Monthly Archives: June 2014

Jun 30

Seven Types of Strength Training for Youth Sports: Part Two: Practical

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

image of woman doing sit-up

Check out the sit-up complexes.

Yesterday’s post was about different types of strength training that can be used in a youth sports program. I believe that all youth sports teams should do some type of strength training and so should PE programs. It’s needed not only for the success of the team but also the developmental health and well being of our kids.

By using some variation of types of strength training you’ll be developing all the different muscle fibers and neurological pathways. This should have an impact on performance as well as injury prevention.

Two other benefits are that it is a nice modality break; kids will like trying something different. Also, I’ve found it will tend to prevent overtraining.

Remember from the previous article that there are different levels of resistance, movement, and speed that can be done with most any exercise. Here are examples you can try for push-ups, squats, and abdominal work.

Strength training for youth sport: Push-up complex #1.

Do all four exercises without a break. Rest for thirty seconds to a minute and then repeat.

a. Five push-ups (full range of motion)
b. Isometric hold at bottom of push-up, ten seconds
c. Five push-ups (full range of motion)
d. Isometric hold at 1/2 way, ten seconds

This complex uses isometrics and general strength.

Strength training for youth sport: Push-up complex #2.

a. Start at top position and slowly lower to bottom for ten seconds.
b. At bottom position explode up and perform a clap push-up.

Repeat set for five to ten repetitions.

Strength training for youth sport: Squat complex #1

a. Convict squat (hands behind head, elbows out) for ten repetitions
b. Three explosive jumps.

Repeat set five times.

Strength training for youth sport: Squat complex #2

a. Forward lunge with left leg and slowly lower till right knee touches the ground (ten seconds)
b. Jump up and perform a split jump.
c. With right leg forward, slowly lower till left knee touches the ground
d. Perform split jump and repeat.

Do complex six to twelve times.

Strength training for youth sport: Core complex #1

a. Perform ten sit-ups
b. At top position, slowly lower body till shoulders are just off the ground (ten seconds)
c. At bottom position, pulse body quickly up and down ten times.
d. Rest and repeat for ten sets.

Strength training for youth sport: Core complex #2

a. From sit-up position with hands behind head, hold shoulders off the ground for ten seconds.
b. Rotate 90 degrees to the left and right, twisting the body for ten repetitions.
c. Perform ten sit-ups. Stop at 45 degrees. Hold for ten seconds>
d. Rotate 90 degrees to the left and right, twisting for ten repetitions.

As you can imagine, these are all very tough complexes. They can be easily over done. Elite athletes will love them. Use them carefully with younger and beginner athletes.

Remember, more is not better. And sweat and pain is not a sign that you’re doing great coaching.

Have fun and let me know what you think.

Coach Ron Usher

P.S. These are just examples. Be creative and make up some of your own.

Every Child an Athlete
Be an Athlete for Life.

Jun 29

Seven Types of Strength for Youth Athletes: Part One: Theroretical

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

I love this kid!

I love this kid!

Recently, I’ve been experimenting with doing different types of strength training on myself.

When I started lifting weights in high school and college, a typical workout was a basic body building workout. It was pretty much taken from Muscle and Fitness and it looked like:

1. A lower body exercise, usually squats or a leg press.
2. A chest exercise, usually bench press
3. Back exercise, usually pull down machine or rows.
4. A shoulder exercise, usually military press or lateral raises.
5. Arm exercises consisting of curls and tricep extensions.
6. Sit-ups or leg raises.

Typically, it would be three sets of ten for each exercise and I’d try to go to failure on most them.

To be honest, this still isn’t the worst workout. It takes a while to complete (about an hour) and gets a full body workout in.

I’ve gone through lots of variations and experiments. Here are some I’ve done or am currently doing:

  • Body Part Splits:  (Back/Chest, Legs/Shoulders, Arms/Core)
  • 3 x 8 and 5 x 5. (I’m doing these much more now than the sets of 10)
  • Reducing chest and arm lifts and doing more back exercises. I’ve done this to protect my shoulders.
  • Metabolic workouts. I love these and believe that most kids and youth sports teams should be doing variations of these.
  • Bodyweight workouts. I do these too. I typically will alternate them with a weight room workout during the week.
  • Single limb exercises. Sometimes I love these…sometimes I don’t think they do much. Right now, I’m in the state where I don’t do them very often.
  • Rotational exercises. I like these a lot but have to be careful with doing too much.
  • Different types of strength movement. This is what the article is mostly about.

So the different types of strength movements seems to be quite the rage. I think because it works for sports skills, weight loss and just looking good.

Here are the different types of strength workouts that I’ve been experimenting with:

  1. Maximum strength. How much can you lift one time?
  2. Strength endurance. How often can you lift a given weight. Of course, this can vary greatly depending on the weight you use.
  3. Explosive lifting. How fast can you lift a given weight. Includes plyometrics and weighted throws.
  4. Isometrics. Pushing against something that doesn’t move. Can vary time and degree of movement.
  5. Pulsing. Taking a heavy weight and pushing it up and down quickly through a small range of movement.
  6. Slow motion: Taking a heavy weight and lowering it slowly (10 to 40 seconds)
  7. Metabolic Workouts. Take four exercises that work four different systems or muscles and do them for ten to twenty seconds with little rest between. Try to do four to six sets.

I’ve been working on mixing these up in my workouts. Specically, I’m trying to do at least three different types for each body part. Because it takes so long, I usually only do three body parts (legs, chest, back).

The metabolic workouts are tough. I was doing them at the end of everything but found I was skipping them because I was too tired. So now, I’m doing them at the beginning. They are great for fat loss and general conditioning. I’m also trying to do them to help with my basketball game.

Part Two of the Article will focus on how you can take these seven types of strength exercises and put them to use with your team. I think you’ll like it.

Coach Ron Usher

Jun 28

Youth Sport Conditioning: When Is The Best Time to Sprint in Practice?

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Image of athlete running

Running form is crucial to success for most youth sports

Sprinting is an integral part of most youth sports. Being able to run fast is crucial for football, baseball, basketball and soccer.

Even in volleyball, sprinting is important, though it’s not part of the game.

And long distance and cross-country runners need to sprint. And swimmers need to sprint, though they don’t run.

Besides the benefits of sprinting in competiton, sprinting is also excellent for building general athletic skills and weight control. Look at the bodies of sprinters in the Olympics. They are all lean and muscular.

But when is the best time to put sprints into a workout?

Here are four places you can put some sprints into your youth sports practice.

Sprint for youth sports at the beginning of practice:

It makes sense to do sprinting at the beginning of practice. After a warm-up kids are ready to go. Neuroloigically, it will have the best benefit. Kids aren’t tired and can focus on good technique. Doing sprints at the beginning of practice will make them faster.

Sprint for youth sports at the end of practice:

The thoughts of doing sprints at the end of practice are that it will make them better conditioned and tougher. When the other team is tired towards the end of the game your team will be in better shape and be able to take advantage.

Both of these reasons are valid. There are a few concerns about doing sprints at the end of practice, however:

1. Make sure the kids are sprinting. If they are too fatigued and sprint with bad technique and effort they will only get better at doing things slower, not faster.

2. Be careful for injuries and overtraining. At the end of practice, the team is tired. They will tend to get hurt and push themselves too far. Always provide enough rest between sets.

Sprint for youth sports at the middle of practice:

For most sports, athletes have to sprint throughout the game. Therefore, it makes sense to sprint at various points of practice. This accustoms their bodies to being able sprint at any time.

Best practices for sprinting in youth sports:

In my opinion, the best time for sprinting is to vary it throughout the season. Sometimes sprint at the beginning, sometimes at the end and sometimes sprint throughout practice.

Be careful of overtraining. Sprinting and going hard is easy to over do. More is not better.

Training kids to get a sweat and fatigue response is not good coaching. Provide enough rest between runs so that they are going at least 90% and running with good technique.

Coach Ron Usher

Every child an athlete

Be an athlete for life!

Jun 26

The One Thing All Youth Sport Practices Need to Be

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

image of giraffe on tight rope.

Not sure why I selected this picture.

At different stages of my coaching career I would have said different things for how practices should be.

  • At 19 I would have said practices need to be tough.
  • At 25 I would have said practices need to be instructional.
  • At 35 I would have said practices should have been targeted.
  • At 45 I would have said practices should be fun.

All of those practice goals are appropriate for any age and sport of kids. I was coaching swimming but it could just have well been basketball, soccer or football.

But I think I missed the big picture.

The one thing that all sport practices should be is…interesting.

What do I mean by that?

Well, anyone of the previous goals could be performed in a manner to make them boring…or interesting.

Tough workouts can be interesting. I think swim coaches are masters of making hard work fun, interesting and challenging. That’s one reason there are so many kids who can swim day after day, looking at the bottom of a pool.

Workouts can be instructional. But you know how boring instructional and learning can get. Look at the faces of your typical middle school class. If that’s what your baseball team looks like, you are in trouble.

At 45, I was on top of my game. My workouts were specific for individuals and the time of season. I had it planned and it was very precise on what and how much we were doing. I tried to engage the kids into the season plan. I’m not sure if I succeeded.

Later, though probably throughout most of my coaching, I made sure it was fun. I came up with games, drills and wacky stuff so the kids had fun. Even when it was a difficult and challenging workout I would break it up so something was fun.

By having your workouts and practices be interesting, you keep the team engaged. They will be looking forward to coming back. They will want to keep participating.

Interesting means different things depending on the age, ability level, season and sport. You’re going to have to use your experience to decide what’s important to the team.

But whatever it is, make sure it’s interesting.

Here are five quick tips for keeping workouts interesting. It doesn’t matter what sport or age, either.

Youth Sport Coaching Tip #1.

Always keep them guessing. Don’t get into a rut where the kids know what’s coming next.

Youth Sport Coaching Tip #2

Find different ways to work on an individual skill. For instance, if you’re working leg strength try different exercises.

Youth Sport Coaching Tip #3

Be prepare to try new things. Look and search for different sports or experts. If something worked one year, experiment and try to tweak it the next. It’s ok to make mistakes. Push your comfort boundaries. The team and kids will pick up on it. It will help them stay interested and invested.

Youth Sport Coaching Tip #4

Anything can be interesting if presented in the right way. Make sure it’s appropriate for your team. Older athletes will need more explanation. Younger athletes will need more fun and games. Be appropriate for the level your coaching at but always think, “what can I do to keep the team engaged?”

Youth Sport Coaching Tip #5

Every practice be sure to have the team interact with each other. Humans are social. We learn socially and we love interacting with each other. Just talking to each other can be interesting. Encourage communication and interaction among your team, whatever the sport is.

Summary for Youth Sport Coaches

I believe that one of the reasons we lose so many kids at the age of 14 is because they get bored. There isn’t enough variety, instruction, fun and interaction so the kids go somewhere else for it.

What tips do you have for coaches that they can use?

Coach Ron Usher

Every Child an Athlete

Be an Athlete for Life

Jun 24

Five Tips for Dryland Programs for Swimmers

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

I’m a big fan of dryland programs for swimmers of all ages. Swimming is a great sport but not all athletes get the benefits from it. If kids don’t have the skills to press on the water or the core strength to stay aligned then they will be severely limited in how fast they can

Perhaps most importantly dryland exercises will help swimmer be better all around athletes.

Masters swimmers and triathletes can benefit from a dryland program as well. Besides improving the performance in the water dryland training can reduce the risk of injury.

One mistake I’ve seen in a lot of dryland or weight lifting books for swimmers is they follow a traditional body builder format. This typically includes:

1. Isolated muscle work.

2. Dominated by 3 x 10 sets.

3. Majority of exercises are machine based.

4. At least an hour to compete a typical workout.

There is nothing wrong with this type of workout; unless you’re trying to improve performance in the pool. Dryland workouts for swimmers of any age should be short and concise. Most swimmers don’t have a lot of time to waste doing exercises that won’t help.

Here are five tips for dryland swimmers:

Dryland swimming tip #1:

Focus on core, flexibility and the back. These three areas will improve performance and help prevent injuries, especially shoulder injuries.

Dryland swimming tip #2:

Spend no more than 15 minutes with dryland exercises. If you’re a world class or elite swimmer you’re probably spending more time than this. But then, you’re probably not reading this article. Keep your workouts short and sweet.

Dryland swimming tip #3

Some swimmers may benefit from sport specific work. This may include exercises to: 1) develop a better streamline,2) a better vertical jump for pushing off walls and starts, 3) using bands to improve stroke mechanics.

Dryland swimming tip #4

Shoulder injuries can be treated and improved. However, it takes a lot of work and knowledge. Find a chiropractor or physiotherapist who specializes in soft tissue work. Don’t do overhead pressing, bench press or similar exercises.

Dryland swimming tip #5


Jun 21

How to Catch Like Jerry Rice: A Progression for Teaching Football Catching Skills

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

There's a lot of steps in learning to catch a football

There’s a lot of steps in learning to catch a football

Some coaches think that being able to catch is a genetic skill; you either have it or you don’t.

Or that if you just throw the ball enough, kids will improve and be able to catch. I disagree.

I believe that catching a ball (specifically, a football though the progression can be modified for any sport game) is a skill that should be taught.

If I was coaching a youth football team, I’d go through this progression at the beginning of every practice. Especially, if it was a flag football team or passing league. It won’t take a lot of time and kids will greatly improve their skills and confidence.

Here’s the progression. As in the previous post, if they are beginners, start with an underhand toss.

A. Football catching progression #1: Facing thrower:

1. Belly to chin height toss
2. Head to above head height
3. Knee height
4. Outside shoulders, chest height
5. Outside shoulders, head height and highter
6. Knee height and lower, outside of legs
7. Repeat progressions but with athlete running in place.

B. Football catching progression #2: Turned sideways (alternate sides)

1. Different heights
2. While walking in place
3. While moving slowly in place

C. Football catching progression #3: Facing away from thrower

1. Turn to right/left
2. Over shoulder
3. While walking in place
4. While moving slowly in place

Notice that in A and B, the catch is made with the thumbs together. In C, when the athlete is facing away, the catch is made with the pinkys together and the thumbs apart. This is a much more difficult catch to make.

Obviously, in the more advanced/difficult throws the kids won’t be as successful. It’s not 100% success you are looking for. It is just the experience of being able to attempt a catch in a safe environment and in different positions.

A few minutes  of catching practice will go along way to helping your team be confident, secure and skilled receivers. I’ve noticed that the teams that tend to win in flag football are the teams where everyone can catch and run routes.

Next Steps for Catching a Football

Obviously, this is not the end of the progressions. Here are possible ways you can get to being successful at catching in a game situation:

1. Adding speed to the walking/running
2. Adding a defender
3. Starting from the line
4. Throwing harder
5. Jumping to the ball

By adding increasing degrees of difficulty it helps kids be ready for the game. Remember, it’s not perfection you are looking for. You want the kids to get experience, lots of reps and short bouts of practice.

Let me know how this works for you!

Coach Ron Usher

Jun 20

How to Teach Your Kid to Catch a Football: 5 Football Catching Tips

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

kid catching football 1

Tips to Catch a Football

Are you coaching a flag football team? Have a bunch of eight year olds who can barely catch?

Or maybe you’re working with your son trying to help them catch. Or even just playing catch at the beach. These are five tips that will help you work with your child.

These work for football but they could be for any sport with some modifications.

Catching Football Tip#1:

Use an underhand throw to begin. It is less threatening than an overhand throw and easier for kids to track. As you progress to an overhand throw be sure to use a real throwing mostion (stepping, rotating body). Just be sure to keep the velocity of the ball to an appropriate level. This allows the receiver to see what they most likely will see when playing. It also models good form for them as throwers.

Catching Football Tip#2:

Start about ten feet away. Too close and they don’t have time to react. As they get better, step further back.

Catching Football Tip#3:

Use a Nerf football: This might not be practical for an entire team but kids are less afraid of the softer ball and tend to keep their eyes open and watch the ball better. Another idea is to use tennis balls. They are cheap, easy to catch and make them focus on a smaller target.

Catching Football Tip#4:

Keep hands in a ready position. For most catches the thumbs will be close together. The hands should be up about shoulder height and the elbows should be bent. Fingers should be open and facing the quaterback or thrower.

Catching Football Tip#5:

Keep the body in a ready position too. Kids should be in an athletic position; knees bent, weight over the balls of the feet, shoulders down, head up with eyes looking at the thrower.

If you use these five football catching tips, your child or team will be a lot more successful. They will have more confidence about being thrown to. And they will have more fun.

My next post will be a simple progression to use so that your son (or daughter) will have  NFL type of hands. Who knows…maybe they will be the next Jerry Rice!

Jun 19

The Three Never Do Laws of Youth Coaching

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

MadCoachA buddy of mine is taking karate for the first time ever. He’s loving it and telling me how tough the workouts are. And I’m sure they are.

The other day he told me a story of what happened at the dojo and it got me thinking about good coaching (and teaching). It also got me thinking about really bad coaching and teaching.

This is what happened.

A student came in and had a conversation with the instructor. The instructor got mad and yelled at him. (This is an adult class by the way.)

As a consequence of a percieved lack of respect, the instructo told the whole class to do 100 push-ups and to be sure their knees didn’t hit the ground.

Then another student came in late. So the whole class got to do another 50 push-ups.

Does this sound like a lot of coaches you know? Have you done this? I know I did but it was a long time ago. As I matured, learned and improved in my coaching I avoided punishment and retalitory coaching.

Here are the three Laws of Coaching that were violated.

Law of Youth Coaching #1. Never lose your temper.

Do you want your athletes to lose their temper during a game? Do you want them to lose it during practice? How does a team that is yelling and screaming at each other perform. Teams need to trust each other. If the coach loses his or her temper than anyone can.

What to do instead: Take a deep breath and step back. Take five minutes if you have to.

As a substitute teacher, I encountered a lot of innappropriate behavior. I made it a vow to never get angry and yell. I wanted them to treat me with the same respect I did them. For the most part, it always worked.

Law of Youth Coaching #2. Don’t punish the team for the mistake of one

Sometimes athletes might need to be disciplined. They certainly make mistakes and need a good talking to. There’s two parts to this.

First, never discipline or single out a player in front of their teammates. Point out the good things but not the bad. Critizing bad play in front of the whole team can make the team scared and hesitant. Scared teams don’t win and they don’t have fun.

Second, punishing the whole team for the mistakes of one does not put more social pressure on the “guilty” team member. It might make it so that the other members take it out on the player. This isn’t good.

It might make it so that the team is angry at the coach. This isn’t good either.

What to do instead: Here are some ideas:

  1. Praise in public, discipline in private.
  2. Pull the athlete out of practice and have a private meeting.
  3. Ignore the behavior.
  4. Ignore the athlete for a short period of time. When my coaches weren’t yelling and talking to me, I knew I had done something bad.
  5. Use positive talk to motivate the athlete and the team.

Law of Youth Coaching #3. Don’t waste time.

In the above case, push-ups are a fine conditioner. But how important are they compared to learning a skill or technique? Probably not very.

As a coach, you only have a limited amount of time. Don’t waste it with work that isn’t focused on what needs to be done.

Sometimes I think coaches give punishment work because they have no clue on what to work on and figure that it will be at least get the team in shape.

There are other Laws of Youth Coaching that were violated as well. Perhaps I’ll go into those next week.

Jun 16

A Simple Way to Have a Fit Team That Works With All Sports

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

girl doing push-up

What can you do to improve your teams fitness?

How is your team’s overall fitness?

I bet it needs help.

It doesn’t matter what sport it is and it doesn’t matter what ages you’re coaching. High school football to age-group swimming kids need to improve their strength and endurance. They probably need to work on speed, agility and balance as well.

Finding time to put in conditioning drills and exercises can be difficult. Whatever the sport there’s a lot of skill work that has to be taught as well.

And if you’re coaching a youth sport team that only practices once or twice a week, it’s probably impossible. My son’s youth flag football team practiced once a week…on the same day they had games. They even did a lot of running and agility work. I’m not sure how productive it was but it certainly kept them busy!

If I was coaching a youth team that needed more conditioning there’s one thing I would try to do.

Have fitness homework for the kids. And get the parents involved as well.

There’s lots of advantages to doing this:

Fitness Advantage #1  It gives fitness and the team’s success to the kids to be responsible.

Fitness Advantage #2.  Makes them realize that fitness and sports is not just a “at practice” event

Fitness Advantage #2. It works

It doesn’t have to take a lot of time. And it doesn’t need a lot of fancy exercises or details.

I think a short and sweet routine is much better than something that’s too long. Make it so short and easy to remember that they do it.

Even something as simple as ten push-ups and sit-ups every day will develop fitness and skills that will last a lifetime.

What do you think? Give it a try and let me know.