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Entries in private coaching (9)

You Make the Call: What's the Priority

One of the things I have been contemplating since the Fieldhouse days - and even in my high school/college CrossFit time - is how to balance sports training and strength and conditioning. It can vary depending on the season for sure, and it also depends on how serious the athlete in question is for their sport. For example, a general high school athlete - 3 sports, no real college aspirations but is pretty good and enjoys playing - would probably want to make CrossFit the priority, then drill stuff on the side. Same goes for a fat kid trying to make weight for football or wraastling. And I used to think for the serious athlete, it would swing the other way. But some observations I've seen over the last year make me second guess. So you make the call.

*for both scenarios, make the assumptions that 1) the Champions Club is the best place to train young athletes for their sport, 2) their sports trainer would also be the best in their business, 3) their general fitness is not as good as their sport-specific skills.

Scenario 1

Jessica is a 6th grade soccer player who has been in the travelling circuit for three years. She has posters of whoever is today's Mia Hamm on her wall, and has no problem putting in hard work to play at the highest level she possibly can. She's at that weird age where yes, she's still a middle schooler, but the clock will start ticking within the next few years where the serious players get separated from the casual ones. Jessica got introduced to the Champions Club and is ready to sign up. Only problem is she wants to do the rookie session at 5:30, and that's when she does her soccer lessons with her soccer trainer.

Assuming Jessica can only do one thing per day, how many days out of the 5-day-week should she do CrossFit and how many should she do soccer training? What kind of factors would go into your decision?

Scenario 2

Billy is a sophomore offensive lineman and, like Jessica, he wants to take football as far as possible. He's gone to some camps, talked to some coaches, and recently picked up his first D2 offer to play at Wayne State, although some coaches have told him he might have a chance to play at the D1 level. 

Billy also found out about the Champions Club and is signing up, but he has the same issue as Jessica. So how many days should he do CrossFit and how many should he do football-specific drills?

Athlete of the Spring 2018

The Champions Club uses CrossFit to make our athletes better at things outside of CrossFit. Myron is trying to get paid playing basketball. Mr. Bennis is trying to get paid doing construction. And Mrs. Bass is trying to get paid as a Physical Education teacher. Even for the people who don't have money riding on the line, CrossFit has helped Jennifer Banet win Warren Mott's girls MVP this track season, Coach Casey play pickup basketball, and Jacob and Faust pick up girls. So when looking for seasonal Athlete awards, I like to look outside the gym to see who has been doing well.

Jennifer Banet, as I already mentioned, ended her senior year at her top fitness (so far) both on the track and in the gym. She pr'd in the mile, 800, long jump, and set Champions Club girls high school records in Murph, Michael, and Helen. She's definitely peaking at the right time heading into Summer and will be a frontrunner for a banner, but from March-June I gotta give the Athlete of the Spring to the rock of the Champions Club, Katie Shakes.

...and she swings Ol' Red like it's a baby toy.You know when you're 12 or 13 and your parents are always around and you're growing but you never notice? Then you go to your grandma's house and she's like, "Oh wow, Chris, you're growing so tall?" Well, that happened last Wednesday, actually, but it shows that when you're not around someone for a long time, it's easier to notice differences. In the gym, Shakes is still Shakes; good one day, not good the next day, HOLY SHIT HOW DOES SHE LIFT THAT? the day after. And again, the most impressive thing to me is her blend of strength and endurance. Her best workout, in my opinion, was the classic "Fast and Heavy" dumbbell thruster/400m run workout, going head-to-head with Cecilia, using 35s on the dumbbells, and sharking Cec in the last 100 meters. Aside from that, it was prs on Helen (10:30) and Michael (21:35), and Murph as rx'd. She also neary beat Saporito on the deadlift/GHD sit-up workout using the same weight. When Shakes is on, and there's no upper body movements in the workout, you might as well mark yourself as a good 3 or 4 minutes behind her. So is she getting better? Is this any difference than Summer 2016? Maybe? We see her every freaking day, so common sense says probably, and the numbers say certainly.

As I mentioned above though, her workouts were only part of the story. I hope it's okay to share this on here, but Shakes was going to school to be a vet so she could be around animals and such. Unfortunately the school program she was in proved to be a little too difficult and she did not make the cut, despite studying her butt off. When this happened (2016? correct me if I'm wrong) she told me that although disappointed, she could use this time to coach more - boys swimming, girls swimming, and softball.

During this past winter, Shakes and I had a great conversation where she ripped apart everything I need to do better here at the gym, and I ripped apart everything she needed to be doing better if she wanted to get serious about coaching. To her credit, she stepped up bigtime. Shakes's workout resume' from December till now: pretty similar. Shakes coaching resume' from December till now: wow!

Katie made the difficult choice to leave her alma mater at Warren Mott and take the head JV softball coaching spot around the corner at Bishop Foley. In conjunction with that, she was also the assistant coach for GA's 6-8th grade varsity softball team, led them on weekend pitching lessons, and helped bring them in to the Champions Club's middle school session. The GA connection actually led to some interest from St. Anne's and a few other schools who reached out to Shakes for her services. And on top of that, she has around a dozen private softball clients that come to her on the side from all around the area! She stepped outside of her comfort zone multiple times with regards to charging what she's worth, saying no, and other things that help her build a great reputation as a coach. This is just the beginning of what I think will be a very successful coaching career for Katie Braschayko.

Aside from Jennifer, Erica and Mr. Auggie had really good starts to the spring and here in high consideration for Athlete of the Spring. Jennifer was about as close as 2nd place can get. Overall, the gym has picked up really well, though. We had 18(!) new kids go through Fundamentals since March and at least 13 of them joining in for the Summer. Add the babies and middle school kids to the mix and the return of our college kids and, on paper, we're set to have a great Summer.

Lets keep up the momentum kids!

Behind the Champion: My Sister, Sarah

Sarah is my sister, two years younger, and has by far the best musical ability in my family. She can play instruments, sings a little bit, and just has a great knowledge of both classical and modern music. The most impressive thing, to me, at least, is she managed to do all of her work without taking a single lesson. She just listens to a song and somehow repeats that on whatever she is strumming away at. It's really awesome to watch and listen to.

One of the things I've been obsessing over recently is people's practice habits. Whether it's the kids I coach at The Family, or the track kids, or the private basketball kids, and even you guys at the Champions Club, I have noticed a majority of the people I come into contact with have - let's be honest - horrible practice habits. That's to say when they're under the supervision of a coach or teacher, they are good as can be, but once they step outside that frame, they (or you) don't know how to translate that into personal practice. Whether that's shooting around in an empty gym, or practicing soccer foot skills, or eating a meal balanced with protein, carbohydrate, and fat. If someone needs a coach around them any time they need to make improvements in a given area, they would go broke! So my focus has been to help people become better practicers, if that makes sense.

I have seen, first-hand, that Sarah has outstanding practice habits when it comes to instruments. And when I found out that she just bought a violin and decided to learn how to play, I wanted to feature her in this series to find out about her process of learning on the fly without formal coaching. Here we go...


Let's say you had a burning desire to learn Timber (aka, the non-debatable greatest Ke$ha song) on piano. How would you start?

With the melody ("it's going down...") and build from there. Although, I can't say I do have a burning desire to learn this song, so that usually is the spark that lights the fire so-to-speak.

How many times do you play the "it's going down" part before moving on to "I'm yelling TIMBER"? Do you just flow with it once the melody sounds right?

I usually get the melody right on the first try now bc I'm so familiar with the piano keys after playing for years. After I play the melody a couple times and get grounded with it, I find chords that match the melody. Then, I usually break up the chords in an interesting way, like David Sides from YouTube that you showed me years ago, he's actually inspired my style ever since I discovered him. Then I play it over and over till I've memorized it!

Have you ever taken piano lessons?

I have not. I also cannot read sheet music. I have not taken lessons because I think they would slow me down honestly. I like the creative part of playing music, and learning songs the way I do has always come naturally to me. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I figure out a song by myself.

What has not taking lessons done to your ability? Good or bad.

Not taking lessons has forced me to improve my ear, but also limited the types of songs I can learn. There are certain songs you have to play with proper finger placement (i.e. If there are a lot of notes in fast succession) and I lack the knowledge there.

If someone who never touched a piano asked you to give them lessons, how would you go about doing it?

I'd ask them to pick their favorite song because you have to play what you like. Then teach them the melody to see how quickly they pick that up, and add on elements from there.

How would you compare the practice time of learning an instrument on your own to the practice time of like soccer, or something at work, or whatever else that you've been taught through formal progressions.

I'd say only difference from self-teaching vs. formal training is that it doesn't feel like an obligation. I've never said "I'm going to go practice piano", it's always felt like "ok, time to relax and play some music".

If you could only play one song on the piano for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Arabesque No. 1 by Debussy. It sounds pretty and warms up my fingers! "Arabesque" actually means flowing lines so that's how that song sounds to me, soft and soothing. It warms up my fingers because you have to play cascading notes on like 3 octaves (sets of 8 keys). The movement of your hands and the sound of the song are almost therapeutic.

What do you like about playing classical music on a piano and what do you like about playing popular music on piano?

 I like the structure and complexity of classical, it's like figuring out a puzzle. I like the relatability and soul of popular, it can be more fun. I would compare classical music to dinner and popular music to dessert.

What's one under-the-radar song from both categories that we should learn to appreciate (in terms of the piano performance)?

Popular music: "Postcards from Far Away" by Coldplay (not sure if that's considered pop music). Classical: Tchaikovsky's "June" from The Seasons. They are both kind of songs that are part of popular albums or suites but don't get much attention. Postcards from far away is hidden between two songs on Coldplay's Viva la Vida album. I already think Chris Martin is a genius, but this song really shows how classically trained he is. There are no lyrics, but it's so beautiful and instructional into how his mind probably sounds. And "June" is from Tchaikovsky's "The Seasons", which usually get confused with/ eclipsed by Vivaldi's violin suite "the seasons" (you'd recognize it if you heard it). But he has one song for each month that is so specific and expressive. June is my favorite bc it's not super obvious and bright, but sounds like a summer morning.

What do you see when you look at a piano?

It's more like, when I hear a song, I see the piano keys. But in reverse, I suppose I usually see Grandma Sue when I look at pianos.

What do you see when you look at a violin?

Lots of invisible frets! (Frets are the metal things on the neck of a guitar) apparently you are supposed to just innately know where they are on a violin. I also associate violin with history and culture.

What principles can you pull from the other instruments you've learned to help you in the violin? What's something that's brand new and unique to the violin?

Violin is a fretted instrument, so the principles of guitar sort of carry over. For example, the further up the neck (I think it's called a neck) of the violin you place your fingers, the higher the note will sound. Something brand new is getting used to holding the bow (stick thing) at a certain angle, or using a bow at all really. One major commonality though, is that I absolutely have to be passionate about the song I'm learning or else I won't want to play. So you won't see me learning "Mary had a Little Lamb" or the "Happy Birthday" song no matter how beginner I am :)

What made you decide to take on the violin? Has anything surprised you so far?

Just decided on a whim to buy a violin when I saw a used one for $60 (violins are usually upwards of $1,000). The price of new violins did surprise me, and also the skill and attention you need to pay to the angle and pressure you apply to the bow.

What was the first song you wanted to play on violin? What is the current song you're trying? What is the next song?

First song I wanted to learn was "Ashoken Farewell" from the Ken Burns Civil War series on PBS. Current song is "Oh Danny Boy" (Irish folk song). Next song I want to learn is "Bittersweet Symphony" by the Verve.

What other instruments have you taught yourself?

I've also taught myself guitar and ukulele

New Kid on the Block: James Simasko

Round 2 of the private basketball coaching kids comes through, in this case it's Country Day freshman James Simasko.

James is a tall drink of water, as Red would put it, and signed up for basketball sessions in November hoping to improve his game. After booking a 10-session package, we spread out the sessions through the past few months. Over the course of that time I noticed he was lacking fitness (strength, conditioning, coordination) more than actual basketball skill. So I started to slip in some CrossFit segments into his basketball sessions, hoping I would be able to convince his parents to get him on board in the spring.

It took all of 2 minutes for James and crew to flip the switch and join the Champions Club. Technically his first day of Fundamentals was yesterday, but we started on Day 4's stuff with rings and kipping because we covered Day 1-3 over the course of the basketball sessions. I'll check back in after Day 7.

New Kid on the Block: Coach Casey

Casey Colussi started booking private basketball sessions for his son, Dylan, back in November if I recall correctly. Casey used to coach in high school (he actually was part of a State Championship staff at Avondale) and now volunteers to coach Dylan's travel team. For all the crap I write about private lessons and parents getting lost in the mix of things, Coach Casey "gets it," which is a huge relief for me. Soon after the basketball sessions began, both Dylan and his little sister, Mallory, were working out with our Babies session on weekends.

Dylan still comes in for basketball sessions about every other week or so with his dad taking him to every session, and recently I talked Coach Casey into trying out a group session. He finally agreed to come in last Friday in the morning and was not shy about writing his experience on the whiteboard:

Usually people who find themselves on the verge of throwing up do not come back to join, but Coach Casey is using that as motivation to get his health back on track. I can imagine it's difficult as a parent to keep in shape when all of the priorities immediately shift to the tiny living things running around your house. But Coach is on board now andis two sessions into Fundamentals. So far his jumping looks good and his hollow body position is almost perfect like all the rest of the dads in here. The conditioning is the limiting factor at the moment, along with shoulder mobility and strength, and still he has been nothing but a pleasure to coach so far. As usual we'll keep working on it and catch up with you guys after Day 7.

Quote of the Week vol. 234

"He's not a basketball player"

- me, earlier this week, to a basketball player's dad

I had my first parental... not complaint, but maybe disagreement in a very long time earlier this week when I told this to one of the dads of a kid I coach through private lessons. Coaches I know say this all the time. For instance, I played football for three years in high school, but I wasn't a "football player." Instead of taking it like that, the dad took it meaning his kid should stop playing basketball and go play a new sport. I explained that I meant his kid doesn't really take basketball as serious as a "basketball player" would. I told him his kid is pretty good at basketball, will most likely going to reach his goal (high school varsity) and doesn't need private lessons to do that; in fact, private lessons might burn him out and make him dislike the game, seeing as the things most 6th graders like him need to work on are very broing, indeed. Still not sure if the message went through, but we had a good session the other night.

Have you ever said something that seems normal to you but foreign to someone else? 

New Kids on the Block: Andrew and Charlie

This is the first of what I hope is a long string of Champions Club members to come from my private basketball coaching. Andrew Baumert's mother contacted me over the Summer about setting up private basketball lessons, but they never came to fruition. However I reached back out to her in October and luckily their schedule finally cleared up. So we did a few good one-on-one sessions but Andrew didn't make his 7th grade school team. Fortunately, both him and his mom aren't pouting and whining, but rather taking the opportunity to work harder.

Andrew signed up for Fundamentals last week and even brought his brother, Charlie, in with him. Charlie is a freshman at Romeo High School and plays lacrosse. They are both two days into Fundamentals.

So far, it would appear that their general movement strength is the glaring weak spot, while their coordination is not - as is apparent with their technique on push-ups, hollow rocks, and kb swing timing, and with how well jump ropes improved during their workout on Day 2. They also seem like fun kids to coach, and with really supportive parents (not the I'll Do Everything For You parents but the You'll Be Fine Kiddo parents) I think we could have a good combo to add to our group assuming they can make the drive work. But for now, I'll check back in after Day 7.