Friday, June 26, 2015

Athletic Emotional Intelligence

jordan shot w border.pngMichael Jordan is the greatest player to ever play the game of basketball.  He is not  the biggest or the strongest the league has seen, nor did he have the highest IQ or shooting percentage.  But he always seems to perform his best when the stakes are high. How do some players remain calm and fully in control of their emotions to reach peak performance in clutch situations?  
The concept of Emotional Intelligence (EI) has been used in the business world but research in sports psychology has seen a dramatic increase in the past decade. “Emotional Intelligence refers to individual’s ability to perceive, utilize, understand, and manage their emotions.”1  Recent findings show that EI is arguably the most important aspect in achieving peak performance in sports.  According to psychologist Daniel Goleman, EI was found to be twice as important as IQ or skills for leader performance in several large companies and athletic programs.2 The few athletes that learn to master control over their emotions tend to be better leaders and considerably more successful.  
Emotional Intelligence has many different components and factors that you must understand to become a peak performer. Though it is complex, there are 3 fundamental ideals of applying EI to your athletic performance.  Understanding these guidelines can give perspective on how and why it is important to become emotionally intelligent in sports.  
  • Self-awareness-Ability to understand your moods and emotions in terms of their effect on you and their effect on others.  Highly self-aware athletes are confident, have a realistic view of their abilities, and are not afraid to admit their mistakes.  
Application: Chart your thoughts and feelings at practices and competitions.
  • Self-Regulation- Capacity to control or redirect disrupting emotions and dispositions.
Application: Be prepared!  Think of 5 scenarios that rattle you in competition.  Formulate tactical solutions to get your emotions back on track for the given situations.  
  • Motivation-Successful players are motivated to play for the sake of playing.  Be intrinsically motivated!
Application: Fall in love again.  Revisit the reason you began to play in first place.  Status and approval was not your initial reason for playing your sport.  
To start becoming an emotionally intelligent athlete you must first have a grasp on these foundational keys.  Over the next segments of this blog I will discuss techniques to become mentally tougher and emotionally intelligent in sports.  
1Mayer, J. D., & Salovey, P. (1997). What is emotional intelligence? In P. Salovey & D. Sluyter (Eds.), Emotional development and emotional intelligence: Implications for educators (pp. 3-31). New York: Basic Book
2Goleman, D. (1998). What makes a leader? Harvard Business Review, 76, 93-102.

The NCAA Basketball Recruiting Calendar

The NCAA Coaches Certification Test must be passed with a score of 80.0% in order to not only contact prospective student-athletes (PSAs) off-campus, but also evaluate them at different events.1 We will take a look at the general rules of a recruiting calendar which applies to all levels (Division I, II, and III) equally (except for time periods). As one can see by taking a look at the Division II recruiting calendar, there are four distinct periods in the recruiting season. We highlight each period, the thoughts about them, and what is permissible during each.

Dead Period: These periods normally run just before the signing periods in both the Fall and Spring, allowing the PSAs space to gather their thoughts and talk things over with their families before making their college decisions. Letters, emails, calls, and texts are allowed during dead period.2
Quiet Period: During this period of recruiting, the PSAs are just getting established in school, beginning to focus on their season, or just finishing up school for the year. Although it is obviously less restrictive than Dead Period, Quiet Period allows some space to focus on tasks at hand with little distraction and pressure. Letters, emails, calls, texts, official and unofficial visits are allowed during quiet period.2
Evaluation Period: Better known as “Live Period”, this is the time that Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) programs are going full steam ahead or high school teams are contending for a state championship. Many PSAs are able to showcase their talents and earn that coveted scholarship during this period. Obviously coaches are able to EVALUATE potential players during this time because they are in their playing seasons on the court. Letters, emails, calls, texts, official/unofficial visits, and evaluations at club or high school competitions are allowed during evaluation period.2
Contact Period: This period is when coaches want the most “bang for their buck” more than any other. Contact periods normally last for a lengthy period of time before the PSAs can sign their National Letter of Intent. Letters, emails, calls, texts, official/unofficial visits, evaluations at club or high school competitions, and off-campus/in-home visits are allowed during contact period.2
Staying within the confines of these rules during the specific dates keeps universities away from NCAA sanctions. Capitalizing during these periods is the key to not only building a great program and keeping a job, but also advancing one’s career to a higher level.   


1NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Recruiting Calendar. (2014, August 1). Retrieved June 22, 2015, from's DII Basketball Recruiting Calendar2014.pdf  

2NCAA Contact Periods: Quiet, Dead, Evaluation and Contact. (n.d.). Retrieved June 22, 2015, from

Core Balance Training for the Senior Adults

Working in a cardiopulmonary rehabilitation facility my main focus is to exercise and strengthen my clients’ cardiovascular and respiratory systems.  Having said that, my clients usually have other comorbidities that need attention as well.  I use a multidisciplinary approach to improve the health-related quality of life for my clients.  Core balance training is an area that most of my clients need to work on to reduce and prevent the risk of falling.  The most common reasons that seniors fall are:

  • Decrease in vision
  • Weakness in hips and legs
  • Poor posture of spinal degeneration
  • Decreased ability to lift feet
  • Delayed reaction time
  • Medications that cause dizziness
  • Low blood pressure1

For the most transferable and usable functional balance training, exercises need to engage multiple muscles and stimulate the body's response in a manner that requires both to work together. This results in efficient movement. Both the BOSU® Balance Trainer (BT) and BOSU® Ballast® Ball (BB) are great tools to incorporate into programming in order to accomplish this goal.2

BOSU_olderadult1 ball.jpg
Photo By:  Bosu

Knee Lift

  • Sit on the BB with both feet a comfortable distance apart. Rest hands on sides of the BB or on hips.
  • Lift R knee toward the ceiling, while maintaining balance and correct posture. Hold for 2 to 4 counts.
  • Repeat with L knee.
  • To increase challenge, close eyes.

Unilateral Heel Raise
  • standing_on_bosu.jpg
    Photo By:  Bosu
    Stand with L foot on the BT. Extend R leg behind with heel on the floor. Place hands on hips or extend out to sides.
  • Lift R heel and lower to the floor. Repeat 6 to 8 times, maintaining balance and alignment.
  • Bring both legs together on the floor to rest.
  • Repeat on L side.
  • To increase challenge, close eyes while lifting heel, but open eyes when lowering heel back to the floor.
These are just a couple of exercises that can be incorporated into an exercise program for senior adults.  Maintaining core strength will reduce the amount and severity of injuries to which this population is susceptible.  Prevent and reduce the risk of falls by exercising!

112 Best Balance Exercises for Seniors and the Elderly to Prevent Falls. Retrieved, June 20, 2015, from
2 Gardener, J., & Prouty, J. (n.d.). Balance and Fall Prevention for the Older Adult.

The Green Elephant in the Locker Room

The Green Elephant in the Locker Room
ncaa-football-logo.jpgShould college athletes be paid? More prevalent than ever is the issue of paying players in the NCAA; the past decade has shed light on a numerous violations committed by high ranking universities, involving pay for play situations, recruiting violations, and booster club infractions. These violations become more of a concern when we realize that the violation involves student athletes who may be subject to lesser financial security, and university football programs that are valued over $100 million. Narrowing our focus to NCAA Division 1 football alone; we are talking about an industry that contains companies bringing in hundreds of millions in revenue, an industry with a business model of providing a top tier attraction, and not compensating the attraction past room, board, (and tuition since we are talking about colleges after all).  
download.jpg Paying players is such a pressing issue not only because of the absurd profit being collected due primarily in part to their efforts on their respective fields; but because of the detrimental effects being tagged with a sanction can have on a player’s career and future. According to NCAA Bylaw 12.1.2 Amateur Status; An individual loses amateur status and thus shall not be eligible for intercollegiate competition in a particular sport if the individual: (a) Uses his or her athletic skill (directly or indirectly) for pay in any form in that sport; (b) Accepts a promise of pay even if such pay is to be received following completion of intercollegiate athletics participation; (c) Signs a contract or commitment of any kind to play professional athletics, regardless of its legal enforceability or any consideration received; (d) Receives, directly or indirectly, a salary, reimbursement of expenses or any other form of financial assistance from a professional sports organization based upon athletics skill or participation, except as permitted by NCAA rules and regulations; (e) Competes on any professional athletics team (per Bylaw 12.02.4) even if no pay or remuneration for expenses was received; (f) Subsequent to initial full-time enrollment, enters into a professional draft; or (g) Enters into an agreement with an agent. ¹ The effects of this ruling on eligibility can have a horrible outcome for players; some find themselves completely out of school because they don’t have the means to pay for tuition without a scholarship, but with no eligibility there is no scholarship. The institutions, however, are not faced with punishments as substantial; they may lose a few scholarships for the upcoming season, or potentially face a postseason ban which can limit revenue; but there is ultimately no serious penalty for schools involved in pay for play scandals.
Over the next few installments of this blog I will be examining several cases involving sanctions for paying players, or athletes receiving impermissible benefits, as well as discussing opposing views on the topic of paying collegiate athletes. I will also focus on the discrepancy between revenue generated by division one programs and the funds they allocate on players.


Do Winter Athletes Train in the Summer?

Once the winter games are over, elite athletes are able to enjoy some relaxation and fun in the sun, right? Not quite. Olympic athletes train year round for their moment in the spotlight, using the summer months to hone those skills to bring home the gold in what we term dry-land training.1 A great example of this is bobsled athletes.

While living at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York, my teammates and I spent untold hours walking the track, memorizing the lines, and working as a cohesive unit with the single goal of making that smooth transition from ice to sled for a safe trip down the mountain. With sleds weighing between 300 to 500-pounds, athletes must learn how to come off the block with explosive power and carry that sled forward with speed, while running on ice, before jumping in. With crushing gravity forces and sometimes debilitating hits against the wall, the bobsledder must be able to handle what the mountain can dish out.2 For these reasons, dry-land training and the summer months become critical for success. For this sport, power cleans, jump squats, lunges, plyometrics, along with shoulder, arm, and back workouts in the summer months translates to surviving the ride within the bobsled. Hours and hours of static strength holds, power cleans, and sprint training boils down to less than one minute at 90 miles per hour at race time.
While the winter months bring on actual competition, summer is when the real work is done and no one is watching. Speedskaters most often turn to mountain biking while hockey players grudgingly run, and everyone hits the weights. No matter the [winter] discipline, athletes draw upon sports-specific skills like balance, speed, and explosive power for dry-land training. As U.S. Hockey athlete Hilary Knight said, “Our summers are known for making our biggest gains.”3  Lindsey Vonn shared a typical summer training regimen with her fans in a private facility in Austria, whereas the Canadian men’s alpine team sweats it out in a public park. No matter the location, it is the dry-land training that makes or breaks the elite winter athlete. At the next Winter or X-Games, as you watch an athlete put in a one minute performance, know it took all summer to get there.

1 Quin, E. (n.d.). Winter Olympic Sports Training: How Athletes Train for the Winter Olympics.
2 O'Connor, A. (2014, February 5). The Workout: Training to Bobsled. New York Times.
3 A Winter Athletes Guide Training Summer. (n.d.). ESPN.

Hard Work Beats Talent, When Talent Doesn't Work Hard

url2.jpgDean Smith, former North Carolina Tar Heel Coach, said it best when he uttered the words play hard, play smart, and play together.  Those three ideas play hand in hand when competing at any level of basketball.  The idea that takes a team above and beyond on the basketball court is playing together.

“The broad sense of teamwork is the contractual moral imperatives of respect and fairness, which in return, constrains the coalescence of individual energies in the pursuit of competitive success.”1 This means that teamwork is essentially the agreement to play as one to eventually achieve a common goal or purpose.  Gaffney broke teamwork down into 4 classifications:

  • Arithmetic:  there is no tangible interaction among teammates.  Sports like tennis and swimming fall under this classification.1
  • Interchangeable:  playing roles are in flux during games and athletes adapt accordingly.  Sports like basketball and soccer fall under this classification.1
  • Coordination and Corporation:  these two fall between the above classifications.  In the first players operate independently but have critical exchanges while in the second players occupy specific roles within a well-defined structure.  Sports like track and field relays and baseball fall under both classification.1

teamwork-300x200.jpgTeamwork is the key to winning.  One thing that set Carolina teams apart during the Coach Smith era was the unselfishness of their play.2  You get the best results of teamwork when your team forms a brotherly or sisterly bond with each other.  When one makes a mistake encourage him/her to do better.  Praise your teammates’ success when they achieve a goal.2  Be a helper, be a cheerleader, be a friend for your teammates.2  Be there when they fall down and encourage them to get back up.  During competition make the extra pass, set a good screen, or go the extra mile by diving out of bound for the loose ball.  Whatever you do make sure it’s for the team.  In other words, team chemistry is a key piece to successfully working as a team.  Finally, play for the name of the front of the jersey and not the one on the back.

1 Torres, C. R. (2015). “The Role of Teamwork in Organized Youth Sport.”  Journal Of The Philosophy Of Sport, 42(1), 63-69.  doi:10.1080/00948705.2014.961160

2 VerSteeg, R.  (2006). Play Hard!  Play Smart!  Play Together!.  Coach & Athletic Director, 75(8), 16-18.

Three Characteristics of a Great Defensive Back

  There are many characteristics that are needed to be a great defensive back (DB). Some characteristics are hard, if not impossible to measure (determination, perseverance, and mental toughness). This blog will focus on measurable characteristics that have be tested and shown to be significant. Although there is no one formula, there are certain measurable factors that have been shown to separate great DBs from the rest of the pack; speed, agility, and lower-body power are the recurring characteristics.


Speed has been shown to be a significant characteristic of a great DB.1 Speed is defined as the rate at which one can move from point A to point B. It is important for a DB to be able to run step for step with the fastest athletes on the field. A DB needs speed to be able to defend against a deep pass threat and to stop a run threat by decreasing the time and distance a runner has to make a decision with the ball.


Another defining factor of a great DB is agility. Agility is the ability to quickly reach full speed, decelerate, change direction, and quickly accelerate again while maintaining body control and minimizing a reduction in speed.1 DBs are faced with the challenge of covering wide receivers without knowing where the receivers are headed. Great DBs are able to accelerate and change direction in order to maintain coverage over receivers.

Lower-Body Power

The last characteristic that has been shown to separate good DBs from the great DBs is lower-body power. Power is the ability to exert a maximal force in as short a time as possible. Lower-body power, such as in a vertical or horizontal jump, relies on flexion of the ankle, as well as extension of the knee and hip.2 Lower body power affects almost every physical aspect of the game (jumping, tackling, deceleration and acceleration, agility). The more lower-body power a DB has, the more successful they can be.

Although there are many similar characteristics of great DBs, these are three key measurable characteristics that have been shown to be significant indicators of greatness. These characteristics are also skills that can be improved in any DB with proper training and coaching.  

1Sawyer,D., Ostarello, J., Suess, E., Dempsey, M., (2002). Relationship Between Football Playing Ability and Selected Performance Measures. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 16(4).

2Sierer, S.P., Battaglini, C., Mihalik, J., Shields, E., Tmasini, N., (2008). The National Football League Combine: Performance Differences Between Drafted and Non-drafted Players Entering the 2004 and 2005 Drafts. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 22(1), 6-12.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Making the proper Tackle (American Football)


Executing a tackle with proper form is one of the first lessons that should be taught to defensive football players.  Dropping your head during a tackle or leading with your helmet can result in injury (concussions), paralysis, or death.1  These injuries have become so common that USA football started the Heads Up Football campaign, a national initiative to help make football better and safer.  With the advanced education, coaches are now required to take the time and teach the technique to keep our athletes protected at a higher rate.

Making the tackle

    •  The ideal tackle starts with your feet being about shoulder width apart.

    • Next, you want to squeeze your shoulder blades back and down to help assist in the security of your neck. Be certain that your head is up, and eyes are forward at all times. This technique is for safety purposes, but also remember that you can't tackle what you can't see.  

    • After that, work on your lower body posture, bend your knees and slightly lean forward so that your body makes a 45 degree angle. Staying low puts you in a powerful position that allows you to optimize the exertion of your energy and make convincing tackles. Keep in mind that your lower body is superior to your upper body in strength, so the lower you are, the more strength and explosion you are capable of using.

    • When making a proper tackle, remember head up and eyes up, using the front of the shoulder as the first point of contact. After contact has been made you also want to make sure that you wrap your arms around the ball carrier as if you were trying to give him a hug.

    • Always keep your feet active.................Never let those feet die!!!!!!

    • The reason feet always need to be active is that, when you make contact, you want to wrap up with your arms and drive the person with the ball to the ground. If your feet die, you relinquish all of that power you had built up in your power position.

    •  Being the lower man with the better explosion and foot drive will aid you in making an effective tackle every time.

    1How to Tackle in Football (wikiHow)

    2How to tackle in Football | Tackling Technique | Youth Football | USA Football | Football's National Governing Body (How to tackle in Football | Tackling Technique | Youth Football | USA Football | Football's National Governing Body)