By Madisen Carter
Practicing your specific sport may seem like the best way to keep your body in shape and healthy, but an important factor that some athletes tend to skip over is taking the time to strengthen and condition their bodies. Strength and conditioning is extremely important and beneficial for young athletes because it helps prevent injuries, prevent muscle imbalances, increases mobility, enhances coordination, and more.
Saint Mary’s College High School Athletic Director, Omar Sanchez, had the position of being the director of strength and conditioning at the collegiate level for 20 years. At Holy Names University, he designed periodization programs for ten different intercollegiate teams.
“When I think about sports performance, I look at it from a perspective of movement. How can we make you or how can we help you be a better mover, and really, there's no cookie cutter to this in my eyes, because everyone has different deficiencies,” Sanchez said. “There are some general practices [such as] ankle mobility, hip mobility, core stability, that kind of help the athlete, like the foundational piece to what they're going to do. Then depending on the sport that they play, then you can really start getting into more things that are geared to help them move better in their sport.”
Sanchez has always looked at the seven movement patterns, and said those have been vital to helping athletes get to a better place of movement. The seven movement patterns include hinge, knee bend, pull, push, core, plyometric, and carry. Sanchez stated that the body is resilient and it will adapt to deficiencies and that is when athletes can get into trouble with movement. It is important to isolate the movements to allow athletes to see where those deficiencies are.
“If we're talking about Hoopers, there are [movements that] I call prehab movements, things that are going to help you stay out of rehab,” Sanchez said. “The ankles and the hips are so vital to them, right? So just simple things [such as] ankle rockers or mini band work so that it helps the hips strengthen and allows the gluteus medius to do what it's supposed to, [and] stretching the hip.”
One of the easiest things an athlete can do on their own time that can help strengthen and condition their bodies are planking. Athletes can work on their front plank, side plant, push up plank or shoulder taps. Planks are beneficial because they can strengthen the spine and abdominal muscles. Sanchez gave another easy at home tip that only requires a deck of cards. He said that when he used to travel for basketball, he would pick a program with 15 exercises, and use the cards to determine how many reps he would do with each exercise. Aces would be 15 reps, Kings, Queens and Jacks would be 10 reps, and the number on the cards would be the number of reps he did.
As a certified nutritionist, Sanchez stresses that another area athletes can work off the court is focusing on what they are putting in their bodies. It is important for athletes to have a healthy diet as it can improve athletic performance and give a great amount of energy.
“For me, [when I was a coach] some of the things that we prepared our athletes to do were to really be cautious of what they're putting into their body. As a pre[-game] thing, making sure they're hydrated, understanding the limit required to put in their body so anything under 500 calories within a two hour timeframe,” Sanchez said. “Literally your body [and] your metabolic rate is so high at that time, that you don't have to worry about feeling sluggish…. From a non-training standpoint, [that is an] area of focus for me that is so important as a coach.”
A common mistake that Sanchez sees in young athletes is that they tend to focus on the big picture and he says that they are “living in their microscope.” Sanchez suggests that athletes make a plan and pay attention to the small details to reach their goals.
Sanchez went over a story in a book where a rocksmith pounds a stone 100 times and on the 101st pound the stone breaks. The rocksmith knows that the 101st hit was not the one to break the stone, but the 100 hits before that. That is the mentality that Sanchez goes by when he wants to achieve a goal.
“Well just like with anything, I always say a failure to plan is a plan to fail,” Sanchez said. “So it's that concept for me every day. No matter how I feel, no matter what, I stick to the plan. I figure out what I need to do, and I execute [it with] that pound of stone mentality,” Sanchez said. “I think the biggest mistake people make is they deviate from that and they live too much in lala land about what they want, which is pretty cool, but that's not how you attain it.”
Sanchez said there is more than just basketball that can make one a better basketball player. There are different tiers that can help athletes not only physically, but mentally, nutritionally and spiritually.
“I would say, don't live in the big telescope and big picture stuff. Really create a plan for yourself and believe in that plan everyday. Pound the stone and believe that that's going to get you to where you need to, that would be my biggest advice,” Sanchez said.
Smith has been with UPB for a few weeks now and is helping with group training and private training. He said he has enjoyed seeing the variety of different athletes that come into the gym from division I college basketball players all the way down to three year olds. He said group training has been his favorite part so far, being able to interact with a lot of different athletes and helping them improve throughout the sessions.