Champions Club Chronicles Vol. 4: Outside of My Precious Bubble

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It is Monday. After a recommendation from a few people, I now coach track at Warren Mott High School and today is the first day of practice.

While driving to school I have images of Bishop Foley practices from three years back going through my head; the short Pose introduction, warmup routine, partner falling drills, short/intense workouts, the hill. I have been doing CrossFit/Phys. Ed. work with Mott for a few years now, so I know most of the kids and I have a decent idea of what to expect. There will probably be more numbers here than at Foley, but I’ve been told I’m only coaching sprinters so that should make things much easier. Still, planning ahead rarely works for me. Usually I plan, I get there, all hell breaks loose.

harry potter's plans

My mantra has always been, “Coach what you see.” So at Foley, Brian and I rarely planned things out in advance. We would have a general idea of what we wanted to accomplish, see how the kids looked that day, then adjust accordingly. No reason to think today would require anything different.

Those were my famous last words before I walked into a gym packed with 105 kids bouncing off the walls and having dunk contests with spare shoes. All right… these can’t all be sprinters. Then coach Dias called everyone to the baseline, laid out a few rules, then turned to me and said, “You ready?”

“Uhh… Aight.”

“So listen,” he started back at the crowd of runners, “we are doing something new this year that we haven’t done before.” Coach talked for a second about running technique and the Pose method, then he did the one thing I was hoping he wouldn’t. “We have brought in a running technique expert,” he said to a gang of people who can run faster than me with or without Pose. “Coach Chris… they’re all yours!”

“All of them?”

“Yep!”

lou-holtz-meme

The most runners I can recall taking through Pose drills at one time is around 20 – and that was in my gym’s setting where almost everyone knew what they were doing. None of these kids had the slightest idea about Pose, and they were hyper from being cooped up in school the entire day – as any high schoolers would be. Any desire to talk flew out the door and I figured it would be best to get them moving in something resembling order. Demonstrate and replicate. The less words the better.

First was defining basic Pose (springiness position) and bouncing to develop bodyweight perception of being on the forefoot compared to toes (high heels) or heels. Then we incorporated Pony, Change of Support, Single-leg hop, and butt-kicker in with the bouncing to help timing. After that, we spread across the gym and moved forward and backwards to incorporate a fall. Finally, we lined up everyone on the baseline in rows and did the drills forward to the foul line then immediately into a run. It went okay the first day and I usually start with a variation of that each day I am there.

Since I have to be back to my gym to coach the after school CrossFit session, I send the kids outside to Shannon Marchant (one of our Champions Club athletes who just finished running at U of D Mercy) after I finish our routine where she extends on some technique and takes them through a workout. Here are a few adjustments we have made so far – which is not to say they are necessarily the most ideal, but rather the best we can do at this time given our experience coaching a group of this size.

Knock out distance peeps early. In an attempt to divide and conquer, I asked the head distance coach if he could get his runners to practice fifteen minutes early so I could work with them separately. He had no problem with it and I have been doing that since the second week. There are only (only!) about 25 distance runners, so I can do more individual drills and demonstrations with them. I’ve still only been glossing over the stuff, but I get to do a few things I wouldn’t be able to do with the full group. After that, I take the horde of sprinters through whatever their attention span allows for that day, and then pass them outside to Shannon for the workout.

No falling. Falling drills, at least the ones that I am aware of, require either another person, or a wall of sorts. While there is no shortage of either at our disposal, the {goofball : serious-runner} ratio usually makes falling drills pointless. To start off, everyone is afraid of falling (to be expected). But in a big group, they seems to get self-conscious when they don’t feel like they’re doing it right – with a partner or against a wall. Either that, or they think it’s stupid; depends on the day. Then the laughing and chatter starts and is nearly impossible to stop (kinda like how falling should be). So I try to avoid that unless the group is right.

You want me to run how long? At this point, about 85 percent of our workouts have been time priority as opposed to task priority. Shannon made this adjustment after the second practice. It was a simple workout – all-out 400, 300, 200, 100 with full rest – but none of the sprinters went hard for the 400 or 300. And with low-volume workouts, the intensity has to be there or else there’s no point. So instead of the aforementioned workout, we would say, “Sprint for 50 seconds, sprint for 35 seconds, sprint for 20 seconds, sprint for 10 seconds.” It sounds much easier, so it tricks them at first. But once they realize what’s going on, they understand that it doesn’t matter how much ground they cover as long as they go hard for that time frame. They seem to like that challenge more.

“Yerr outta here!” As the season has gone on, the attendance numbers have slowly been dropping – which is interesting because the exact same thing happened while coaching at Foley. If I didn’t know any better, I would think it’s something about my demanding coaching style. Weird. But I actually like this because that means I can finally do more drills with the people who actually care. Since the knuckleheads are slowly becoming the minority, I have no problem throwing them out when they are being distracting. My philosophy is this: if you don’t agree with the drills, no problem. They look weird at first, I know. But even doing them the wrong way can serve as a good warmup. And if you still can’t stomach them, just chill on the side until we start the workout. I don’t blame them either.

Track is just different, man; lots of downtime, more laid-back, boys and girls on the same team, weird drills. I feel where they’re coming from. In high school I used to just lay on the high jump mat all practice and still won most of my races. If you don’t bother the people that care, I can live with it. The cool thing is I can throw a kid out of practice, and we can come back the next day and talk about Kobe’s historic curtain call or the NFL draft like nothing happened. The kids are really cool.

Mobility. Last time I coached track I was not up on as much of the mobility stuff that I am now. Thanks to Kelly Starrett sharing his brain with the world, we’ve been able to fix a good amount of the problems we’ve come across. The thing we hear about most is calves. Cramping, tight, twitching, exploding, you name it. Luckily for us, Coach T – head strength coach and P.E. teacher at the school – has more mobility tools than any school with a budget should be allowed to have, so he kindly lets me use them for the team when we need a recovery day. Lately, that’s been about once per week. It will probably vary once the meet schedule gets more consistent.

Check up, little fella! Slowly but surely the majority of the kids are really getting into the technique by now. It is a difficult transition, but it’s going well. Oddly enough, it wasn’t the actual running that got their attention. It was basketball.

Over spring break, I would get to practice about a half hour early to shoot around in the empty gym. When the kids started rolling in, a few of them naturally wanted to shoot with me. There are few things in this world more enjoyable than playful trash-talking, and since the kids seemed to be on the same page, things often escalated into spontaneous one-on-one games. I’m not an All-American, but I can play a little bit, and none of them could keep up – much to the delight of everyone watching. So that gives me a little credibility. Plus now any time someone isn’t listening, I just call out their lack of basketball game in front of everyone and they kind of squirm out of sight. But more importantly, I noticed I seem to have everyone’s attention more when I am talking.

kobe vs child

………..
So the season is about halfway done – maybe a little more. And like I said, I definitely don’t think those bullet points are the best coaching methods, they’re just what I have to use now to compensate for my lack of experience coaching a large group of knuckleheads. But for real though, it’s been better than I expected. Coach Mark, Coach Michelle, and Coach Dias are all really cool; they are totally in to the Pose concept and they let Shannon and I do our thing. The kids are coming along, too. Lately, we have been able to take a few individuals aside and do things like video analysis, falling drills (yay!), and other drills that require a coach’s eye or feel. Rumor has it the Hill will be making an appearance as well, but that cannot be confirmed.

My main takeaway so far is that the Champions Club kids spoil me. I run small sessions and can nitpick every detail I want. In this setting bad form is going to happen. It still annoys me, as it should any coach, but I can accept that there will be a longer time frame for improvement. And it definitely gives me an appreciation for people like Coach T, who manages to teach good deadlift and push-up form in a class of 50 kids. Either way, this is Pose on a larger scale, for Shannon and me at least. It’s an experiment, as with everything else I have done. I’ll check back in after the season.

About the Author: Chris Sinagoga is the owner of the Champions Club/CrossFit Athletic Group in Madison Heights, MI, whose obsession with coaching CrossFit is only surpassed by his obsession with the game of basketball. Chris is heavily influenced by MGoBlog and Hip Hop and writes for the Champions Club website. Among other prestigious credentials, he has achieved certified master status in both Pokémon Red and Gold versions. Contact Coach Chris Sinagoga for more information and training. 


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