Can You Swim In The Deep End?

Austin Einhorn CSCS, DNSET

Microgate Certified

Precision Sports Performance Coach

Can you swim in the deep end of the pool? 

After a colleague of mine attended a fantastic coaching education program at the World Athletic Center, I was exposed to Shawn Myszka’s brilliant mind. It is always such a relief to learn about other individuals that have the same beliefs of myself and a few other select individuals who understand that the sports world needs an immense change of focus towards quality movement.

After reading “Why the NFL needs a Movement Coach Parts 1 (link) & 2 (link)” as well as “Football movement skill lessons from my failure in swimming” I was motivated to throw my hat in the ring and offer my two cents on my specialty of volleyball and other sports. 

Specifically, Myszka’s “failure in swimming” post, discusses that as a child he was not allowed to advance to the deep end of the pool until he had the necessary swimming skills to stay afloat. Now, to most readers this is obvious. You have to be able to keep your head above water if you are going to ditch your floaties and venture into deeper water. Why isn’t this as obvious within all other athletic endeavors? 

Another example of this staged progression is our development as babies. Parents know that if you put a 3 month old baby on its feet, the baby will stand up. It is a hard-wired genetic reflex. However, you put the baby back on the ground and it continues to just roll on the ground. So why doesn’t the baby just say "screw the next 10 months, I’m walking now!" It is because the next 10 months possess indispensable developmental milestones that will lay the ground work for walking, running and all movements throughout its life.  

In volleyball, being able to squat your body weight, then move in any direction, repeatedly throughout the entire match is absolutely essential. Secondly, you must be able to then handle three to seven times your body weight during the jumping skill activities within the sport. Furthermore, and most unrecognized is you MUST be able to land correctly and control your body’s descent. These are all unavoidable necessities within the sport, yet very few athletes ever learn how to perform these movements with biomechanical efficiency. Or are able to maintain good movement due to practices focused on the wrong things. A few athletes will get in the weight room and try to squat as heavy as they can, but good luck trying to squat 7 times your body weight…There is an ever growing population of young girls and boys squatting and jumping extremely poorly (see picture above, right). 

 

 Samantha Bricio - USC All-American

Samantha Bricio - USC All-American

Unfortunately some of the most successful volleyball players jump with equally poor mechanics. Due to their success, it is a distorted understanding that "they play well because they do this kind of jump." Rather than "they play well despite the way they jump." I now see coaches & trainers actually advocating for the jump shown in the picture above, as well as a defensive position that looks very similar. 

 

This phenomenon doesn’t just occur within the volleyball world. It is within every sport. This is a widespread cultural and environmental problem. Let’s recap this year in professional sports. Here are the stories I found interesting:
 

 

NBA

We saw Derrick Rose and his Nth return. Derrick Rose might do the best rehab and training on the planet, but if the staff doesn’t bridge the gap into his environment of basketball and his life outside the gym, he may never have the longevity he dreams of. 

13 of the 27 NBA drafted rookies went down with one injury or another. Basing off of these numbers, next years teams have a 48% chance of drafting a top rookie that will not be able to play or practice next year. 

Will they hire a movement coach that will be able to help prevent these issues, or seek them out amongst draft picks? Probably not, but the powers that be are not in an environment to even consider that as a choice. 

Greg Oden is STILL trying to make a come back.

Kevin Durant had TWO major foot surgeries. 

Dwayne Wade is seemingly always on the verge of an injury.

Basketball players must run up and down the court repeatedly, yet the environment they grow in does not focus on running with any proficiency. Most of them jump with some of the worst mechanics of all jumping athletes. Running and jumping for them is a necessary skill they need in order to compete and avoid injury. Yet no one spends time teaching them these things. They are drowning in the deep end of the pool, but they still make baskets so very few people think anything of it. 

NFL  

This year in the NFL we saw the return and inevitable fall of Robert Griffin III. RGIII could squat 700 lbs (pre-most-recent-ACL, then this year pre-ankle dislocation it was a paltry 500 lbs) yet he can’t move his own body safely on the field. Pre-injury, when he was squatting this immense amount of weight, his knees buckled. It was a sign of the future injuries he would have. On top of that, during the broad jump of the NFL combine he displayed a movement pattern indicative of an ACL tear. But the environment he lives in cares about the distance he traveled rather than HOW he created that distance. Thus, the quantitative-valued environment he lives in facilitates poor movement. SportsCenter awards his distance without ever cringing at the mechanics, further facilitating the growth of this societal petri-dish of dysfunction.

We saw TWO players tear their ACLs while CELEBRATING! 

Stop and really think about that…Celebrating=ACL tear?!?!?!

 Tulloch performing rehab exercises without any focus on proper movement. Above-see knees buckling in and poor hip hinging ability. Below- Inability to hinge in his hips so there is excess flexion throughout spine.

Tulloch performing rehab exercises without any focus on proper movement. Above-see knees buckling in and poor hip hinging ability. Below- Inability to hinge in his hips so there is excess flexion throughout spine.

They play a sport that revolves around moving in any direction at any given time, depending on the stimulus. Yet they tore their ACLs within such a trivial, low intensity movement. Sorry Lamar Houston and Stephen Tulloch, but if you can’t even celebrate safely I do not think you should be considered a professional athlete. Sadly, this environment we live in breeds the belief that these types of injuries are unavoidable, thus Tulloch mistakenly labels the event as an unlucky, “freak accident” and that he just needs to get back in the gym and lift a ton of weight. Tulloch, you are being mislead. (http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=12088857) That was not unlucky or a freak accident. Paul George (NBA) snapping his lower leg was an unlucky, freak accident.

Robert Mathis, the Colts all-time sacks leader tore his achilles tendon during what he said “was a routine workout back home in Atlanta.” Another non-contact, probably preventable injury.

Dennis Pitta of the Baltimore Ravens dislocated his hip while accelerating to run.  

 

Tennis

Rafael Nadal is constantly bothered by one injury or another. But he’s one of the best so many people think that being hurt all the time is a symbol for all his hard work and thus necessary to succeed. Did you know he missed SEVEN MONTHS for meager knee tendonitis?!?! No pain, no gain…right?


Golf

Tiger is finally starting to get some good help and has realized that the issue is NOT his back being weak, but rather his back being the symptom of weak hips. I'm excited for his future.
 

 Rory Squatting 315lbs poorly. 

Rory Squatting 315lbs poorly. 

Rory McIlroy hurt his back, and then his left knee. Furthermore he said, “Honestly, I don’t know how I hurt my knee.” In this picture, there is a clear view of his right leg and what is wrong with it. But I would bet it is nearly the same on the left side. Either way, both knees/hips are certainly not helping his back. 

 

So what’s the common trend here? Athletes at EVERY level lack the most basic fundamentals to move within their sport and they have no idea what they need to do in the weight room, or fix their ailments. They are not in an environment that facilitates injury free, efficient movement. Honestly, I feel really bad for these athletes because it is not their job to know if an exercise is right or wrong, their job is to execute the exercise asked of them, perform the drill on the field/court and do their best to win when it matters. 

I really feel badly for Derrick Rose because it seems (through the media) that he has the desire and the work capacity to accomplish his goals and dreams. Unfortunately he is not in the right environment to succeed long term. The trainers are responsible for ensuring these athletes are in their peak condition. If a trainer screws up, he still gets paid and nothing changes within his life. However the athlete’s life can radically change. 

I used to live in this environment of quantity over quality. Now, I am constantly trying to create even better environments for myself and know why I am doing anything. For example, I have a volleyball girl who’s right rib cage is actually shifted up and back from her spine. Along with that her right shoulder blade is very far away from where is should be. Conventional methods would have me strengthen her low trap and scapular adductors, but that would not change these deviations long term. They won't change because the reason why she is like this is because her environment never taught her how to swim in the deep end. What she needs is the neuromuscular training to get her rib cage & shoulder blade in place, in addition to learning how to rotate her body and rib cage when she hits a volleyball. Due to her never learning how to rotate, her body adapted to the environment and made her arm do excess work. Once I realized this, and treated the cause of injuries or weaknesses instead of thinking of individual muscles, everything dramatically changed and improved. Objectively measured test results through the OptoJump System. I believe that if we get the highest level athletes and coaches to start focusing on movement, there will be a trickle down to the mass population of the lower level coaches and athletes who look up to them.

I want to leave you with some numbers and some questions…

Some new and terrifying research has been coming out of Stanford. Within this last 3 years, incoming freshman have had an average of TWO surgeries before they even step foot on campus. THREE HUNDRED days of practice were lost amongst freshman. Total time lost amongst all athletes was 296 YEARS of practice time. 

 

Spend some time thinking about the following questions.

Why is this happening?

Why are athletes having devastating injuries with no one around them, or even with the smallest of touches?

Why are ACL injuries reaching epidemic levels amongst the youth?

Why are youth baseball players hurting their arms more and more?

What if LeBron learned how to run efficiently and correctly? Cramps disappear?

When you are working with an athlete, ask “why am I doing this?”

Please, if this article resonated with you or you believe in a brighter future for our kids and professional athletes, share this post. Start asking why. Send this post to everyone you know and start changing the culture. Let's take a stand for our children's future physical well-being and educate our youth and future athletes how to Move2Thrive!

- Austin Einhorn, CSCS, DNSET

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Twitter: @AustinEinhorn 

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