Tip of the Month – April 2018

Coach Monika says…

 

Numerous people in the past stated that I have been “light years ahead of time” – something which was not always to my advantage as the same people also called me “crazy” for my novel coaching approach. The March Newsletter dealt with the impact of posture on sport performance, and incorporating modified Ballet into your sport program – a trend that has been increasing with popularity over time. In fact, there was a recent report in the Calgary Herald (March 31, p. G 8), “Time to raise the barre on your fitness routine”, about that very subject.

Am I still crazy? I used modified Ballet, Yoga, and Pilates years ago when the fitness industry was not even aware of these activities. I released two dual DVDs in 2016, Ballet for Swimmers: Modified Exercises for Cross-training and Ballet for Athletes: Modified Exercises for Cross-training. The swim DVD links modified ballet exercises to swim strokes, starts, and turns; while the Athlete DVD deals with various individual and team sports.

So, why is the fitness industry just recently putting emphasis on the benefits of barre training? Here are excerpts from the Calgary Herald, 2018:

…You may think you’re doing a more graceful and slower paced workout, but guaranteed you’ll be sweating, and your thigh muscles will be twitching while doing a ballet barre class. Combining ballet, Pilates and Yoga, barre classes have exploded, taking a page from diligent ballet dancers who have the gams to show for their dedication…

…Barre is used for many of the exercises that isolate specific muscle groups, and you will use it for balance or to grab on to just when you think you can’t do one more plié or squat (sometimes with the added challenge of a medicine ball squeezed between your thighs)…

…After a couple of classes, you’ll feel you’re well on your way to a firmer derriere, thighs and calves. The upper half of your body isn’t forgotten in the hour-long workouts. There’s also ‘Ab’ work, hand weights for triceps and biceps and shoulders. You will feel like you’ve worked just about every muscle in your body when you’re done…

Coach Monika suggests putting new life into your training program and having your athletes try ballet to change the daily routine and maintain motivation.

Reference:

Monforton, L. (2018, March 31). Beyond the everyday gym. Time to raise the barre on your fitness routine. The Calgary Herald, p. G8.

Consequences of Early Specialization in Children and Youth Sports – Part 3B

In support of the previous discussion, I have added an article by Glen Mulcahy. *The article has been modified somewhat for this Newsletter.*Glen Mulcahy is the Founder and CEO of Paradigm Sports; and Executive Director, For the Love of the Game. He is a Hockey Canada NCCP Facilitator & Regional Evaluation Coordinator for BC Hockey

It’s Only a Game, Mom!

These days, Fun in youth sports is rapidly fading as dreams of children are replaced by the ambitions of overzealous adults. As the sport system has become increasingly more ‘adultified’ (parent volunteers, parent organizers, etc.), the number of children playing sports has steadily decreased. Different sport associations across the country (Canada) are losing young athletes; for example, British Columbia Soccer enrolment decreased seven percent from last year. A recent study by the Aspen Institute (Washington, DC) reports a 23.5-percent drop in US players ages 6-12 over a five-year period.

The trend towards early single-sports specialization – defined as nine months or more of a single sport to the exclusion of others – has been named as the main cause. While other activities, like video games or the rise of alternative, non-traditional sports, have also contributed to the decline, early specialization is mostly the reason for overuse injuries, emotional and psychological damage, and burnout. ‘Adultification’ ignores the fact that sport is supposed to serve the young, says North Vancouver’s Matt Young, a fitness company innovator, who was recently tapped by the U.S. Olympic Committee to produce an athlete development model. According to Young, “sports are supposed to be a dress rehearsal for life, for winning, losing, feedback, role modeling, responsibility, victory, and defeat. It is supposed to be about that athlete’s journey. It has turned into the aggressive pursuit of parents, number of ‘wins’ coaches produce, while the focus is not on the kids.”

Early Start – Early Finish Dilemma

Children’s physical literacy begins at an early discovery stage with skills like moving, falling, running, throwing, and jumping. Then fundamental movement skills such as hitting, catching, agility, and striking should be taught in elementary school years before learning skills and drills during the 10-12-age range. It is during this later stage that the drop in enrollment begins with readily available and damning data. ‘Early specialization’ has negative impacts on the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of athletes, both in the short and long term. The ‘driving force’ is not the child dreaming of being the next superstar – it is the parents’ vicarious ambitions that allegedly this is the only path to get to professional or post-secondary levels, a prevailing attitude which seems to be implanted into the public’s psyche! However, the data shows this pursuit does more harm than good. 

Six percent of high school athletes move on to play in college. Maybe two percent of those go on to the professional level. If asked, however, 99 percent of parents think their child represents that very two percent. On the quantifiable side, from a physiological and psychological level, we’re damaging the children. The evidence shows that overuse injuries on the physical and physiological level are rampant. Female soccer players, some as young as 10 years old, have suffered severe knee injuries such as torn anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL). Since 2002, there has been a 400 percent increase in those injuries in girls, aged 10-17 in North America. In youth baseball across North America, 57 percent of Tommy John surgeries – once nearly exclusive used in the ranks of professional pitchers – are performed on players aged 15-19 (Tommy John surgery is named after the MLB pitcher of the same name, who was the first to undergo an experimental treatment where the ligament in the elbow of the affected arm is replaced with a tendon from the forearm).

The Oakland Children’s Hospital surveyed 200 NBA players, and found that those who were single-sport athletes, starting in Grade 8 were injured at a rate 10 times higher than those who were multi-sport athletes, and had shorter playing careers. 

“Parents are aspiring for their kids to reach that really, really high plateau, when in actually they should be happy to watch them play, and encouraging them to try as many sports as they can,” said Delta’s Glen Mulcahy, who started Paradigm Sports, a resource for coaches and parents, about five years ago. Playing multiple sports provides a physical literacy, a base of fundamental movement that crosses sports and prevents overuse injuries when the body is still too young to handle those repetitive motions.”

“There’s a massive physical toll on young bodies, and one of the most tragic syndromes is, kids don’t go play in the park anymore; they don’t fall out of trees; they don’t have this multi-movement childhood,” said John O’Sullivan, founder of the Changing the Game Project. “Experts tell you if you teach people to move correctly first – you make them athletes first – then later on the sports-specific skills, that’s the best way to prevent injuries and give people the best chance to be successful.”

Under-6 Travel Soccer isn’t the Place to Start

Numerous athletes, parents and health-care professionals were contacted for this article. All were more than willing to discuss their experiences but the stigma attached to the ‘meat grinder’ they had endured made them hesitant to be identified publicly, expressing the sentiment that it was akin to voting for a politician, who turned his back on the platform that had got him elected. It was, in short, embarrassing to be confronted with their own mistakes – especially if they were still in the system. One local physiotherapist at a large athlete development centre has a 14-year-old in elite sports, who trains nearly the entire year round, obsessing over the data and information that comes with wearable technology. “These kids aren’t taking time off. It’s recommended that they take a big chunk of time off from their primary sport every year. I have one child in a high-level sport, and she takes one week in the fall, and two weeks in August. That is it! Athletes are not encouraged to take time off!”

“It’s great to see [her] learn through the experience, but I wish [she’d] done something different. She’s quite isolated, especially when she’s injured, because she’s not going to her social events. I’m lucky I have two kids. I get to do it differently the second time.” The athletes most prized by the NCAA are the ones who have the ‘complete package.’ UCLA baseball coach John Savage said: “We like them cross-trained. Stick with multiple sports as long as you possibly can, and people are going to see your tools. Stick with one sport long enough, and people are going to see your scars.”

It’s a Multi-dollar Industry

So why do parents bury their heads in the sand? The answer is marketing according to the experts, as youth sport was a $7-billion industry in 2014. Last year, it cracked the $15-billion mark. As illustrated in January’s Vancouver Province feature “The Money Pit: Why Professionalization of Youth Sports is Worrisome,” the skyrocketing costs of youth sports are largely due to the cottage industries that have sprung up around it, from pricey sports academies to year-round leagues or specialized training and coaches. “The business of sport has become big, and it feeds off the primary human motivators: fear and greed,” said Matt Young. “Every parent has a fear of missing out.” Dr. Tommy John, son of the former Major League pitcher who made history by being the first to undergo the experimental tendon surgery, has written a book called Minimize Injury, Maximize Performance: A Sport Parent’s Survival Guide. He also blames the industries that are pushing the professionalization of youth sports to their own financial benefit. “It’s billions of dollars that people are gaining putting out a message that states, ‘your son or daughter must compete year-round, compete early on, [and] specialize early on,” he said. “It’s a fear campaign coming at parents who only want the best for their kid. Their biggest fault is they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get the best. Unfortunately, they don’t understand it’s not the appropriate way a human develops, nor is it the healthiest manner of going about creating the best athlete possible.

“So not only are we having to ‘rehab’ them orthopedically, they’re also seeking psychiatric care for anxiety, attention deficit and depression that stems from them trying to overachieve early on before they’re even able to.” “It could very well be that the landscape is shifting in sport, and with that we also need to think about ways we conceptualize, account for, and recognize sport as well as participation.

Parents need to encourage their children to try multiple sports and activities to become well-rounded people instead of narrowly focused athletes, says Mulcahy. “It’s really simple, and it will sound like an oxymoron, but kids play sports for one reason: to have Fun. They’re quitting because it is no longer Fun,” he said. “If we can reintroduce free play in our youth sports, even if it’s unstructured, as to where they play for the sake of playing and not for the sake of competing, that itself will make it Fun again for kids.

“We’re not only depriving them of an opportunity to play other sports and activities, but what about other activities like band, art, drama, music, computer science, reading – all of that ‘stuff’ that should help them become well-rounded people? If they specialize, they don’t have the time for any of it. We’re making them little robots, really early, and it’s no wonder they burn out really fast.”

References

Baker, J., CôtéJ., & Abernathy, B. (2003). Sport-specific training, deliberate practice and the development of expertise in team ball sports. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 15, 12-25.

Balyi, I., Way, R., & Higgs, C. (2013). Long-term athlete development. A guide to developing a philosophy of sport for life; training frameworks, a consistently successful organization. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Bompa, T. (1995). From childhood to champion athlete. Toronto, ON: Veritas.

Coakley, J. (2000). Sport in society: Issues and controversies (6th ed.) Toronto, ON: Times Mirror/Mosby.

DiFiori, J.P. (2002). Overuse injuries in young athletes: An overview. Athletic Therapy Today, 7(6), 25-29.

Gould, D., Udry, E., Tuffey, S., & Loehr, J. (1996). Burnout in competitive junior tennis players: A quantitative psychological assessment. The Sport Psychologist, 10, 322-340.

Hill, G. (2009). Sport specialization: Causes and concerns. [PowerPoint slides]. Presented at the Long-term Athlete Development Conference of the Utah Athletic Foundation. Salt Lake City, UT.

Klika, B. (2018). Early sport specialization: Getting them to listen. Retrieved April 19, 2018, from http://iyca.org/early-sport-specialization-getting-them-to-listen/?inf_ contact_key=d7b16a7aefda94e3123209fae92a894930bf5ff352ad8d103b6630ba600eba02

Sanderson, L. (1989). Growth and development considerations for design of training plans for young athletes. Sports, 10(2).

Schwarz, C. (May 17, 2017). Hockey players who can’t catch. The Calgary Herald, B8.

Touretski, G. (1993). Physiological development of the young swimmer. A rational for the long-term preparation of the young swimmer. Paper presented at the Australian Institute for Sport. Canberra, Australia.

Weineck, J. (2010). Optimales Training. Leistungsphysiologische Trainingslehre unter besonderer Berücksichtigung des Kinder und Jugendtrainings [Optimal training. Physiological performance within training theory with special consideration consideration for children and youth training]. Balingen, Germany: Spitta Verlag.

Note:

Dr. Jürgen Weineck, PhD, Dr. Med., Emeritus. Sport Institute for Sport Science and Sport. University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany.

Websites:

http://theprovince.com/news/local-news/fear-greed-broken-dreams-how-early-sports-

specialization-is-eroding-youth-sports/wcm/e0cd4110-9764-4e7f-b98f-46f31a8ee9ff

https://www.trackie.com/track-and-field/Forum/early-sports-specialization-is-eroding-youth-sports/16485/?comment_id=MAIN&quote=1

http://www.worldfootynews.com/article.php/20180402211733509

https://www.paradigmsports.ca/its-only-a-game-mom/

 

Consequences of Early Specialization in Children and Youth Sports – Part 3A

Experts have been discussing the topic of early specialization to a great extent lately because the consequences of this training approach are apparently very detrimental, according to their research. German-American developmental psychologist Erik Ericson (1902-1984) is best known for his theory on the psychological development of human beings, and coining the phrase ‘identity crisis.’ He advocates that children 6-12 years of age need to be exposed to a ‘smorgasbord’ of activities, rather than early specialization in one sport.

Early specialization is defined as “athletes limiting participation to a single sport, which they train for and compete in on a year-round basis” (Balyi, Way, & Higgs, 2013, pp. 51-52). Four parameters are generally applied to define early specialization:

  • Early start in a given sport
  • Early involvement in one sport as opposed to participating in several sports
  • Early involvement with focus on high intensity training
  • Early involvement in one competitive sport

Researchers have now divided sports into ‘early’ and ‘late’ specialization categories. Accordingly, ‘early specialization’ for future excellence is mostly essential in acrobatic and artistic sports such as diving, figure skating, and gymnastics because complex movement patterns and sport skills should be acquired before the onset of adolescent growth spurt (about 12 years of age for females – 14 years for males). Nevertheless, some negative consequences in these programs cannot be avoided, especially overuse injuries. ‘Late specialization’ refers to the belief that ‘early specialization’ is not needed, and applies to all other sports, including team, racket, combative, and gliding sports.

The Australian Institute of Sport actually recommends that ‘initial specialization’ for swimmers begins between ages 7 and 9 for girls, and ages 10-11 for boys; in-depth specialization between ages 12 and 14, and 13 and 15 respectively (Touretski, 1993, cited in I. Balyi, R. Way, & C. Higgs, 2013, p. 57). A great example of ‘late specialization’ is former Russian swimmer Alexander Popov. He is still widely considered to be the greatest sprint swimmer in history, winning gold in the 50m and 100m freestyle at the 1992  and 1996 Olympics, holding the world record in the 50m for eight years, and the 100m record for six years. In 2003, he won 50m and 100m Gold at the 2003 World Championships at age 31. Interestingly, he only began swimming at age 8 at the Children and Youth Sports School of Fakel Sports Complex in Lesnoy, and was afraid of water at that time but his father insisted that he took lessons. Popov did not train intensively and enter competition until age 16!

Negative Consequences of Early Specialization – One-dimensional Aspect

The focus on one particular sport develops the skills, coordination, and sport specific fitness for doing well in that sport in the short term, but limits or even prevents the development of other transferable sport skills, according to research. Multi-sport participation provides not only positive and social experiences but also Fun. I hate to be blunt, but “one-sport engagement creates “motor morons when attempting activities beyond the selected sport”, according to my extensive coaching experience (Schloder, 2018). Chris Schwarz, strength and conditioning coach of the NHL Ottawa Senators laments: “My players can’t run, jump, or throw – fundamental movement patterns, and I have to teach these now” (Hockey players who can’t catch, The Calgary Herald, B8, May 17, 2017). He calls it an “epidemic”, stating that athleticism is declining among today’s NHL players. According to Schwarz, “it’s starting early. Ask your kid if he or she can somersault, play catch with both hands, or run backward. Do those three things. I think most parents would be astonished that their kids can’t do it”, Schwarz told Postmedia’s Wayne Scanlan.

Numerous experts argue that specialization in one sport contributes to the “progressive loss of freedom in exchange for increased excellence and precision” because of intensified demands and pressures not only from themselves but also from coaches and parents (Novak, 1976, & Hill, 2009, p. 108, cited in I. Balyi, R. Wade, & C. Higgs, 2013, p. 53). Sport sociologist Jay Coakley (2000) states that “early specialization contributes to a one-dimensional self-concept as a result of a constrained set of life experiences” (cited in in I. Balyi, R. Wade, & C. Higgs, 2013, p. 52). Loaded training schedules, consistent intense and high-volume training, multiple competitions, in addition to school and studies can easily lead to psychological burnout, according to Gould, Udry, Tuffey and Loehr, 1996 (cited in in I. Balyi, R. Wade, & C. Higgs, 2013, p. 53). It affords athletes little time to socialize with friends or take part in other recreational activities. Ironically, the initial intention of creating ‘exceptional athletes’ often hinders their development and increases the potential of sport dropout due to stress and anxiety from extreme real or perceived pressures.

Sport psychologists and sport sociologists estimate the current dropout rate at 70-73% by age 12-13, and it is said to continue to age 17, whereby girls present the higher drop out rate. A study by researchers at the Michigan State’s Institute for the Study of Youth Sports examined 20,000 young athletes. According to the results, the number one reason to get engaged in sports is having FUN!” “I lost interest and it was no longer Fun” was the top reason equally cited by boys and girls to leave the sport! No wonder! That means 27 of 73% potentially may stay engaged in sport but less than 1-2 percent make it to the High Performance or Olympic level! Given the fact that male athletes now compete into their 30’s, I pose the question, what is the early push for success all about? Additionally, athletes in the study provided answered that they would re-enter sport “if practices were more Fun”, and if “coaches were better teachers” (listed as reason #5 for girls and#6 for boys).

Michigan Study: Reasons Children and Youth Engage in Sport and Dropout Reasons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Schloder, M.E. (2017). Parents and children in sport.
Lecture Sociology in Sport.

Burnout – Dropout Signs and Symptoms

Emotional burnout is the by-product of an intensely competitive environment for a group whose biggest wants and needs are being ignored. It basically means physical or emotional exhaustion caused by long-term stress due to an intense sport program. Children just starting out in sport are unlikely to be affected; if they get seriously involved, however, it can become a factor. The symptoms of burnout can be physical, mental and/or emotional. Athletes usually feel ‘out of it’ as they experience a loss of control over their lives. Burnout and overtraining syndrome are closely linked, and occur when athletes experience worsening performances despite intense training. It is believed to result from a multitude of factors such as constant high levels of physiologic or emotional stress, fatigue, immune system failure, or insufficient recovery time. There are numerous signs and symptoms such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and chronic fatigue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Schloder, M.E. (2017). Parents and children in sport. Lecture Sociology in Sport.

Amanda Visek at George Washington University showed in a study that the focus for children is Fun and social aspect of sports; they ranked winning and competition near the bottom. Adults flipped those values when polled. The kid, who says, “this is Fun in my sport, and this is not – should be heard,” said Mulcahy, Founder and CEO of Paradigm Sports. “It’s no wonder these kids are quitting. We’re not cluing into the reason children play” – and those who aren’t, are left with chronic injuries as well as emotional ones.

There are those, who quit sports for good early, sabotaged by “psychological daggers” inflicted by coaches or teachers, said University of Manitoba’s Dr. Dean Kreillaars. There are those on the elite path, who are emotionally stunted, unable to deal with life outside of their sport. Kreillaars, one of the world’s leading experts on physical literacy and health, related a conversation he had with Lanny McDonald, the NHL Hall of Famer of the NHL Calgary Flames. “If you ask him how many outstanding citizens … there are out of all the teammates that you had, after they had a good career in the NHL, … his answer will be only one of in 23 players,” said Kreillaars. “Many lose their identity after they leave hockey because they are over-specialized, and their identity is 100 per cent tied to that single sport. They lack versatility, and have no longevity, and durability.” None of what has been written here is new information. It’s been around for decades. The IOC released a statement in 2005 ‘damning’ the emergence of ‘early specialization’ because of the physical, psychological and social ailments associated with it, the rising injury rates, and the diminishing sports participation numbers.

Risk of Injuries

Additional negative consequences include overuse and chronic injuries such as tennis elbow, rotator cuff injuries (swimming), stress fractures (gymnastics), ACL injuries (team sports, athletics, tennis, etc.), and knee injuries, especially in female athletes. According Dr. Nota Klentrou (scientist and Kinesiology professor at Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), early specialization with the focus on only one sport may help young athletes perform better at that early age but is generally harmful to their long-term development. One particular area of her concern is overuse injury, which may become chronic and/or a career-ending injury, related to increased training and competition in pre-adolescence and adolescence. Research supports ‘integrative’ training in multiple sports and activities, and the use of ‘neuromuscular warm-up’ in programs to reduce the incidence of overuse and chronic injury (Klentrou).

References

Baker, J., CôtéJ., & Abernathy, B. (2003). Sport-specific training, deliberate practice and the development of expertise in team ball sports. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 15, 12-25.

Balyi, I., Way, R., & Higgs, C. (2013). Long-term athlete development. A guide to developing a philosophy of sport for life; training frameworks, a consistently successful organization. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Bompa, T. (1995). From childhood to champion athlete. Toronto, ON: Veritas.

Coakley, J. (2000). Sport in society: Issues and controversies (6th ed.) Toronto, ON: Times Mirror/Mosby.

DiFiori, J.P. (2002). Overuse injuries in young athletes: An overview. Athletic Therapy Today, 7(6), 25-29.

Gould, D., Udry, E., Tuffey, S., & Loehr, J. (1996). Burnout in competitive junior tennis players: A quantitative psychological assessment. The Sport Psychologist, 10, 322-340.

Hill, G. (2009). Sport specialization: Causes and concerns. [PowerPoint slides]. Presented at the Long-term Athlete Development Conference of the Utah Athletic Foundation. Salt Lake City, UT.

Klika, B. (2018). Early sport specialization: Getting them to listen. Retrieved April 19, 2018, from http://iyca.org/early-sport-specialization-getting-them-to-listen/?inf_ contact_key=d7b16a7aefda94e3123209fae92a894930bf5ff352ad8d103b6630ba600eba02

Sanderson, L. (1989). Growth and development considerations for design of training plans for young athletes. Sports, 10(2).

Schwarz, C. (May 17, 2017). Hockey players who can’t catch. The Calgary Herald, B8.

Touretski, G. (1993). Physiological development of the young swimmer. A rational for the long-term preparation of the young swimmer. Paper presented at the Australian Institute for Sport. Canberra, Australia.

Weineck, J. (2010). Optimales Training. Leistungsphysiologische Trainingslehre unter besonderer Berücksichtigung des Kinder und Jugendtrainings [Optimal training. Physiological performance within training theory with special consideration consideration for children and youth training]. Balingen, Germany: Spitta Verlag.

Note:

Dr. Jürgen Weineck, PhD, Dr. Med., Emeritus. Sport Institute for Sport Science and Sport. University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany.

Websites:

http://theprovince.com/news/local-news/fear-greed-broken-dreams-how-early-sports-

specialization-is-eroding-youth-sports/wcm/e0cd4110-9764-4e7f-b98f-46f31a8ee9ff

https://www.trackie.com/track-and-field/Forum/early-sports-specialization-is-eroding-youth-sports/16485/?comment_id=MAIN&quote=1

http://www.worldfootynews.com/article.php/20180402211733509

https://www.paradigmsports.ca/its-only-a-game-mom/

Tip of the Month – March

Coach Monika says…

Incorrect Posture: Impact on Sport Performance

Let’s compare the human body to a car! When the vehicle’s alignment is off, tires and other components are affected. When tires are not properly balanced, riding quality diminishes and longevity decreases. The same goes for the human body! Posture represents the body’s alignment – if not properly arranged various problems can occur: restricted range of motion, pain, organ dysfunction, joint, tendon, ligament and muscle stress, etc. Although we don’t expect individuals to be positioned perfectly, we want to strive to achieve the optimal posture.

Athletes’ posture should be assessed regularly due to growth spurt in younger children and youth or injuries as these affect postural alignment. Remedial or corrective exercises need to be designed by an expert, and then included in daily training as part of the Warm-up or Cool-down; in addition, athletes need to be doing these exercises at home on a daily basis to improve postural deficiencies.

For more in depth info refer to March Newsletter Incorrect Posture: Impact on Sport Performance.”

Incorporating Modified Ballet as Cross-Training

…It is all about achieving and maintaining correct body alignment and posture, body and spatial awareness, and the prevention of injuries…

…It is all about improving and/or further refining existing motor skills to enhance overall movement efficiency to optimize and maximize performance… (Schloder, 2014)

Dancers are some of the most athletic individuals – a fact that is not easily acknowledged within the sport community. Albert Einstein’s famous quote, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” ought to challenge coaches and athletes at any level to think outside the box and look for alternative activities for cross-training to increase all-round athletic abilities or ‘physical literacy’ (Balyi, Way, & Higgs, 2013). However, the artistic and aesthetic nature of ballet frequently encounters misconceptions from the public at large, especially by males ‘feeling uncomfortable’ because of their personal perception. Any reference to this activity usually elicits traditional myths, social bias with reactions such as, “Are you kidding me?”…“It’s a frilly thing for girls!” …“It’s not masculine!” …“Not my thing!” …“I am not wearing that silly tutu!” or …“I am not comfortable with it and feel really stupid with this stuff!” …“Besides, what does this have to do with my sport anyways?”

Indeed, it has everything to do with ‘your sport’ and some more because the training of physical components in ballet is very beneficial for all sports. In fact, some of the greatest NFL football players in the 1970s participated in ballet. Injured NHL hockey players have credited modified ballet,Yoga, and Pilates, for being able to resume their playing careers. As of late, world-class and Olympic swimmers from the UK have also taken up ballet with strong support from their coach at the University of Loughborough. These elite athletes recognize that dancers not only deserve great admiration for their daily rigorous workout, but also for the inherent focus on physical and mental components.

A study, undertaken by Watson and Garret in the UK at Hertfordshire University reports the results of ten standardized fitness tests from late October 2008. These were administered to dancers of the Royal Ballet, the English National Ballet School, and a squad of national and international British swimmers (including Olympians) in order to construct individual fitness profiles. The test battery included strength, endurance, balance, flexibility, and psychological state among others. The results: Ballet dancers were fitter, scoring higher on 7 out of 10 test items. Moreover, they were apparently 25% stronger when tested for grip strength. Though the fact is that ballet in itself is daily resistance training because the individual’s body weight pushes into the floor during every specific leg exercise while jumping, leaping, hopping, turning, or through other associated dynamic movements. Such activities not only strengthen muscles, but also build up and maintain bone mass and bone density, essential for healthy bone growth. It is now a well-known research fact that impact activities during the early years delay the onset of osteoporosis for both females and males, which swimming, for example – a non-impact activity – does not provide. Bone density in young dancers is known to increase during their developmental years into adolescence and adulthood. Therefore, it only makes sense to examine the total body training concepts within ballet for potential integration into swim programs.

Here are some interesting facts about athletes in other sports pursuing ballet to enhance their skills. During the 1970’s and 1980’s famous NFL Pittsburg Steelers wide receiver Lynn Swann (1974-1982) and running back Willie Gault, Chicago Bear Super Bowl champion (1983-early 1990s), credited their success on the football field to previous extensive training in ballet. Howard Cosell of Monday Night Football referred to Swann in 1980 as ‘arguably the most graceful receiver’ in NFL history to date while NBC Sports Curt Gowdy commented during Super Bowl X, “I always thought that what Swann did was a higher form of art than what Baryshnikov is doing.” Swann’s ballet training was well known throughout the league as he always contributed his grace and skills to ballet he began as an 8-year old boy (Johnson, Calgary Herald, May 14, 2014). According to the Pinstripe Press, Swann was described in NFL films as “a lethal combination of smooth sipping whiskey and greased lightning… Swann was arguably the most graceful receiver in NFL history. He made more key catches – in more big games – and in more spectacular fashion – than any receiver did. His ballet training enabled him to defy gravity and his hands were second-to-none” (Pinstripe Press, cited in Ballet Alert, and Funny Face, 2011). Swann played in four Super Bowls and was inducted into the Hall of Fame and is now on the Board of Directors of the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, where he has created a youth scholarship.

Willie Gault, Chicago Bear Super Bowl champion (1983-early 1990s), also a world-class sprinter and bobsledder was called ‘the speed merchant of football’ (Emmerman, 1986). He was referred to as ‘a man for all seasons and the first ‘dancing bear’ to perform with Chicago’s Ballet’, quoting, “I am not real hung up on the macho aspects of football, ballet is not a sissy sport” (Archive, People, October 13, 1986). Bruce Newman (Sports Illustrated) wrote: “Gault is divided into many parts: Ballet dancer, model, entrepreneur, and track star. Willie Gault also catches passes for the Chicago Bears – when the quarterback throws to him, that is” (November 24, 1986).

These days, more and more athletes in various sports have taken up ballet to improve core and pelvic stability, body and hip alignment, and to develop dexterous leg and footwork, to prevent injuries, and for the purpose of rehabilitation. For instance, retired NHL hockey goalie Ray Emery was told that his playing career was finished due to avascular necrosis of bone components (cellular death, a condition that interrupts the blood supply and affects the hipbone). His daily rehabilitation routine after surgery included ballet, Yoga, Pilates, and swimming to strengthen the core, hip, and thigh muscles. He resumed his playing career for the 2010-2011 season. According to Emery, “I can do things now I could never do before.”

Researchers from the Running Injury Clinic at the University of Calgary (Canada) have concluded that runners with knee pain benefit from an intensive hip-strengthening program because it helps to align the hips better with the knees (Ferber, Kendall, & Farr, 2011). The results seemingly support the benefits derived from ballet as an activity as it focuses on core strength, hip and pelvic alignment. It further substantiates Emery’s endorsement as a successful rehabilitation program. Recently, British world-class swimmers have taken up ballet as cross-training and made it part of their Warm-up activity as well. Here are some of their thoughts about their involvement:

…“We’ve been using ballet to warm-up before swim sessions and it works. It really helps to loosen you up, to breath better and it gives you a better sense of feel and reach, makes you feel ‘longer’ in the water. I can’t say everyone is amazing at it but that’s not why we’re doing it. Coach Ben Titley likes to think outside the box. He looks at every possible angle when it comes to getting us fit and strong. Posture and flexibility, thinking of how you’re moving as a whole is really important.”

Ballet is more often seen as the natural partner of synchronized swimmers than racers but there was no sniggering at Loughborough. It’s unusual but when Ben suggested it, everyone was really up for it,” swimmer Tancock recalls.

…“We’re a different group of people in terms of the way we think.” We’re open to ideas, and using different sports and activities keeps the brain fresh. Ballet is very physical and you need a lot of strength and precision. They (dancers) make it look effortless but it requires a lot of concentration. You become more aware of your body and what your limbs are doing, how you’re positioning your limbs, fingers and toes,” states Tancock (2011 World Champion, 50-meter Back Crawl stroke), in C. Lord “Ballet keeps Titley’s company on their toes”, SwimNews, June 14, 2011.

Value of Basic Barre Exercises

The artistic and aesthetic nature of ballet still creates lots of stereotypes, especially among males. Ballet offers much more than layers of tulle and satin ribbons, and keeps athletes on their toes. So, toss the tutus and don the tights. This form of dance can reap benefits for the most hardcore of athletes. Stale performances become the norm when boredom during training sets in. Incorporating ballet exercises into training is one way to keep things fresh and interesting. The usual chorus of protests includes comments such as: “I won’t wear tights and a tutu”, but athletes would do well to consider the benefits of dance in helping fine-tune sports performance. The developmental model from the Calgary-based study of 24 young athletes and their progress over eight years included modified ballet into the program as one type of cross-training. The athletes in this study tested well below the Canadian National Fitness norms for their respective age group at the start of the project but were off the charts by the end of the study, thus demonstrating the positive effects of ballet as a cross-training activity. Ballet helped to enhance their physical and athletic abilities to achieve an efficient and more effortless movement repertoire.

Barre work is an important element because the focal point is body and postural alignment, correct use of muscles, core strength, strength of the inner thigh and hip flexors, ankle and toe strength, in addition to flexibility, balance and control, head, body and limb awareness, and coordination of arm and leg movements in synchronized or opposition action.

Exercises are designed to:
  • Contribute to learning a given stance and awareness of weight change as the working leg moves in a different direction, and weight is transferred from one leg to the other
  • Develop and promote centering of the body
  • Develop and promote continuous body alignment
  • Develop and promote stationary and dynamic balance
  • Develop directional acuity when moving body parts
  • Facilitate change of direction during movement sequences

barre workout

barre workout

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since many common or specific technical skill errors may indeed be linked to incorrect body alignment or positioning of isolated body parts coaches play an important role in the monitoring process. They can use the tests described previously to assess posture at the beginning, mid-season (checkpoint), and post-season (evaluating the progress). Sudden growth spurt in younger or pre-teen children or injuries can produce postural flaws, which have to be monitored closely as different postural exercises may need adjustment or revision.

Information

https://www.wellbridge.com/fit-like-that/10-benefits-of-the-barre

Additional Exercises

www.coachingbest.com

Monika E. Schloder (2016)

Ballet for Athletes: Modified Exercises for Cross-training

Ballet for Swimmers: Modified Exercises for Cross-training

Dual DVD: Exercise Demonstration and Interactive PDF Book

References:

Ballet Alert (2003, August 13). The marriage of football and ballet (cited in Funny Face). Retrieved August 25, 2014, from http://balletalert.invisionzone.com/index.php?/topic12948-the-marriage-of-football-and-ballet/

Cosell, H. (1980, November 17). “Maybe the most perfect wide receiver of his time.” Comments on Monday Night Football.

Emmerman. L. (1986, September 29). Dancing around `dumb jock` image. Retrieved June 15, 2013, from http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1986-09-29/features/8603120713_1_willie-gault-chicago-city-ballet-ballerina

Emmerman, L. (1986, September 30). Willie Gault mixes football and ballet as easily as 1-2-3. St. Petersburg Evening Independent, p. 6-C posted by Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 15, from https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=950&-dat=19860930&id=G2lQAAAAIBAJ&sjid=xVkDAAAAIBAJ&pg=6709,37629 09&hl=en.

Ferber, R., Kendall, K., & Farr, L. (2011). Changes in knee biomechanics after a hip abductor strengthening protocol for runners with patellofemoral pain syndrome. Journal of Athletic Training, 46(2), 142-149.

Garrett, T., & Watson, A. (2008, October 28). Ballet dancers are fitter than international swimmers. Science Daily. Study at University of Hertfordshire, UK. Retrieved May 2014, from

http://www. sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081022073916.htm

Gowdy, C. (1976, January 16). “I always thought that what Swann did was a higher form of art than what Baryshnikov is doing.” Comments during Super Bowl X.

Hrysmallis, C., & Goodman, C. (2001). A review of resistance exercise and posture realignment. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 15(3), 385-390.

Johnson, G. (2014). Swann enjoys Baryshnikov moniker. The Calgary Herald, pp. D1, D3.

Lord, C. (2011). Ballet keeps Titley’s company on their toes. SwimNews.com

    Retrieved May 25, 2014, from http://www.swimnews.com/news/view/8694

Newman, B. (1986, November 24). Gault is divided into many parts. Ballet dancer, model, entrepreneur, and track star. Willie Gault also catches passes for the Chicago Bears – when the quarterback throws to him, that is. Sports Illustrated. SI Vault, pp. 87-97.

Novak C. B., Mackinnon S. E. (1997) Repetitive use and static postures: A source of nerve compression and pain. Journal of Hand Therapy, 10(2): 151-159. April-June.

Ogden, M. (2010, October 15). “Owen Hargraves close to remarkable return for Manchester United thanks to Alex McKechnie.” The Telegraph, UK. Retrieved June 28, 2013, from   http://telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/manchester-united/8064402/Owen-Hargreaves-close-to-remarkable-return-for-Manchester-United-thanks-to-Alex-McKechnie.html

People Magazine (1986, October 13). Wide receiver Willie Gault becomes the first dancing bear to perform with Chicago ballet. People Magazine, 26(15).

Peterson-Kendall, F., Kendall-McCreary, E., Geise-Provance, P., McIntyre-Rodgers, M., & Romani, W. A. (2005). Muscles testing and function (5th ed.). Baltimore: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins.

 Whitehead, M. (2014). Posture, alignment, and vertical load. Oregon Exercise Therapy. July 17.

Whitehead, M. (2014). Straighten before you strengthen. Oregon Exercise Therapy. August 25.

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 Dr. Monika Schloder Welcomes You To The Home of CoachingBest

Your one-stop for Coaching Tips, Training, and Information for the Athletic Coach

Years of teaching and coaching experience in several sports have provided me with the ability to understand the physical, mental, and emotional requirements for developing beginner to elite level athlete in several sports. The ‘knack’ to analyze sport movement, in essence, detect errors and then develop creative corrections and drills to improve, maximize, and optimize performance – no matter the sport – is one of my greatest assets.

Dr. Monika Scloder, Summer Swim Camp- Turku, Finland

Professional Activities:

  • DVD Series in Swimming and Athletic Training
  • Learning Facilitator, Canadian National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP), having educated over 24,000 coaches to date
  • Certified Alberta NCCP Coach Developer (2016) and Certified Coach Mentor (2017)
  • Speaker at International Congresses, Coaching Symposiums, and World Clinics
  • Master Coach in Residence, 1991-2004, for the Los Angeles based 84 Legacy of the Games (former Amateur Athletic Foundation or AAF), developing programs for Inner City Minority Youth Education and Leadership
  • Author of Coaching Manuals in Swimming and Soccer
  • Co-author “Coaching Athletes: A Foundation for Success”

 

Honors:

  • Alberta 2008 Coach of the Year
  • Recipient of 14 International Teaching and Coaching Awards
  • 3M Teaching Fellowship Award for Outstanding Teaching at Canadian Universities
  • Recipient of Teaching Excellence Awards, University of Calgary
  • At CoachingBest.com We offer sport consulting and coaching education to organizations worldwide with an emphasis on current issues, performance analysis, and performance improvement. Visit our Website and ‘Tips of the Week’ for current topics and coaching suggestions.

 

At CoachingBest.com We offer sport consulting and coaching education to organizations worldwide with an emphasis on current issues, performance analysis, and performance improvement.

Visit our Website and ‘Tips of the Month’ for current topics and coaching suggestions.

 

 


 

Dr. Schloder has developed a series of Training DVD’s to help Coaches and Athletes

 

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ASCA Workshop Conference and Presentation

Happenings from November

With Coach Rebecca Atchley – Dr. Schloder was an External Committee Member for Rebeca’s Masters Project Dr. Schloder’s Workshop Presentation

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Conference Photos

Happenings from September

Latest Happenings!!

 Dr. Monika Schloder at the ASCA World Clinic for Swimming, Jacksonville, Florida, Sept 8, 2014 Presenting at the 4-hour Work shop “Dry-land School for Age Group Swimmers” Coaches participate in her workshops… they don’t just sit!

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Back Arch Demo

Coach Schloder in Istanbul, Turkey Swim Camp , June 9-15

Underneath the swimmer to demonstrate the back arch position after the Back Crawl start. Not too many coaches can do this perfectly!

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Developing Physical Literacy

This highly acclaimed presentation was given by Dr. Schloder at the Canadian Sport for Life Summit (CS4L), which will be available as a movie version. Watch for the up-coming DVD: ‘Physical Activities for Children and Youth. Fundamental Movement Skills in the Pursuit of Excellence and Well-being.’

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2 comments

  1. Augusto Acosta

    I love your work!

  2. Kim Cox

    Super new front page on your website, very informative.

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