I recently saw this chart of the players on the Ohio States football team that won the National Championship this year. I thought it was fascinating to see that 42 out of 47 players played multiple sports in high school. In fact in an article interviewing Urban Meyers, he said he prefers multi sport athletes. Obviously, he’s had some pretty good success in his coaching career.
Youth athletics can be a polarizing subject. I get it, I have kids. I want my son and daughter to win and be great at everything they try. I also realize that they won’t win everything or be great at everything. As parents, it’s our job to set our kids up to be good at whatever sports they try to be competitive in later on in life. Let’s be real, just because your kid is the t-ball champion doesn’t mean he’s going to be playing for the Braves. If you put him on the course to only play baseball from the time he’s 6 until he’s in college, it’s likely he’ll get burned out on baseball and have significant trouble with overuse injuries.
There are a few key areas we need to try to develop for our kids to help them be well rounded. If they choose to eventually focus on a specific sport, they should have a great foundation to do so with skill development in these areas.
Learn How To Fall
This may be the most under emphasized skill in youth sports. We all want our kids to be the fastest, tallest, strongest or most skilled. What we forget sometimes is that the best athletes are the ones that are the best at fundamentals. One of the most important fundamental skills is learning how to fall. If you know how to fall, you will be hurt less. If you’re hurt less you can practice more. If you can practice more you will get better.
I never had anyone teach me how to fall until I joined the Army. While in the Army I had the opportunity to go through the first level of both the Army and Marines combatives system. One of the first things we learned was rolling drills in the Army. This is heavily drawn from wrestling and jiu jitsu. The Marines system went one step further and taught many of the fundamental skills from judo. Learning how to fall correctly is a skill. I learned this the hard way being hip tossed repeatedly in practice. It can be a trial by fire sometimes. If you land wrong, it really hurts. If you land correctly, it doesn’t hurt. That’s some good incentive to learn how to fall correctly. Get your kids involved in some type of martial arts early. They will learn valuable body control skills and decrease their likelihood of injury in the future. My personal preference would be judo due to the emphasis on balance, hip control/strength and learning how to land correctly.
Learn How To Control Your Body
I love watching my kids develop in a number of ways. Seeing their speech, behavioral and reasoning skills improve is a daily occurrence. Watching my kids go from crawling to walking to now running is amazing. One thing you will notice about young kids however is that they all gain gross pattern skills like squatting naturally. The more advanced body control skills have to be developed through practice. One of my favorite sports to recommend parents get their kids involved in is gymnastics.
I recommend gymnastics for a number of reasons.
First, it’s one of the best ways to help your children develop body control. There is no external load and until your kids learn how to control their own body movement, there is no reason to add weight.
Second, it gets your kids inverted. This is great and undervalued skill. For those of you that started CrossFit as an adult, you will know first hand how difficult it can be to learn a handstand. I’ve seen 6 year old kids that go to gymnastics twice a week hold handstands longer than I ever have. Not only that, it’s a great way of developing and maintaining shoulder/thoracic mobility. This is great to offset the amount of time most of our kids end up sitting at school.
Third, it’s tiring. For those of you that are parents you’ll appreciate this one. A tired kid is a good kid!
Learn How To Be On A Team
This is an area where we can use a sport to help our kids with life skills. Learning how to fall is important from an injury prevention standpoint but I think is much more important to learn how to communicate with others. If you’re on a team, it’s no longer all about you. You have to run plays, help each other out and work together for a common goal.
My preference is to recommend parents get their kids involved in a sport that emphasizes lower extremity skill and one that emphasizes upper extremity skill. Two great examples of this would be soccer and baseball. They both do a great job of developing rotational power/coordination. Soccer also develops tons of lower body coordination and aerobic training. Baseball develops high quality hand eye coordination.
Get your kids on a team and have them learn how to work with others. It will be nothing but positive for them as they get older.
The recommendations in this post are a great way to help your kids develop an athletic base for any sport they may choose to seriously pursue in the future. They are by no means the only ways to develop baseline athleticism. I’m sure I have colleagues that may disagree with me on some of these points. Here’s something we should all agree on. Sports are a great way to learn body/movement skills and life lessons. They should also be fun. Your kids need to have fun and should be exposed to a number of different sports. They need to make mistakes, they need to lose, they need to win and they need to understand that no matter what it’s just a game and we support them.
Thanks for reading. Leave us a comment on what sports/aspects of sports you think are important for kids to develop.
Appropriate shoulder rotation is essential for overhead athletes; I want to discuss this in the context of volleyball. My bread and butter. Think of a volleyball player hitting a cut shot or winding up to swing away at a set. You will see a great amount of external rotation during the cocking phase (the middle frame in the photo above). The greatest demand for internal rotation range of motion would be the follow through for a cut shot or “thumb down” (as in the photo below).
The amount of shoulder rotation range of motion for a volleyball player is that of a normal individual but you need a balance of range of motion, strength and control.
A quick side note worth mentioning: as an overhead athlete, you are likely to have greater range of motion in external rotation and less internal rotation. This is normal due to the demands of your sport. The baseline that we look for is that total range of motion side-to-side is the same. So you may look like the guy on the right in the picture below. It is also common for volleyball players to demonstrate greater internal rotation rather than external rotation strength, which may lead to injury down the road if the ratio becomes too skewed.
Let’s go through the steps of an arm swing and see where a weakness may be and how to address it:
Check your external rotation by laying on your back, arm out to the side and elbow bent. See how far you can drop the back of your hand down to the floor. Lacking here? Try this out: Subscap Smash
The shoulder joint is one of the most complex in the body due to its high mobility demands that compromises the stability. For volleyball players, shoulder maintenance is key for longevity, pain-free function, power and control. I broke the attack down very simply to highlight a few major areas of weakness that is often found in volleyball players. Give these mobility and strengthening exercises a try and see what works best for you.
At Athletes’ Potential, we believe that self-maintenance should be the first step toward managing pain and recovering properly. But if you have a nagging volleyball shoulder and cannot seem to find that silver bullet, give us a call!
Thanks for reading,
What is your pelvic floor and why does it matter? The pelvic floor is a sling of muscles that runs inside the pelvis. It works dynamically with the diaphragm and abdominals to dictate pressure during breaths. The pelvic floor also has intimate connections to the sphincters of your urogenital structures. These structures are important for 3 vital human functions: peeing, pooping and sex.
Yea, I said it. The stuff that no one wants to talk about.
Some men and women experience incontinence or urinary urgency but think that is “just something that happens” with age or high level activity. This simply is not true. Others may have pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms including low back/hip pain, constipation, painful sex or feelings of incomplete voiding.
Every time you breathe, your pelvic floor is moving and contracting. The way in which you stand and move has a direct effect on the ability of the pelvic floor or contract and work in synergy with the rest of the deep core. What if you could change a few daily habits and have decreased pelvic symptoms? Check out these 7 common habits and see what applies to you:
1. Ab gripping- Whether it is to make your tummy look flatter, for stabilization during everyday movements or due to overtraining abs at the gym, ab gripping is adding constant and unbalanced pressure to your pelvic floor. When you are simply moving throughout your daily activities, your belly should be relaxed! I give you permission to fight the social stigma of a less-then-flat abdomen and give your pelvic floor a break. Let the belly go!
2. Preventive peeing- Many people have the habit of trying to urinate when their body is not signaling that they need to void, usually right before leaving the house or on a scheduled break at school/work. This “peeing just in case” can also lead to pelvic floor dysfunction or worsen existing issues. Your bladder will now have a different set point of when it thinks it’s full! Now the pelvic floor muscles never have to be coordinated to control a full bladder and fight the urge for 30 minutes before you get home.
3. Hovering- Believe me, I’ve been at music festivals and used a porta-potty that was so gnarly I didn’t want to touch the handle! What I am about to say does not apply to that situation--I would not recommend that you ever sit in that. However, when using the restroom in public, many women will hover over the toilet while urinating. This is not doing your pelvic floor any favors. Remember, the hip musculature and pelvic floor have connections so while you are holding an isometric air squat, do you think your pelvic floor is relaxed? Hell no, it’s holding on for dear life. Take your time when peeing and try to sit whenever possible. Most bathrooms these days have those little paper covers for the toilet seat. Use that! And take your time, giving your pelvic floor time to relax and the bladder to completely empty.
4. Breath-holding- As I mentioned before, the diaphragm and the pelvic floor work together. So breath holding will also increase pressure on the pelvic floor and increase the likelihood of leaks. Those who use breath holding as a strategy while moving light object or bending over, usually do so to avoid a leak or feeling of urgency. However, this increased pressure increases the likelihood of a leak! I understand that there are times breath holding is essential- lifting heavy weights. There are alternate strategies to avoid leaks in these situations—outside the depth of this post!
5. Butt clenching- This goes right along with ab gripping- relax! Deep hip muscles have fascial connections with the pelvic floor, so a tight booty = a tight pelvic floor. But tight means strong, right? No, in this sense I mean tight as in over-recruited. Your pelvic floor is on high guard all day from increased pressures and over-recruitment. Then you expect it to hold on tighter with a violent sneeze or a couple dozen box jumps? It is tired! The pelvic floor function and intimate relationship is more about timing and synergy than strength. Ladies- be careful when are trying to look sassy in those heels on Saturday nights. High heels can also cause women to unconsciously hold their pelvis in a tucked position or butt clench.
6. Poor posture- So I have said a lot about pressure, particularly imbalances and increased amounts. However, posture is often the prequel to the alternate recruitment strategies discussed above. If your diaphragm and pelvic floor are not stacked on top of each other, then they are at a disadvantage for working together. In appropriate synergy = pelvic floor dysfunction. The best way to check this is to look at your posture in the mirror or have a friend take a picture. You want your rib cage and your pelvis in line. Poor posture indicators are your lower ribs poking forward, nipple trajectory pointing upward rather than straight, hip bones much further forward than your lower ribs.
7. Sitting all day- Sitting is just bad for you, plain and simple. But it has particular effects on the pelvic floor from both a myofascial and alignment standpoint. The glutes and your pelvic floor are buddies, they like to work together. When you sit on your glutes all day, the fascial layers become compressed and unable to slide as easily. As far as alignment, who can actually sit with good posture for 8 hours? Not me. I don’t think I would trust someone that could- they are probably an alien. Those deeper hip muscles that have connections to the pelvic floor can become tensioned and tight which could lead to a tighter pelvic floor- remember tight doesn’t equal strong! That being said, as you sit slumped over a computer, your alignment of ribs over hips is likely disrupted. Then we are back at the beginning with an imbalance of pressure. Don’t you see, it is a never-ending cycle?!
** Allergies/coughing/sneezing- Ok, so this isn’t a habit per se but worth noting on this subject! Women and men with persistent allergies causing frequent cough and sneeze episodes may also see increased pelvic floor dysfunction due to the frequent pressure changes. If this sounds like you, be sure to find some medicine that works for you or talk to a physician about possible allergies. If the coughing is from smoking, well that is absolutely a habit that you can direct effect!
I think it’s safe to say everyone could find at least one habit that applies to them. Take some time to be more aware of your posture and how you are holding your muscles when they should be relaxing! Stress urinary incontinence and urgency is not normal but it is common. You never know, a few simple habit fixes may resolve your symptoms. If not, reach out to us at Athletes’ Potential, we would love to help!
Dr. Jackie Varnum DPT
Dr. Danny and Dr. Jackie's views on performance improvement, injury prevention and sometimes other random thoughts.