Champions Club Chronicles Vol. 5: Track Wrap-up
“Innovation happens when we make something we know relevant to someone else”
– Carl Paoli
I don’t like gravity. It has never really been nice to me. If gravity was polite and made exemptions for Chris Sinagoga, I might have been able to dunk. I am also not very fond of nature. I prefer the suburbs of Madison Heights with Little Caesars, sidewalks, and indoor plumbing. And I never liked science. It was always that untimely interruption between gym class and recess.
But I love sports. And I really enjoy teaching and learning about human movement. So when I first heard Dr. Romanov talk about running, I suddenly found myself interested in gravity and nature… and yes, even science. After roughly seven years of studying his material, applying it in my training, and experimenting on the athletes I coach, I have developed a pretty solid understanding for the basics of how human movement happens and some of the universal truths that govern it. Running is the easiest way for me to explain and demonstrate these principles. The challenge over the past three months has been trying to get a track team with 100 kids to care about it.
You are not a good coach unless your athletes move well. Brady Hoke and Rich Rodriguez each coached football at Michigan from 2008-2014. When RichRod came in, he was the mastermind behind the spread offense – an uptempo, no huddle strategy that had not only changed college football, but also altered the thinking of every coach at every level in the country. When Brady Hoke came to Michigan, he was known for his unconditional support of his players. There have been countless success stories of Hoke giving players second and third chances to make things right with the program. Those players still speak of him like a father figure to this day.
The only problem is their players didn’t play well. They were great tacticians, great motivators, great thinkers, and very influential. But they didn’t coach well at the University of Michigan. And that’s not just my opinion; it’s a nationally-accepted fact. I think that is how fitness and running coaches need to be judged as well. For instance, at the Pose seminar in May, Dr. Romanov took about 3 minutes to teach me how to unweigh while running, then did this voodoo backwards falling drill. Then I ran faster. My conclusion: he is a great tactician, a great thinker, very influential… and he’s a freaking great coach.
Despite having already signed to play Division-1 football next year, Ty was more focused on track this spring than anyone expected. He set (then re-broke) school records, he tried a few different races, and he was very receptive to learning Pose.
At Regionals, Ty took 1 st place in both the 110m hurdles and the 300m hurdles with times of 14.88 and 39.90 respectively. Days later at the county meet, he ran his anchor leg in the 4x400m relay in 48.8 seconds and helped us to a 4 th place finish. Unfortunately, the MHSAA Division-1 State Finals were held on the same day as Mott’s graduation, so Ty chose to attend his grad ceremony with a lot of his family driving in from out of state.
I definitely can’t take credit for Ty’s achievements (he didn’t know he was running in the 4×4 until literally four minutes before the race started; he crammed down a few donuts then ran a 48 cold), but it is refreshing to know that you can teach Pose to a legit sprinter. A few other sprinters had good seasons as well – especially Decari Walden (senior) and Emmanuel Myles (junior).
But I’m greedy. Some kids looked the exact same as when they started the year, and some even ran worse times than the year before. It’s not because they were bad athletes, but it’s because I didn’t figure out a way to make Pose running interesting to them. That’s on me, not the kids. So with that being said, here’s a few things notes I am taking into next year.
More traditional Pose drills. I think starting the second week of practice, it would have helped to implement a consistent routine of the classic Pose drills and started every other practice with them. I did some every day, but they were usually just one or two in preparation for the actual running technique. I think consistently doing the following drills would have given them a pre-race warm-up they could do on their own:
- Bounce (springiness position)
- Change of support
- Side fall
- Front lunge
- Double skip
- Buttkicker (into Pose position, not the traditional one out back)
We would do each one for 30 sec. in place. Then after we go through the list do each one forward to half court (or full court depending on time/attention span). And finally forward into a run. I know a lot of the kids would be going through the motions and doing them incorrectly, but at least they would get warmed up and sweating.
Falling, falling, falling. I avoided group falling drills on most days because things would get goofy. But in retrospect I think if we did more of them, it wouldn’t have been as awkward. Plus, what the kids really care about is running faster. Falling is usually the single thing that, when done correctly, gives the instant sensation of moving faster. So I think more repetition with partner falling drills is something that needs to be done from Day 1.
Mobility was a hit. I definitely plan on throwing in mobility days when they need it. It gives them a chance not only to recover, but to relax and talk with their friends.
Individual work. Hopefully after two or three weeks of consistent Pose routine, the kids could knock them out on their own. This is where I would like to do more individual work. While the team does the drills, I could take one or two athletes to the side and hit some skill work that I wouldn’t be able to do in the larger setting. The best coach I’ve ever played for told my basketball team, “Not everyone will be treated equal, but everyone will be treated fair.” Taking some select athletes to the side could definitely be seen as playing favorites, but I think if they consistently pay attention and do what they’re supposed to, then they earned the preferential treatment.
Film. I need to find the time to do film with the entire team next year. At least twice. Probably not getting each individual runner, but I think using a few examples to show everyone would be helpful to visualize what they are supposed to be doing. It would probably work best as a replacement for a mobility day.
More sports. After the season was over, I thought about how not one of the kids I coached was a track-first athlete. Most considered football their primary sport, and there were a few basketball players in the mix. So next year I want to do more play time. If they have a good workout, they could earn a pickup basketball game, or ultimate Frisbee.
I was a quarterback in high school, so one of the things I always noticed was how fluidly people accelerated when they were chasing after a pass in front of them. I think throwing routes to some of the football kids would help me illustrate that your body’s natural method of going faster is to fall more and pull quicker.
In the end, getting people to buy in is the toughest part. You don’t really have to explain yourself if you’re coaching push-off, stride out, and drive your arms because they are so commonly accepted by high-level runners and coaches. Pose isn’t an extension of that teaching, or a different twist. It’s a complete overhaul. And that message is not easy to get across to everyone. I’ve had distance runners say that Pose only works for sprinting, and I’ve had sprinters say that Pose only works for distance. I’ve had physics majors imply that gravity does not exist within that 400-meter oval. But the misunderstanding is not their fault! They are just relaying what they have been taught, and observing the best athletes they have seen.
The challenge for Pose coaches is to relay our understanding of movement in a way that makes people care about it. Your audience might not be ready for a 5-minute lecture about gravity, so you are going to have to reach them in a different way. And the more you put yourself out there coaching different groups (try preschoolers, it’s really awesome) the more comfortable you will feel and the more options you will have.
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.