Club: Colorado Classix 17′s
High School: Colorado Springs Christian School (CSCS), Class of 2014
There comes a point in every athlete’s career when there is a setback or bump in the road. Some don’t make the varsity roster, some don’t crack the starting lineup, and some are hit with an injury that puts them on the sideline. No matter what obstacle comes in the way, there are always those athletes that make the best of their situation. They put their nose to the grindstone and find a way to improve their game, keep a positive attitude, and find a way back to the court or field.
Kelsey Hunter is one of those athletes. Unfortunately, Kelsey suffered an ACL injury during her high school season, causing her to miss the State playoffs with her team, and later, delay her off-season training. As most athletes, coaches, and parents know, an injury to the knee (especially an ACL tear) can change a career. But, Kelsey was ready to attack this new challenge head on. Her positive mindset and her determination to come back stronger than she was before her injury really set Kelsey up for success. Not only did she dominate her physical therapy sessions, it was not long before she was back training with Max Performance and just itching to get back to the volleyball court. Kelsey has now fully returned to playing volleyball and is enjoying the club season. She was recently named a captain for her high school team and is hoping to lead Colorado Springs Christian back to the State tournament.
I tore my ACL two weeks before my team went to State. It was a devastating blow to me, because this would be the second year I had gone to State and not played. I also missed out on a lot of time I could have spent getting better, which hurt the most. It set me back both physically and emotionally.
I chose Spectrum because I knew the people there, and I knew that they would do everything they could to get me back on the court as soon as possible. I honestly would not trust anyone else to help me with that.
Max Performance has not only made me physically strong again, but they have also made me mentally strong. I know that after training with them that I have an advantage over many of my opponents, which has led me to be more confident in myself and my abilities.
I believe the mental aspect of my training is the most important. Becoming mentally strong comes during those last couple of reps when you think you cannot do it. But instead, you dig deep and finish. This has taught me to dig deep and fight, even when you don’t think you have anything left.
My last coach, Ellie Marshall, was one of my biggest inspirations after my injury. She taught me how to believe in myself again, and she helped me remember why I love the game of volleyball so much. I would be happy to grow up and be at least half the person she is.
I have a lot of little quotes and Bible verses that keep me motivated, and that help keep things in perspective, but this is one of my favorites:
“You are never given a dream without also being given the power to make it true.” – Richard Bach
The following article is not written with the intention to make anyone angry or feel bad. Rather, I want to bring to light the fact that many high school sports programs lack a sound strength & conditioning program, and many high school coaches are not doing what is necessary to help the athletic development of the very kids they coach.
I’ve been a part of the high school sports scene here in Colorado Springs for the past 5 years. In that time, I have spoken to and worked with over 300 high school athletes, coaches, and parents. Needless to say, I’ve learned quite a few things about the culture of the local high school athletic programs and the value coaches and athletic directors place on strength & conditioning.
I have learned that most high school athletes have a desire to improve. They desire to win a State championship. They desire a college scholarship. However, I have also learned that very few have the resources to put in the work that is needed to succeed. They want the end result, but do not have the leadership to help them through the process of achieving it. That’s too bad, because they are missing out on valuable lessons that are learned during that process – hard work, commitment, and time management are just a few that come to mind.
High school athletic departments should encourage this “process” of development and improvement. Some are better than others. This is true in any community. However, many high school sports programs in Colorado Springs have apathetic leadership. Apathy is contagious and trickles down to the athletes. Maybe it’s not apathy. Maybe it’s just a lack of knowledge or coaches don’t know where to begin.
Passion and enthusiasm are also contagious, and young athletes thrive in environments where coaches and administrators challenge them to improve their athletic abilities not by just attending practices and games, but by creating and incorporating a solid strength & conditioning program.
Consider this, at the college and professional levels, there is a lot of money to be earned for teams and schools that win. Teams and players that win sell more tickets, sell more merchandise, and sign better endorsement deals than their counterparts who do not win. Millions and millions of dollars are invested in strength & conditioning professionals and high-tech facilities so that “investments” (athletes) are physically prepared to perform at the highest levels and stay healthy. Physically under-prepared athletes and those that are injured have a much more difficult time winning than those that have trained in a quality strength & conditioning program.
I truly believe high school coaches know the value of strength & conditioning, but do not have the time, resources, or knowledge to create something for their teams. Most coaches would rather spend all of their time in practice working on plays and fundamentals. Or, they add game upon game to a schedule that only seeks to hit the maximum limit allowed by Colorado High School rules. Obviously, you cannot become better at a sport without putting time in on the field or court, but 14-18 year old kids only have so much energy and focus before hours and hours of practices and games becomes counterproductive. This is where the sound investment in a strength & conditioning program can help.
High school coaches really cannot go wrong by establishing a year-round strength & conditioning program. It can only help their athletes. And at the end of the day, having better athletes usually equals more wins. What coach doesn’t want to win more? Unfortunately, most high school athletic departments do not employ a full-time strength & conditioning professional or have a strength & conditioning program. Do not confuse having a weight room or “weights coach” with having a program.
Often times, the school’s football or wrestling coach runs the weight room, so other coaches who are looking for a strength program turn to them for help. But are those coaches qualified to run a strength & conditioning program? Most strength & conditioning professionals don’t claim that they know how to coach football or baseball or soccer or [insert your sport here]. Why do those coaches insist that they can run a strength & conditioning program?
I think the problem lies in the thought process. Most coaches were once athletes themselves. As athletes, they lifted weights and so they think they can implement a program for their kids. But, a well-organized strength and conditioning program involves more that just lifting weights. At Max Performance, we help our athletes with flexibility, mobility, soft tissue work, nutrition, and use conditioning as way to boost performance not as a form of punishment. Our volleyball players do not train like baseball players and our soccer players do not train like wrestlers. Each athlete has his or her own program that is specifically designed for them. A lot of coaches think you can train all athletes alike. While there are a lot of similarities, it’s important to make specific adjustments based on the sport, and even more so based on the individual athlete.
I am in no way implying that athletes training with Max Performance are superior athletes, but I will say that our athletes are better prepared for their sports than other athletes who “lift weights” at school or do not train at all. Many athletes are not born with athletic talent. The kids that succeed are the ones that put in the extra time and work while their peers would rather screw around. Our athletes do the little things to excel. Just check out the list of local athletes who have trained with us and gone on to play at the college or pro level.
So, we know a strength and conditioning program is absolutely essential for high school athletes to perform at a higher level. But, a solid program also helps athletes stay healthy in the process. Resistance training is the basis for modern physical therapy, which also incorporates mobility work, stabilization exercises, flexibility, and other manual techniques to return injured athletes back to the field of competition. Again, it’s not just about lifting weights. If physical therapists utilize similar approaches to help injured athletes, what does that say about the indirect benefits of a strength & conditioning program to keep non-injured athletes healthy?
High school coaches enjoy coaching and want to win. But, many in Colorado Springs are not willing to admit that their programs are incomplete. It’s sad, because the athletes are the ones who miss out. My job as a strength & conditioning professional is to complement the coaching they provide to their athletes. I do not want to teach your football team how to run a sweep, or your soccer team how to perform an offside trap. I want to make your athletes stronger, faster, and more “bullet-proof” so that you can accomplish great things with them. High school coaches and athletic directors who have a program in place with a knowledgeable strength & conditioning professional will always outperform the competition. If you are a coach or athletic director, do yourself and your players a favor and get your kids involved in a year-round strength & conditioning program that is run by a knowledgeable professional. Neglecting this area of athletic development places limits on the very athletes you coach.
Do you play one sport all year round? Or, are you a multi-sport athlete?
Can being a multi-sport athlete help you excel in your primary sport?
Elsbeth Vaino states that 82% of the top athletes in 2012 from the four major team sports (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL) played multiple sports growing up.1
When considering Vaino’s statistic of 82%, the case for playing more than one sport seems pretty clear. Is it required to be a succesful athlete? No, but the chances of having a long athletic career and playing at a high level are much better.
Different sports require different skills – sprinting, cutting, jumping, rotating, overhead throwing or overhead hitting. The top athletes in the world are those who possess the ability to perform each of those athletic skills well. How do they acquire and develop those skills? Playing multiple sports.
That’s not to say an athlete who only plays one sport cannot succeed. After all, you cannot become a better softball or soccer player without working on your craft. But when all of those reps, drills, and practices are piled onto one another over the course of a full year, the risk of overuse injuries begins to rise. In fact, according to the largest clinical study of its kind, young athletes who specialize in one sport have a significantly higher risk of stress fractures and other severe overuse injuries, even when compared with other injured athletes.2
Dr. James Andrews, best known for his work with Tommy John and ACL surgeries, has seen a five- to sevenfold increase in injury rates in youth sports since 2000.3 According to Dr. Andrews, one of the biggest factors for this rise in injuries is specialization.
“Specialization leads to playing the sport year-round. That means not only an increase in risk factors for traumatic injuries but a sky-high increase in overuse injuries. Almost half of sports injuries in adolescents stem from overuse.” -Dr. James Andrews
This is why the off-season is so important for athletes. The off-season is the perfect time to give your body some much needed rest. The thousands upon thousands of repeated repetitions that accumulated over the previous season can add up, and whether you feel it or not, there may be some lingering issues. Heck, if professional athletes take at least 2 months off from their sport every year, isn’t that saying something?
For the kid who is not a multi-sport athlete, the off-season is your time to really focus on your strength and conditioning program.
While your teammates move on to a different sport, your strength and conditioning program becomes your other sport.
Work on the movements that your sport neglects. Work to build strength in your legs, torso, back, and scapular stabilizers. Get plenty of soft tissue work in and do not ignore your flexibility and mobility work. The return on your investment here will be huge when you return to the court or field.
All injury talk aside, kids who play multiple sports typically have a better well-rounded sports experience. They usually have better personal character and can be more attractive to college recruiters. They learn different coaching styles, interact with different types of athletes, and learn to mentally handle the challenge that each sport presents. There is also a certain level of social interaction that occurs across different sports that can help an athlete become a better well-rounded person.
So, if you are a mutli-sport athlete, do not quit playing other sports just so you can focus on your primary sport. Your long term athletic development will be better because of your variety of experiences. If you are fortunate enough to compete as an athlete after high school, then you can think about narrowing your focus.
If you currently only play one sport, you don’t need to go searching for another sport to play – especially if you have no desire to play another sport. Just make sure to have an off-season. Rest your body and have a quality game plan for your strength and conditioning program so you can come into the following season stronger and better prepared.
What are your thoughts? How many of you are multi-sport athletes? Do you focus on just one sport? Use the comments below to tell us your background.