Hacking Tryouts – Experimenting with advanced statistics

Tryout camps are a time of tumultuous emotion, upset parents, scorned players, stressed out coaches, and political agendas. When I took part in the minor hockey and junior tryout camps, I was sort of blind to all the calamity around me. When I began attending tryout camps from the perspective of strength and conditioning/skills coach, I took on a whole new perspective. I sort of took on the perspective of the anxious parent who wants his kid (in my case, athletes I train), to do well. I also took the perspective of the coach trying to sort out who was deserving of a spot and who wasn’t. This journey was further animated by the (wide) range of perspectives of every different parent.

Most parents of players who were cut, thought that their kid was not given a fair shake. I sometimes agreed, and other times disagreed. Since parents were so biased in watching their kids play, I wondered, though, exactly how much of my bias was distorting my perception of players’ performance. The next logical question was: how much of the coach’s bias distorted his views? In order to answer this, I wanted to evaluate some sort of objective data that might track a player’s performance in the tryout camp and possibly predict their future performance on the team. So that’s what I did…

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Hacking Sports Psychology – What “You think too much!” really means…

“You think too much” is common feedback that I received throughout my career. And it confused me.
 
It was correct feedback…because people who were not as smart as me could play hockey much better than me. It drove me nuts.
 
But did their brains really just shut off? And is that what I should do? Just shut my brain off?
 
It turns out that a more accurate way of describing what was going on is, “you’re thinking with the wrong system.”
 
Two Ways of thinking…
 

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Hardware vs Software: Part I – Quality vs Quantity

It seems that strength and conditioning coaches just want their athletes to perform lifts and exercises at a certain threshold of skill, and then they just don’t care anymore. At that point, they want the numbers of the training to reflect the results. By this, I mean that they’ll want the aerobic capacity, strength, power, and heart rate of an athlete to be the best values that they can be, with minimal concern over how that happens.
 
This is a fine tact to take. However, it operates on the assumption that we move perfectly, or close to it. The sad truth is that most of us do not move perfectly. We do not have the software to properly run our hardware.
 
Why don’t we move perfectly? Well because our environment and culture causes us to be sitting for long periods of time. It causes us to be hunched over while texting, or with our shoulders forward while typing.
 

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Get Sport IQ – Excellent Blog

Finally! A blog where the articles are written by informed authors, where the same old gibberish isn’t recycled. There are some excellent articles on this blog by some top notch authors. If you like reading some of my articles, you’ll definitely like this.

Get Sport IQ:

http://www.getsportiq.com

Cheers!

Jason

Hacking the 10,000 Rule

10,000 hour rule is more of a relationship than a rule. What was found by Anders Ericsson, and since exemplified in many popular books like “Outliers”, “The Talent Code”, “Bounce”, etc., is that for the most part, musicians who accumulate more deliberate practice than others tend to be better than those with less practice. The “rule” that was found, was that most “experts” have accumulated 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.

But this is a correlation, not a law. The rule is not aptly named. It should be called the 10,000 hour relationship.

In Steven Kotler’s brand new book, “The Rise of Superman”, he claims that action and adventure athletes have found a way to dramatically shorten the amount of practice necessary to reach “expert status”.

The path to mastery can be significantly shortened by accessing a specific psychological state. This psychological state is known as “flow”.

Why this information is important is because flow is accessible by pulling certain levers. Certain environmental, situational and and psychological factors can help trigger access to “flow states”. When athletes enter into a flow state, they experience optimal performance, a loss of sense of self, a loss of time, fearlessness, and the ability to generate creative and original solutions to problems.

If an athlete can more often enter flow states, they can progress their skill level and effectiveness at a much faster rate. In a day and age where everyone is maxing out their schedules with practice time, how you are using your practice time is what will set you apart. Can you Get Better Faster? Can you make your development non-linear – can you get multiple levels of output for singular inputs?

It is my guess that athletes who can easily enter into flow states are probable the best athletes on your team. It is important to note, that most coaches, parents and most aspects of society DO NOT promote flow states in athletes. So athletes who defy these forces in some way are the ones who mysteriously beat the 10,000 hour rule and rise above everyone else. Action and adventure athletes are able to beat those forces because what they do DEMANDS that they are in flow…or else they die! What, in our day and age, specifically precludes athletes from getting into flow? Here are a few common ones:

  • The distracted present. In order to be in flow, you need to be 100% involved in the moment. You actually experience a narrowing of attention, but only on the relevant stimuli. So if you’re trying to score a goal, the only thing going through your head is locating where some mesh is and how you’re going to get the puck there. If you face any distractions, like what the coach might think or what your parents will say if you miss. What specifically precludes athletes from getting into flow in their day to day life is the myriad of distractions that surround us. So if they are always answering every single thing on their phone, it is hard for them to get into flow. In our workouts and training, we do our best to remove any and all distractions to counter this.
  • Too many practices and games. If every little thing is structured in a child’s life, and they have no novelty or autonomy. Adding play has the benefit of releasing neurotransmitters that encourage athletes to enter into flow. We add unstructured free time and also provide our athletes with the autonomy to generate their own games and rules.
  • Parents and coaches. When coaches and parents give too much (even well-intentioned) feedback, athletes need to think too much. Thinking prevents the flow state, because the flow state has no conscious thought. I see this all the time with our athletes: if I go overboard giving feedback cues, athletes think too much and then crumble. We use a technique known as bandwidth feedback to ensure that our athletes get the correct amount of feedback to improve their performance, but not so much that they can’t get into flow states.

You might be wondering what specific levers we need to pull to get athletes into flow states. The first thing is to not pull the levers that keep you out of flow states! If you want to learn more about getting into flow states, I suggest reading “Flow” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, or “The Rise of Superman” by Steven Kotler. Also, stay tuned for more articles on flow.

As a bit of a teaser, the things that get you into flow are:

  • Clear goals
  • Direct and immediate feedback
  • Correct Skill/Challenge Ratio

So to summarize, let’s look at how our knowledge of talent development has progressed over time:

  • Early (1.0): We thought that talent was innate, something that you were born with or not
  • Recently (2.0): Talent can be grown…with 10,000 hours of deliberate, structured, systematic practice (If you thought this, then good on you, you’re still a part of the new wave movement way of thinking about talent development)
  • Latest (3.0 – Cutting edge of the new wave): Talent can be grown, at an exponentially accelerating rate, as an athlete develops their ability to enter into flow states. Athletes who spend more time in flow can accelerate their performance beyond those who don’t spend as much time in flow.

Hopefully this article has enticed you to spend time thinking about flow states and maybe get into some heavier reading. Good luck flowing!

Hacking Speed: Your Hip Flexors are Holding You Back!

Last week I talked about training your body to primarily use the gluteus maximus to generate the power in your movement. What about if you have something holding those glutes back? Oftentimes, we do. And they are your hip flexors.

Your hip flexors do the job of flexing your hip, so bringing your knee to your chest. The main muscles involved in this are your illiopsoas and tensor fascia latae. 

The reason that your hip flexors prevent your glutes from firing is that they completely oppose them in their muscle action. Imagine strong glutes as a big engine, and imagine tight hip flexors as brakes. You’ve gotta take your foot off the brakes in order to fully use your engine. Specifically, tight hip flexors prevent a complete extension at the hip. In order to have the hips extend powerfully then, your body needs to adapt its movement by hyperextending the lumbar spine. This leads to sore backs and power left on the table…the engine can’t do its job!

The reason this happens is twofold:

  • Hockey players are often in a position that leads the hip flexors to be contracted in a semi lengthened position. Think of the squat you see most players in on the ice.
  • Hockey players are also people in the modern world. And people in the modern world spend a lot of time siting! Sitting leads to, guess what…hip flexors contracted in a semi-lengthened.

So for these two reasons together, we find many players with very tight hip flexors. Now, to solve the problem, we need to understand that hip flexors are not of a fixed length. Rather, your body has chosen to adopt a semi-lengthened, semi-contracted state for your hip flexors, because that’s what you’ve been training it to do! (By sitting and skating) This means that your hip flexors can extend, if you teach your body to have them extend. Here’s how:

  • Use PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) to trick your hip flexors into lengthening.
  • Stretch your hip flexors daily
  • Watch and feel your ability to powerfully extend your hips go through the roof!

Here’s a step by step approach to PNF your muscles. It requires a bench and a partner.

  1. Stand so your bum is on the edge of a bench, bed, or high and stable table
  2. Grab one knee and pull it to your chest
  3. Fall back onto the bench keeping your knee to your chest and your other leg straight.
  4. Have your partner place your foot on his/her shoulder (of the knee that’s up to your chest)
  5. Have your partner place their hand on your knee that is straight.
  6. You will push your straight leg into your partners hand as hard as you can for 5s
  7. As soon as you release your pressure into his hand, have your partner increase the stretch
  8. Then have your partner hold you in the increased stretch position for 10s
  9. Repeat up to 5-10x, or as many times as needed to obtain a significant change

Get stronger and faster without doing any training, and restore your hip flexors to their natural length. A side effect of this is that you’ll prevent many injuries. Have fun and happy skating!