You didn’t know you had a choice? You’re not alone. I didn’t know either until last year. For most of my athletic life I’ve been doing static stretching as a beginning activity before sport; often with no 5-10 minute light warmup first. I recall a few coaches telling me to do a short jog before stretching. I usually didn’t when alone. When running on my own, I’d usually do some leg stretches in the driveway of my house, and then go for a 10 K run. I’ve met long distance runners who admitted they never stretch before running. I believe that lost distance running is a sport that you can get away without stretching, but I stretch nonetheless. For most of my athletic life I’ve been uncomfortable with static stretching, but didn’t know any alternatives. These days I believe the best athletic warmup for the sports I play is a light jog followed by dynamic stretches. I use static stretching as a cool down activity afterwards.
Dynamic stretching focuses on movement patterns requiring a combination of muscles, joints and planes of motion, says my book (see image below). An example of a dynamic stretch: side ankle walk = walking on the sides of your feet for 10 meters (good for runners). The author, Mark Kovacs, says “Dynamic warmups increase core temperature to a greater extent than static stretching-focused warmups. This provides an improved protective mechanism against muscle strains and joint sprains, which are more prevalent when the body is cool. Dynamic warmups mimic the movement patterns and speed of movement that the sport will impose on the body and therefore help to reduce the likelihood of injury as the movement patterns and ranges of motion have been trained during the warmup. ” Kovacs has many letters beside his name so he probably knows more than I do. I wish his book had a video CD or a link to online videos, though. During the recent NBA finals I noticed Dirk Nowitzki, player on the recent champions The Dallas Mavericks, doing one of the stretches in the book (repeated squat jumps), so Kovacs is probably right about dynamic stretching. I like dynamic stretching, and consider it a better warmup than static stretching.
The best coaches I’ve had in my life: 1. My father Terry Peters (baseball) 2. Phil Cousineau (elementary school basketball) 3. Mary Jane Kiraga (high school volleyball) 4. Mrs. Jerry Brown (high school cross country running). And, no, I don’t believe I’ve made a biased decision ranking my father my best coach. He coached us to a championship victory without benching weaker players, and deserves the accolade. Unfortunately, apart from the 4 above the rest have been weak. I believe that many coaches make the mistake of trying to live out their winning aspirations through the teams they coach, instead of focusing on developing better players. This usually leads to the infamous bench-the-weak-players tactic, which repels many young players from sport. In his book The Only Way I Know, famous baseball player Cal Ripken said that he (and his father) believes there is too much emphasis on winning in youth sports, and not enough emphasis on player development and having fun. That’s been my experience. In fairness to those coaches, I don’t think most have been properly trained (nor certified) for the role.
The best book I’ve read on coaching is John Wooden’s My Personal Best. Kareem Abdul Jabar, the famous center for the L.A. Lakers and player of Wooden’s, said that Wooden never focused on winning, but said that winning would come as a result of trying to be your best. He said that if you’ve played your best, you’re a success regardless of what the score says. I like that philosophy because it changes the focus of sports from just winning to something more important: becoming your best. And it’s also a good answer to the question: What is the meaning of life? Before you dismiss Wooden’s philosophy as lame, keep in mind that he coached 10 teams to NCAA championship victories in a 12-year span, and was named national coach of the year 6 times.
“Student of the game” is a phrase I’ve often heard but didn’t appreciate until recently. Over the past few years I’ve read many sports books. I started reading just out of interest, but realized there’s more I can learn about the sports I play, and my reading has turned into a second education. In his book King of Russia: A Year in the Russian Super League, Canadian professional hockey coach Dave King said that Russian players get classroom lessons on how to play hockey. That makes sense to me now, but as a young hockey player I don’t think I would have liked it. I just wanted to play. My father will tell you that as a young athlete I thought I knew everything about the sports I played, especially baseball, the sport he tried to coach me in. But can you imagine the reactions of North American hockey players to being put into a classroom to learn hockey? I think it’d be amusing to watch the video of that scene. Or maybe it wouldn’t be. Maybe this is done in hockey schools. I’ve never attended one so I can’t say for sure. Please fill me in if you know. Until recently I never formally learned any of the sports I play. I learned them by playing them with my classmates and friends before school, at lunch, after school, and on weekends and vacations. The closest I came to formal instruction was being verbally coached on the court, ice, diamond, etc. I don’t think I ever read a book or attended a class in my youth on how to play any of the sports I played. I wish I had.
See the following for some of the best sports books I’ve read as an adult.
For entertainment: The Game by Ken Dryden, Moneyball by Michael Lewis, and What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami .
For instruction: The Science of Hitting by Ted Williams, The Sports Injury Handbook by Alan Levy, and Ten Minute Toughness by Jason Selk.
This is the first post of The Amateur Athlete blog. This blog will feature topics of interest to amateur athletes. Most of the topics will be about improving performance, the holy grail of the sports world. Most topics will be about the sports I play and therefore know: hockey, tennis, baseball, soccer, basketball, and running. However, some topics, for example, mental training, will be applicable to amateur athletes of all sports. This blog will be of particular interest to amateur athletes who are also Edmonton Oilers fans, Liverpool F.C. fans, Toronto Blue Jays fans, and Detroit Pistons fans.
I am a 36-year old amateur athlete currently living in Seoul, Korea. I am also a referee, teacher, writer, editor, and father. I’ve captained 5-a-side soccer squads, and I hope to add coach to my list of roles. I currently play defense in ball hockey but I’ve played forward most of my life. And I’m a catcher in baseball, a goalkeeper in football (soccer), and a guard in basketball. I’m currently reading King of Russia: A Year in the Russian Super League, and Coaching the Mental Game, and am listening to The Bullpen Gospels, and will rate and comment on those books in this blog within the next month.