Edito Letter From The Editor
Letter from the Editor:
“All I ask is that they try their best.” Several coaches I’ve interviewed for this edition of Ultimate Athlete said that. Coaches from all sports at all levels, not just high school, say that all the time. Although it’s almost a cliché it’s true, especially at the high school level of athletics. Most of the players who perform at this level probably won’t go on to play sports at a Division I college and those who do have a slim chance of ever playing their sport professionally, but that doesn’t mean that the effort they put forth should be anything less than their best. Coaches and players from the peewee level to the professional level always seem to talk about their athletes doing their best. But what does that really mean? It means persevering. If a soccer team is losing by three goals in the final minute or if a batter is down to his or her final strike in the bottom of the ninth inning they have to continue to play as if they have a real chance of winning. The 2004 Boston Red Sox exemplify this extremely well. Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera walked Kevin Millar in the bottom of the ninth inning in game four of the American League Championship Series. Dave Roberts came on to pitch run for Millar and stole second base. The Red Sox went on to become the first and only team in Major League Baseball history to win a best-of-seven series after being down 3-0. They never gave up and they won their first championship in 86 years. It means not being afraid of failing. Coaches and players constantly talk about not being afraid to fail. Teams who went winless the previous season believe they can win this season. Runners said they could set a new personal best time for a five-kilometer race. These young athletes’ aspirations may be realistic or they may not be. Regardless of the degree of their practicality, these goals are ones that the athletes have set for themselves. They have made the decision to practice during the off-season, to run an extra mile, lift weights for another hour, or run passing routes with their quarterback everyday all summer. Making wise decisions is part of trying one’s best. Being able to look at a situation and determine what the best course of action is part of being mature. Most of the kids I’ve spoken to are some of the wisest individuals I have ever met. They know what constitutes a good decision and what doesn’t. They are not afraid of making a wrong decision. They are not afraid of failing. They understand what the consequences are if they miss a ball, overrun a passing route, or don’t try their hardest, but they are not afraid to make a decision, even if it the wrong one. They move onto the next play and are wiser for their mistake. These athletes are too focused on trying their best to worry about failing. And they should be applauded for that.
Ultimate Athlete Magazine
Paul Corace N.J. Comanzo
Joe Luis Covarrubias Joe Weinreb director of development Scott “Scotto” Savitt senior producer Jessica Peters graphic editor david Stewart distribution manager Richard Brooks editor Daniel Hubbard senior sports editor SENIOR ART DIRECTOR
william green kevin baumer dan hubbard jessica quiroli kevin haslam michelle tuchol jay granat joe pietaro mike meija sandy sarcona Cover Photos by anne kasten Cover GRAPHiC WORK by Joe Weinreb Contributing photographers
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Ultimate Athlete Magazine (ISSN 1931-5295) is published 12 times a year by Ultimate Athlete, Inc., 40 Woodbine Avenue, Northport, New York 11768. All contents copyright 2009 by Ultimate Athlete, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction or use in whole or part of the content without the prior written consent of Ultimate Athlete, Inc. is strictly prohibited. All logos and trademarks are the properties of their respective owners. Although the writers and the publisher have exhaustively researched all sources to ensure the accuracy and the completeness of the information contained in this publication, we assume no responsibility for errors, inaccuracies, omissions, or any inconsistency herein. The opinions expressed in all materials are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of Ultimate Athlete, Inc or Long Island’s Ultimate Athlete Magazine.
Fall Volume II
southern NJ EDITION
nts FEATURES Features
10 Governor Livingston Soccer
14 Parsippany Cross Country
22 New Providence
26 Sports Psychology Self Confidence
30 Perth Amboy
34 Pro Corner New York Jets
36 Training Why Weight
38 Scotch Plains Soccer
46 Union Catholic Cross Country
Feeding your muscles
>>> A Scotch Plains soccer player fights for the ball as he goes up for a header against South Plainfield in a recent game.
Photo by Kevin Baumer
Story By: Jessica Quiroli Photos By: Anne Kasten
Governor Livingston’s girls’ soccer team has the benefit of new challenges to learn and grow from this season. The Highlanders also have a strong sibling combination that increased their chances against some tough teams, which, this season, included formidable Scotts Plains-Fanwood and Westfield. Junior forward Jessica Jankowski, and her sister, freshman striker Lauren, bring their talents and unique communication to the table. But their familial chemistry is just part of the plan. “There will really not be any cupcakes on our schedule so my girls will have to compete and maintain an extremely high level of play,” said coach Mike Roof. “That is difficult to keep up for two to three months.” Roof, in his eighth season heading the program, believes switching to the Watchung Division gives the team an opportunity to compete at a more intense level. “Being in the upper division clearly will be an upgrade on our schedule,” he said. The Highlanders, who reached New Jersey state semi-finals in 2009, have two captains: Jessica Jankowski and midfielder Alexa Katz. They have a lot to prove in the later games this season. They play against teams that have beaten them earlier this year. Roof also believes Lauren’s and Jessica’s presence on the team raises the level of play. He assesses that their unique talents and approach could prove inspiring to their teammates. “I think their ability and vision open up a lot of opportunities for this team that might not be there as much [if they weren’t on the team],” Roof said. Their relationship has many advantages Roof said. The trick is not allowing that relationship to overpower the team’s chemistry. “I think the advantage of playing with a sibling, obviously, would be the familiarity that one has with the other. They play off one another and they have an idea what the other is going to do,” Roof said, noting a possible negative effect such a circumstance can have on a team. “It can be a negative if one becomes too dependent on the other.” The difference in their abilities adds to the strength of the
team. Jessica’s age and size work in her favor, and, as Roof points out, “[She] has more of a physical preference. She plays well with both feet and works very hard as well.” While Lauren’s role will be much different than her sister’s, she has advanced soccer skills for someone her age. Roof commends her stamina. “She has a tremendous work rate and never backs out of a challenge,” he said. But the team needs more than Lauren and Jessica Jankowski to succeed this season. Strong leadership will be required. Other Highlanders players will have to step it up to help guide the team through the season. Roof is placing a lot of focus on one player in particular to fill that crucial role. “[Sophomore midfielder] Jenn French is going to need to be a key member,” Roof said. “There are certain situations this team will struggle with and Jenn has to be the one to take charge.” Roof exhibits tremendous faith in the team as a unit, and yet he can clearly see what the girls will need to do to stay competitive. He is adamant in what skills the team will need to be sharp to overcome any obstacles. “The back four have to be disciplined on defense and learn
how to simplify defending,” Roof said. “Stephanie Cataldi, as a sweeper or centerback, has to take charge of those responsibilities.” Roof has his own questions about how the season will play out, but he balances that bit of uncertainty with faith in his players’ ability to rise to the occasion. “Defensively, I am a little more concerned with the new personnel, but I think we’ll be okay for the most part,” Roof said. “I’m encouraged by our attacking options and I think we’ll be able to threaten teams more than in previous years.” Roof explained that playing well is not about being perfect, but comes down to his players using their intelligence to create a winning situation. “Minimize mistakes and whoever is making intelligent decisions will dictate who will play,” he said.
By Kevin Baumer Photos by Audrey Kerchner Stacey Slaughter was in top shape heading into the school year and was preparing to make the switch from soccer, which she’s played all her life, to cross-country. But Slaughter’s big change was made all the more difficult one August night last year when a car hit her and her teammate as they crossed the street during a cross-country practice. “My face went through the windshield, I toppled over the car and dented the hood,” said Slaughter, a senior at Parsippany High School. “It was kind of a dark, rainy, hazy night, but it wasn’t completely dark yet, I have to admit. We were just walking and I guess he was distracted and he hit us.” Slaughter describes the incident matter-of-factly and seems relatively unscathed mentally and physically, save for some scrapes on her elbow and scarring along her forehead and upper cheek. No one wants to get hit by a car, but Slaughter has exactly the type of bubbly personality and positive attitude that have allowed her to quickly put the accident behind her. “I actually don’t remember it, so I’m not the least mentally scarred,” Slaughter said. “I don’t remember the whole thing. I think my friends are more scarred than I am to be honest. I’m completely fine.” Her teammates said Slaughter’s reaction to the incident made the difference in her recovering quickly. “Everyone was really scared for her, but she recovered really fast and stayed in a positive light,” teammate Brianna Muro said. “I think that’s what helped her really recover fast.” Ironically, Slaughter wants to be a nurse so the injuries from the accident weren’t as alarming to her as they would have been for other people who might have been in the same situation. “I even told the nurses when I was in the hospital, ‘I actually want to do this,’” Slaughter said. “‘I don’t mind seeing blood, this is cool to me. I’m really interested in it.’” Slaughter missed a few weeks of practice and returned just in time for the first race of the season. She was disappointed as she finished in the 24-minute range, but she’s steadily getting back into shape. “She took a good shot,” Parsippany cross-country coach Walter Bleuler said. “I think she’s going to bounce back. She missed about three weeks, but she’s an active runner, she’s always running. She lost those three weeks so maybe she was just so scared from what happened, which I can understand. I know she can do better than what she’s doing right now so I just have to be patient.” A serious car accident may be the only way to slow Slaughter down. She does winter and spring track in addition to cross-country, and still manages to find the time to play soccer on a traveling team. This summer, she partnered with her father and five other adult men in the strenuous “River to the Sea,”
race a 92-mile trek across New Jersey starting in Milford and ending in Manasquan. Slaughter estimates that she ran about 14 miles in all and can’t wait to do it again next summer. It’s easy to see why Bleuler worries that sometimes Slaughter is a little too active and could use a bit of a break. “She doesn’t know how to rest, and that’s a problem,” he said. “This trauma from this accident maybe did a little number on her. She does a lot. I think she’s cooled down a little on the soccer. But she’ll go to a gym and run on the treadmill, she’ll swim, she just keeps going. The rest might help her.” Slaughter loved playing soccer for Parsippany High School, but recognizes her true talent is running. “To be honest, it’s not my favorite thing in the world,” Slaughter said. “But my dad has kind of influenced me. He does really well. Its kind of one of those addicting sports; you always thrive to do better. [After] the 24-minute time today I got so angry, but I’ll only do better the next time. In soccer you just don’t thrive like that.” And thrive she does. Slaughter has an infectious personality. Her popularity is evident by the dozens of signatures scrawled across a get-well poster displayed in her house. “People couldn’t have been any nicer to me,” Slaughter said. “Pretty much my whole living room was full of balloons and flowers. And people are still sending me stuff in the mail. I’m like, ‘Okay I ran my first race guys.’ People have been extremely supportive and still ask me ‘Is your head aright?’ I was in such great shape, I trained all summer and I had to get hit at my prime, but it’s only going to get me better from here. My teammate and I are just really lucky. It could have been worse.”
Story By: Bill Green Photos By: Sal Forgione
A championship is not something that just anyone can lay claim to. Very few in the history of sport, on any level, can truly call themselves a legitimate champion. Lucy Diaz is one of those people who can. After years of promise, but falling just short, the 2008 Cranford Lady Cougars varsity volleyball team was crowned champions of their sport by winning the 2008 New Jersey State Volleyball title. While there is no doubt that the players deserve their due credit, the architect of this title run was Lucy Diaz, their head coach. Diaz would also be honored with the 2008 Coach of the Year award, cementing her legacy among not only great Cranford High School coaches, but also great New Jersey high school coaches. “It was surreal,” Diaz said. “Not only did we earn Cranford it’s first volleyball state title, but we became the only girls team ever to become both Union County and New Jersey state volleyball champs. We were on cloud nine for a while after that one.” Years before Diaz even thought about taking the Cranford Lady Cougars on a title run, she was a young girl growing up in Irvington. Attending mostly private schools throughout her young scholastic career, Diaz enrolled at the St.
John’s Ukrainian Catholic School of Newark. Here Diaz discovered volleyball, and it quickly became a huge part of her life. “I was introduced to the sport by the school’s athletic assistant and fell in love,” Diaz said. “She always stressed the basics and perfecting our technique, and that’s what I try to pass on to my players.” Diaz would play volleyball through out her time at St. John’s, becoming one of the school’s most talented players. “My favorite aspect of the game is the mental one,” Diaz said. “Being able to overcome each obstacle on every play.” Diaz continued her volleyball career as a player first at Temple University. She finished her playing days at Kean University, claiming two New Jersey Athletic Conference titles and the 1980 Coach’s Award for Excellence along the way. Diaz’s volleyball career did not sit on the shelf for long, as she was offered her first coaching job right out of college, becoming head volleyball coach at Seaton Hall University. At the time, Diaz was the youngest head volleyball coach in the history of the Big East Conference. She would move onto coach high school only a year later, spending a few seasons as head coach in Irvington before moving to her current position at Cranford. “I really love my job here at Cranford,” Diaz said. “I work with a lot of great people here, including Marc Taglieri, our athletic director. He has really helped me expand my knowledge of coaching and has allowed me to really foster the love of volleyball to our players.” Starting from the ground up, Diaz began reconstructing the school’s volleyball program, eventually shaping it into the powerhouse it is today. “Over the years, our goals have always been the same,”
Diaz explained. “We want to create life-long experiences for our players by firing up the interest of all young girls so they develop the love for the game. At the end of the day we want our players to develop personal and team concepts that build confidence, strength, and character.” Under Diaz’s guidance, the Lady Cougars have become a consistent powerhouse in their conference. Continuing a trend that began back in 2007, the Lady Cougars will make their fourth consecutive Union County Conference Tournament appearance this season. During their tournament runs, the Lady Cougars have made it all the way to the finals in each of their previous three trips, claiming the tournament title in 2008 while on their way to their state championship. Now in the midst of her 10th year as coach of the Cougars, Diaz continues to run another potential championship team onto the court. While it will be difficult to duplicate the success of 2008, Diaz believes that her 2010 squad can accomplish just as much. “Compared to the state championship team, this group of girls has diversified talent, from the start of a service ace to the finish of a kill,” said Diaz. “They work hard at every position to ensure every position is covered well. All of the girls have contributed across the board to the successes of this season.” The Lady Cougars currently hold a number 18 overall rating among all girls varsity volleyball programs in New Jersey. The Cougars hope to build another championship run this season starting with their second Union County Tournament title in four years.
One of the players looking to help the Lady Cougars reach their goal is senior setter Sarah Barry. Barry, who is among the team leaders in assists with more than 80, has taken ownership and responsibility as a team leader, something Diaz preaches to her players on a daily basis. “Sarah hasn’t held back,” Diaz said. “She motivates her hitters with strategic plays, moves them around, and helps them understand the importance of their roles on the team.” While many may possess great skill and knowledge in a subject, teaching it to others is an entirely different matter. This, however, is what Diaz takes the most pride in, being able to translate her knowledge of the game to her players and achieve success. “My goal as head coach is to provide endless opportunities for all young girls to explore and experience the love and excitement of the game,” Diaz said. “By promoting a positive, fulfilling presence for all girls in sports, at all levels, anything can be possible.” Diaz’s coaching passion and talents aren’t only reserved for the Lady Cougars. Recently Diaz has begun the first Union County middle school volleyball league for girls, one of the only leagues of its kind in New Jersey. “We are very exciting about the excitement it is generating,” Diaz emphatically said. “The goal is to offer these girls the opportunity to experience this great game with their friends and family. Experiencing each moment from beginning to end, those are my most memorable moments.”
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Story By: Kevin Baumer Photos By: Audrey Kerchner
New Providence residents probably aren’t surprised when they see Caitlin Toner run down their street. After all, she runs five or six times a week, about 30 miles in all, through a town that isn’t quite four square miles in size; so chances are Toner has passed by most of its homes. But Toner, 18, isn’t paying much attention to that; when she’s running, Toner enters a zone that is occupied only by certain lyrics and phrases that keep her distracted from the monotony of running and help her block out physical pain. “Kesha’s ‘Your Love Is My Drug’ has been stuck in my head this week,” she said. “But I can’t seem to get the lyrics. I only get one line and it just repeats over and over.” The half-Irish, half-Chinese New Providence High School senior looks like she could be knocked over by the highest setting on a ceiling fan. She’s tiny, 5’3”, which undoubtedly helps her run, an activity she admits she doesn’t love, but it’s one she’s awfully good at. And so she spends a considerable amount of her time running, preparing to run, and training. “She’s so committed,” teammate Jen Meagher said. “Everything she does is for running. She has her whole workout setup and she plans her days around running.” Toner won the 800-meters race at least spring’s state sectional and is a two-time New Providence High School girls’ cross country Most Valuable Player. She is also one of the team’s captains for the second consecutive year. Still, Toner isn’t overly competitive. Sure, she strives to beat her personal best times and has her eye on a few school records, but she doesn’t monitor her competition too closely, which is okay because her father certainly does. “He’s like my second coach,” Toner said. “He knows all my opponents’ names and who to look out for. He’ll go online and research speed workouts and he’s always there for me when I freak out with motivational coach-speak.” Toner usually plans which races she’ll go all out on and where she can save her energy. But in the heat of battle, that goes out the window and she tends to go all out on her
first race. One time last year she fell victim to her habit and went all out on her first
race. “My mom was yelling at me ‘Slow down! Slow down,’” Toner said. “It was kind of embarrassing.” Toner may not have a rabid killer instinct, but she concedes simply, “I don’t like seeing people go past me.” She’s more concerned with doing the best she can for her team, and helping her teammates improve any way she can. “We had a meet against Oak Knoll and Roselle,” New Providence cross-country coach Kevin Kelly said. “Caitlin and I talked before the race and she wanted to not go out and be a front runner, but she wanted to go out and run with our three, four, and five runners to push them along and motivate them to do better. That’s just the type of kid that she is, she is
always looking out for what’s best for her teammates, and how we can get the most out of all the people on the team.” Toner has attended Running Works, a camp in Pennsylvania for the last three years. The camp teaches runners healthy habits and fitness routines, but of course, the main purpose is to run, run, and run some more. “They get top notch adults running with you and then they go do their own run to just make you feel small,” Toner said. In all attendees run about 45 miles during the weeklong camp. Toner received instruction from Marcus O’Sullivan, the cross-country coach at Villanova and a former Olympian. Toner is an Olympian herself, at least in the eyes of some local first-through-third graders. Toner and a couple of teammates were counselors at Jaycee Camp in New Providence and started their own running camp for youngsters last summer. “We
walked the kids over to the track and they raced the counselors,” Toner said. Toner may not be quite as intense as an Olympian, but she wants her teammates to think otherwise. “Everyone thinks I’m really happy and I love to run,” Toner said. “I want them to think that, but in my head I’m freaking out just as much as them. You don’t want to tell people you’re nervous, otherwise you’re vulnerable.” Being so serious about running forces Toner into some unusual habits. She attempts to drink half her weight in ounces of water daily. Toner knows not everyone on her team is as into running as she is, but she’s always cheering her teammates on at races and makes every effort to keep the team as upbeat and entertained as possible. “Even though she’s really good and intense about running, if you’re not intense about running, she still makes it so much fun for everyone,” Meagher said. “We play silly games when we’re running, and she makes it fun.”
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Story By: Kevin Haslam Photos By: Sal Forgione
Two years ago, Greg Ficarra Perth Amboy High School’s athletic director nonchalantly requested to have official volleyball lines painted on the gym floor. It was a little bit of a gamble by Ficarra, but little did anyone know that by October of this year, the school would have a girls volleyball team that was competing in junior varsity and varsity matches, preparing for a prevalent future in both boys and girls volleyball competition. Ficarra had a dream in 2008 to add more athletic programs to Perth Amboy’s repertoire. He also had a hunch in 2009 that volleyball would be extremely successful at the school, and very popular in a community that already embraced the sport. “The way it started, initially, was an informal survey of students,” Ficarra said. “The kids had expressed an interest in both boys and girls volleyball. I had even noticed it around time. Perth Amboy is a city by the bay, and in the beach areas there were some beach volleyball courts and tournaments going on. So, I noticed this rise in interest in volleyball.” Ficarra made the pitch to the Board of Education. He started by going around and researching what it would cost the schools across the county, as well as New Jersey, to have volleyball teams. “I put a budget together of what it would cost to start. Our plan was to start with a junior varsity team and I pitched that to the Board by giving them the statistics of the interest of the kids,” Ficarra said. “The Board, to its credit, thought it was a great idea to get the kids involved in a healthy, extra-curricular activity.”
The Board approved the formation of the teams. The dawning of a new era for Perth Amboy approached quickly, and came a little late, as it was already the summer of 2009 when the approval went through. Although there was a clear interest for a volleyball team at the school, no one at the administrative level had any idea of what type of talent they would find. Ficarra was certain that they would start with a junior varsity team, which yielded an interesting process for tryouts. “We had about 110 girls that initially signed up that were interested in showing up to the tryouts,” said now second year head coach Henry Romero, who played volleyball recreationally in high school, as his school did not have a team, either. Romero eventually went on to help start up the varsity team as a student at Ramapo College in 1993. His experience in starting a team up would aid Rahway, but still wouldn’t relieve the pressures of the selection process. “That was a difficult process – figuring out who to keep from tryouts, and keeping in mind which players we would want to see moving forward, because we had a lot of kids that were in their last year and wouldn’t do us much good beyond that first year,” Romero said. Eventually, Romero narrowed it down to 22 girls, who
were very eager to get their first season under way. After taking care of tryouts, installing official volleyball nets in the gym and ordering sleek team uniforms, it was time for Ficarra to quickly form a schedule. “This time last year, we had no schedule,” Fircarra said. “So, I quickly went out on the internet and said we had a startup team, we got approval in the summer, and we’re looking for games at the junior varsity level. Little by little, we picked up nine games. It was very exciting.” The process wasn’t completely smooth, though. Ficarra’s biggest concern was a conflict in schedules. But it wasn’t scheduling with other teams that was the problem. It was scheduling the practices and games at Perth Amboy. “There’s a team that’s going to be practicing regularly in the gym, now,” Ficarra said. “That poses a problem because when we have bad weather, one of the outdoor teams would practice in one of the gymnasiums.” Now, Perth Amboy has some relief. Synthetic turf has been added to their football stadium so the football team can still practice outside. Ficarra also foresaw some hurdles with the athletes’ understanding of what it would take to participate in a new sport. “I think it’s just getting the student population to understand that
this isn’t just a game for physical education. There are strategies to it,” Ficarra said. “Our kids had interests in volleyball, but at first, did not know the logistics of the game or what goes into practice, where you might be working on serves or sets or digs for a whole hour, instead of just playing leisure games.” Despite the concerns, Perth Amboy put on its first game with great success. More than 100 people attended the event. “The first game they played, we had a nice crowd, and we brought out our Panther mascot, which a student wears. There was a lot of enthusiasm,” Ficarra said. “We pitched it as the girls’ volleyball startup, and history was in the making here at Perth Amboy.” Last year’s season was special, but was a little rocky at times. “There was a huge waiting period,” Romero explained. “We would have one match one week, and we had to wait two weeks before we had another one. Then you have other schools that play three or four matches in a week. That was one of the big things my girls had to overcome, was the competition aspect.” So, to keep the team honest, the girls would compete against themselves in practice. “But it’s a little different when you go against another school and see their style of play,” Romero said. “You learn from them, as well, and I think they’re starting to see more of that, this year. They’re seeing more teams and getting a feel for different positions. From last year to this year, the girls made a huge jump as far as improving their knowledge of the game.” Some of Perth Amboy’s shining stars, such as sophomore outside hitter Adrix Polanco, junior setter Rayssa Squarcio, and sophomore outside hitter Emily Rivera, have a great combination of leadership, assertiveness, acclimation, and inquisitiveness. Romero is excited to keep girls like them on board for next year. As for next year and beyond, Romero hopes to get rid of some bad habits. “One of the things that they don’t realize is that when you play picnic ball or physical education classes, there isn’t an official that will call carries or double hits, but they see that in competition,” Romero said. “They’ve made it far from last year to this year, and continue to make corrections in practice. They’re really identifying these things, themselves, and fixing them right away, or at least make an effort to. That’s a positive for me, because we know we’re moving forward by doing that.” And Ficarra would like to add to the experience level of his future ladies, given the right circumstances. Perth Amboy hopes to be added in to the Greater Middlesex Conference next year, and compete at the varsity level, which both Romero and Ficarra believe will be achieved due to the amount of commitment between the administrators, the coach, and the players. “We have young ladies that are very committed to the program. They give up a good chunk of their Saturdays and compete in tournaments. They practice regularly and maintain their academics, and have a sense of pride about representing their school on the volleyball team,” Ficarra said. “I hope to see, someday, that we not only participate on the junior varsity and varsity level, but also the freshman level, if the budget will allow.”
By Mike Mejia, CSCS
I absolutely love lifting weights. In fact, over the course of the past twenty-five years, I can honestly say that the number of days I’ve spent “pumping iron” far outweigh those that I haven’t. To me, there’s nothing like the feeling of iron in my hands as I challenge my body to become stronger and leaner with each passing day. I like the way it makes me feel, the increased physicality it brings to my daily life, and the visual results aren’t too bad either. Given my obvious proclivity for this time-honored form of conditioning, I completely understand why young athletes are so quick to rush
into the weight room. I’m here to tell you though, it’s a mistake and one that can often lead to serious long term consequences. Please do not misconstrue what I’m saying here; I’m all for strength training, and think it’s important for young athletes to get started with it sooner, rather than later. The problem is that most kids, as well as many coaches and parents for that matter, think that strength training and weight training are one and the same. The simple fact is, nothing could be further than the truth! Weight training, as the name implies, involves the use of external loading (usually in the form of free weights and machines) as a means of increasing both size and strength. Strength training, on the other hand, refers to the process of getting stronger as a result of repeated exposure to some type of resistance. It doesn’t matter if that resistance comes in the form of
rubber tubing, medicine balls, rocks, sticks, or even your own body weight. As long as said resistance imposes enough of a physical overload on your body, you will become stronger. By now you’re probably thinking, “But if it doesn’t matter what type of stimulus it is, why are you so against young athletes lifting weights?” There are actually a number of reasons, most of which have to do with injury prevention and optimizing athletic development in one way, or another. Not that I’m amongst those who feel that weight training is somehow inherently “dangerous”. Numerous studies over the years have shown that although adolescents are indeed at increased risk for growth plate fractures, a well designed, properly supervised strength training program, is in fact, safer than many forms of sports participation. The problem is; many of the programs that kids engage in are often not well designed, or properly supervised! And, as far as athletic development is concerned, when kids rush into weight training, before building a sound base of stability and mobility, they often incur strength imbalances and/ or movement restrictions that limit their athletic potential. This is precisely why I mandate that all the athletes I work with, regardless of age, or ability level, must first master training with their own body weight before moving on to any form of external resistance. Think about it for a minute, if you can’t do a simple body weight squat without your knees pinching together, or your spine rounding forward, or visibly shifting your weight to one side, what sense does it make to place a loaded barbell on your back? Or, how about the legions of kids that rush to the bench press, without being able to do a single push-up with proper form? Now granted, they may not necessarily get hurt right away- largely because they have the resilience of youth on their side, but over time, situations like these become precursors to injury. Before you know it, these athletes have developed significant strength imbalances and restricted their movement to the point where it becomes a liability on the playing field. Just in case you’re wondering, weight machines do not offer a better alternative. In fact, in many ways, they carry with them even more potential dangers than free weights. The problem with most machines is that they offer two dimensional resistance, and we live in a three dimensional world. What I mean by that is, when you’re on a machine, more often than not all you have to do is move the weight along some predetermined path. You’re required to exert force to get the weight moving in one direction and then control it as it comes back towards the starting position. What you’re not required to do, however, is stabilize the weight in any appreciable way, or ensure that both limbs are working at an equal rate. This means that if there are any existing strength
imbalances, training on machines will only make them worse over time. Most importantly though, this simply isn’t the way our bodies were designed to move. When an athlete exerts muscular effort on the field of play, he or she doesn’t do it along some predetermined path. There’s a constant interplay between stability and mobility that you just can’t replicate on traditional weight machines. The lone exception being cable based systems like Keiser and Free Motion equipment. Another big problem with machines is that they promote muscle isolation. Hopping on some state-of-theart gizmo and focusing on pumping up your pecs, or your quads might help you look a little more “buff”, but it will do next to nothing for your ability to run, jump, shed a block, or maintain your balance while attempting to elude a defender. That’s because our muscles weren’t designed to move in isolation, but rather as part as part of a larger kinetic chain. Everything from throwing a ball, to teeing off on the golf course, involves a complex sequence of muscular actions that we just can’t prepare for by isolating specific muscles. Not to mention that fact that doing so, might even increase your risk of injury. Think about it for a minute, if a chain s only as strong as its weakest links, and you’re constantly isolating your strongest muscles with exercises like bench presses and biceps curls, there’s inevitably going to be a breakdown at some point. That’s why when it comes to young athletes, I prefer a more systemic approach to strengthening. The following workout contains some of my favorite body weight drills for kids. Give it a try and see if it’s not significantly harder than the typical “gym based” approach many of you are used to. If you’re unfamiliar with any of the drills, log on to to my website at www.basesportsconditioning.com and check the “Exercise of the Month” archives and “Injury Prevention” section for complete descriptions and pictures.
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Story By: Kevin Baumer Photos By: Audrey Kerchner
You’ll notice many boys wearing T-shirts bearing the logo “Tradition and Excellence” at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School boys’ soccer practices. That’s because for Coach Tom Breznitsky and the rest of the Raiders, winning isn’t just a nice surprise, it’s an expectation. “There are not many programs in the state that have the same expectations that we have of winning literally every game that we enter,” Joe Mortarulo, Breznitsky’s assistant of 17 years, said. “It doesn’t always happen, we fall short sometimes, but we always have a certain air about what we believe we can accomplish. Expectations are state championships, conference championships, those are our goals set every year no matter what team, how young, or how old we are. And we’ve been fortune enough to attain quite a few of them over the years.” Breznitsky, a member of the Soccer Coaches Association of New Jersey Hall of Fame, is in his 36th season as head coach of the Raiders and is closing in on his 600th career victory (he currently has 588). He has led Scotch Plains-Fanwood to 12 state championship games appearances and seven titles, the first being in 1987. “He’s been here a long time, he’s really seen it all,” sophomore Vincenzo Bianco said. “He has the instinct to know what to do and when. Overall he’s a great coach.”
Simple SucceSS Breznitsky’s explanation for his long-term success is simple. “I think the trick to this particular type of success and longevity is that it’s very hard to get the program established, but once you’ve become successful, success breeds success over the years. The tradition that we’ve had, each team that comes in wants to do better than the past year’s team. “It’s a lot easier, once you start winning, to propagate the program. But it took 10 years. I started in 1975, we never had a losing season, but to get to the point where we were considered one of the top teams in the state [took a while].” Breznitsky believed his team had the talent and leadership to capture its eighth state championship last year, but injures to key players derailed the Raiders.
“Last year was definitely a team that if all the pieces stayed together we should have been able to win another state championship,” Breznitsky said. “But injuries take their toll and that’s part of the game. [You’ve] got to stay healthy, got to be good, and got to be lucky, in no particular order.” infuSion of youth The Raiders lost 15 seniors to graduation and entered this season with a very young and unproven group. “We’re so young we need diapers,” Breznitsky said. So far, the results have been encouraging as Breznitsky has been pleasantly surprised by the abilities of some of his underclassmen. “We’ve always had the expression, ‘we don’t rebuild, we just reload,’” he said. “This team’s a little
bit of a work in progress. Coming into the season I said they’re going to surprise a lot of people. “One of the most pleasing things is that some of the kids who had not been on the varsity last year have stepped it up and done a really fine job to the point where a couple of them won themselves a starting position. I thought our depth would be a little bit of a problem, but it’s working out that it’s really not.” Breznitsky has never shied away from using younger players, but last year’s squad was so talented he didn’t necessarily have room for them. But Breznitsky cites his willingness to play his best players, regardless of their age, as the key to his success. “I believe that a fulcrum for my success has been, I’ve never been afraid to use the best players that are out there, no matter what grade
they’re in,” Breznitsky said. “Some of my very best players have been on the varsity and played since their freshmen year.” As of deadline, the Raiders are 2-2-3, which is not uncommon for such a young team, especially considering Scotch Plains-Fanwood is a Group Three school playing a predominantly Group Four schedule; 13 of the team’s 17 games this season will be against bigger schools. It may be tough for Scotch Plains-Fanwood to compete for a state title this year, but with a year of experience under their belts, the Raiders could develop into a force sooner than later. Team building Breznitsky is planning to take his team to either Costa Rica or Holland this summer, the sixth such trip he’s engineered in an effort to promote teambuilding and open his players’ eyes to cultures and soccer around the world. “Obviously it’s not something you can do every year, because there’s a tremendous amount of fundraising that has to take place to offset the cost for the families,” he said. “You want to look at the group you have and see if that type of experience would be beneficial.” But regardless of if the Raiders embark on the experience or not, the expectation the team has will be the same: tradition and excellence. “You’re going and you’re playing against some of the best competition at the youth level in these countries,” Breznitsky said. “It gives you an idea what your team is capable of.”
Story By: Michelle Tuchol Photos By: Audrey Kerchner
Allen Eke has big dreams for himself this year. “I’ve always wanted to win the Meet of Champions,” Eke said. The meet, part of the New Jersey Cross Country State Championship, is an annual cross-country meet for both boys and girls held every November. Coach Mike McCabe did not want to comment on exactly what is in store for the Union Catholic High School cross-country team for the rest of the season, but solid practices after a full school day can only promise that the team will compete hard in meets this season. Eke should be an integral part of the team’s success this season. Eke placed 11th in the NJCTC Class Invitational earlier this season with a time of 17:35, shaving 1:30 off his best time. Eke is the reigning Union County Champion in the 800-meters race in track and field. Union Catholic’s cross-country team had only about 12 to 15 students when McCabe became the coach six years ago. Today, the team has grown to more than 30 boys and girls who are energetic and more than willing to put in the work for a sport that requires a great deal of physical and mental endurance.
“All the kids are encouraged to come out and join,” said McCabe, who believes that there is a spot for everyone on the team who wants to join, regardless of age or ability. Many students on the team are fairly new to the sport, but continue to show great progress. Eke, a junior, is in his second season on the team after switching gears from basketball to running. “I played basketball all my life, but quit my freshman year to run winter track,” Eke said. Eke started running track to keep in shape during basketball’s off-season and took a liking to it. As a sophomore, Eke had no intention of running, and had no summer training regiment. But that didn’t stop him from having great success in track and field. That season Eke ran 1 minute, 53 seconds in the 800, the eighth fastest time for a sophomore in the nation last spring. The 800 is Eke’s best event; he considers himself more of a mid-distance runner. Eke led the 4-by-800 relay last June in the New Balance Nationals that helped break the Union County record with a time of 7:42, the sixth fastest time in New Jersey history. These accolades don’t come without hard work and dedication. Everyone from Union Catholic’s coaches to its team members realize that. Practices are not limited to the day before meets either. Eke trains with weights two to three times a week. His long runs are usually reserved for the weekends. On days before a cross-country meet, McCabe and assistant coaches Brian Kopnocki and Eddie Thornton, warm the team up with a lap around the track at the start of practice. Students come back to the open area at the foot of the athletic field for stretches and moves that promote proper form. These routine exercises also reduce the risk of injury. Students then form small groups and go out on runs near the school, usually lasting between 25 to 40 minutes. The coaches map out each group run prior to practice so the students know exactly what course to take. McCabe, Kopnocki, and Thornton also participate in the runs. It shows that the coaches are devoted instructors who help their team grow as a unit. Practice finishes back at the track where both boys and girls run striders, which are short sprints across 200 meters of the track, and then proceed to work with hurdles. This helps with balance, as students cross each hurdle forwards and backwards using high leg raises. Students also use the hurdles to practice landing on one foot by swinging a single leg over each bar horizontally in a sequence. McCabe explains that it is good to add these types of moves into training due to the increased risk runners have for hip injuries. Allowing the hips to move in different directions lets the body loosen and break from the common movement of walking and running. McCabe urges his athletes to stay focused during meets and said it is good to have some anxiety before a race.
“Get yourself nervous for the race, but don’t go crazy,” McCabe said to his students at the end of practice. For some students, like Eke, the mental part of running usually factors into a meet at some point. “I wasn’t used to all the pain and running freshman year,” Eke admitted. “But I’ve overcome that mental part of running, which has made me both stronger and faster.” Although Eke continues to play basketball in his free time he is focused on cross-country. He wants the team to be one of the top three teams in the conference. It is that drive to succeed, the desire to get better that makes Eke run the way he does. He wants to be one of the top five runners in both the conference and the county. “The best part of running for me is always pushing myself and seeing how much better I can do every day,” Eke said.
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SPORT Sports Psychology
“The Secret to Team Building”
Tom Ferraro, Ph.D. Carly Schwartz (Hobart and William Smith College) In press for Ultimate Athlete Magazine August 23, 2010 All rights reserved
Establishing the essence of a team falls on the shoulders of the coach. It takes great skill and character to achieve team cohesion. Players often tend to grandstand, get jealous, demand attention or get lazy. And these problems don’t go away until they are addressed. Lack of team cohesion can easily destroy a season. So exactly how does one build a team into a fully functioning smooth running unit? This article addresses this issue.
“Team building is an art that all couches need to learn.”
W Coaching Staff:
We can learn much by studying the great coaches. Vince Lombardi was known for his toughness. Woody Hayes of Ohio State focused on preparation. Doc Counsilman, the famed Indiana University Swim coach, was known for his compassion and deep commitment to his swimmers. And UCLA’s John Wooden was a master teacher who was also strict and built character in his players. They were trained in politeness so well that they would leave the locker room spotless after every practice. He did this to teach them respect for their fellow man. The coach sets the tone and he or she alone is the one who will build a strong team. All great coaches are exceptional people with great passion, love of sport and integrity. But that is not all one needs to build a team.
“A coaches core values must be communicated to his team clearly and often.”
Problems and Threats to Team Cohesion: Despite the coaches’ best efforts to establish discipline, enthusiasm and core values things often go wrong. This produces frustration and anxiety in the coaching staff. Here are a few of the ways things go south.
Interpersonal issues like jealousy envy and cliques Lack of effort and laziness personal problems cause distraction Splitting of loyalties between coaching staff
TS Psy “Team rituals like dinners of pre-game talks bond the team together.”
The Team Legacy, Tradition and History: Another factor in team building relates to its legacy. Players must be allowed to see the team’s history and its achievements. Go into the Yankee locker room and you will see trophies, banners and photos of past champions. The tradition of a team can serve to inspire, direct and motivate a team. A coach can encourage hustle during practice but visual reminders of what the team has done and what you expect is a subtle and effective way to keep the message in front of them at all times. It is yet another way to build team cohesion.
T Team Rituals:
There are many ways that a team can bond. We call this the team rituals and it includes team dinners, scavenger hunts, pre-game talks, team prayers, halftime talks and post game talks. Al Pacino captured the essence of an inspirational pre-game speech in the film Any Given Sunday. Al Pacino as Coach “Tony D’Amato gave an impassioned speech minutes before game time and rousing them to battle for ‘every inch.’ When a coach can speak from the heart like this it will bond the team. . The team captain is another important role. Every team has a captain who guides and inspires the team. They lead by example and the captain is usually the player that is admired the most by others but who does not produce jealousy. And if the team captain fails to be a selfless leader, the team will suffer. Other team rituals include pre-game dinners, and other bonding experiences on and off the field. While each team uses team rituals the unique way in which they do is critical in order to maintain a positive team dynamic. Research in the military shows that bonding is best in small groups of 3 – 6 men each and this strategy is now being used in college football. Teams are sent away to boot camp to instill trust and group bonding.
What to Do to Build a Team: When you look to answers it is easy to see that a key ingredient that cures this issue is open communication. Coach Coughlin of the NY Giants turned his tenure around when he put into effect ‘The President’s Counsel’ where his top players had a chance to air grievances with him. Communication takes time but it’s worth it in the end. Every great coach does two things well. They spell out their rules and expectations clearly and say what needed to be said. And they also are able to listen to what players have to say. Great coaches talk openly and with respect and they listen carefully to their players.
Team building is a great art. It is one of the unchartered and under researched areas in sport but one that is key to winning. The intensity of team sports is unmatched. You can have peak moments nearly every game. But the problems inherent in team life are huge as well. Clear rules, solid values, team rituals and open communication are the pillars of great coaching. Best of luck with the season and enjoy it all. Bio; Dr Tom Ferraro is a noted Sport Psychologist based on Long Island who works with has worked with teams and individual athletes for twenty years. Carly Schwartz is a sport psychology intern attending William Smith College. They can be reached at (516) 248-7189 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Compe Competition Nutrition
FEEding your musclEs
By Sandy Sarcona
Competitive athletes want to be strong. When thinking of gaining muscle, most athletes assume loading up on protein will produce bigger pecks. It is true that we need protein for muscle, but taking in more protein than you need, will not equal muscle growth. In fact, too much of this macronutrient will either be used for energy or stored as fat and can even add stress to your kidneys. To build muscle, you first must be developmentally ready and then you can combine a workout program that includes strength training along with adding extra calories to your diet; start with 500 additional calories each day.
HErE arE somE stratEgiEs to add Extra caloriEs: • Eat frequently. Pack portable snacks like fruit, cheese sticks, crackers, trail mix and energy bars to eat throughout your school day. Have one between breakfast and lunch and one before your workout. If you have a long bus ride home then plan on having a recovery snack as well.
EnErgy packEd snacks • 1 Cup Shelf Stable Chocolate Milk (portable aseptic box) • Energy Bar • 1 Yogurt Container and a Banana • Cheese Stick and Crackers • Fig Bars and 1 cup Shelf Stable 2% Milk (portable aseptic box) • Cereal (bag it in a Ziploc) • Trail Mix of Cheerios or Life, Nuts, Raisins, Small Pretzels (bag it in a Ziploc) • Apple Slices (can be bought bagged and preserved) and Peanut Butter (in the “to go” container)
etition BEgin witH BrEakFast
makE HEaltHy cHoicEs
Eating your first meal soon after you wake up will give you a jump start on getting the extra fuel you need for the day. A bagel, peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat toast, frozen waffles, or cereal only take a few minutes to prepare and eat. If you love having extra sleep and have limited time, take that bagel or sandwich to eat on the bus, in the car or on your walk to school.
When aiming for additional calories, make sure that your food choices supply nutrients. Athletes have higher needs for carbohydrates and certain vitamins and minerals in order to keep the body tuned to run in high gear. “Empty calories” from sugary drinks and high fat desserts may cause a shortage in your daily nutrient load. Even though fruits and vegetables are low in calories, they are high in fiber and antioxidants; substances that will keep your intestinal tract healthy and your immune system in top shape. An athlete that suffers from constipation or one who gets sick a lot will not be a dependable team member. Don’t forget to drink water throughout the day and to consume a sports drink during your practice to stay well-hydrated. Practice hard and eat healthy and your muscles will make their mark.
load up on HigH-caloriE liquids Drinking your calories is quick and easy. Go for healthy options like 100% juice, milk, smoothies, vegetable juice, and milkshakes. High calorie liquid shakes: (mix ingredients in a blender) • Strawberry Smoothie: 1 Cup 2% Milk, 1 Packet Strawberry Carnation Instant Breakfast, ½ Cup Frozen Strawberries, 6oz. Fruit Yogurt, Ice Cubes • Chocolate Shake: 1 Cup 2% Milk, ¼ Cup Dry Non-Fat Milk Powder or 1 Scoop Whey Protein Powder, 6oz. Vanilla Yogurt, 3 Tbsp. Chocolate Syrup • Peachy Orange Cream: 1 Cup Orange Juice, 1 Cup Vanilla Ice Cream, ½ Cup Frozen Peaches (fresh or canned) • Peanut Butter Banana Blend: 1 Cup 2% Milk, 1 Packet Vanilla Carnation Instant Breakfast, 1 Frozen Banana, 1 Tablespoon Peanut Butter