It is just applied in a different context. Whilst we can get caught up in the Xs and Os, or the latest buzzwords- “constraints led coaching!”, if we look back, we can learn from those that preceded us and find out what truly stands the test of time.
In the book “Doctrines of the Great Educators”, Robert Rusk reviews the principles of 13 great education minds and how they influenced others (1). I have written some notes from the book, and added comments on their applicability to coaching and also to schools and their physical education.
For any p.e. teachers reading this, arm yourself with these quotes when your curriculum is being squeezed. According to Steven Rose, we have Descartes to thank for the current dichotomy of mind versus body in education (2).
The seventeenth century Catholic philosopher and mathematician divided the universe into the mental and the material. It separated the mind or soul from the body. This then influenced science and medicine that divided into cognitive or somatic streams later.
As you may well be aware, the two are intrinsically linked.
P4 His first task was to lead men to self-examination and self-criticism. “herein is the evil of ignorance, that he who is neither good nor wise is nevertheless satisfied with himself: he has not desire for that of which he feels no want.”
P5 Three stages of knowledge are described:
Opinion– the individual is unable to give valid reasons for his knowledge or assumed knowledge
Destructive or analytic stage– the individual realises he does not know what he assumed he knew. Contradiction and perplexity arrives.
Knowledge– the individual’s experience is critically reconstructed and he can justify his beliefs by giving reasons for them.
P7 “Were not the laws which have the charge of education right in commanding your father to train you in music and gymnastic?”
P19 “Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind…. Then do not use compulsion; but let early education be a sort of amusement; you will then be better able to find out the natural bent.”
P33 “The most important part of education is right training in the nursery. The soul of the child in his play should be guided by the love of that sort of excellence in which he grows up to manhood he will have to be perfected.”
P 44 “Children must be allowed relaxation, but, as in other particulars, a mean has to be preserved; deny them play, they hate study; allow them too much recreation, they acquire a habit of idleness. Play also reveals their bent and moral character, and Quintilian observes that the boy who is gloomy, downcast and languid, and dead to the ardour of play affords no great expectations of a sprightly disposition for study.”
P58 “The first duty of the tutor is to know the nature of the pupil, approving and extolling any virtuous dispositions which the latter should happen to possess and condemning in no hesitating manner which might lead the pupil into evil. He should also take care that the pupil is not fatigued with continual learning, but that study is diversified with exercise.”
P 141 “It is forgotten that these urchins who gambol upon village-greens are in many respects favourably circumstanced- that their lives are spent in perpetual play; that they are all day breathing fresh air; and that their systems are not disturbed by over-taxed brains.”
P143 “He that hath found a way how to keep up a child’s spirit easy, active and free, and yet at the same time to restrain him from many things he has a mind to, and to draw him to things that are uneasy to him, he, I say, that knows how to reconcile these seeming contradictions, has, in my opinion, got the true secret of education.”
P186 “A feeble body makes a feeble mind.” “All wickedness comes from weakness.” “The weaker the body, the more imperious its demands; the stronger it is, the better it obeys.”
“Would you cultivate your pupil’s intelligence, cultivate the strength it is meant to control? Give his body constant exercise, make it strong and healthy, in order to make him good and wise; let him work, let him do things, let him run and shout, let him always be on the go; make a man of him in strength, and he will soon be a man of reason.
As he grows in health and strength, he grows in wisdom and discernment. This is the way to attaint to what is generally incompatible, strength of body and strength of mind, the reason of the philosopher and the vigour of the athlete.”
Our first teachers are our feet, hands and eyes. “To substitute
books for them does not teach us to reason, it teaches us to use the reason of
others rather than our own; it teaches us to believe much and know little.”
P190 “Teach by doing whenever you can, and only fall back upon words when doing is out of the question. Let all the lessons of young people take the form of doing rather than talking; let them learn nothing from books which they can learn from experience.”
P246 Quoting Pestalozzi “I would go so far as to lay it down as a rule that whenever children are inattentive and are apparently taking no interest in a lesson, the teacher should always first look to himself for the reason.”
P249 “Let the main ides which are introduced into a child’s
education be few and important, and let them be thrown into every combination
P254 On discipline which can be broken into two parts:
Regierung: orderliness or teacher’s control of pupil’s behaviour.
Zucht: character training or self-discipline.
The former serves primarily the needs of the teacher, the latter those of the pupil. Regierung secures merely external conformity, whereas the work of Zucht is not to secure a certain mode of external behaviour but rather to develop insight and the appropriate volition in the mind of the pupil.
(Interestingly, Oakland Raiders head coach John Madden made the same observations (3))
Discipline need not be repressive: “When the environment is so arranged that childish activity can spontaneously discover the road to the useful and expend itself thereon, then discipline is most successful.”
“The foundation of control consists in keeping children
He expands further into how the translation of both into
English becomes “discipline”.
This can be misconstrued where “A well-disciplined school may be the worst possible institution for the development of character, since it may leave no opportunities for the practice of such actions as are initiated by the pupils’ own motives nor afford occasion for the exercise of self-discovery and self-imposed discipline.”
P274 “To have educative value the play of the child must not be a purposeless activity; his play impulses must be directed and controlled by the employment of definite material necessitating an orderly sequence in the feelings engendered and in the activities exercised.”
P275 “While play is the characteristic activity of childhood, work is that of boyhood. Interest in the process gves place to interest in the product. Whereas during the previous period of childhood the aim of play consisted simply in activity as such, the aim lies now in definite, conscious purpose.”
P277 “Every child, boy, and youth, whatever his condition or position in life, should devote daily at least one or two hours to some serious activity in the production of some definite external piece of work.”
P286 “The duration of a process is determined not by the exigencies of an authorised time-table, but by the interval which the child finds requisite to exhaust his interest.”
P287 “When the environment is so planned that childish activity is directed along the lines of the useful and expends itself thus, the result is the most effective form of discipline .”
P288 “Montessori has devised certain formal gymnastic exercises to develop the child in coordinated movements. She disapproves of the child practising the ordinary gymnastic exercises arranged for the adult.”
I was working with a group of young players this week- pretty new to physical training.
I outlined the plan over the next 10-12 weeks. We are going to work on efficiency of movement, becoming more robust and develop your athleticism.
I then asked what did they think that involved… getting bigger was the immediate response.
Eat well. There is no point eating junk food, you will become obese. Instead eat a well balanced diet that contains lots of natural foods. There are many sources of protein and testosteronethat can be found in your normal diet. It is a lot cheaper than buying fat shakes too.
Sleep. It is when you sleep that your body recovers and repairs itself. Most teenage rugby players are not getting enough sleep.
If your focus is purely on getting bigger, then there are 2 potential downsides:
Injuries: if you are a rugby player you can look forward to shoulder and hamstring injuries because they are the 2 most common ones, and a season of rehab. Is it any wonder that the RFU injury audit shows an increase in rugby injuries?
The British Army used to produce some excellent training manuals. My copy of the 1931 manual contains many pertinent coaching points.
It is worth considering what has gone before us. Whilst the weaponry may have changed in the past 90 years, the human body and psyche remain fundamentally the same.
Individualisation of training is an old concept
“1 The Physical training of army boys cannot be undertaken without first considering their individual character. Collectively they can be said to possess the definite ambition to function as soldiers from the very start of their careers; consequently they have a strong inducement to exert the necessary effort required for the progress.
By reason of their youth, they are active, energetic, healthy and have acquired some idea concerning discipline; but their will power, and with it their character requires to be trained in the right direction.
The importance of this factor must be realised by all instructors, who should set themselves the task of developing each individual characterrather than forcing all into a uniform pattern.”
How about “functional fitness or “cool exercises”?
“The exercises employed in a system of physical training, if they ensure as they should the harmonious development of the whole body, will at the same time correct the faults engendered by one-sided work and so put the body in a better state to perform any other work that may be required of it.
At the same time as he develops his body he must be taught to realise that he himself achieves this by his own effort, and is merely guided by his instructor. Interest in the possibility of his own power and the capacity to produce that power beget self- effort. Self-effort can therefore be produced.
It must be borne in mind that the performance of the various exercises is only a means to an end and that training is not merely for the sake of the exercises themselves but for the ultimate effects of those exercises.”
In those 3 paragraphs you have a basic guideline for people who are beginning to coach:
Have a systematic plan
Engage and educate the athlete so they motivate themselves
Remember that their ultimate goal is to do well at their sport, not be gym rats.
Guidance for the Physical Training Instructor
“The Instructor should remember that exercises which are well known to him, and which have become easy by practice, are new and often difficult to the pupil. he must not, therefore, be impatient of faults, neither must he expect perfection of execution too soon.
Any endeavour to obtain correctness of execution too suddenly is contrary to all sound principles of physical training.
Just as the progress of the recruit from week to week and month to month should be steady and gradual, so also should the correction of faults in each exercise be gradual. All the faults in an exercise should not be corrected at once, but the most important faults should first be put right, and later on those of less importance.
The capabilities of the men must be carefully observed, and judgement must be exercised in deciding when to exact perfection of execution and when to be satisfied with a reasonable attempt.”
This is the essence of coaching!
“The characteristics which should be chiefly stressed are accuracy, self-respect, energy , punctuality, obedience, tidiness and cleanliness.
Of these, the first- accuracy- is perhaps the most important as it inculcates the habit of performing every act with precision. It should therefore be continually kept before the boys’ minds in order to perfect them through their own efforts.”
Again, character development is emphasised as heavily as physical development here- would we now call that “training to train”? This is what used to be taught in physical education classes in schools before they became games lessons.
3″ Over-enthusiasm leading to unnecessary strain must, however, be avoided, and exercises acting directly on the will, such as balance exercises should predominate. In particular the absolute control of the body should be insisted on after any agility exercises have been performed.”
4 “Throughout the whole training the instructor must study each individual, and must never lose sight of the fact that he has in his hands the power to advance or curtail the development of the boy’s character.”
It is this last aspect of coaching that is predominant in a lot of sports, but is missing in strength and conditioning coaching– Young people are not just guinea pigs or numbers on a spreadsheet.
A lot can be learnt from these old texts, and a systematic approach to coaching, education and physical development is the most important thing for me.
“Each man delights in the work that suits him best”
Homer, The Odyssey
Odysseus had his 10 year journey home to Ithaca, Jason his search for the Golden Fleece, Percival his Grail Quest and Frodo had to destroy the One Ring.
All these Heroes had to:
Travel long distances
Enlist the help of allies
Make many sacrifices
Does this sound familiar in your training or coaching?
(Female quests are under represented in literature: Dorothy trying to get back to Kansas is one example.)
“If you give them silk pyjamas, they won’t get out of bed”
Rob Gibson, Rugby Coach.
Whilst all of these Heroes had a destination in mind, it was the journey, the struggle, the life changing process that was the real story.
(I always question why Frodo walked when he could have hitched a ride on an Eagle).
As an athlete, having things laid out on a plate for you may not always be the best thing. Giving players underfloor heating in a changing room may be nice, but what happens when they have to play away?
Nice facility, but coaching matters more
“Talent needs trauma” by Dave Collins is an excellent piece on why obstacles and hazards are needed as part of Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD).
I see athletes I have worked with moving to “Institutes” and becoming Institutionalised: they start moaning if they have to fill their own water bottle, or that the wrong music is played in the gym, or that they had to wait for an hour in between training sessions!
A smiliar problem occurs with coaches who want to gain experience at a “bells and whistles” facility. They become fascinated by kit and use that first, rather than thinking about the athlete and the process.
Put them in an empty room with 30 kids and say “Get them fit“ and they turn round and ask “Where’s the force platform?”
Earn the Right
I have a philosophy of coaching that the athlete has to “Earn the Right”. I can show them the way, but they have to take the steps. Rather than turn up to the Athletic Development Centre and get some fancy stash, they have to start working and assessing their own ability.
Young rugby players ask “when are we going to do cleans?” I answer “you have to earn the right” that means being able to move well and efficiently first. Can they do a single leg squat? Can they do 50 hindu press ups and 100 hindu squats? Can they do a dumbbell complex first? Can they overhead squat 50% of their body weight?
It is easy to get popular in the short term by giving away kit and jumping on the latest training bandwaggon.
Will that approach help the athlete when they are face down in the mud on a cold December night with a hairy-arsed monster stamping on them? Will it help them as they try and apply that power in the open field?
The same applies to coaches, you have to “Earn the Right” to work with athletes: at any level! 6 year old kids deserve the same amount of planning and preparation as does an Olympian.
Someone said to me this week that they couldn’t use their knowledge and techniques on kids that age. I said he had to “Earn the right” to work with those kids by improving his knowledge and learning different techniques.
Feedback from a recent speed workshop with coaches included “I reckon that you are a hard taskmaster”. Perhaps, but I was emphasising the quality of execution andprecision of movement before progressing.
The Quest for Ultra Performance is about the journey, the struggle and the process for coaches and athletes alike. There are no shortcuts.
“It is a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link of the chain of destiny can be handled at a time.” Winston Chuchill.
We can learn from other people: mentors, senior coaches and fellow athletes to help us along the way: we then have to practice implementing that information.
We can enlist the support of allies (parents, friends, coaches, teachers): we then have to step onto the pitch, mat or court ourselves and have a go.
We can attend conferences, workshops and courses that help accelerate our learning: we then have to Plan, Do Review. It is called the Coaching Process rather than the Coaching Destination!
No one can input the passion and desire though, the opening quote from Homer is important to understand as an athlete or coach.
The only way we can attain Ultra Performance is by undergoing the Quest.
When fielding in cricket, you are putting your body under a lot of stress and strain due to the stretching/reaching and diving to catch the ball.
If the underlying strength and mobility behind these movements is poor then an injury is more likely.
To do these movements successfully you will need to have good hip and knee control, and good flexibility too.
I will be talking about how to improve agility and flexibility in order to get closer to the ground and show you a 5 day routine to help.
Learning to co-ordinate and control your body when you are off centre or unbalanced will help. Exercises on one leg or one arm that challenge your body to balance and control are particularly useful Some of these are included in our regular 5x5x5 work that all Excelsior athletes do.
Pigeon walks will get you to the ground in a low and long position where you are stretching and also working on moving through the stretch and keeping the joints strong and stable.
Arm reaches and lawnmowers will incorporate rotation which may be necessary to catch the ball. You could do the lawnmowers in a lunge position rather than a front support to feel a stretch and learn to control that low movement/position.
The important areas to stretch
Muscles that should be stretched are the hip flexors, hamstrings adductors, iliopsoas and glutes. All these muscles will be under pressure if you are lunging forwards to catch the ball.
Hip Flexor stretches –
This picture shows a hip flexor twist stretch. It is the more advanced version and will also stretch your quads when you pick up the foot at the back.
Hamstring stretch –
Glute stretch –
Iliopsoas and hamstring stretch –
Example session plans for 5 days
Aim – to work on control of own body and start to improve stability of hips, knees, ankles (very important for braking, turning and moving efficiently in game play).
Some shoulder stability too. The first few days will include basic movements that concentrate on control and stability. Later on, more complex drills will be included.
The 1950s were the age of physical culture. Jack Lalanne was doing his TV show and “Health and Strength” magazine offered a monthly look at different aspects of training.
This April 1957 edition includes an excellent article on Weight Training for Women by A.J. Mannix who was the Chief Instructor of Camberwell Ladies’ Weight-Training Section.
The article looks at five leg exercises that use a dumbbell, a barbell and a chair as equipment. They require balance and co-ordination as well as strength.
He managed to write the whole article without the word “functional”!
“It is true of all forms of exercise that regularity gets the results in the long run”. Mannix emphasises quality of technique, as well as coaching points and motivation for the women readers.
A well written article without gimmicks, fads or “groundbreaking” sport science. Unfashionable nowadays, but sound advice that I try and implement. (You can download our free ebook for womenhere).
Prevention is better than Cure
I got the magazine for its article on weight training for women, but it contained some excellent other articles. The clue is in the title: Health is prominent.
“Every effort should be made primarily to train our youth so that it takes a keen interest in health; to make it become as fit as possible in the organic sense.” says Capt Knowles principle of “The Institute of Breathing.”
Coming in the week of the leaked Ofsted report on P.E. in schools, this is the type of education that is needed in schools. Competitive sport is different from Physical Education (as I have discussed here).
An article on tumbling and amateur acrobatics by Ken Woodward (Principle of the Woodward School of Physical Culture) shows what has been lost in the last 60 years.
“I am a firm believer in the old saying that in order to get the best out of exercise, one must thoroughly enjoy it.”
You can see the boys from an Air Cadet force trying the gymnastics triple roll. This requires strength, co -ordination, balance, team work, trust and it is fun!
Woodward managed to write the whole article without mentioning the word “core”. I can tell you that the athletes I work with (young and old) enjoy this type of training immensely, once they have got the tools. He offers variations and progressions on these tumbling exercises that can be done on simple mats in schools or clubs.
Basic gymnastics is an important skill, that is why we incorporate that in our Athletic Development programmes and warm ups (read how here).
Or, you could line your players up, get them to do the plank for endless minutes, tell them to “engage your core” and then bemoan the fact that girls are disinterested in physical training.
“Chest Size is not important”
Says Don Doran in an article about the need for an increase in lung capacity. “The size of a man’s chest does not always give a correct sign of its usefulness or efficiency”. He stresses the need for a “natural action” in exercises.
Doran then emphasises the need for health first, strength training second. This connection between health, fitness and performance seems to have been forgotten. This was an article written for bodybuilders, an activity I have little time for, but it contained a lot of common sense and sound coaching advice within it.
John McCallum’s “Keys to Progress” offers further practical advice on pure strength training from this era. Further reading on 1950s strongman training here.
Excelsior female athlete
I was inspired and frustrated reading this magazine. Where the heck are the Schools of Physical Culture and Institutes of Breathing nowadays? Our Universities are advocating Crossfit and kettlebell training instead of sound programming and development in order to cater to fashion and sell places.
Physical Education and Athletic Development have many similar aspects. Without a sound health basis, physical literacyand role models in school teachers and parents, our children will never become engaged in fitness.
Competitive sport is now the universal panacea according to the politicians. I am working hard in conjunction with fellow coaches to try and educate the next generation of athletes and future coaches through our Athletic Development Club. I hope that you can be part of it.
This was funded by Teinbridge CVS. They had to complete online learning and assessment and then plan and coach sessions. All 6 were brilliant and did much better than many adults James has tutored.
Healthy Athlete Workshops
We have received another grant from Teinbridge CVS to run a series of 3 “Healthy Athlete” workshops.
This will be in addition to the “Sports Performance Workshops” we run in the holidays which are aimed at secondary school pupils looking to help improve their sport (next one is April 10th in Willand). I am thinking of doing the healthy athlete for 2 hours in Willand, will include: • a guide to making a healthy lunch box • what snacks to take to competition/ training • how to warm up/ cool down safely.
This will be for Primary school pupils in years 4-6, this format is flexible, so please make a suggestion. Cost will be £5 for members, £8 for non-members.
New weight lifting equipment arrives
New WL equipment
£2000 of Eleiko weight lifting equipment has arrived from Sweden The funding from the People’s Postcode Lottery has bought this top level weight lifting equipment. Thanks to them for funding the club.
We have had several new members join the weight lifting sessions in the last 2 weeks- and we are starting a new Tuesday morning session for beginners in addition to the Monday and Friday evening sessions.
We shall host the “Graham Cooper Memorial” competition in Willand on Monday April 8th.
. Spa Discount for Excelsior ADC members
Luxury spa offer
The Thurlestone Hotel and Spa is owned by the Grose family. Mary Grose is an accomplished equestrian who James used to coach.
She has given us an offer of 10% off all spa treatments and will “look after our members” if you wish to book a night there- speak to her directly. This applies in term time during the week.
James on BBC Somerset Radio
Finally, those of you that listened have said some nice things about my interview on the radio.
It was great to talk about the club, my philosophy of coaching for the long term benefit of the athletes, and name dropping a few of our members.
I set this club up in response to my experiences in International and professional sport. It is my overwhelming desire to offer expertise locally at an affordable price for all. I know “You can’t be a prophet in your own village” but thanks to all our members who train every week and to their parents and our volunteers for helping it run.
Many athletes and recreational sports people suffer from on-going knee pain and soreness. Today Physiotherapist Sarah Marshall looks in more detail at one aspect.
One of the most common types is Anterior Knee Pain (AKP). It describes pain at the front of the knee and can affect up to 40% of the population. It is especially common amongst athletes, yet not disrupt their sporting function or ability.
What are the causes of AKP?
There are many causes of AKP and I have listed the most common below. Symptoms will often present without specific injury. Any persistent pain must be assessed by an appropriate medical professional in order to make an accurate diagnosis who will then advise on the correct treatment plan.
Patello-Femoral Joint Pain (PFJP) is by far the most common cause of AKP. Athletes will describe pain in and around the patella. I would not expect to see any significant swelling around the knee joint.
Symptoms are usually aggravated by stairs, kneeling, squatting, lunging and running. PFJP can also cause pain at rest, especially when sitting for long periods (movie goer’s knee).
A Patella Tendonopathy, Fat Pad Irritation / Impingement, Bursitis and Patella Instability with also produce AKP.
What causes PFJP
There are many contributing factors to the development of PFJP
Local muscle weakness (especially quadriceps)
Poor neuromuscular control
Muscle tightness (especially quadriceps and hamstrings)
Poor hip / pelvic control / stability
Poor foot posture / mechanics
All of the above will increase the functional loading of the Patello-Femoral Joint which is likely to cause inflammation and pain with repeated use. PFJP is also a very common complaint following any knee joint surgery and must not be missed as referred pain from an old Posterior Cruciate Ligament injury.
Management of PFJP
Get your knee assessed by a Chartered Physiotherapist
Always seek professional adviceif you can before embarking on a rehabilitation programme. Initially, pain levels need to be managed and controlled before early rehabilitation can be progressed.
Activity modification i.e. avoid aggravating factors
Soft tissue massage
Stretching programme (hamstrings, quadriceps, gastrocnemius, anterior hip structures)
A graded strengthening programme with initial emphasis on quadriceps
Hip and pelvis stability exercises ( transversus abdominus, gluteus medius)
(Post rehab, there are 3 keys to maintaining Knee Health)
There are limited surgical options for this problem with relatively poor outcomes.
A biomechanical assessment of the foot can help determine whether shoes orthotics are indicated. Commitment to rehabilitation must be adhered to for many months in order to achieve individual goals.
Unfortunately, without the appropriate management, PFJP often develops into a chronic problem.
If you want an individual assessment on your knee pain, then please book in to see me.
At Sunday school many years ago I was taught a parable about a man who was given corn. He scattered it carelessly around. Some fell on dry earth, some fell on stones. Some fell in fertile land and was either eaten by birds or strangled by weeds. Some fell in fertile land and received the right amount of sunshine and water and grew into healthy corn.
I was reminded of this when talking with Phil and Julie, two tennis coaches I work with. Phil was talking about how much we can influence players- he reckoned that they were born great. He asked “how much can we actually influence things?”
I then used the corn analogy to describe how I see our role as coaches.
The athlete is the corn– they are born a certain way. That can’t be changed. Whether they become fully developed and successful depends on many outside factors. The fertile earth is the environment they grow up in- supportive parents, good schooling, influential peers.
As coaches, it is our job to provide the sun and the rain– the knowledge and experience and motivation that will help the young athlete grow and develop.
Often we will provide the sun and the rain and discover we have grown a weed- but we can’t know that until we try.
Who are we to judge before giving our best effort for all athletes we work with?