Tag Archives: Sports

Offseason Training: Not Just for Old Guys

[Ed. Note: I wrote this post for a Eli’s soccer club, the ISC Gunners FC]

Our kids work like crazy to build their soccer skills, drag us from Seattle to Spokane and back, and compete against the best players in their age brackets. Bumps and bruises are a daily occurrence, and trips to the chiropractor or urgent care, a regular fixture.

I recently expressed my frustration to Eddie Henderson, from our ISC Gunners coaching staff. Eddie, a former pro soccer player and All-American from UW, responded with an action-packed discussion about how to use off-season and off-field time to build strength and conditioning, and reduce the chances of injury. I was so inspired by Eddie’s ideas and enthusiasm that I wanted to share some of these ideas with you.

I’m an athlete myself, and as I’ve aged, I’ve learned the increasing value of off-season training – not doing the same thing all year round, but actively switching the routine, in order to target new muscle groups, strengthen problem areas, and keep myself fresh. The same ideas apply to kids’ soccer.

The Gunners, like other soccer clubs around the country, face a problem: Kids love soccer. They love soccer so much that they tend to overdo it. They become highly conditioned in some areas, running & shooting for example, and less so in others. The injuries that we’re seeing, ACL as an extreme example, are often the result of too much strength in the front of the leg, and not enough to compensate in the hamstrings in back. Eddie has noticed injuries tend to crop up early each season, when kids have been relatively idle during off-season breaks.

A movement is afoot nationally to provide off-season conditioning designed for growing bodies, to stabilize, strengthen and balance their musculature. Other sports have also discovered the huge benefit of this type of training. During college, while competing at UW, Eddie realized he’d never be the biggest player, but used cross-training to gain speed and agility. He went on to play 11 years of professional soccer. That’s how Eddie became a believer in this approach – and our Club’s official conditioning and training expert.

Some recommendations which might help:

  1. Ask your kid’s doctor, PT, or trainer for some basic exercises to target any problem areas during the holidays. We just got a recommendation for jumping rope as a great calf-strengthener.
  2. Talk to your kids about over-training, and about spending some downtime on another sport. My son likes skiing, racquetball, and rock-climbing, for example.
  3. Check out this site: http://www.force10performance.com. They have programs aimed at soccer clubs like ours, and Eddie is working on arranging some pilot programs for Gunners.

It would be great to get more parents involved in this conversation. Cross-training, even if it involves one more practice per week, can make sports much more enjoyable, and maybe even cut down on trips to the chiropractor!

Write back and let me know some of your favorite off-season change-ups.


Book Review: The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown

The Boys in the Boat* was one of my favorite reads of 2014, and it’s a perfect book to read between Super Bowl and March Madness.

My good friend and fellow blogger, Jennie Locati, recommended “The Boat” for its combination of sports, politics, triumph against the odds, and local Seattle history she knew I would love.

The story is set in 1930’s depression-era Seattle, and follows the 9-man University of Washington varsity crew team, their coach and boat-maker, in their quest for, and ultimate victory, in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Along the way, the “farm boys” from Seattle have to defeat rivals from Cal Berkeley and the elite East Coast teams, and then, after an historic fundraising effort spearheaded by Royal Brougham (yes, that’s a real person!), go to Berlin and meet Hitler himself.

The central character, Joe Rantz, one of the eight Husky oarsmen, was not my favorite character. He was a great choice to tell the story, because he was so clearly representative of the era, with modest roots and many struggles along the way.

I identified more with the boys’ coach, Al Ulbrickson, and the story of his rivalry with the Berkeley squad. Perhaps most interesting (for a geek like me), was the British boat-maker, George Pocock, who took up residence at UW, built boats for both UW and their rivals, and brought a humble combination of wisdom, craftsmanship and engineering genius.

My favorite moments in the story:

  • The Huskies travel to the East Coast to compete with the Ivy League teams to represent the US in Berlin. I’m a U. Penn grad, and Penn turns out to be a big villain, using a secret weapon to try to scuttle the UW’s Olympic hopes.
  • An interesting sidetrack explored the rivalry between Leni Riefenstahl, called “the greatest female filmmaker of the 20th century,” and Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945.
  • The stories and images of Depression-era Seattle. For anyone who thinks today’s cities are dirty, grimy places, the Hooverville shantytowns of the 30’s – with their lack of sanitation/plumbing, and rows upon rows of leaky tar paper shacks – is a shocking reminder of how so many Americans lived just a few generations ago.
  • The descriptions of the freezing cold practices and races, the grueling hard work (“like my insides had been scrubbed with a metal brush”) and ultimately the perfection of the “swing” – that perfect flow where every ounce of synchronized crew effort translates to the boat, which literally flies over the surface of the water.

Brown gives us a vivid explanation of how “the boat” encompasses so much more that that thing in the water:

 …Watching Joe struggle for composure over and over, I realized that “the boat” was something more than just the shell or its crew. To Joe, it encompassed but transcended both—it was something mysterious and almost beyond definition. It was a shared experience—a singular thing that had unfolded in a golden sliver of time long gone, when nine good-hearted young men strove together, pulled together as one, gave everything they had for one another, bound together forever by pride and respect and love. Joe was crying, at least in part, for the loss of that vanished moment but much more, I think, for the sheer beauty of it.

Reread the paragraph above and replace “Joe” with “Russell”, and you’ll understand why I love sports and the timeless stories they tell.

Please post back if you have a favorite sports book or story.

*Actual Title: The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

A Great Gift Idea for the Cyclist or Outdoorsman in your Life

What to give the guy or gal who has every gadget or gizmo? Give the gift of safety, and show them how much you care about them.

NOTE: This is not a paid endorsement. I just really like this product and want to share the idea.

Imagine this: Your friend or loved one is involved in an accident on the road or trail and isn’t carrying ID. A first-responder is called to the scene and is ready to help. How do they know if your friend has any medical conditions or allergies that would affect treatment? How will they know who to call to let them know your friend is OK or needs help?

In my family, we had a scare this year when one of our sons went off on an all-day hike and wasn’t in touch until after dark. We want the peace of mind that comes from knowing he could get rapid treatment – and we can be notified – if there’s an accident.

The product is called the ICE DOT Band, and it’s a slightly heavier version of the charity bracelets originally developed by LiveSTRONG.

It’s super simple. Each band has a unique ID that links to an online profile that you create. The profile includes who to contact in an emergency, pre-existing medical conditions, insurance info, allergies, etc. First responders can text the ID to a phone number and get back the necessary info. It’s kind of like the old “medic alert” bracelet for the digital age.

I like ICE DOT because they have a simple, easy-to-use system, and get this: It’s only $20 for the first year, $10 each year thereafter. And you can update your profile as often as you like. Additional safety/privacy feature (a hot button for me): the system also keeps a record of any phone number used to access your info.

I wear mine all the time, and now my son will, too!

Check it out at www.icedot.org.

Why Swim, Why Give

Why Do I Swim?

I’m 47 years old, and discovered my love for sports, particularly outdoor endurance sports, at age 40. My wife had given birth to our second son, and we got a treadmill to help us lose the post-pregnancy weight. I tried it and liked it, but soon discovered two things: I didn’t like working out indoors – even in the gym – nearly as much as in our great Northwest outdoors; and I wanted something competitive to hold my interest.

I took up triathlon and have now done about 15 of them. The highlight was competing in the Olympic distance in Lake Stevens a few years ago, before they cancelled it in favor of the 70.3. This year, my training buddy got really into running, and convinced me to try the Seattle and Mercer Island half marathons. Following those, I tried the LiveSTRONG 70-mile bike ride and then the PSBC Swim for Life. Now I’m hooked on going after longer distances and bigger challenges.

Swimming for me is such a healthy, graceful and peaceful sport. Healthy, because it’s low impact on me and on the earth; graceful, because you move fluidly through the water, hopefully without flailing or overtaxing any of your bodily systems; and peaceful because as I swim, I can forget about all the normal daily distractions of my life, and focus only on my thoughts. In the end, it is just the water and me….

I loved swimming in the 2009 Swim for Life event with 240 like-minded souls. It was a gorgeous morning, with friends old and new, a good challenge – I nearly gave up stricken with a leg cramp 2/3 of the way to Madison Park, but persevered through it – and in the end, was greeted with a warm beach, great coffee, and a feeling of having conquered a significant new challenge. Wow!

Why Do I Give Blood?

I’ve been giving blood all my life. This year, I switched to plasma, because PSBC asked me to do it. I’ve always believed that if I can help, and don’t have a good reason for not doing it, then it’s my responsibility to do it.

We’ve all seen the signs saying, “Imagine Saving a Life,” which is the Blood Center’s latest advertising campaign. While this is probably aimed at recruiting new donors, it makes me feel good whenever I see it or whenever I think about my donations. It feels as if I am personally responsible for saving not just a single life, but many lives every day. I find it easy to believe that many of my friends and neighbors who have been sick or injured have benefitted from my donation – even if they did not receive the exact blood that I gave.

Perhaps it is the ability to help others in the community who are least able – at that moment – to help themselves. Perhaps it is the fact that this is a way we can ensure there is help for us if we ever need it. But the most compelling reason, to me, is that it’s so easy – it requires no money, no more than an hour or two, and your body quickly regenerates whatever you give.

For all these reasons, I will continue to give, and I will continue telling my friends, my kids, and my workmates, how good it makes me feel. To life!

David Lazar

Bellevue, WA