Monday, January 21, 2013

Teaching Effort

Maximum effort is learned by making maximal attempts.

It has certainly been my experience that most young athletes do not know what maximal effort is. Hard work is understood quite differently by individual athletes. While the approach described in the article below is interesting and seems to have merit for basketball practice or other continuous movement type sports like soccer, it would be cumbersome and  expensive for most programs to implement. For explosive maximal single attempt type sports like football, weightlifting throwing, jumping,..etc. it would have no value. My experience is the best way to teach maximal effort in those contexts is to test w ith maximal single attempts. There are many strength coaches who advocate using rep maxes to project a max. There are a variety of published tables which claim to be able to predict a one rep max from multiple rep maxes. First, I have never seen one of these charts that is accurate. Second, I think it is misguided to avoid one rep maxes. I don't believe that a 1 rep max is inherently dangerous so long as the athlete is properly prepared and has good technique. I have seen and experienced more injuries from multiple rep maxes as fatigue results in a break down of technique, Having athletes complete a one rep max periodically teaches them to give maximum effort as they battle against an uncompromising weight. When you are running and it gets painful, you can just back off with no immediate consequence. If you are under a maximum weight, any backing off is immediately apparent. Maximum effort is a learned skill and can be taught by placing athletes in a situation where the challenge cannot be avoided, under a heavy weight.

There's an old saying that "you can't teach effort." However, at the University of Kentucky, Strength and Conditioning Coach Rock Oliver and Head Men's Basketball Coach John Calipari are attempting to do just that. To teach lessons in effort, the Wildcats' coaches are having players wear heart rate monitors during practices and games.
This year's team has a core comprised mostly of freshmen and a couple of sophomores and early on Calipari noticed that the team found it difficult to put forth the effort he desired. And in monitoring the players' behavior and communicating with them about what it means to play hard, Calipari discovered that the gap between what they perceived as maximum effort and his definition was disturbingly wide. To close this gap, Calipari decided to quantify each player's level of work by having them where a device that measures their "exertion rate, sport zones, caloric expenditure and heart rate."
Calipari writes on his Web site that:
"Because we have very few returning veterans that our new guys can imitate or mimic, we haven't gotten the level of work - conditioning, toughness, effort and exertion - that we need and we expect ... We don't have guys who have been in the system that can show them how hard they have to work. I have had to convince our guys that they aren't working hard enough because they've been under the impression that they are. Each individual thinks they are working hard."
So now when the team practices or players work out, Oliver monitors each player's heart rate and exertion levels on a sideline computer.
"At any point in practice I can look over to him and ask him what the rates are and he can give me the percentages," said Calipari. "He can tell me if they're going at 80 percent or 90 percent or whatever it is. If I think the rates are too low - if we are in the 70s or 80s - we get on the baseline and we run to get them back in the 90s ... Because we are able to read their heart rates, now we know who is maxing out in practice and who is hiding, who thinks they're going hard and who isn't, who is able to push themselves through pain, and who has mental toughness to be special.
"Everybody perceives his exertion level differently. Some feel they are working extremely hard and they're not, and others perceive that they're not working very hard when they really are," he added. "My hope is to get everybody in that second category. I want them to realize what their exertion level is in games compared to what it is in practice, and this device helps us do that."
Calipari said the heart rate monitors are also a teaching tool for him.
"These devices also help me know when to back off as a coach," he said. "The old way of me judging my team was really scientific. If I was tired, I figured they were tired, so I backed up. You laugh, but that's the way I did it because we had no other way of doing it. We didn't have many injuries, so it worked, but I appreciate this device because it validates what I've done over my career. As you all know, I'm always concerned about someone's health and injury, and this device shows that if we're going four or five days in the max zone, I know it's time for me to back up."

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