Entries by James Marshall

Jump training: exploration before measurement

With the spring season nearing an end, many coaches are looking toward summer training. With summer training comes testing as well. Several of the football and rugby players that I coach will be subjected to a battery of fitness tests that include various jumps: depth jump, countermovement jump, squat jump, and single leg jumps.

Surviving contact with the ground

My 12-year-old son plays football in a 9-a-side team. In winter, they train on an astroturf pitch that is dry but hard. This group has been injury free so far, with no ACL or hamstring injuries over the last two seasons. That was until two new recruits joined the squad last month. They managed to fall on the hard turf and injured their wrists within the first week: both required hospital visits, one wrist was fractured, the other sprained. It is no coincidence that the newest players were injured. As with other types of injuries, we cannot eliminate falling injuries, but we can help athletes prepare for them.

Progressing to contact in training

No matter how we train, contact sports such as rugby will always have an inherent amount of injury risk. That’s part of the business when people run into each other at speed. As coaches we might not be able to eliminate that risk, but we can minimize it. This article offers a few ideas of how we can help mitigate many needless head, shoulder, and wrist injuries that occur during tackling practice and games by teaching players how to move better.

Teaching general and specific throwing skills

Someone how we learned basic movements became reversed over the last few decades. Kids used to learn movement through play, then apply it to sport. Now, more often than not, kids learn movement through sports clubs. We’re not going to turn back time, but understand the evolution of youth physical education and activity (or lack thereof) can help us improve our teaching skills going forward.

Sports science: moving beyond numbers

We are taught in school that math is objective. There is no debating it: 1 plus 1 equals 2. The problem comes when math meets the real world. Many people assume math is just as objective and give deference to any approach that uses number. But the chaos of the real world makes it difficult to rely on numbers with precision. This is the same in coaching.

Increasing team speed through progression, recovery, and collaboration

Fast players stand out in football matches. They stand out in almost every sport. The ability to outpace your opponent, with or without the ball, and to make a line break into space and receive the ball is a game winning ability. And the higher the level of competition, the faster the pace of the game, both physically and mentally. It is important then to make sure that players are prepared to run fast when needed. Whilst it is unreasonable to expect every player to be the fastest, I have an expectation that every player can be their fastest when coached well.

A practical approach to individualization

To paraphrase Kelvin Giles, ‘If your coach: athlete ratio is 1:25 then you are managing a crowd, not coaching.’ Some coaches can only dream of that ratio because they regularly manage groups of 40 or 50 people in a session. Coaching large groups presents unique problems. For example, individualization may seem impossible and we have to hope that everyone gets some improvement.

Introducing weightlifting to juniors

There are few things in coaching as rewarding as helping a young person achieve something for the first time: a forward roll, a cartwheel, leaping over a hurdle or standing up with a weight above their head. Their enthusiasm is contagious. Conversely, there are few things in coaching as difficult as coaching a group of young people whose minds and bodies are going through the turmoil of puberty and school and socialization. In this article I shall outline some of the coaching and technical ideas that I use when coaching juniors.

Medicine ball myths and truths

The term medicine ball was coined by Robert J. Roberts in 1876. He had been inspired by one of the stories in Arabian Nights where an Eastern Potentate was advised by his physician to toss a large, soft ball of herbs a certain number of times a day until ‘he did sweat.’ Movement was being recommended as medicine back in ancient times. Roberts made a ball weighing 7-8lbs and sewn like a baseball. He then recommended a series of exercises in his work with the Y.M.C.A. that included lifting, circling and throwing the medicine ball.