The NBA, Brandon Roy and Water Training

Brandon Roy of the Portland Trail Blazers just retired due to ongoing knee problems. Given the stress that comes with years of running, jumping, twisting and sprinting, it is remarkable that more NBA stars do not suffer from the same fate, midway through or earlier in their careers.

In the case of Brandon Roy, did his problems come from a specific injury, a predisposition to such problems, years of wear and tear or some combination of all these potential causes? If it was a specific injury or genetic predisposition, then it seems that early retirement was his unfortunate fate as a basketball player. However, if it was years of wear and tear something might have been done to prevent this problem.

I remember back in the 1990's, when a well known coach took over a well known NBA franchise. At that time, the new conditioning coach for this team was quoted in the paper discussing his new program which would include plyometrics. After reading that article, I said out loud to all who would listen a conditioning coach is going to put this NBA team through plyometric training (essentially aggressive strengthening through jumping): "This is wrong and there will be lots of injuries." Sure enough, the team had more than its share of injuries that season.

In any case, while I cannot say for sure whether or not that specific training program caused a statistically significant spike in injuries for the team in question, I can say that over the last 20 years I have helped many people prepare for sport and recover from injury using water. I can also say that in the words of a well known and former NBA star, "everybody should be training in the water". He told me during one of our water workouts that he wished he had been doing water training earlier in his career as it would have "saved" his knees.

Without question, NBA teams should explore deep and shallow water exercise for training, conditioning and recovery workouts. In fact, in my experience over the last 20 years of using water as a training environment, I can say that every professional sports team should find a way to incorporate water based programs into their regular conditioning routines. They will reduce overuse injuries, prolong the careers of their athletes and with fewer injuries they might also save some money and win a few more games.

Youth sports and winning

At a young age, sport is about participating and creating the desire in each kid to return for the next season. Having fun and learning to compete at a young age are of primary importance. Winning should not be the goal, but for those individuals and teams who do win their efforts should be supported.

Unfortunately, for kids the simple act having fun can be interfered with and even eliminated altogether by otherwise well meaning adults. For example, there are leagues that, instead of letting kids play and either win or lose create special rules which advance every team into the playoffs. The idea, presumably to create more opportunity for fun or perhaps to make the young participants feel better about themselves.

Ironically, this message not only over emphasizes winning, but it also supports the concept of unearned rewards. Adults who create such rules are really saying to the kids that post season play and therefore winning are so important that we are going to let all of you finish the season winners - earned or not. In addition to over emphasizing winning, giving young kids an unearned reward can only be counterproductive.

Unearned rewards of this nature value results over effort. Giving unearned rewards say to each kid that you can fall short of the base qualifying standards and skill levels and still get the prize. Perhaps this is one reason why the young adults of today are sometimes accused of being entitled and unwilling to work their way from the bottom up to the top positions in corporate America?

For the young kids, the goal is to make sport so enjoyable that they want to return for the next season - playoffs or not. This sets the ground work for a strong athletic future.

Offering unearned rewards and eliminating the values earned through struggle and effort over emphasize winning and do not teach the inherent values and life lessons that can be gleaned from sport. Further, the everyone is a winner approach to sport does not develop future champions. In life this approach does not develop strong workers and employees. Nor, I could argue does it develop balanced and ethical leaders.

References

The Champion's Way

A big win for Lindsay Vonn

In the world of international ski racing, Lindsay Vonn of the United States continues to win even as she is going through a divorce. This speaks highly of not only her fortitude, but also of her family and coaches.

People that have always been part of her life have, according to Lindsay stepped up the support level. According to news reports, she and her father are even mending their differences.

What is often lost in a champion level performance is what happens behind the scenes. We just see the event. In the case of Vonn, her main support system has been thrown into turmoil and this could easily have derailed her chances at winning. Yet she has been able to quickly turn things around and perhaps even reach a higher level of focus. Support, is a critical component to an athlete's ability to win, especially for the champion (The Champions Way).

Lindsay stated in a post race interview: "I wanted to win at home so badly. I wanted to win on a men's course. I wanted to prove to everyone here at home that I can win no matter what, under any circumstances."

All three of these quotes attest to her champion level skills. Under her personal circumstance she could have easily gone to Vail with the hope of "doing her best". A benign and meaningless statement, if winning is your goal. To then add additional pressure of wanting to win on a men's course and to then want to prove to everyone at home that she could win under any circumstances and then to have won, her place on the list of sports greatest champions just moved up a notch.

Typically, champions do not perform with the pressure of wanting to prove anything to anyone. To enter a competition with any other goal except to win, only adds additional pressure and distraction. Her record 4th win in a row at Beaver Creek was not just another win. In fact, given all of the current circumstances in her life, it might even be the top victory thus far in her career. With the continued support of her family and coaches and barring any injury, the sky remains the limit for Lindsay Vonn.

Tiger's win at the Chevron World Golf Challenge

Tiger Woods, after working extremely hard on his game and injury recovery won at the end of the 2011 golf season in the Chevron World Golf Challenge at the Sherwood Country Club.

He won with a birdie on each of the final holes, making putts that easily could have missed the cup. Yet, the media questioned the depth of his competition and their desire to win. Some columns even suggested that because the purse was so big that the motivation of all golfers was low.

Tiger Wood's victory, unlike some in the media suggested was significant. It does not matter whether there are 18 competitors or 180 competitors - 11 out of the top 25 or the entire top 25, winning is winning. In the attempts to minimize his victory, the general media missed the primary significance of this end of season victory. At a time when it is easy to lose focus, Tiger won. He again showed his mental strength and tenacity.

Further not only did Tiger win at the end of a season, he also won by working relentlessly on his game and on his fitness. Most competitors would have faded from the scene, given the daunting task that Tiger faced. His home life changed, one can only assume much self questioning, injury and a new golf swing. Every aspect of his competitive environment needed work. The system that had allowed him to become one of golf's greatest champions fell apart.

Tiger's victory was significant, but like any victory or any past event it is now irrelevant. Once the post competition analysis is complete, all that matters in the mind of a champion is the next event.

While everyone will take a paycheck, the media forgets that champions are driven by victory.

Jump Ball

The current basketball strike is simply about two sides looking for the best deal. On the surface, isn't that what everyone wants in life, the best deal?

How can anyone criticize the players or owners for trying to get the best business arrangement for themselves?

Owners spend a lot of money and assume the responsibility for all debts and costs, including payroll. Fortunately, the owners are used to risk as most large fortunes come from taking chances. While there are certainly lots of perks with team ownership, it is safe to say that owners are not purchasing a professional team to simply give away their hard earned money.

Professional athletes are given the opportunity to live out a childhood dream. Imagine having the skill and talent to make money playing the game that provided endless fun and enjoyment during your youth. Anyone who grew up playing the game of basketball has had the dream of sinking the winning basket at the buzzer, in game 7 of the championship series. Yet, only a tiny percentage of those dreamers ever get the opportunity to make a living playing basketball.

The players want everything possible for their hard work and dedication. While first class travel is fun, a plane eventually is just a metal tube with seats and a hotel room is just another place to unpack your bags for the night. Why leave money on the table, if there is extra money to be made? Like owners, the players have also worked extremely hard and have taken risks. Also, like owners they are extremely competitive.

It seems that both sides have an over inflated sense of what they deserve. The owners want to earn more money on their investment or perhaps reduce some of the risk and the players want to earn more money to play the game. Yet, based on what one might observe or read in the media both groups seem to have plenty of choices when it comes to material desires. If these assumptions are correct, no wonder the teams and players have so many critics amongst the fans.

After all it is the fans who ultimately pay all of the salaries and expenses. Without someone willing to purchase the tickets, the jerseys, the expensive food and all of the products that are sold in association with professional basketball, the NBA would not exist. Talented athletes and wealthy, potential owners would have to find some other venue to ply their skills, compete and take chances.

Perhaps the players and owners should rethink their arguments and why there is so much money to even cause such disagreements. While it is true that the players are the show and the owners are the vehicle that allow the show to happen, it is the fans who pay everyone's salary and they just want to be entertained.

Greg Norman comments on Tiger Woods

Whether or not Tiger Woods wins another major will only be answered in the future and any current opinions stand a 50/50 chance of being correct.

However, what is 100% certain is that every time Tiger is playing golf, winning is a possibility. Winning and winning and winning is a "sweet spot" in time. The words of an old friend, Topper Hagerman. Tiger had discovered that spot for a number of years. During that time it was all about playing golf. Now Tiger's life has changed.

As Greg Norman said during a recent interview, published by golf.com on 9/28/11, "Tiger, when he dominated, had a single-shot approach. It was only about the golf." "Now there are so many distractions..." A key factor in a champion's ability to win and win and win is having the skill to focus and the ability to do away with all distractions. In the case of Tiger, there are now many new distractions which he must reduce or eliminate.

These new distractions are more powerful than the superficial comments and criticisms and sponsorship questions, as they come from within. Tiger has been forced to question himself to the very core of his humanity. His entire personal operating system must now be reprogramed. He had the recipe for winning at will, but that piece of paper is now lost. It now must be recreated and this will take time.

The good news is that Tiger has the ability to focus - perhaps better than any athlete in the world. Finding the internal balance will be the key to Tiger Woods returning to the top of the golfing world. If he can find this balance, we will see the return of a champion.

NCAA Miami Decision

Eight student athletes from the university of Miami were recently asked to repay the money they illegally received from university booster Nevin Shapiro and athletics personnel. They also were given various levels of game suspensions based on the amount of money and benefits that they received.

While there are larger questions regarding student athletes and their status in the college environment, one has to applaud the NCAA for making a decision that supports its rules and still allows the athletes to return to sport. It is important to remember, that these were kids/young adults corrupted by adults and by the larger society in which we all live.

It is easy to look at a college kid and wonder what he or she could possibly be thinking to accept something that is obviously against the rules. However, who are the adults influencing these kids? What is their role in tempting a kid, who perhaps did not grow up with many choices and maybe did not even have what most people consider to be the basic material needs in life covered?

In this particular case, it took an apparently corrupt adult willing to take advantage and a kid looking for some fun. These young student/athletes might be talented, but they are still young and in need of direction, which if I understand correctly is one of the goals of college. For most college kids, maturity is suspect and the potential vulnerability to nefarious adults is high.

Additionally, one cannot ignore the general society in which we all live as part of the problem. Our current society has been overrun by the "take as much as you can mentality." In the business world there are the CEOs and upper level managers demanding enormous sums of money and at the bottom there are the unions asking for as much as possible. Literally, every level of our society is infected by this concept of taking as much as possible and the continual need or lust for greater material and personal gratification.

In an ideal situation, it would be nice to blame the individual. After all, we are all ultimately responsible for our own actions. Unfortunately or fortunately, we are also greatly influenced by the surrounding environment in which we live. The current environment in which we all are living has seen an extreme graying of the lines between right and wrong or the ethical and unethical. In fact, in most instances, with justification as the goal one can make a case for both sides being right or both sides being wrong.

College sport has fallen victim to these attitudes of society. College kids, especially high level college athletes are no longer insulated or protected from the outside world. Even the colleges themselves are guilty of allowing for this exploitation. It is not just the errant booster. There is a systematic failure. After all, we live in a world where money talks - actually a world in which money screams at the highest decibels for attention. With corrupt adults and the temptations of society, perhaps the kids who break NCAA rules and accept money are not cheaters, but victims?

Federer and Djokovic: Was it luck or confidence?

In Roger Federer's loss today at the 2011 US Open to Novak Djokovic, Federer was asked to comment on Djokovic's winning forehand. Was it lucky or confidence?

"Confidence, are you kidding me?" Federer asked. "Please. Some players grow up and play like that. I never played that way. I believe that the hard work's going to pay off."

Hard work is the quality of a champion. An athlete of Federer's caliber hits the shots in competition that he has done over and over again on the practice courts. This is why Federer has won 16 grand slam titles and is one of the greatest all time champions. For the champion, there are essentially no chances taken in a match that have not been rehearsed in practice. Virtually, every shot is calculated and practiced to a level that is superior to the skills of any opponent.

This is not to say that Djokovic did not deserve or earn his victory. He beat Federer. He took a chance and he won. This is the beauty of sport. Chances produce victories and also excitement. In Djokovic's words: "If it comes in, it comes in." "It was a risk last year. It was a very similar situation. I was hitting the forehand as hard as I could. You're gambling." "I was lucky today."

Champion's take shots that they have practiced and know that they can hit. They gamble knowing that they already have the winning hand. Djokovic might win this US Open and finish with an incredible season. A season for the record books. However, if he hopes to attain the winning record of Federer he will need to turn that forehand into a shot that he knows will be a winner.

Presidents Cup: Response to Farrell Evan's letter to Fred Couples

Fred Couples has two coaches discretion choices for the Presidents Cup team. Any choice he makes is the right decision.

They are his choices. Further, if any other golfer who did not make the team has a question, the answer is simple. Next time score enough points to make the team. Or amass enough wins to not only establish yourself as one of the best golfers in history, but also develop yourself as one of the great competitors in any sport.

After reading Farrell Evans open letter to Fred Couples, I was struck by a handful of his comments as they relate to Champions. In his third paragraph he refers to players resenting Tiger. Any golfer who spends the energy resenting a fellow competitor has no chance for victory and certainly should not be on the Presidents Cup team. Ultimately, a golfer who competes with resentment will never be a champion. What should be said to Mark Wilson or Keegan Bradley or any other golfer who does not make the team is answered in my first paragraph.

Further down Evans refers to pressure from the higher-ups in the "golf industrial complex". Again, this does not matter and is irrelevant. Fred Couples can choose any golfer that he wants for those two spots. Also, the facts are clear when it comes to professional sport. For the competitors it is a game and a profession, for the fans it is entertainment and for the sponsors it is a business. Without sponsors the professional tour would not exist. Any golfer who wants to fight the "golf industrial complex" will have no chance unless he is at the very least a winner and in the case of the Presidents Cup a bonafide qualifier.

When Evans blames Tiger for part of this decision and stating that Tiger should have said "he is not fit to play." Champions ironically would rather not play if they did not think it possible to win. Tiger is one of sports greatest competitors of any era. Thus, by accepting this bid it would seem that Tiger is saying, my injuries are in the past. I am able to practice without an issue and I am capable of winning. If this is true, Tiger is the top choice for any coach to be on the 18th with a 6 foot par putt necessary for victory.

Coaches discretion choices to fill out a team always generate questions from those not sitting at the decision table. This is normal. The best way for an athlete to make the team is to score enough points. Otherwise, when it comes to coaches discretion there are no rules. This is the place where a coach gets to be a coach in building his team. Given Tiger's career history, his return to health and the prospects of his game, he would be an obvious discretionary choice for any coach.

Champions & "Cool"

Imagine if your young aspiring athlete came to you and said: "Mom, can you buy me this shirt?" A t-shirt with the word "Dope" written on the front. Your immediate reaction might be to ask, Why suggest to the world that you lack intelligence? More frighteningly, you worry that your kid thinks advertising drugs add up to "cool" and perhaps wonder if he/she could even be lured into taking drugs? Then your child says no mom, "dope does not mean I lack intelligence or take drugs", it refers to my "cool" moves on the skateboard.

By the way mom, Nike's other shirt emblazoned with "Get High" does not mean "high" in the illegal substance sense it actually relates to elevation or to feel good due to your performance. As adults, have we become too judgmental, perhaps superimposing upon our kids words which meant something else in our era? Or is the recent controversy with Nike t-shirts and their edgy association with drugs just another example of advertising pushing the limits and trying to create "cool" - and to what end? Why can't sport be about sweat, commitment, hard work, effort, achieving goals, winning and fun? Aren't these things "cool"?

In Sport, true champions and players of the game do not arrive at the top through casual participation and embodying slogans hoping to be "cool" and to create an image. They arrive at the top through daily and very real effort and time. If a true champion in sport were to be described as "cool", it would not be based on wearing the latest fashion trend, it would come from within. It would come from their effort and results. Champions do not create "cool" and in fact as the superficial definition of "cool" goes they may in fact not be "cool".

Nike has gone too far with these shirts. Pushing the edge and creating artificial "coolness" does not build future champions. The constant drumbeat of graying the lines of appropriateness, especially in promoting the superficial and material is not the path towards building a stronger and more confident youth.

Is Tiger Woods overtrained?

In the Master's this year, Tiger Woods strained his knee while trying to hit an awkward shot.

Was this injury the result of unfortunate bad luck?

Was it the result of overtraining or the many rounds of golf he'd previously played through pain? Or did it relate directly to the previous injury and surgery he had back in 2008? The answers to any of these questions are unclear.

What is certain: injury is the one obstacle that can deprive golf fans of one of their greatest champions. It is the one clear event that can end the career of a champion, or at the least curtail his or her ability to win seemingly at will.

Tiger's champion advantage is that he is willing to remake himself, most notably in his swing changes. He understands that in order to play at his level, his swing needs the occasional revamping. These swing overhauls require a very intensive physical effort. Most other golfers do not undergo such swing transformations - and as history dictates, no golfer in the Tiger Wood's era has the professional record of Tiger Woods. It seems he's doing something right.

In addition to his golf game, Tiger also has an aggressive conditioning program. Unlike golfers of previous generations, who most certainly put less emphasis on fitness, Tiger's body is continually changing due to exercise. Thus, with the standard age-related changes, training-related changes, and golf swing adaptations, Tiger is managing three variables that can affect his physical health and how he strikes the ball.

Over the past 10 to 15 years, conditioning programs have taken on their own life with respect to the careers of great athletes and those striving to be great. Tiger is no different. According to his website, his daily routine begins with a mix of endurance runs, sprints, or biking, followed by weight lifting, golf practice, and more weight lifting.

Is a downside to all this conditioning greater wear on his body? One might even ask, is Tiger overtrained, thus more susceptible to injury? Is the combination of daily running and sprinting too much for his body to handle, particularly for his knees and Achilles tendons? Perhaps Tiger's next move is to reassess his fitness program.

Playing through pain and injury has long-term consequences. The short-term benefit may be an amazing victory and the further defining of a legend. The long-term consequences of persevering through pain and injury along with aggressive training and swing practice, however, might be an assault on the longevity of an athletic career.

Should you play through an injury?

For every great champion who plays while injured or sick, there should be a disclaimer: "Professional athletes only. School kids and any other nonprofessional should follow doctors order's: stay home and get better."

Playing through an injury is often touted as just another level of skill and toughness displayed by a champion athlete. Any basketball fan alive in 1997 will remember Michael Jordan's epic performance in Game 5 of the NBA finals against the Utah Jazz. Sick with the stomach flu, one moment he could hardly move, and the next he was on the floor scoring 38 points in 44 minutes and clinching a 3-pointer to lead the Bulls past the Jazz.

Fast-forward to Tiger Woods' 2008 U.S. Open victory at Torrey Pines. Advised by doctors that he had two stress fractures and should be on crutches, he instead competed, winning after a 19-hole playoff. Eight days later, he had major knee surgery.

Virtually every great champion will have his or her own story of competing and winning while not healthy. Pushing the body beyond the limits normally defined by physiology happens every day in the life of a champion. Champions play at only one speed and with one goal: the speed is full throttle, and the goal is victory. Sickness or health, these goals do not change.

The flip side is that a champion would never compete if he or she knew that victory was not possible. Taking one for the team in order to perform at a mediocre level, with no chance for victory, is not part of a champion's approach to sport.

As for those athletes who are not at the champion level (and that's virtually everyone, whether on a team or as an individual), competing while extremely sick or injured is not the right decision. Take it from the playbook of a champion: why would you ever compete if you or your team did not have an absolute chance and ability to win? Furthermore, what is the risk-to-reward ratio when considering the rest of your career?

In the rarified world of the champion, the decision to play or not play has its own set of rules and parameters. A champion's reasons for playing or not playing should not apply to everyone, and certainly not if you are anything but a professional who is getting paid to go to practice every day.

With rare exceptions, playing at any level other than full capacity brings on the potential for additional injury, not to mention a subpar performance. For the mortals of sport, show your strength and mental fortitude by missing the game, recovering, and returning to your sport at full capacity - when your body is ready .

Overtraining in young athletes: not worth an injury

A few years ago, I worked with a young high school runner who experienced severe Achilles tendon pain every time he ran too long or too hard. His parents and three different coaches all wanted him to recover, yet pressure from this group of adults for him to continue running was also very strong. Fortunately, one of the coaches recognized there was a problem and asked me to help with a pool training program.

As I began working with this high school runner, I told him to stop running completely and let his Achilles tendon recover. I also suggested a new doctor.

However, his parents and school coaches were not on board for this "unusual" approach of allowing an injury to heal. There were the standard protests about the team needing this runner, getting noticed by colleges, and that old standby argument: "he loves running so much" that we could not force him to stop.

Needless to say, everyone was impatient with the slow pace, and this young runner lasted only a few weeks in my program. My telling him not to run wasn't what anyone wanted to hear.

Yet even when exercising at low levels in the non-weight-bearing environment of the pool, this young man still had to be careful. Unfortunately, the agenda for him was out of my hands. He eventually disappeared from my schedule and continued to run and work out.

Six months later, I learned that he had developed so much pain walking was difficult. The family consulted a new doctor, who recommended surgery.

Whether or not he continued running, this young runner may still have needed surgery. But the fact that he would not stop running, and that the adults in his life were not as adamant as I was that all running be immediately stopped, means we all failed.

This story demonstrates what can happen when too many coaches and agendas mean no one - and everyone - is in charge. It also makes one wonder: why do we push through pain? Unfortunately, this talented runner's push to continue running, with correspondingly poor results, did nothing for his team, nothing for his college prospects, and certainly did nothing for his long-term health.

As it stands currently, a year and a half later, this athlete is still sidelined. I would bet everything I have, double or nothing, that in every state and every town in this country, this exact scenario is currently playing out. The question remains: why?

Who is in charge?

With statistics and trends over the last 20 years pointing towards an increase in overuse injuries among kids who are playing sports, the obvious next step is to determine the causes and then do everything possible to reverse the trend. Pinpointing the exact cause will be difficult, while the answer is simple.

I will start by dissecting a year-round training program. Generally, sports programs have two areas of coaching influence. The first comes from the discipline coach. Using rowing as an example, the discipline coach teaches a kid how to row, which includes the proper use of technique and tactics. Technique involves the skills necessary to get in a boat and row. Tactics are how the game is played - or, in the case of rowing, how the race is managed.

The second area of influence comes from the conditioning coach. This individual might be hired privately by the parent to help a child get into shape for sport. Or, he or she is a paid coach hired by a high school to prepare athletes for all sports during a school year.

There is a potential third coaching influence: a specialty skills coach. For example, some baseball teams have a batting coach. Or a parent might hire a batting coach for some "extra" swing work. Whatever the case, it is possible that a child will have one or more coaches from the sports side and then a conditioning coach who either comes with the program or is hired privately.

Given all of these coaching possibilities and influences, the first question to ask is straightforward: "Who is in charge?" With a potential of two or more coaches - each talented and with an agenda - telling a kid what to do, the possibility is very high for a problem developing. This is generally not a concern if the coaching staff all works together under the direction of a head coach. However, problems start to arise when there are outside coaches. It doesn't even matter if all of the coaches are the "best".

Too many workouts, along with too many directions, can cause problems, even with the best of intentions. It can lead to over training, confusion, extra pressure and potentially end a kid's sports life forever.

The simple answer to the question in the first paragraph is to drop one of the teams and one of the extra coaches. Let your young aspiring athlete get more rest, perhaps some unstructured play, and then with the "right" type and volume of exercise and sports participation, you will see fewer injuries and more success.

Is aggressive sports training worth the price?

As adults over 50, we all "remember" how hard we used to work and practice our sport. Many of those workouts ended with the coach asking for one more sprint, just as we thought that we had nothing left. Presently, many high school athletes are asked to do the same workouts that we remember, but their seasons last for twelve months not two or three. Kids sometimes play on two teams, the weekend team and the school team. One program leads to another program. Additionally, there are conditioning coaches and a plethora of private coaching and training programs available to increase a child's chances for athletic success.

While I am the first to say that being in shape is a requirement for success and injury prevention in sport, I am also next in line to say that intensive training is a primary cause of injuries among high school athletes. What I have observed over the past 20 years with youth training are two concepts that have been pushed to the limits: More is better; and doing more means working harder. Working harder translates into doing everything faster, higher and stronger. When combined with increased volume, the potential for injury is greatly increased.

In the book called Until it Hurts, by Mark Hyman, Dr. Lyle Micheli from Children's Hospital in Boston estimated that in 2009 75 percent of the kids who came through his office had overuse injuries. In the early 1990's that figure was about 20 percent. This means that even with all of our knowledge and advances in physical training and coaching, the system is failing. Kids might be in better shape and able to perform at higher levels, but they are also sustaining serious injuries at ever increasing rates.

What is too often forgotten is that kids are still growing and their bodies are not meant to take the continual physical stress of organized and ultimately repetitive training programs. It does not matter how knowledgable the conditioning coach is or how perfectly the program is taught. The act of continually putting kids through year-round aggressive training is not the right approach, and it has not been the right approach for the past 2 decades.

I am working with an injured college senior who had to stop rowing one year into her college career. Four years ago, her high school team was second at nationals and she went to college with the expectation of continuing her successful ways. Unfortunately, her career was cut short due to a back injury caused by excessive training.

Her year round program consisted of rowing at various intensities, along with participation in one of the local, well known and highly regarded private conditioning programs. Her trainers pushed her hard to develop the necessary strength and power for rowing, and her coach made sure that she put in the necessary practice on the water. She took on all of this work with a body that was still growing.

The result was that her team almost won a national title and her rowing career ended.

My client is now bothered daily by back problems that make sitting or standing for long periods of time uncomfortable and she can no longer row. While no one can say for sure that this was her destiny, training or no training, it can be said that she worked extremely hard year-round, nearly achieved the ultimate goal for a high school rower and paid a heavy price.

Landis & Armstrong - Part 2

Steroids and Doping: A Different Angle...continued

It is easy to be either realistic or cynical when watching all of our heroes or those we look to for leadership or inspiration tumble down the harsh slope of their own crushed reputation. Let's remember that everyone seems to have a skeleton in the closet, the 800-pound gorilla sitting in the room. That's the reality. We're cynical because we have become used to and almost expectant that anyone and everyone in the limelight will be accused of illicit or immoral behavior.

When a sport's generation of future Hall of Famers gets nailed - as did baseball with Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Jason Giambi, Jose Canseco, et. al., the cynicism only increases. Look at the constant skepticism about Albert Pujols. He must have put up 10 years of hitting numbers akin to Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams because he's juiced, a lot of people say and Sports Illustrated investigated in an infamous Spring 2010 cover story - yet he's been clean as a whistle.

Perhaps the realism or cynicism is our problem. As fans, maybe it is our unreal expectation and desire for athletic stars to perform superhuman feats that is the cause for the problems of sport? Sporting events are merely games and entertainment. Yet, we continue to put sports heroes on the highest of pedestals. Show me any human being worthy of such praise and adulation and I will show you a chink in the armor.

What troubles me more than whether or not Lance Armstrong doped, along with what appears to be the entire cycling world, is the affect of these accusations on the thousands of people around the world fighting cancer. For these people, the Tour was not merely about a bunch of people trying to be the fastest to the finish line, but life and the inspiration to live. This is not a game for the individual who is fighting cancer.

Lance Armstrong has become bigger than the Tour. His victory over cancer, the inspiration he has provided those fighting cancer along with the millions of dollars donated by his foundation, trumps any Floyd Landis catharsis or attempt at cleaning up the sport. If every Landis accusation is true, then all the cyclists at the top were competing on the same playing field and Lance was still the best. He still won.

The fans and the purists might shake the hand of Landis and say "thank you" for cleaning up the sport that we all love. All of us as fans, might look forward to the day we are guaranteed a "clean" competition.

But what about the people who do not care just about entertainment and games? What about those looking for any and every bit of inspiration and energy to persevere and live another day?

"On their behalf, I would ask Floyd Landis and any other disgraced whistleblower, Jose Canseco included, "What motivated you? A pure desire to clean up the sport in which you competed, excelled, loved and lost because of your mistake? Or clearing your name and making money?"

It's a fair question that demands a fair response.

Landis & Armstrong - Part 1

Steroids and Doping in Sports: A different Angle (Part 1)

The past six months have been heartbreaking for sports fans and cancer patients who have hitched their loyalty, aspirations and hopes to one of the greatest sportsmen this country has ever known - seven-time Tour de France champion and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong. The recent whistle-blowing comments of disgraced tour champion Floyd Landis have cast a shadow on a career that has literally helped thousands, if not millions of cancer patients through funding, greater public awareness, and, most of all hope.

This blog is not an easy one for me to write. For while I will never promote the virtues of doping or steroid use in sports, I also have to ask myself and the sports world at large: Why are we so focused on disgracing individuals after their careers are over and what is the cost? Especially when the vast majority in their sport - particularly cycling, which in the late 1990s had an estimated 90% performance enhancing use rate, according to the French newspaper Sud Ouest - was using performance enhancing drugs at the same time?

We all watch sporting events hoping that every athlete is playing on even ground. We assume that the rules of sport are being followed, allowing us to enjoy the competition and cheer for our favorite athlete. The accusations that came and continue to come from Floyd Landis, if true, implicate the entire top tier of the cycling world. If true, one could say they all knew the game, they chose to compete under those conditions, they all chose the potential consequences and, most importantly from a competitive perspective, they were all racing on equal ground. (Which the Sud Ouest estimate from the late 1990s makes abundantly clear).

However, as fans, we remained in the dark. We just saw great cyclists working very hard doing what appeared to be superhuman feats of endurance and strength. Climbing Category 1 inclines in the Pyrenees Mountains after having already raced 1,500 to 1,700 miles is the height of superhuman performance, in my opinion. We marveled at their perseverance and painful push towards victory. We were all inspired or left in awe.

Now Floyd Landis is coming clean. He is letting the world know that everyone was doping, most prominently the king of the modern cycling world, Lance Armstrong. My question to Floyd: Why? Even if everyone is guilty as charged, what is the reason for Landis' continued push to implicate the entire upper echelon of the sport? Is it so that he can feel better about himself, or is it for the "greater good" of cycling? As easily as it is to argue the latter - and, from this, cycling will certainly become cleaner - one must remember that, in 2009, Landis threatened Armstrong by email with this very "outing" if Armstrong didn't pay him what Landis claimed were back wages. That, in my mind, is blackmail.

An admitted cheater wanting to clear his name by bringing down the rest of his competitors is either committing the ultimate act of selfishness or falling on the sword to do what he considers best for the fans and the sport of cycling. While Landis might feel good now about his admissions, how do the fans of cycling feel? What about the fans of Lance Armstrong, who are not only sports fans, but also cancer survivors? continued - please go to part 2

5 Napkin Burger

Thus far, I have written about disciplined eating and taking care of your health. Now I would like to make a departure that may surprise you, and say a word in favor of the occasionally unhealthy meal. In general, what causes weight problems is not the meal you ate last Friday night, but the meals you are eating every day. If you have control over your diet and you are losing weight or have reached your desired weight, having a hamburger with french fries every six months will only be a blip on your overall diet plan. Simply stated: "With discipline comes freedom". We can use this mantra for many things in life, but with dieting and our desire for eating, it means an infrequent splurge is okay.

For example, this past June, I had the pleasure of eating the best hamburger of my life. It tasted very good and it came from Five Napkin Burger, an aptly named establishment on Manhattan's West Side. This burger oozed with taste. I did not ask for the cheese to be put on one side, the meat on the other side and the empty, special low-calory bun in the middle. This was a burger with all the things normally associated with a hamburger: cheese, onions, french fries etc. I even started with a lemonade and finished with a cold beer. In the end, I left nothing on the plate.

Knowing this meal would be filling, I walked the 15 NYC blocks to the restaurant and at least that many back to the hotel. It was all part of my plan for a guilt-free, glutenous evening of taste bud satisfaction. I do not have weight problems and I do not want to develop them. That's why I walked to and from the meal - my way of allowing myself to have such a meal. I also ate my normal breakfast and just a snack for lunch. I had heard so much about this restaurant. Fortunately, I was not disappointed.

Comfort foods are necessary for our mental health. They make us feel good and take away the stresses of life. Unfortunately, most of those foods do not sit atop any weight loss plan. If you want to lose weight, start your diet today and stick with the plan created by your nutritionist or doctor. Do not splurge or deviate from the plan. Then set yourself up for an early evening gustatory delight. If possible walk to your meal and back home. Cut back on your lunch and be sure to exercise, then enjoy a guilt-free evening. This will only work if you have the discipline and plan to keep you on track and honest with yourself and nutritionist for the next 6 months. On a human note, having patience, working and waiting for something ads to the pleasure and success of the experience.

Time in the doctors' office

I recently walked into the doctors office for my yearly physical. While sitting and waiting to see the doctor, I wondered if the people who sit in their doctors' offices or pass through hospitals know that exercise will help them feel better and prevent some of their ailments. When I see someone with what appears to be muscle weakness, I know that with just a little strength training, their life would be so much better. I see people who are overweight and wonder if they do regular aerobic exercise. If not, why?

Superficially, it appears that the majority of people seeing their primary care doctor could use a dose of exercise and a reduction in food intake. These observations make me wonder why more people do not take care of their health. Why spend time in a doctor's office if many of the reasons for going can be prevented? Why rely on pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter medications for your daily health when, in many cases, exercise and proper nutrition can help to render you prescription medicine-free?

At some point, we will all start suffering from the advance of age. Why not slow that process and do everything possible to avoid the suffering? If you fall in the no-exercise, unhealthy-lifestyle category, you can keep up with business as usual and increase the chances for an undesirable end to your life - which only increases the chances for your loved ones to spend many hours of their time and energy helping you through the final days or years. Knowingly increasing your chances of needing help in your later years, I cannot think of a more selfish way to go through life.

We only have one chance. Why not live every day with the idea of winning in life?

Habits

Changing a personal habit is probably the most difficult task for any of us. Unfortunately, some of our most difficult habits to break, including smoking, overeating, and poor food choices, relate directly to our health. There are also habits which form our responses to situations and events that impact our ability to live, work and interact with society, colleagues, friends and partners. Habits enable us to get to work on time and "do the right thing" when required. Some habits are considered bad and others good. We relish habits and even take comfort in the fact that "somethings never change."

Habits give us comfort. They are known quantities, our friends. They allow us to act and respond without thinking. Early in life, most of us learn what is right and wrong; from those lessons, we develop good living habits. Habits can also give us excuses for our actions. We can say, "I'm sorry, it was just one of those old habits." Habits can lead us to both success and failure.

However, when it is perfectly clear that a habit is bad and changing it can only be an improvement, why are some of us unwilling or unable to change? Is it fear? Lack of self-respect? Has the habit become an addiction?

Fortunately, change is possible. We are able to adapt and learn new habits. However, this takes a lot of work and effort. This is where most people fail, because they are unwilling to do what is necessary to change or improve habits. Ironically, some people are even unwilling to change habits detrimental to their health and life.

Habits are internal and independent of the thoughts and actions of others. They require a personal decision to change. A personal decision by you. For example, an old friend and life-long smoker who loved to smoke, decided that he would quit smoking as soon as one of the athletes he was coaching won a World Cup Ski Race. All of us who worked with this man constantly pushed him to stop smoking. We were just as repeatedly frustrated in our efforts. Then one day in the early 90's, one of his downhill racers won a World Cup event in France. On that day, he kept his promise and smoked his last cigarette.

Those of us willing to change or reshape our bad habits will move forward in all aspects of life - personally, professionally and athletically. We are the ones who learn from our mistakes, a key element to success. With a little luck and hard work thrown into the mix, we can then reach our personal goals, achieve greatness and perhaps even a level of distinction in our lives.



The Champion's Way

The Champion's Way is a must read for parents, coaches, young athletes and for anyone interested in how champion athletes win over and over again

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