplishments stifles future achievementsâ€™? I got that from a Salada tea bag, but it fits into my philosophy.
â€œI still let them know when I donâ€™t like their effort, but Iâ€™m more conscious of saying it in a way thatâ€™s not going to hurt their feelings. Itâ€™s important to evaluate and adjust your philosophy as times change.â€? Throughout his career, having concise phrases to sum up his philosophy has helped Fracassa define what heâ€™s about as a coach. â€œMy high school coach used to say, â€˜Do it better than itâ€™s ever been done before,â€™â€? he says. â€œThat simple phrase has stuck with me throughout my entire life and I use it with my players. I borrowed the phrase,
â€œIf youâ€™re trying to figure out your philosophy, make it simple,â€? he adds. â€œFigure out what youâ€™re about as a coach and put it into simple terms that you can put up on the wall and repeat to yourself. It helps you guide your coaching, and when players come back 10 years later, those are the concepts they still remember.â€? â–
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THE LATEST BUZZ hen ingested, it triggers changes in the same area of the brain activated by nicotine, cocaine, and heroin. Used regularly, it leads to tolerance and addiction. Attempting to discontinue use prompts painful withdrawal. Many of your players may be using it, and in fact, you probably had a dose of it today yourself. Caffeine. Eighty to 90 percent of American adults consume it every day, and student-athletes on college campuses are no exception. Increasingly, high schoolers are rivaling adults in their caffeine use, downing sodas and visiting coffee shops for frozen or sweetened caffeinated drinks. In addition, many student-athletes turn to the drug to enhance their athletic performance. Certainly, concern about caffeine use pales in comparison to the use of substances like steroids and ephedra. But heavy consumption can have some very real downsides for student-athletes’ health and performance. And while there
Whether it’s consumed to enhance performance or as part of the daily diet, excessive caffeine can be a negative for today’s competitive athletes.
is laboratory evidence that caffeine enhances performance, athletes who use it as an ergogenic aid need to be educated about the risks and realities of competing under its influence. The Daily Grind When student-athletes become daily caffeine users, particularly with heavy use, both their health and performance may suffer in ways they aren’t even aware are happening. One of the biggest risks is that caffeine use disrupts sleep, and studentathletes are often sleep-deprived to begin with. “High school and college students are notorious for not getting enough sleep, and caffeine increases the length of time it takes to fall asleep and decreases total sleep time,” says Laura Juliano, a caffeine researcher and Assistant Professor of Psychology at American University. Laura Smith is an Assistant Editor at Coaching Management. She can be reached at: ls@MomentumMedia.com.
“It’s absolutely essential for athletes to get enough rest to repair muscle tissue and perform optimally.” It doesn’t require downing a double espresso right before bed to lose sleep from caffeine consumption, either. Studies have shown that consuming a
recent studies have challenged the longheld belief that caffeine is a diuretic, most caffeinated beverages are still not particularly good sources of hydration. If they replace water or sports drinks in an athlete’s diet, chances of dehydration increase. Last but not least, student-athletes who use caffeine daily will “I don't see student-athletes up a tolerance, gradually taking caffeine pills, but I do see build needing more and more to them drinking more caffeinated achieve the same effect. They’ll beverages before contests. And also develop dependence and feel they need caffeine to funcI've had more athletes ask, ‘If I like tion normally. “When it comes to drink a cup of coffee before my chronic caffeine users, it’s often meet, is it going to help me?’” difficult to separate the effect of the drug from the effect of not moderate amount of caffeine early in having the drug,” Juliano says. “In other the day can reduce the quality and words, they may think caffeine makes quantity of that night’s sleep. them feel and perform better, but in Another concern involves caffeine’s reality, it just keeps them from feeling ability to produce anxiety. Again, the bad from not having it.” effect does not require huge doses. StarFew sports nutritionists advise college bucks reports that its 16-ounce coffee athletes to avoid caffeine altogether. It’s contains 400 milligrams of caffeine— simply too pervasive an ingredient in the exact amount researchers adminismany foods and drinks. But how much ter in the laboratory to induce anxiety, is too much? according to Juliano. “There is already a “If a student-athlete does not want to lot of anxiety in the lives of most stube physically addicted to caffeine, he or dent-athletes,” she says. “And caffeine is going to magnify it.” A student-athlete who has an exam looming, a paper due, and a game coming up may down a mug or two of coffee For student-athletes who need to make it through the day, then attrito lower their caffeine intake, bute feelings of stress and anxiety to the it’s essential to develop a stratworkload. “In reality, caffeine is probaegy, because withdrawal sympbly making them feel much worse, but toms can hit harder than they they don’t realize it,” says Juliano. expect. Daily consumption of coffee and Caffeine researcher and Assistant colas also deprives the body of calcium, Professor of Psychology at Ameriaccording to Barbara Lewin, a nutritioncan University Laura Juliano and her ist based in Fort Myers, Fla. “Coffee and colleague Roland Griffiths recently colas are high in phosphorus, and the conducted a review of existing literabody requires a certain phosphorus-toture on caffeine withdrawal. “One of calcium ratio,” Lewin says. “If your phosour most important conclusions was phorus intake is high, and you don’t that caffeine withdrawal is clinically ingest enough calcium, your body will significant,” she says. “Some people pull calcium from your bones. Most stubecome so ill that they mistake the dent-athletes don’t get enough calcium withdrawal for the flu. It’s important in their diets as it is. Often, when I look to take caffeine withdrawal seriously.” at a student-athlete’s daily calcium intake Juliano suggests helping studentalongside their use of coffee and colas, athletes cut back by letting them they are in a negative calcium balance.” know what to expect. “Explain to There are two other nutrition negathe student-athlete that whenever tives to be aware of. First, since caffeine you use a drug regularly, your body increases the production of stomach makes a series of adjustments,” she acid, large amounts can induce an upset stomach or acid reflux. Second, although
she needs to use well below 100 milligrams a day, which means drinking only one caffeinated soft drink or a very small cup of coffee a day,” Juliano says. For student-athletes who find that recommendation unrealistic, nutritionists advise that they keep their daily intake under 300 to 400 milligrams a day. While this amount does cause dependence on the substance, other side effects, such as anxiety, sleeplessness, and digestive disturbance generally don’t occur. Staying under 400 milligrams requires limiting intake to about two cups of coffee or three caffeinated soft drinks a day. Caffeine & Performance Beyond consuming coffee as part of their daily routines, many athletes are turning to caffeine as an ergogenic aid. “The prevalence of caffeine as a performance aid is something I’m seeing more and more,” says Josh Hingst, Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach and Sports Nutritionist at Florida State University. “I don’t see student-athletes taking caffeine pills, but I do see them drinking more caffeinated beverages before
says. “When your body doesn’t get the drug, it is forced to go through a period of readjustment—and that can significantly interfere with performance in school and athletics.” Leah Moore Thomas, Sports Nutritionist at Georgia Tech, advises student-athletes to reduce caffeine gradually. She first has athletes tally all the sources of caffeine they typically use, especially hidden ones like coffee-flavored yogurt or caffeine-containing medications. “Then I ask them to reduce it a little at a time,” she says. “If caffeine is present at three meals a day, I have them replace it at one meal with juice or water or a decaffeinated soda or coffee. Once they do that for a while, I ask them to try including caffeine only once a day, and then go to every other day. My goal is for our studentathletes to reach a level of use where if they don’t have caffeine for a day, they don’t feel any adverse effects.”
contests, especially the so-called energy drinks,â€? agrees Leah Moore Thomas, Sports Nutritionist at Georgia Tech. â€œAnd Iâ€™ve had more athletes ask, â€˜If I drink coffee before my meet, is it going to help me?â€™â€? The answer, according to recent studies, is probably yesâ€”but with some big caveats. â€œThere is a wealth of information to suggest that caffeine allows people to exercise harder and longer,â€? says Lawrence Spriet, an exercise physiologist, caffeine researcher, and Professor at Canadaâ€™s University of Guelph. â€œAs athletes get tired, caffeine improves their ability to maintain focus and level of effort. Caffeine also reduces perceived exertion, so athletes report that they donâ€™t feel like they are working as hard.â€? In laboratory studies, caffeineâ€™s stimulant effect also seems to boost awareness, vigilance, and alertness, particularly during long-term exercise bouts. However, although caffeine may boost performance in laboratory tests, questions remain when trying to apply those findings to actual competition.
â€œWhen you introduce all the variables In addition, advocating that high that are involved with sports, it becomes school athletes use caffeine to perform much harder to measure whether cafbetter may put them at increased risk feine has improved an individual athfor trying other, and more dangerous, leteâ€™s performance,â€? says Spriet. ergogenic aids. â€œTelling a 14- or 15-yearIf caffeine can boost performance, old athlete that caffeine supplementashould coaches encourage student-athletes to use it? When it comes to â€œOnce athletes are in college, many high schoolers, absolutely of them are going to use caffeine as not, says Spriet. â€œI do not an ergogenic aid. Someone needs to recommend caffeine use with developing individu- be there to say, â€˜If you're going to als,â€? he says. â€œIn fact, if it use it, here's how to use it without were up to me, it would harming your body.â€™â€? be banned for athletes under 18.â€? Juliano agrees. â€œFrom a chemical tion is an okay idea sends a dangerous standpoint, we donâ€™t know whether cafmessage,â€? says Lewin. â€œIt opens them up feine affects a developing central nerto the idea of a quick fix, of taking a pill vous system differently from an adult to become a better athlete. Can it lead central nervous system, because that to abuse of other performance enhancresearch cannot be done for ethical reaers? We donâ€™t know for sure, but itâ€™s cersons,â€? she says. â€œWe know that the brain tainly an issue to be aware of.â€? is still developing, and that caffeine With these risks in mind, itâ€™s imporaffects brain neurotransmitters, but tant for high school coaches to talk with beyond that, we just donâ€™t know.â€? their athletes about caffeine. â€œWe know
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