PASS Alumni Doing Great in College!

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We’re proud of the hard work and effort by our alumni players in their freshman year of college! Here’s an update on some of our 2017 grads.

Christian Galloway is attending Cornerstone and started all seven games prior to injury. He had one goal, and two assists and is looking forward to a strong season after recovery next year. Christian is studying high school education. Luke Blickley attends Cornerstone and played in sixteen games, started fifteen and had one assist, all WHAC newcomer team. Luke is studying business. Clayton VanderKolk is attending Taylor University and played in all eighteen games, started in eight, recorded one assist. He is studying engineering. Jared Farnsworth attends Concordia Chicago and played in all fifteen games, started fourteen, and had three assists. Jared will be transferring to Grace Christian for 2019 and is studying education. Billy Cloon is at the University of Northwestern Ohio and played on the reserve team. He played in every game, and is working hard to make the varsity team. Billy is tudying robotics and automation. Drew Hackala is at Davenport University playing on the reserve team. He played in all but one game, started one, recorded two assists and is working hard with hopes of making the varsity team. He is studying network management and security. Ryan Nofke played on the reserve team at Aquinas College. He is studying business and communications. 

Rachael Erste attends Northern Michigan University, played in seventeen games, started sixteen, had one goal and one assist. Rachel is studying Nursing. Grace Filipiak attends Northern Michigan University, played in eleven games, started one, had one goal, and one assist. Grace is in Pre-Med. Angelina McSauby is attending Olivet College, played in fourteen games, started seven. Angelina is studying Physical Therapy. Olivia DeBoer attends Siena Heights University, played on the reserve team and is studying Elementary Education. Alicia Hall attends Spring Arbor University, played in twenty-two games, started twelve, five goals, two assists, reached quarterfinals of NAIA National Championship. Alicia is studying Early Childhood Education.

Great work everyone!

Youth Training: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

In the summer I did an online course on youth training presented by a trainer named Mike Boyle. He was the trainer for Boston University, the USA Women’s National Soccer Team, the Boston Red Sox and so on. He’s done much research on youth training as well as raised 2 children of his own in a sporting environment. He has a lot of experience and a tremendous amount of knowledge in the field, so I dug into this course to see what I could learn from his expertise.

What I learned is that we have some major issues in our youth sporting world. We have a significant number of youths that are dropping out of sports. In a Canadian study it states 82 percent of kids dropout because of parent pressure and burnout. What responsibility do us parents have in this problem?  We see things that we know are not right and we keep doing them. We can see that youth sports are becoming very professionalized and we let it happen. The cost of club sports has skyrocketed and has become very elitist. The wealthy and affluent seem to have the advantage. Most clubs now are money making organizations with structured environments instead of our youth going out to play sports with their friends using creativity and imagination. The club coaches feed us with fear that our kids must do this, or they will fall behind. The kids need this, or they will not get a college scholarship. We fall for this mentality because we don’t know anything different. Especially if it our first child going through the “system”. Did you know 4% of athletes go on to play their sport in college and 1% go on to play a professional sport? 

Parents like me need to take a hard look at how we are impacting this high dropout rate. Often, we think our kids are miniature adults. Parents organize and run youth sports. Here is an example: Often kids play on fields too big for their little bodies. Mike Boyle shows a video of an experiment where they supersized a soccer field. They made a field that was about 3x the size of a regular 11 v 11 field. This was like what an 11-year-old experiences on a regular sized field. The adults had a miserable experience. They had to run too much, and it was hard and not enjoyable. One takeaway was that only the bigger more athletic kids can keep up. Often, parents push back at the whole idea of small sided games for kids however we need to match field sizes to kids sizes to make the experience more enjoyable. In addition, parent often have unrealistic expectations of what kids can handle. Parents ideas of success are to practice longer hours (more is better), get a good education and focus harder whereas kids want to have fun, play shorter hours, want to specialize in sport at older ages and want it to be their passion and not their parents. Where is the disconnect? I’m sure this makes for a lot of arguments. Parents need to look at their kids from a kid lens and not from an adult lens. I love this quote from Mike Boyle, “Prepare the child for the path not the path for the child”. Often, we try to remove obstacles instead of letting our kids work through obstacles. Are we expecting too much from our kids?

Letting kids fail is necessary for their success and development. Kids need to experience success and failure. Failure is learning. For kids to be on stacked teams and never learn to lose, have disappointments, or cry, tend to give up in the end. An important mentality in sport is to have grit and determination. If early succeeders don’t experience the ups and downs of wins and losses, in the end when it counts they will give up and quit. Early succeeders of don’t have grit, are bad teammates and lack work ethic. Sometimes their first disappointment is in college where they find it very difficult to work through tough situations when helicopter parents are not there to rescue. It is our responsibility to teach the right lessons. It is not always the most important thing to be on the best team but to find great coaches that are teaching the game the right way and to be on teams that win some and lose some games, so the kids can experience both success and failure. 

The good is that there are youth sport organizations that are attempting to find solutions to the dropout rate in sports. The long-term athletic development model is one that gives ideas as to how we can make sports more enjoyable and keep kids engaged and participating long-term. There are certainly problems with this philosophy, however, of utmost importance is that athletics are a long-term process. It’s emphasis is on the process and not the wins or being perfect but on doing the right things because it’s the right thing to do. “It’s a marathon not a sprint” so “Let the kids play”. Both are great quotes from Mike.

Better Balance Better Movement

An athlete must be in control of their environment by using their sport skills properly while many stimuli and obstacles are rushing at them. Balance and stability is a necessity for athletes to compete at a high level. Balance according to Chris Hobbs; Importance of Balance and Stability to Mastery of Sport Skills is “the ability to neutralize forces that would disturb equilibrium.  Stability is measured in the level at which one can retain one’s balance while experiencing factors that disturb balance. Stability is defined as “the level of challenge at which one can still balance.” Balance and stability are aspects of sport that may determine whether an athlete is successful in his/her sport.

There are four body systems that are responsible for balance according to an article called The Role of Balance in Sports. The vestibular system is the inner ear. There is fluid in the inner ear that stimulates little hairs and signals to the eye muscles to stay focused while the head is in motion. This helps eye hand coordination. This vestibular ocular reflex can be disrupted by concussions, inner ear infections or age. Vision also affects balance and performance. The fovea in the retina allows us to focus on details which is vital in athletics.

Proprioceptors in joints and ligaments help balance because they communicate to the brain and muscles during any change of direction. This can ultimately have an influence on one’s speed and agility. Lastly, muscle strength and endurance in the hips and core muscles affect balance.  When one is strong in these areas one can fend off opponents, perform for longer and ultimately “neutralize forces that would disturb equilibrium.”

What happens when an athlete is on the move and the opponent is attempting to unbalance him/her. Stability is something that can set an athlete apart in terms of athleticism and quality of performance. According to Chris Hobbs there are four principles to increase an athlete’s ability to stabilize oneself. First, an athlete with greater mass has greater stability. Second, an athlete can increase his/her stability with a wide base of support. Third, an athlete can increase stability by lowering his/her center of gravity. Lastly, an athlete can increase his/her stability by “extending his/her base of support in the direction of the oncoming force”. He/she can brace themselves, getting ready for the contact that is coming his/her way.

There are practical ways to train balance and stability. Dr. Cobb at Z-Health has some great training ideas that may improve an athletes balance. Here are some things that can be done to challenge balance. First our foot position can be altered. This is a progression from easiest to hardest.

o   Wide stance with bent knees

o   Wide stance with straight knees

o   Narrow stance with bent knees

o   Narrow stance with straight knees

o   Staggered feet (one in front of the other) with bent knees

o   Staggered feet with straight knees

o   Stand on 1 leg with bent knee

o   Stand on 1 leg with straight knee

To make this more challenging you can add head movements

o   Move your head up and down

o   Move your head side to side (side bending)

o   Rotate your head to the left and right

To make balance even more challenging try to do it with your eyes closed.

To improve balance, combine these different variations holding the movements for 15- 20 seconds. Perform them for 7-10 minutes 3 times per week.

Variety: The Spice of Life

When it comes to exercise there is not one way to exercise that works for everyone.  Some people love to swim, some love to run, some love to do yoga and some love to do really hard challenging workouts where they are pushed to the max.  There are people that love group exercise classes, some that love to be in a gym and some that use exercise in isolation to reboot mentally.  Whatever you choose, consider the health benefits of your favorite exercises.

Exercise such as running, swimming, biking or hiking that are performed for 2 minutes to whatever extended period of time are considered aerobic in nature.  Your muscles require oxygen to perform these for an extended period of time.  Such exercises elevate your heart rate usually at a steady rate.  Benefits such as an increase in heart and lung strength, improve endurance, burn calories to help lose weight, increase metabolism and various bodily processes, help build muscle, good mental health, increase blood flow to muscles and lowering resting heart rate are great reasons to perform aerobic type exercises.

Anaerobic conditioning is an excellent way to build muscle strength and build muscle.  Short duration, high intensity exercise that is done without oxygen uses more calories while exercising but even better, it burns calories when at rest following the exercise as well.  Sprints or exercise done at a high intensity for less than 2 minutes is a way in which to control weight, male bones and joints stronger, can boost vo2 max (more oxygen available) and can lower blood sugar. Overall, participants report having more overall energy as a result of including anaerobic activities into an exercise plan.

Plyometrics refer to explosive movements that are done with bodyweight or very light loads.  Jumping movements enhance the power in one’s legs.  Exercises such as squat jumps, box jumps or even jumping over a cone side to side are excellent options.  Plyometrics are good for challenging fast twitch muscle fibers, coordination and agility but a bonus...it slows down aging.  

Weight training is another great way to build muscle strength.  In addition, it increases bone density.  Weight lifting helps make carrying out life’s daily activities easier.  When a person increases strength it’s easier to lift, move and carry objects.  Exercises such as leg press, seated rows, push ups, pull ups lunges are great exercises that can be done on either  machine or by adding hand weights for extra resistance.  

Balance and flexibility are important components to all exercise routines.  Balance helps prevent falls.  It is also important to be able to stabilize the body and control its movements. Balance makes movement more easier and more efficient.  Joga is a great exercise that challenges one’s balance and flexibility.  Flexibility keeps the body stretched out, muscles long, and helps stay limber with good range of motion.  The more mobile and stable your body is the more likely one is to prevent injury as well.  

A well balanced exercise program is recommended.  Balance your exercise program with multiple components of fitness to provide more health benefits.  Aerobic conditioning, anaerobic conditioning, plyometrics, weight training, balance, flexibility are only a few of the various components that you can use for your personal program.  Good health is the priority when designing an exercise routine.

Keeping Fun in the Game

Did you know 70% of youth drop out of youth sports by the age of 13? Rick Howard, who wrote an article titled “Developing Athleticism is the CORE of Positive Youth Development,” states that the reason for this is “the main reason youth play sports is fun and the reason they drop out is because that sport is no longer fun.”  Designing and implementing practices and conditioning programs that develop our athlete’s ability to move effectively for their sport and to encourage fitness into adulthood is the goal.  We need to be sure we are not training our children as mini adults but are teaching the skills necessary in their sport that is age appropriate. 

“Play” is an important component in athletics.  Brett Klika wrote an article “Powerful Play in Sports Performance Part 1”.  He says, “the number one determining factor in long term athletic success is most highly correlated with a child’s overall enjoyment with an activity.”  He also says, “While sports once served as a play based release…. our kids are often placed under increasing pressure to perform athletically instead of being an outlet.  Athletic performance is becoming a currency that stratifies many life opportunities for youngsters.  Play has become work for children. 

Rick Howard also wrote an article “Games to Support Physical Literacy and Long Term Athletic Development.”  He states, “Whether it was organized games like kickball, tag, red light or made up games, most kids were active and used a variety of movement patterns, trained all fitness attributes and had fun doing so.  With the adult driven, specialization focused world of youth sports, these games are becoming less common in today’s age”.

The problem seems to be that sport is becoming much like a job. However, we can do better to provide a fun and competitive environment while still developing the skill youth need to enhance performance in their sport.  The Composite Youth Development Model states that we should train all fitness attributes, which include heath fitness attributes such as muscle strength, muscle endurance, flexibility, cardiovascular endurance and body composition as well as skill fitness that includes agility, balance, coordination, power, and speed.  We can incorporate games into training sessions that include these fitness attributes.  One key factor in designing appropriate training sessions is to consider the age of the participant to do games that are age appropriate. For example, young children should participate in training where the focus is on skill acquisition. Youth should focus on mastering movement skills progressing sessions into more challenging games when ready. Young adults or teenagers should focus on sports specific physical attributes since specialization is a key component at this age. 

Games are played in the form of tactical games or developmental games. Tactical games are games such as invasion games, net and wall games, striking and fielding games or target games. Developmental games include pursuit games, cooperation games, for fundamental movement games. The key is that the participants have fun while doing them. Here is a chart I found in the article “Games to Support Physical Literacy and Long Term Athletic Development” that outlines the difference between games and drills.

1.       Games vs Drills
2.       Dynamic vs Static
3.       Free movement vs lines
4.       Unstructured vs regimented
5.       Decision making vs no decision making
6.       Fun vs boring

I am not contending that all training sessions should be game oriented as an important component in most training sessions is skill mastery. Often such skills take time to develop and are most effectively trained in drill form. However, a balance of skill mastery and games will likely keep the fun in sport. If we wish to keep kids involved in sport and promote lifelong health, it is vital that we keep the fun in the game.