Football Camps: The Secret Is In Your Approach

The end of the school year is right around the corner and summer is in sight. If you strap a helmet on in the fall, the next three months are crucial in your preparation leading to the season. You may have off season weights, speed training, passing leagues, practices, and maybe even some recruiting visits. All of those things managed a steady growth in my development but as I look back at my summers of preparation there is one place where my growth and opportunities accelerated like none other: summer football camps.

Not everyone experiences the same growth at a football camp. Just showing up does not ensure results. The secret is in how you approach the camp. In my opinion, there are two reasons to attend summer football camps: skill development and recruiting. Everyone needs skill development. Even the #1 pick in the NFL draft needs to work on and improve areas of their game. You may also be in the exciting phase of pursuing opportunities at the next level. Camps can be an essential link to getting that opportunity. Each of the camps requires a unique approach. Below are my top five musts for growth and success in each camp setting.

Skill Development Camp

Remember, camps are times of potential rapid growth. You get sprayed with information out of a fire hose. The growth potential is realized in how much can you absorb and put into practice.

1. Chose wisely: Find a camp that prioritizes the fundamentals and skill development.

2. Open mind: The #1 barrier to growth is not being open to changing the way you do something. Come willing to try new things.

3. Ask questions: Find the coaches between or after a session and ask questions on anything you don’t understand or know you need to work on. You can manufacture a one-on-one session specific to your needs. That’s a huge value!

4. Write it all down: This takes the most discipline of any on the list. Go home at night and write every coaching point you remember from camp. Studies have shown this helps your knowledge retention exponentially.

5. It does not end at camp end: The growth of camp is lost if you don’t cement it in with practice in the coming months. Highlight 3-5 things from your list that you need to work on and practice them at least three times a week. This is THE most important element. The rapid growth is lost if you don’t cement in the motor memory.

 Recruiting Camps

It’s all about standing out. Below are the insider tips I give as a recruiter and coach.

1. Chose wisely: The best way to get noticed by a school is to attend their camp and work right with the position coach. Carefully decide which schools you want to attend. Prioritize the schools of interest that are realistic options.

2. Be prepared: Standing out on the football field and in the performance testing is the most important thing. Come to the camp razor sharp. Attend a fundamentals camp early in the year. Work the football fundamentals and skills you’ll be performing at camp. Call the school and ask the format of the camp and what they will test. Prepare and practice for the testing events.

3. Show your love for the game: Be excited to be there and eager to learn. Be the first up in line. Ask questions. Have contagious energy. Coaches love these and look for these traits. They love players who love to play the game.

4. Connect: Know who your recruiting and position coaches are. Research them. Find any personal connections to them, even if it’s a friend of a friend. Be around them as much as you can during camp. Be engaging. Find ways to stand out in a good way. Make a connection and you’re more likely to be remembered.

5. Follow up: Share with your coaches at camp a profile with a link to your film and your academic GPA and ACT/SAT test scores. Send a hand written note and follow up email to your recruiting coach, position coach and the head coach. Find titles for both that will jog their memory of you at camp. Be creative. They get hundreds and hundreds of each. Interest them in reading it.

 Camps are all what you make them.

Posted in Goals, Recruiting, Training

The Power of Food: It Will Change You!

There is an age old saying that holds an incredible nugget of truth: “You are what you eat.” Quite literally, each of the cells in your human body is built from the material that enters your mouth. Take a good look at what you put on your plate. The building blocks of your food will be the building blocks of your body.

I am staking a claim: The number one element in which young athletes miss an opportunity for differentiation amongst their peers is their diet. I experienced the power of food first hand. I’ve always worked hard in the weight room and on the field. I take pride in my work ethic. Three years into my career at the University of Wisconsin, I had worked extremely hard but I couldn’t quite get over the hump and get on the field in a significant way. I knew as a wide receiver I needed to improve my speed and quickness but had been working hard at that for the last three years. My window of opportunity to play was closing and I needed to find an edge.

I found that edge off the field in what I ate. The moment I became disciplined with my diet was the moment my body began to transform, not only visually but also in my performance. I got leaner and stronger and as a result became quicker and faster. The only thing I changed was my diet. I did nothing different in my training. You can see the transformation over one year in the below photos.

Over that year I went from being a backup to earning a starter spot and a scholarship.

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 2.27.04 PM

 There were five basic rules that I followed, not just some of the time, but all of the time. If you are serious about gaining an edge, the more disciplined you are with your eating habits the better results you will get.

 1) Protein, Protein, and more Protein

The second most abundant nutrient in your body behind water is protein. It is what your muscles are made of. When you work out, your body endures little micro-tears in your muscles. Your body craves and needs protein to fix these tears. This process of breaking down the muscles to build them back up stronger and larger is called hypertrophy (muscle growth). Protein is the main ingredient to repair your muscles and minimize your recovery or healing time. Good sources of lean protein: chicken, beef (steak, hamburger, etc), turkey, pork, fish, nuts, milk, cottage cheese, yogurt, cheese etc. (never fried or breaded)

2) No Refined Sugars (Natural sugars found in fruit and dairy products are fine)

Sugar is poison to an athlete’s body! Refined white sugar has NO nutritional value. It is simply empty calories: calories your body cannot use to recover or build muscle. In fact, it has an unbelievable amount of negative factors. It is a huge contributor to fat storage. When your body takes in sugar it signals an increase in insulin and blood sugar levels which make the body want to store other good foods that you ate as fat. This is on top of the extra amount of calories sugar puts into your body. It’s a double whammy. Bad bad stuff!

You know what sugar is in. Pretty much any dessert and soft drink or sports drink. (Have fruit for dessert and water or milk to drink.) Sugar is also in a lot of foods you wouldn’t think are that terrible. Food companies are sneaky to make their food taste good. Look on the labels of all the foods you eat. If it has high fructose corn syrup, fructose, sucrose, or anything else ending in –ose and has more than 4 grams of sugar per serving – stay away! Sugar seriously deteriorates your ability to recover, build muscle, and reduce fat.

3) Lots of fruits and vegetables!

Fruits and vegetable have an abundance of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are essential for you to function the way you are designed, maximizing recovery and performance. They do so many other great things for the body that it would take far too long to explain. There are so many varieties; find the ones you like and get as many colors and varieties in your diet as possible. Different colors and varieties have different types of nutrients. 

4) Drink Lots of Water

Almost 2/3rds of our body weight is “water weight.” Blood is 83% water. Muscles are 75% water. You need water to have every part of your body function at optimum capacity. Dehydration slows down your body’s ability to do all the functions it needs and will affect your recovery and performance.

5) Whole Grains for bread, pasta, and cereal

Most of your grain and cereal products should be made from whole grains, not from refined flours. This includes whole grain breads, whole grain pastas and whole grain breakfast cereals. Whole grains are important for vitamins, minerals, and for fiber, which is often lacking in modern diets. Read ingredient labels to look for 100% whole grain or 100% whole wheat to be sure you are getting whole grain products.

 

 

You’ll notice my list does not mention supplements. I am not anti-supplements. I took a multi-vitamin, fish oil and protein powder throughout my career. But they are called supplements and are not replacements for a reason. They are designed to supplement a full balanced diet, not replace it. Your major body and performance change will come from hard you work and the diet you choose to replenish and build your body.

 

In my opinion what an athlete eats is just as important as any workout they do! You can have a great workout in the weight room or on the field, but if you don’t eat the right nutrients you’ll just throw all that hard work down the drain. I truly believe healthy eating is the single biggest thing missing from most athletes training and is a huge opportunity to differentiate yourself!

Posted in Goals, Nutrition, Training

Role Reversal: Can being a better student translate into a better athlete?

The correlation of athletic participation driving academic success has been highly publicized. It has been proven time and time again that high school student-athletes, as a whole, are more successful in the classroom than their non-sport counterparts. For the vast majority, this is not news. You’ve heard this over and over again; athletic participation prepares you for success in life and specifically success in the classroom. So what? This is good information, but as someone who is already an athlete, there is no action step other than continuing to pursue excellence on the field.

I have rarely heard the correlation go the other direction: being a better student drives a better athlete. I truly feel there is a synergistic relationship between discipline in the classroom driving success on the field. Notice I used the word discipline rather than success in reference to academics. Success is relative to the person. Not everyone is going to pull a 4.0. Discipline relates to effort and work ethic. Working hard at your academics will naturally spill over into how you prepare yourself for competition. Only you can really know if the effort you put into your academics is pushing yourself and creating good habits that carry over into your athletics.

If you are serious about maximizing your potential on the field, strongly consider the following. Next time you get that urge to say, “Ah that’s good enough” or “I’ll do that later” with your school work, know that will begin to seep into your attitudes and actions in sport. Discipline in one area of your life carries over positively into others. Lack of discipline, conversely, has a similar effect in the wrong direction.

Note: I chose to focus on how academics relates to sports. This by no means is the only or most important benefit to academic discipline, but one that I feel is less publicized. Academic discipline is the driver of so many things.

Here are just a few other reasons to step up your game in the classroom:

  1. Academic scholarships – Treat school like your job. You are much more likely to be compensated for your academic success than your athletic achievements. Everyone seeks the athletic scholarship. They are attainable but elusive.
  2. Career after sports – Everyone plays their last play someday. The odds say it will be sooner rather than later. Are you setting yourself up for long-term success?
  3. Financial success – Another strong Higher education and success in academics directly relates to financial success.
  4. Mental Health – Academic success correlates to higher self-esteem and lower risk for depression and anxiety.
  5. Pass on your academic attitudes to your children – I know you’re not thinking about this now, but passing on an educational heritage will be very important if and when you have children of your own.
  6. Develop self-discipline – School is not always fun or easy but truly working at it will develop a quality you will not regret.

So what do you choose? Skate by in the classroom or put your nose to the grindstone and be disciplined in your academics and athletics? It may be harder. There is no easy way around it. Discipline is not easy, but it is essential if you truly want to maximize your talents on and off the field.

Posted in Academic, Goals

Sport Specialization vs. the Multi-Sport Athlete

There has been a major shift in the way athletes are being raised up. Specialization has become a new buzzword and the perceived norm. With the tantalizing sports scholarship on the line and visions of professional glory, parents and athletes are being sucked into the vortex of sport specialization. The question is: does it pay? And more specifically: does it pay for you? Is it necessary for you as an athlete to specialize in a sport in order to succeed in athletics?

While specializing in one sport has great face value, there are some very important unseen consequences you should consider. Every athlete and every situation is different, but there is mounting evidence that the vast majority of athletes would be remarkably better off being a multi-sport athlete, even all the way through high school. The below list is not meant to be a prescription for all athletes in all sports, but rather five thoughts I have found compelling on the debate of sport specialization vs. the multi-sport athlete.

Recruiting

Perhaps the largest driving factor for specialization is the dream of athletes, and their parents, for sports stardom. It’s a common sense progression, right? You concentrate on one sport, you get good, you get a scholarship, you go pro. That can seem to make sense, but as a coach and recruiter I see that this does not hold true. The vast majority of athletes we give scholarships to are multi–sport athletes. Of the 256 players selected in the 2014 NFL draft, 86.7 percent were multi-sport athletes in high school.

One of the very first things I look at when evaluating an athlete is the other sports he plays besides football. As a coach, I know there are several key characteristics that I’m likely to see in a multi-sport athlete:

  • Versatile, well-rounded athlete
  • Ability to learn new and different movements
  • Loves sport
  • Motivated
  • Likely to stick with it even if it gets tough

Versatile, well-rounded athlete

I graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in Kinesiology (the study of human movement). One of the most intriguing subjects I learned about was the development of neural pathways. With each varied movement pattern your body is exposed to, your brain learns how to effectively communicate with muscle groups to gain muscle memory and efficiency in that movement pattern.

Common sense says, “practice only the exact movements you’ll do on the field and you’ll become an expert with the movements that matter.” For a sport like football, I’ve learned this to be only partially true. Movements on a football field are infinitely varied. No two plays are alike. Yes, you need to master some specific movements, but practicing only a small scope of movements specific to your sport is limiting.

Elite players seem to have an innate sense to do the right things with their body at the right time. Great players are not just born. This ability, in large part, comes from foundational neural pathways they’ve developed over the infinite movement they’ve done, likely across multiple sports and many years. The more varied the movements you are exposed to, the more versatile and efficient your movements become.

Talents yet to be discovered and developed

At 10, 12, 14, 16 years of age, you really don’t know how your body is going to grow and develop. All the way up until my sophomore year of high school, my goals and aspirations were firmly planted in basketball. I did not start paying football until my freshman year of high school. My dreams shifted as I realized I could run and catch a football at a high level. At that point I had not spend years and years honing my wide receiver skills. I did spend my entire life playing every sport you could think of that involved a ball. This gave me the foundational movement patterns needed to excel at a sport I had barely practiced.

Injury Prevention

Focusing on one sport can create imbalance in the body. If one muscle group becomes stronger and dominant, it puts stress on the rest of the body. Body parts can also become overused, especially during the formative years of growth and development. In a study by Dr Neeru Jayanthi of Loyola University, specialized athletes were between 70-90% more likely to be injured.

Stay Fresh

Being involved in multiple sports allows your body and mind to stay fresh. I’ve seen it over and over again with sport specialization. Concentrating on one sport for so many years can become mundane and build up huge stress on your body and mind. Athletes who specialize tend to get burned out both physically and mentally, with many quitting the sport they once loved.

Again, this is not a prescription for all athletes, but rather general insights I have found to be true. Take your time and evaluate your own situation. You may feel the pull to concentrate on one sport for one reason or another. Only you can make this decision, but proceed carefully and create a plan to negate some of the factors listed above if you do decide to specialize.

You may currently be a one-sport athlete. My challenge to you is to step out of your comfort zone and try a new sport or re-engage one that you left along the way. It may be difficult but who knows what new talent or passion you will invoke or what skill you will transfer over to your other sports.

 

Posted in Recruiting, Training Tagged with: , , ,

Where Does It Go From Here? 2015 Starts Now

The excitement of the playoffs is here! The regular season has come to an end and each game becomes increasingly more important. A very simple formula rules: win or be eliminated. So whether your season ends in triumph or defeat, the playoffs bring the end of a cycle. Maybe you reached some of your hopes for Read more ›

Posted in Goals, Training

Welcome

Welcome to our Blog: It’s Trickey, Let’s Get It Wright. The staff at Trickey-Wright QBR understands the path to success in football can be very TRICKY, so we’re working to provide you with as many tools as we can to help you get it RIGHT. Our blog is designed to give you an insider’s perspective for the edge you need on and off the field. Join our newest contributor, camp alum and coach, Joel Nellis, as he taps into his sports knowledge and diverse football experiences which includes playing D-1 college football (UW Badgers), high school coaching and teaching at the elementary and high school levels.

Posted in Uncategorized