Antrim hurling continues its rapid decline towards extinction, who cares?

Antrim hurling continues its rapid decline towards extinction, who cares?

I had to turn off TG4 at half time, I couldn’t take any more punishment. But it was a familiar scene, another humiliating hammering for an Antrim team in the U21 All-Ireland Hurling Semi-Final. Waterford 5-25, Antrim 1.5.  ‘We knew how bad our preparation was, this team was only pulled together in five weeks’, manager Ollie Bellew said afterwards. This remains one of the great mysteries of Antrim hurling for me, a proud hurling county. Why was the team pulled together in five weeks? It seems like every county in Ireland are aware that the All-Ireland hurling semi finals are held in August except for Antrim, where they are annually taken by surprise and pulling teams together after one training session. Last year before Antrim faced Wexford in the same fixture, manager Kevin Ryan disclosed that his team were in for a ‘massive hiding’ after they couldn’t get a panel together to even train in the weeks leading up to the game. Back in 2008, I sat on the bench as Derry beat us in the Ulster U21 Hurling Championship Semi-Final. We trained twice leading up to that game. So Antrim are continuing their tradition of hoping to defy the basic first principle of sports performance in their quest for All-Ireland glory: Preparation. Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail You would think that they would make the most of the incredible opportunity to compete against one of the big teams in an All-Ireland semi-final by training really, really hard. But that would make too much sense. And for years we’ve had a County Board who for some bewildering reason thought...

Is a warm-up ‘just a warm-up’ ? A quick guide to team warm-ups for sports performance

Traditionally, team warm-ups for training or competition have been a means to an end, a jog and a stretch. However, great coaches now value this 20 to 30 minute block as an opportunity to enhance movement competency and reinforce excellence, as well as the necessary neuromuscular preparation for the proceeding activities. In Athletic Development, Vern Gambetta emphasises the point that the warm-up sets the tempo for the session: It is an integral, not separate part of the workout. As a strength and conditioning coach, there is nothing you will do more than conduct warm-ups, and these should all be taken as coaching moments to be taken advantage of. As an athlete, every warm-up should be a self-assessment; how do your joints and muscles feel during different movements at varying intensities? Kelvin Giles notes that the relatively short period of 20 minutes can see over 200 ‘movements’ taking place, developing the fundamental movements by connecting from fingernail to toenail. So, over time you can progress the challenge by increasing the complexity of the movement puzzles laid out for the athletes to mechanically solve. A bodyweight squat can turn into a squat with a trunk rotation; then a combination of a prisoner squat to a duck walk, or a drop squat to drop lunge. The possibilities are endless, and the more you hear your athletes tell you that the warm-up is weird, the better. Crawling, rotating, hinging, hoping, pushing, lunging, squatting, and mixing them all together. It also makes things fun and interesting. When you introduce a movement sequence that is new to the athlete, you will witness an immediate surge...

In-Season Need-to-Do’s

In-season programming is a juggling act of so many different physical components, that I sometimes get dizzy just thinking about where to fit them all into the training week. There’s more and more information out there about what you should be doing with your athletes, but if you try to pack it all into your physical development plan, you’ll create a fine mess which will be reflected in your athlete’s performances. Vern Gambetta talks about the three types of training To Do’s:  Want To Do, Nice To Do, and Need To Do. If you commit to at the very least getting the Need-to-do’s in every week then no matter what else happens you know you’re covering the essentials. It’s too easy to get side-tracked by the fancy minutia at the expense of your bread and butter. Your Need-to-do’s should reflect your training philosophy; as we know, if something is worth doing it is worth doing consistently, not in drips and drabs. The Pareto Principle seems to be applied to every life-situation and it’s granny these days but I’m sure it is relevant here too:  20% of your efforts and resources account for 80% of your results. Apply this principle to your strength and conditioning program to figure out what you Need-to-do’s are.   Strength training Despite everything we know about the benefits of strength training for sports, I still find myself having to convince some athlete’s to commit to getting stronger. The purpose of strength training for football is not to build muscle, that is merely a potential side effect. Building strength will develop your tissue’s load bearing capacity,...

We all want our athletes strong…but what is strong?

Strength is a great way to bulletproof against injuries in sport. Get your athletes stronger and you help them develop resiliency and robustness. This make intuitive sense (stronger= less likely to break), and research indeed seems to back this up. But is there more to this equation than just “get them strong”? I am definitely in the camp of keeping training systems simple, and always a bit suspicious about the motives behind making things sound complicated. But as the saying goes; Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler. The early-2000’s brought in the functional training era of Strength and Conditioning, where athlete’s followed a physical therapy model and spent all their time getting ‘functional’ and forgot to get strong. A training program with 20 different exercises, unstable surfaces, cable machines, and focusing really really hard on getting the TA and multifidus firing. Then in the late-2000’s the pendulum swung towards the opposite extreme; lifting heavy weights and getting strong. Training programs had little variety, and focused on the Power lifts and a few sets of plank. This is what most of my physical preparation for hurling looked like when I was in college, along with some Olympic lifts. I focused on the numbers and on how much weight I could shift off the ground, off my chest, pull up, or squat with on my back. I definitely got stronger, but the harder I trained in the gym the more I broke down on the field. The extra strength and size may have been somewhat useful but my balance and coordination was poor, and I wasn’t very explosive....

Claochlú Coirpe #2 – Méadú Meachán, Sláinte, agus Ithe Glan

Sa chéad cuid den sraith seo, phlé muid cailleadh meachán. An gá dúinn muid féin a mharú le traenál dian mar a fhéicimid ar clárthaí teilifíse ar nós The Biggest Loser? Nó an bhfuil bealaigh níos éifeachtaí is níos slaintiúla ann cúpla punt a chailleadh? Caith súil siar ar Claochlú Coirpe #1 . Inniú, beidh muid ag caitheamh súil ar an taobh eile den bonn. Cad faoi siúd atá ró-thanaí agus atá ag iarraidh meachán a mhéadú? I sochaí an lae inniú, bíonn an-béim curtha ar íomha coirp, agus brú mór ar mhná óga ach go háirithe an íomha tanaí a chomhlíonadh. Ach cuimhnigh nach ionann tanaí agus slaintiúil, go minic is a mhallairt an chás. Cén sort aclaíocht is éifeachtaí le haghaidh méadú meachán, agus cad é an bia is fearr ithe I dtreo an sprioc seo? Sa chéad dul síos, ba mhaith linn bheith níos cruinne nuair a phléimid meachain a ardú. Tá sé measartha simplí againn éirigh níos ramhaire; ná bog móran agus ith cuid mhór pizza agus uachtair reoite! Tá sé tábhachtach idirdhealú a dhéanamh idir seo agus meacháin a ardú ar slí atá slaintiúl. Ní hé sin le rá gur droch rud i gcónaí é an leibheáil saille sa chorp a ardú má tá sé an-íseal, ach ba mhaith linn díriú ar meatán a mhéadú. Chun na meatáin sa chorp a spreagadh chun fás, caithfidh muid cur ina luí ar an chorp go bhfuil tuilleadh meatáin de dhíth orainn. Is féidir linn seo a bhaint amach go héifeachtach le haclaíocht neartaithe; tógail meacháin mar a luaigh muid cheanna féin, luailí gleacaíochta, nó fiú obair sa fíor saoil a thugann orainn...

Managing the Never-Ending Sporting Season

As we move into another winter winter, we reach the period of the year for many GAA players where one season blends into the next. Whether your club is lucky enough to have navigated its way through the County championship into the Provincial and All-Ireland series, or you are a student playing for your school or college, you probably haven’t been afforded much of a break this year. Des Ryan, Head of Athletic Development at the Arsenal Academy, speaking at Setanta College’s ‘Developing and Maximizing Youth Potential’ Conference in Thurles, warned that the physical demands on young GAA players are not sustainable. He wasn’t joking. I was speaking recently to one of this year’s Limerick minor hurlers who said he could do with a break. He wasn’t joking either. Let’s take a quick look at his year so far: He started training with Limerick in January, playing through to the All-Ireland quarter final in July. Somewhere in-between he managed to win a County u21 title in April. When the minor’s season ended, he joined up with the county U21 team who went on to win the All-Ireland final in September. He played with his club in the county minor championship as far as the final in October. The club senior championship started in April and culminated in final success in October, which sent them into the Provincial championship; they won that in November. Of course, back to school in September and straight into the Harty Cup, they topped the group this week and go into the quarter final in January. A brand new year. The club’s senior team continue to...

Physical development of the young athlete: Doing it right Part 3

The first part of this series looked at the importance of providing the young developing body with lots of varied physical inputs, the pitfalls of sedentary living and early sports specialization. The second installment looked at gym training and how moving away from the conventional approach might serve us better in the long run. This third and final part will discuss nutrition; how our physical capacities are inextricably linked with what we eat. We understand that a good diet can reduce the likelihood of developing degenerative cardio-vascular diseases, but do we realize the effect our diets have on our movement? Less Grains, Please. The food we eat affects our organs, and our organs affect our movement. Paul Chek describes this connection in detail in this article: “Most people have little or no understanding of their organs in general, and because of their ignorance of what is inside them, they make diet and lifestyle choices that create stress on their organs and glands that disrupt almost every aspect of their body and mind” The practice of segmentalizing the body into separate pieces may be useful in terms of putting labels on body parts and teaching anatomy, but it has mostly served to diminish our appreciation for the oneness of the human body. Organs talk to and control muscles. Thus, Chek believes that you would be wise to look inward when dealing with chronic problems, describing how he has rehabilitated athletes with chronic muscloskeletal pain that could not be resolved until function was restored to the related glans and organs. The mechanism for this is explained as such: If an organ overheats...

Physical development of the young athlete: Doing it right Part 2

I have been taking a thoughtful look back at my athletic journey, from the day I first lifted a hurling stick as a youngster to the injury mire of recent years. Not-traumatic injuries don’t occur for no reason, so somewhere along the way my physical development was clearly hampered by some inefficient inputs to the system. Tracking back over the years to see what I could have done differently may selfishly help guide me going forward, but might also save others from making similarly perilous decisions themselves. The previous post focused on the need to supplement your sport with lots of fun and varied movement, and the injury-laden consequences of combining a sedentary lifestyle with participation in high-intensity sports.  As you become older and take your sport more seriously, naturally the more committed you are to improving, training harder and for longer. Paradoxically, in my case, that probably expedited my dates with the surgeon as I built strength on top of dysfunction. This brings me to those years between 17 and 23 where I trained the hardest and ploughed on through pain signals that were trying to tell me something, until I finally surpassed the body’s breaking point. If I could turn back the clock, here are some things I would do differently.   Body before Barbell I began to get stuck into weights when I went to College, and was lucky enough to have excellent guidance in the UL Arena. My goal was to improve my hurling by getting strong, and get rid of the crippling low chronic low back pain that had been a constant for years....

Saturday Movement

Here is a little movement session that I did today. Having not trained in a while, the aim of this low-intensity session was to just re-connect with the body and get going again. My current training goals are primarily to get back to pain free movement, working through hip and shoulder issues; so mobility training has been the main focus of my recent efforts. As well as working on the soft core, or inner unit as Paul Chek calls it. I actually spent longer on the Prep part of the session, around 35 mins, working on mobility and control: The squat hip rotations are from Ido Portal’s Squat Clinic. I used 6 adjustable Smart Hurdles for the over-unders, which my hips are really enjoying. Working on range of motion and control. I have been dropping in the Jefferson Curl every now and again to load the spine in flexion. I used a barbell @ 30kg, standing on a plyo box. Great stretch in the hamstrings too. Inspired by Gymnastic Bodies’ Coach Sommers who is a big fan of this movement. I used a broom with a 2.5kg plate in the middle, lying prone on the floor. Rolling Patterns are some of the foundational movements of the FMS corrective system for the soft core, described as a low threshold strategy that depicts asymmetries and deficiencies in a primitive pattern. I focused on not forcing the movement and not letting the lower body contribute to the roll. The Cossack Flow is an FRC movement. It was challenging to keep the movement fluid and really challenged my hip mobility. I chose four bodyweight strengthening/core movements and spent about 25 minutes rotating through them in...

Claochlú coirpe #1: Cailleadh meachán

Braitheann an corp agus an sláinte atá bronnta orainn go formhór ar an slí maireachtála a leanann muid. Mar sin de, chun athrú mór a chur i gcrích, níl aon draíocht i gceist; caithfimid ithe mar is ceart agus slí maireachtála níos gníomhaí a chruthú. Bíonn an corp agus anam faoi bhláth nuair a chothaíonn muid an corp le bia glan agus bogadh flúirseach. Sin é. Chuir Ailbhe Ní Riain cúpla ceist orm ar na mallaibh le haghaidh tionscnamh ollscoile. Seo thíos an chéad ceann; tá súil agam go gcuidíonn sé le dhaoine aicsin a ghlacadh inniú. Cén sórt aclaíocht is éifeachtaí chun meachán a chailleadh, agus an bia is fearr ithe? Go hiondúil nuair a bhíonn sé mar sprioc ag daoine meachán a chailleadh, tagann rud amháin ar intinn: rith. Don chuid is mó ní hé seo an bealach is slaintiúla ná is éifeachtaí seo a bhaint amach. Cinnte, oibreoidh sé ar feadh tammaill, oibreoidh aon sort aclaíocht ar dtús nuair nach bhfuil an corp cleachtaithe leis. Ach an rud a fhéicimid go minic ná go bpiocann daoine suas gortaithe as bheith ag cur isteach na mílte fada ag rith, tagann srian ar dul chun cinn ar ná scalaí, agus éiríonn an duine díomuach. Ag an am céanna, thiocfadh leat a rá gurbh é an módh aclaíochta is éifeachtaí ná an ceann a bhaineann tú sult as agus a chloífidh tú leis sa fad téarma. Marsin más é rith do rogha, thar barr. Ach ní gá mothú go mbeadh iachall ort rith má tá tú ag iarraidh crut a chur or do chorp. Tá beallaí eile ann atá níos cinéalta ar na géaga, agus b’fhéidir...