Concussions are common but often go under-reported. A statement from the 3rd International Conference on Concussion defines concussion as “a complex pathophysiological process affecting the brain, induced by traumatic biochemical forces.” Symptoms of a concussion can be variable. If you experience any of these symptoms you should seek a health care provider with experience in concussion management.
Headache is the most common symptom of a concussion, but you can also have increased sensitivity to light and noise, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, numbness and tingling to the arms or legs, ringing in the ears, or changes in vision. These symptoms can occur immediately after the impact or even the next day. They can come and go for minutes or persist for days.
Loss of memory of the event is common. For example, in a football game you may forget the score of the game, what quarter you are in, or even the impact itself. You may have a difficult time walking and your balance and coordination may be off. People may say that you have a vacant, glassy stare. You may even experience a brief period of loss of consciousness. Being unresponsive for a prolonged period is usually the sign of something more serious, and emergency personnel should be notified.
Changes in behavior can be obvious or subtle. They include irritability, nervousness, depression, or moodiness. Some people report extreme sadness or emotional outbursts with uncontrolled crying. You can even experience moments of personality changes with concussions.
Difficulty concentrating is a common symptom of a concussion. You may feel like you are “in a fog” or “dinged.” Some people say they feel drunk. Immediately after the injury, you may feel disorientated. You can be easily distracted. It is common to take time off school or work due to concussive symptoms.
Sleep problems can consist of either excessive sleep or difficulty sleeping. Excessive fatigue can be a result. It is not necessary to wake people regularly throughout the night to check on them after a concussion, especially as cognitive and physical rest is the main treatment for concussions.
Setting goals is a powerful motivator in sports performance. Goals give individual players and sports teams targets and numbers to strive for, and they can also be used as a measuring stick to monitor progress. Goals should be agreed upon between a coach and player and revisited as the competitive season progresses.
Professors from Maine Community College support the SMART goal-setting model. The SMART goal-setting model suggests that goals fit the criteria of specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. Specific and measurable examples of goal-setting would be a basketball player aiming to score an average of over 10 points or provide an average of over 10 assists per game. The figure set in these goals is specific and it is easy to measure progress by tracking game scores as the season progresses. Achievable and realistic goals should be discussed and agreed upon by both the player and the coach. Past performance and perceived potential should be taken into account when setting these goals. A timely example of goal setting is a soccer player aiming to score 20 goals before the end of the season.
Dr. Mary Walling and Dr. Joan Duda explain the concept of task-oriented and ego-oriented goals in an article in “Performance Edge: The Letter of Performance Psychology.” Task-oriented goals focus on learning and improving on a consistent basis, rather than the end result. An example of a task-oriented goal would be for a soccer player to set the target of mastering five different moves to beat a defender within two months.
Also referred to as performance-oriented goals, an ego-oriented goal will focus on results produced, such as number of goals scored or games won. An example of an ego-oriented goal would be for a baseball player to set the goal of hitting 10 home runs and achieving 30 RBIs in a season.
Individual sports such as tennis and athletics require an individual to motivate themselves with a range of task- and ego-oriented goals. It is also important in team sports that individuals motivate themselves with their own personal goals and incorporate them within team goals. An example of this is a hockey goalkeeper who sets the goal of making 10 saves a game or achieving 10 shutouts in a season.
Sports teams should set a range of goals that are both task- and ego-oriented to help their sports performance. It is beneficial if a sports team does not get caught up purely in wins and losses. External factors such as weather and refereeing can at times impact results, so it is preferable to focus on the overall performance. While including results, it is beneficial to set a range of goals for a season. An example would be an American football team that set goals of winning 10 games in a season. In addition, the team could aim to achieve 20 first downs in a game, concede less than 20 first downs and complete over 50 percent of their passes.
Basketballs have evolved considerably since the game was invented. Today, technology has made ball performance and quality relatively uniform. This wasn’t always the case, as basketballs have undergone many changes and improvements from the original soccer ball that was used for the first two years of the sport’s existence.
For the first two years after Dr. James Naismith invented basketball in 1891, soccer balls were used as the balls. In 1894, the first basketball was manufactured and made of laced leather. The molded version of a basketball was invented in 1948 and for about 50 years almost all basketballs were made of genuine leather. In the early 1990s, the first balls made of high-tech composite leathers began to appear. The NBA switched to a composite leather design in 2006, but the changes lasted only three months because of a barrage of complaints from players.
NBA or professional balls and NCAA or college balls have similarities and differences. NBA balls are made of genuine leather and college balls are made of a composite material. NBA balls are made by Spalding and must be orange, 29-1/2 inches around, and they must weigh 22 oz. The NBA ball must be inflated between 7.5 and 8.5 ounces per square inch. The official basketball of the NCAA tournament is the composite leather Wilson Solution. The NCAA requires balls to be between 29-1/2 and 30 inches around, to weigh between 20 and 22 oz., and to bounce between 49 and 54 inches when dropped from a height of 6 feet.
Women’s NBA and women’s college balls have basically the same dimensions. Both are required to be 28-1/2 to 29 inches in circumference and weigh 18 to 20 oz. Spalding manufactures WNBA balls and Wilson manufactures the official NCAA ball. The only other difference is that the NCAA adds on a requirement that the ball bounce between 51 and 56 inches when dropped from 6 feet. Both the professional and college models are made of composite leather materials.
Spalding was the first company to produce a basketball for official use. Spalding is the official ball of the NBA and has made the genuine leather NBA models since 1983. Spalding also makes composite balls used in high school and some college play. Wilson, based in Chicago, is the official ball of the NCAA. Wilson models are used by many high schools across the country as well. Molten, a Japanese company, has made the official balls for FIBA international play such as the Olympics for more than 20 years.
The new wave of basketball design will likely feature seamless technology. Currently, panels are placed together to form the ball. Older leather balls have up to eight panels while many of the newer composite designs have only two panels. Composite balls are touted for their ability to control moisture and many newer models have smaller, enhanced pebble designs. The 94Fifty ball, released in April 2013, is the world’s first “smart” basketball. The six sensors in the ball’s exterior will be able to transmit data within 100 milliseconds to Android devices 90 feet away.
The NFL hosts the annual scouting combine for the best college football players to showcase their talents in front of team coaches, scouts and executives. This scouting combine is only one of many football tryouts that take place every year from youth to professional football. Proper preparation and training enhances your performance at the tryout to improve your chances of making the team. One of the most important factors to optimal tryout performance is having a foundation of strength, speed and power.
Set up a training schedule. As a general rule, a football strength and conditioning program is split into three major phases — off-season, in-season and transition — that take place year-round. The off-season phase covers the six-month period before the season and focuses on developing absolute and maximal strength. Adjust the timing of the off-season training schedule around the date of the tryout. Most beginning football players or novice lifters should spend at least eight to 10 weeks building strength for the tryout while experienced lifters can dedicate three to five weeks.
Practice the tests that will be performed during the tryout. Having experience and knowledge with the individual tests will improve your overall tryout performance. The tests may vary slightly but sample tasks include the 40-yard dash; bench press for a one-rep maximum, or total number of repetitions with a specific weight; vertical jump; and shuttle run. Practice the activities that comprise these tests two to three days per week as part of your general strength and conditioning workout. You can also add additional drills for your specific position. For example, a lineman may require additional strength, agility, blocking or footwork drills.
Perform strength training three to four days per week leading up to the tryout. Incorporate major functional lifts that develop strength, speed and power. These lifts include back squats; deadlifts; bench press; shoulder press; and Olympic lifts such as cleans, jerks and snatches. Train for maximal strength by focusing on explosive power during every repetition. Perform a total of one to five repetitions for three to seven sets with three to five minutes of rest between sets.
Perform plyometrics, agility and speed training drills two to three days per week. These drills build lower body strength while also improving your speed, agility, balance and mobility. Focus on jump training using light loads and explosive movements. Sample exercises include box jumps, jump-rope and medicine ball exercises. Each workout should consist of five to seven different exercises performed for three sets of 10 repetitions.
Free safety is one of the most physically and mentally demanding positions on the defensive side of the ball. These football players are asked to cover a lot of ground and have vital roles in defending against the passing and running games. They are arguably the most cerebral of the defending 11, tasked with diagnosing a play as it unfolds or before it begins, then getting in the right position to make the play.
Free safeties must be fast, athletic players with the ability to cover a lot of ground. Often tasked with covering the likes of speedy wide receivers or covering vast areas in zone coverages, the centerfielders of the defense must fly from sideline to sideline making plays in the passing game. Practice your footwork with various cone drills, working on backpedaling and coming out of your break to turn and run with a receiver. Good points to remember are to stay low while backpedaling, keep your nose over your toes, then open your hips to initiate your break out your backpedal.
Possessing the athletic ability to be in position to make plays is just one part of the game. Free safeties must also have the ball skills, lightning quick reaction time and soft hands to create turnovers with an interception. The tip drill is a classic standby for defensive backs coaches through the years. A coach will stand in line with two defensive players, spread out by 5 yards or more. The coach will throw a pass that the defender closest to coach will deflect in any direction and the second defensive back is charged with intercepting the pass. It is a simple drill that can transform a defense into a turnover machine. Free safeties are expected to make big plays when they have the ball in their hands, so sprint to the end zone every chance you get in practice.
Free safeties are required to be sure tacklers and an intimidating presence all over the field. Safeties must limit big plays, and as the last layer of defense, the safeties can be the difference between a modest gain for the offense and a play that goes for a score. Angle tackling drills are most beneficial for safeties, because they have to make plays from sideline to sideline. Pick an angle that will allow you to get your head in front of the ball carrier. Always make a tackle with your shoulders and keep your head up, or see what you are hitting, as some coaches preach. Finish the tackle by wrapping the ball carrier up while exploding through the ball carrier with your hips and driving with your legs.
A big part in becoming a great safety is being able to diagnose plays before they even begin. Watching film of an opponent can give you an idea of what the offense likes to do out of certain formations or you might discover a pre-snap read that will help you get in position to make a play. You can also find out if an opposing player has any tendencies, like what route they might run when facing a certain coverage look or how a quarterback might tip his hand before he throws the ball. The defense is always reacting to the offense, so they are always one step behind. Study up and try to level the playing field before the play even starts.
Football games can be won or lost in the trenches. Amongst the big bodies, the unsung heroes of the offense — the fullbacks — make their bread, often going unnoticed and seldom getting the credit they deserve. To be a successful fullback, you need to work hard in practice to develop strength and blocking techniques, while becoming a viable option to carry the ball in short yardage situations and a reliable receiver in the passing game.
Lead blocking is as much about technique and body position as it is about size and strength. At the coach¡¯s whistle or snap count, explode out of your three-point stance, staying low and in an athletic position. When engaging the sled or dummy, lead with your shoulder, keep your head up and hands inside, and drive with your legs. Keep your feet moving and continue to drive the sled until the coach¡¯s whistle. Repeated reps on the sled will encourage proper blocking technique and finishing your blocks will become second nature.
Practice blocking with sleds and dummies throughout the season, but blocking an actual defender will also pay off. Have a coach position cones or pads along the line of scrimmage to simulate the offensive linemen. Line up about 3 yards from the line of scrimmage, with another player at the linebacker position about 3 yards on the opposite side of the ball. At the whistle or snap count, meet the linebacker in one of the holes. Using the techniques that you learned on the sleds, work on driving the linebacker out of the hole or steer the linebacker toward the sideline.
The most common pass a fullback will catch is a swing pass in either flat. At the whistle or snap count, come out of your stance in an arcing path, rather than a lateral sprint, so that your momentum is moving up field before you catch the ball. Work on quickly getting your head around to look for the pass. Catch the ball with your hands and quickly tuck it away and look up field so you are ready to make a play once you have possession.
A coach should position a number of players, some outfitted with blocking pads, in two lines about a yard apart each. Line up behind the quarterback or coach and take the handoff. Stay low and drive your feet through the defenders, who will attempt to knock you off balance or strip the ball. Protect the ball with both arms until clear of the last defender and always finish the play by continuing to run until you hear a whistle or reach the end zone.
As a triple jumper, you must develop the feel and rhythm of the event to improve on your jump distance. You must learn to transition smoothly from the approach, to the hop phase and to the jump itself. Different drills that break up the elements allow you to concentrate on each rather than always working on the jump as a whole. Once you develop and master each element, combine them to increase your distance and make your triple jump appear effortless.
Find your most comfortable foot combination by standing on one of the yard lines of a football field. Stand on your left foot with your right foot off the ground. Hop off then land on the left foot. Hop off the left foot once again then land on your right foot. Hop off the right foot and land with both feet together.
Repeat this drill by starting on the right foot. Repeat the drill until you can determine which foot combination feels more comfortable: left, left, right, together or right, right, left, together.
Initiate a run up to the yard line beginning with a two-step start. Move two steps back from the yard line and begin your triple jump foot combination at the yard line. Repeat this drill by backing up 5 and then 10 yards to feel your bound rhythm and foot strike pattern.
Work on building your speed down the runway while still staying in control of your movements. Run too fast and miss the takeoff line; too slow, you cannot maintain height and forward momentum.
Practice from the starting line and landing on the takeoff line with your takeoff foot. Repeat over and over, making an effort to increase your speed each time.
Learn the proper bounding technique with the help of a grocery store shopping cart. Push the cart down the running track as you hop from the right foot to the left.
Try to make each hop larger than the hop before, bringing the knee of the forward leg up to and parallel with the handle of the shopping cart. This is not a speed drill, but a drill to help with timing and a smooth bounding motion.
Learn to take off and land in the sand correctly. Start at least 10 yards back from the sand pit. Run to the takeoff line and hop into the sand. Keep your eyes focused on the horizon and work on moving horizontally rather than vertically.
Work on bringing the heel of the takeoff leg to the butt, pulling the takeoff leg back to the front of your body with the thigh horizontal to the ground, then stretching the heel of the takeoff leg out in front of your body for the landing, almost in a cycling motion.
Learn the jump portion by running to the takeoff line, taking off and making two hops on your dominant leg. Drive off the takeoff leg at the second hop as your pull your free leg to waist level in front of your body.
Drive your arms forward and keep your body perpendicular to the ground during the jump. Pull your knees up and swing your legs forward, allowing your heels to hit the sand. Let your knees collapse as your hips rise, sliding your body forward in the sand.
Repeat the jump portion slowly at first to get the rhythm of landing in the sand correctly. You must learn to fall forward during the jump rather than back. Use the swinging motion of your arms to help increase your forward motion as well as keep your balance as you complete the jump.
The power forward has become one of the most important players on the basketball court. The power forward has to be a presence on the offensive end, must be stalwart defensively and must be a battler when it comes to rebounding. While aggressiveness is a big part of a power forward’s game — particularly on the offensive end — the defensive technique must be one that allows him to cut off his opponent’s angle to the basket. As a rebounder, he must be a worker from the start of the game to the finish.
In this drill, the power forward will position himself in the low blocks — also known as the post area — with his back to the basket. In this drill, he must receive the basketball from a teammate and take one dribble before spinning and shooting. This drill will enable the power forward to get familiar with the post area so he can release the ball quickly when he shoots. Catch 10 passes from your teammate and take five shots spinning to the left and five shots spinning to the right. Don’t take more than one dribble.
The power forward must be decisive when he makes a move with the basketball in his hand. That move will almost always come from the wing area and he will drive down the baseline for a dunk, a layup or reverse layup. This calls for a quick first step to get started and power once the move is underway. In this drill, the power forward must make a jab step fake to the inside, then cut to the baseline with one or two dribbles, then explode to the hoop. Try this five times from the right wing and five times from the left wing. The power forward has to develop his dribble with both hands or else he will be easy to defend.
In this drill, the power forward will use his size and strength to defend in an outnumbered situation. The opposing point guard will dribble the ball past midcourt and pass to a teammate the frontcourt. The two offensive teammates must complete three passes before attempting to shoot. The power forward must steal the ball, force a turnover, force a missed shot or get the rebound to be successful in this drill. If the defensive player can defeat the 2-on-1 three times out of 10 attempts, he has been successful.
To help your team control the boards and demonstrate its power and strength, you must get to the correct spot on the floor. In this drill, the defensive player starts in the middle of the defensive lane and the opponent will shoot the ball. The defender must get himself into the ideal rebounding position, which is at a 45-degree angle to the basket on the side opposite of the shooter. The opponent will pass the ball to get a good shot, so the defender must pay attention to where the shot comes from. He must get himself in the proper position by getting away from his opponent on eight-of-10 shots to be successful in this drill.
A good power forward will be able to finish the fast break whenever the opportunity comes. To do this, the power forward has to have the ability to command extra speed at the correct moment. This demands outstanding conditioning because the opportunity may come late in the fourth quarter when fatigue is an issue. That can’t stop the power forward. In this drill the power forward must run from his baseline to the free throw line and back, then from the baseline to mid-court and back, then from the baseline to the far free-throw line and finally from the baseline to the opposing baseline and back. When the power forward is returning on the final leg of this drill, a coach or teammate will pass him the ball at mid-court, and he must drive with the ball for a layup or dunk.
Building muscle is challenging and complicated. Understanding the difference between muscular strength and muscular endurance helps you to devise a strength training plan to meet your fitness goals. Many people desire a specific outcome from their workouts but unknowingly perform a workout that is contrary to their goals.
Muscular endurance refers to the ability to perform a specific muscular action for a prolonged period of time. For example, your ability to run a marathon or to pump out 100 squats with no added weight is due to muscular endurance. Muscular strength is a muscle¡¯s capacity to exert force against resistance. Your ability to bench press a barbell weighing 200 lbs. for one repetition is a measure of your muscular strength.
Muscles are made up of different types of fibers called slow twitch¡ªor type 1¡ªand fast twitch¡ªor type 2. Slow twitch fibers are responsible for endurance¡ªthe ability to go long on a treadmill or cycle. Fast twitch come in types A and B. Type A help you to endure a long sprint or carry a heavy object across the room, while type B are recruited for short, explosive moves, such as jumping or heaving a very heavy weight. According to exercise physiologist Jason Karp, Ph.D. on the IDEA Health and Fitness website, genetics determine what proportion of each fibers make up your muscles.
If you have a predomination of slow twitch fibers, you are better adapted to muscular endurance¡ªyou are able to perform long cardio sessions and multiple repetitions of a lighter weight. A person with more fast-twitch fibers is more adept at muscular strength–lifting heavy weights for a few repetitions or short, very high intensity anaerobic exercise. Karp notes, however, that if an endurance specialist wants to increase strength and speed¡ªhe can lift progressively increased weight during resistance training and add intervals of speed to their cardio routines. Similarly, if a person who excels at strength wants to increase their endurance, he should gradually increase cardio workout length and numbers of repetitions of resistance exercises as the workouts move forward.
Whether you emphasize strength or endurance training depends on your goals. If you are a bodybuilder or are looking to build muscle, then muscular strength should be your focus. Certain athletes, such as like power lifters, football players and rugby players, need strength and bulk to perform their sports. Athletes such as tennis players, basketball players and martial artists are best served by focusing on both endurance and strength training–specifically type A fast twitch fibers. They need power in short spurts to return a shot or sprint down a court, but they do not want to build huge muscles that impede their agility. Endurance training is best for triathletes, distance runners and rowers, reports the Sports Fitness Advisor website.
Women often train with light weights and multiple repetitions believing that this will result in toned, sculpted muscles and avoid creating ¡°bulk.¡± While this does enhance the ability of your muscles to lift light weights for more and more repetitions, it does not build muscle. In the book ¡°The New Rules of Lifting for Women,¡± fitness expert Lou Schuler points out that if you use weights that are unchallenging, your muscles will not grow. If you do not build muscle, you have nothing to sculpt and will not look lean and toned. Women, for the most part, do not have the muscle fiber size and type or the testosterone that creates ¡°huge¡± unfeminine muscles.
Sports performance often has to do as much with how a person handles pressure in demanding situations as with the physical abilities displayed by the competitors. For many athletes, from young people to seasoned professionals, nerves can wreak havoc on an athlete¡¯s ability to perform at his best. But the best performers have figured out how to calm their nerves just enough so that they do not affect their physical performance, which allows them to perform at their peak. Much of this training comes in preparation for the game or match where the nervousness likely will come. By preparing your mind for what to expect before the game, you can ease your nervousness and perform at your best when the time comes.
Train your mind to handle difficult situations while you practice. This can be accomplished by introducing competition into your practice routines in which the winners and losers have real motivation for winning and consequences for losing. For team sports, having players scrimmage at the end of practice with the losers having to run extra sprints can help breed competition and provide practice for performing under pressure.
Spend time each night envisioning the best possible outcome of the upcoming event. Imagine your thoughts and feelings during the big moments and envision yourself performing well under stress.
Develop a routine before your competition that becomes familiar. Sticking to something that is familiar can help you calm your nerves and help you get into the right mind-set before competition. Most athletes believe that a bit of nervousness is needed to provide the adrenaline to perform at your best and a routine will help you harness that energy. PGA Tour players are an excellent example. They all have a consistent routine as they prepare for a tournament and a pre-shot routine for every shot, from their drives to putts.
Breathe deeply during your pregame routine. Remembering simple physiological cues can help lower your heart rate and help you calm down.
Focus on the now instead of the past or future. A major part of reducing your stress level in sports is to focus on what you can control instead of dwelling on the past or thinking about the future. This will help you get comfortable by allowing your mind to let go of your worries and focus just on your physical abilities, which have been worked on in practice.