Coastal Athletic Connection
Langley, Walnut Grove and Surrey's constant source of quality information in the Sports Performance, Strength and Conditioning, and Nutrition fields.
I just wasn't that good... My athletic career and how I would train differently.
I just wasn't that good....
Not an overly thrilling way to start an article on sport performance and what I would do differently, but it's my story nonetheless. Despite my rather drab intro, sports did come easy to me and I found it a great way to meet friends and to nurture my apparently rather strong desire for competition. I did it all, soccer, baseball, volleyball, track and field, football, of course basketball (more about that in a bit), oh and did I mention badminton. Don't laugh competitive badminton is much tougher than it looks, and I attribute a lot of my later high school and early university success to multiple sport participation. (Probably the one mistake I didn't make.) I grew quite a bit between grades 10 and 11 and at that point basketball basically chose me. Quite frankly it was
my best shot (see what I did there) at a university scholarship so I went after it full bore. Now this isn't a regretful trip down memory lane for me, I am fully aware of how the story goes, I lived it. The purpose is really for young athletes, parents of athletes, coaches ect to begin to understand that there are a lot if youth that are succeeding in sport in spite of very poor movement patterns and extremely poor exercise regimes; if any.
We'll pick the story up just prior to my senior year in high school. I already could jump relatively high amongst my peers but it wasn't enough, did I mention I was/am competitive. I sent off for a very commercial jump program, that was basically some velcro toe weights; but the marketing was good and I laced 'em up in hopes of jumping out of the gym come fall. Well little did I know as a 17 year old kid testosterone was whizzing around like crazy doing its thing and I could have done a million one foot hops and most likely would have gotten the same results I did from those $69.99 mistakes. In fact looking back I would have avoided the overuse pain in my shins as well, but I was naive and it seemed like a great idea at the time. Often though they only get so far until the unfortunate happens.
The year progressed and I started 'hitting the weights' like many other teenage boys in an effort to put on some size, problem was I was taking direction from magazines and other kids who pretended to know what they were doing. Just the beginning of many more mistakes when it came to my athletic career. In spite of my stupidity when it came to so called training I was excelling at my sport. We were winning tournaments and personally was having fun with beating up the oppositions better players. I don't write this to impress you, as I mentioned right off the top, I really wasn't that good, but I write it to impress on you that there are a lot of programs out there with the claim they can get young athletes bigger, stronger and faster when in fact they are just after a large payout. Never mind those 'programs' are not balance or individualized, this was a large red flag I flat out ignored that had repercussions later on. I kept succeeding due to my athleticism not my solid choices in training. The market is very buyer beware and I was not aware. This trend continued on into my senior year, by this time I started to garner interest from college and universities. We won every tournament we entered and I was well on my way to a post secondary basketball career.
I chose a smaller up and coming school in the Fraser Valley and began fighting for a starting position. By New Years I was in a starting spot and feeling good. We were moving to the CIS the following year and my off season training began. It improved marginally just by being around other veteran athletes but we still had very little in the form of expert movement and performance coaching and this is another area I wish deeply, that I could do over. Knowing that squats were better than calf raises was a step up from where I had been, but knowing what I do now, my form was atrocious and it was a small miracle my back didn't buckle under what I was calling a squat at the time. This is where I learned a valuable lesson, a crappy program done with ferocity will generally garner better results than great program that never gets executed. This only hold true to a point and was soon to come to a head. Much of what we were doing at the time was not researched beyond a magazine article, information was hard to come by, the internet was in its infancy and 'experts' were hard to find, let alone approach. Plus I was 19 and I pretty much knew everything there was to know about the weight room. I mean come on, I was a guy and I could 'squat' 300lbs what else was there to know. Ha, boy was I wrong. Do-over moment #2. Seeking advice on what a proper program out line should look like. Andrew and I hadn't met at that time yet, and I affectionately refer to this period in my career as the dark ages. It wasn't that I didn't want to put in the work, it's just that I had no idea that what I was doing was excessively sub par. Again seeing some results because of just working hard not smart.
Cue up spring league after my second year, a few games in and my invincible-ness came crashing down. My never planned workouts, multiple ankle sprains and subsequent heavy taping and brace wearing, and serious muscular imbalances resulted in a full rupture of my ACL in my left knee, with a smattering of cartilage tearing on the side. The story is a little more gruesome than that but to be honest talking about it gives me the heeby geebies. Needless to say I had reached a low point in my career. The sobering thought that I may never play again crossed my mind.
Having almost 15 years now to reflect on what got me to that point, my career choice, constant battle to get better and a strong desire to give back to youth athletics I feel that I can now speak on the topic with some expertise. I would have given anything to not get hurt that year. I sat out my entire 3rd year rehabbing and preparing mentally for the day I could get back into full contact play. To say it was tough would be the understatement of the year. All of that aside, I learned some very valuable lessons.
The rigours of a student athlete were much harder than I initially thought. The travel, school work progressively getting more difficult, some semblance of social life to maintain (I met my now wife during the year I was off). These were are all excuses for not training like I could have. I mean I went to the weight room, did a classic bodybuilding split routine attained some minor gains, but all in all my training regimen left a ton to be desired.
Back to that bit at the beginning. I wasn't a superstar, I had above average athletic ability that I was riding, and my work ethic was slowly being shaped and would prove to be a huge takeaway from such a debilitating injury. I worked decent hard to get back into playing condition and made a return to the lineup the following year. It wasn't the same. Mentally I was hesitant and found it tough going to the hole for fear of re-injury. I played out my final 2 years of basketball as I was receiving a large scholarship and I did the best I could, or so I thought.
Fast forward 2.5 years, I had since graduated, was now in the fitness industry as a personal trainer and strength coach, married and completely focused on how to improve the human body not only mine but my clients as well. I spent time learning from some very smart coaches, both in person and reading their material. (Andrew was one of these influences). I learned how to deadlift properly and ate like an elite athlete should. It truly was amazing to see what some smart coaching, hard, hard work and proper fuel and rest can do.
After nearly 3 years away from competitive basketball, I was invited back to play in some alumni games and a few other men's leagues. I decided it was time to venture back on to the hard court.
What happened next was probably the most eye opening experience of my athletic and training career. My playing weight in university hovered around 195lbs. I am 6'3 and was a very skinny and undersized power forward, but I could jump and by the time I graduated like many veterans before me, had acquired a skill set that afforded me some decent playing time. Coming back in I now weighed almost 230lbs. My vertical hadn't suffered in the least, dunking a ball had come easy to me since 11th grade, but I had maintained it through smarter training and now had almost 35lbs more lean body mass to work with. Playing with this new body I was excited and riddled with regret all at the same time. You see, the ability to know that I could have been a much better player, avoided my injury and overall just whooped ass much earlier in my career was initially beyond frustrating. Excitement came from playing against top level players again in my position and me being the one pushing them around and inflicting my will. That experience serves me well to this day, when I coach young athletes, they need to know I have been through the trenches, recovered from injury, wallowed in mediocrity and tasted success personally through hard work and some much smarter training.
Much of what I went through is avoidable today. The quad/hamstring imbalance I had that led to my injury is easily identifiable, my poor movement patterns were correctable, lifting/eating protocols have evolved, recovery and self care exist well beyond ice in 2014. Increased mass and strength gains don't mean a big slow athlete anymore. Athletes entering college should be focussing on improving their skills in their selected sport not relearning movement patterns they have spent high school messing up with crazy hair brained 'jump programs'. I learned the hard way, you don't have to. I wasn't very good, I had decent athletic ability that afforded a college scholarship and by the end a work ethic that allowed me to play in the best league in Canada. Could have there been more for me, yes. But my experience has now served as a lesson for many others.
We can change things. I have set out to change this story so it is not repeated by those whom I come in contact with, be it this blog, our coaching at Coastal or any form people reach out to us.
I first started Coastal Fitness in Langley in 2007. Started training general population as well as athletes. We had some head to the NCAA, others win CIS National Titles. We opened the doors to our first facility in Walnut Grove in 2013. And now partnering with Andrew Heming who I believe to be one of BC's premier strength coaches to head up our new athletic focused training division, Coastal Athletics. Andrew's resume is impressive, he has personally mentored many of the other strength coaches currently training in the area, he has written more programs and trained more athletes that anyone in the Fraser Valley over the last 10 years, in addition to the many successful teams and individuals he has helped improve performance and stay injury free. This combination of premier strength and conditioning coaches and top notch facility will set any athlete up for success, no matter if they are stepping up to the rep team, looking for attention from college programs or looking to stay injury free to continue enjoying their sport of choice for years to come. We'll give you the Strength to Perform!