Boys to Men

Boys To Men

respect fa imageIn the changing rooms on Thursday I said I would post something on my blog regarding my role as coach-teacher on the subject of learning how to be a man. There are some notes taken from Joe Ehrmann’s book ‘InsideOut Coaching’.

Here is one of my roles as coach-teacher:

  • Model and teach respect toward the opposite sex and the value of self-respect and respectful relationships

halloween 2012Self Respect And Respectful Relationships

I would like to make people aware of the frightening statistics regarding relationships. These are from Liz Claiborne, Inc’s ‘Love is not abuse program:

1. 50% of teenagers in a serious relationship have compromised personal beliefs to please a partner

2. 45% of teen girls know someone who has been pressured or forced into having intercourse or oral sex

3. 33% of teens experience some kind of abuse in their romantic relationships including verbal and emotional abuse

4. 27% of teenagers have been in a dating relationship in which a partner has engaged in name calling and disrespect

5. 20% of teenagers report having been hit, slapped or pushed by a partner

6. 20% of teenage girls are physically or sexually hurt by a dating partner

Add in the growing epidemic of dating abuse via technology, sexting and social media and the statistics are even more frightening.


Through the football we play at Collingham Football Club we need to learn to respect ourselves and others. That includes our teammates and our opposiCRFCtion.


Sport can be a powerful way in which to learn respect. This can have a direct impact on our relationships.


I will leave you with this quote from Joe Ehrmann:

“A team is defined by the quality of its relationships and the commitment to its cause. Every team has a common purpose, performance goals and objectives. In addition, every team has a mutually accountable work ethic and is built on the trust, respect and integrity of every team member” 


My Top 10 Tips To Improve Your Sport Performance

My Top 10 Tips To Improve Your Sport Performance

I have put a spin on the title of each tip to keep you interested. This is not your average top 10. You might expect eat cabbage as it is the best food or do 5 metre sprints as this has shown to produce the most improvement in speed. NO. This is not what this post is about.

Here are my top 10 tips below. They are in no particular order.

1. A-Tish-U regularly

This has got nothing to do with sneezing or getting a cold. Caught you out with that one eh! Do tissue work regularly. Do Self Myofascial Release using a foam roller, golf ball, med ball, tennis ball, pvc pipe, rumble roller. It is hard to give a recommendation as to how often. Doing this every day would be a good start. Use a good deep tissue therapist on a regular basis.

2. Don’t be a sheep 

I like to see leaders on the field, in practice and when you are socialising. Speak up if you have a point, don’t be afraid. Everyone can lead and don’t do what someone else does just because they were doing it. Ask ‘Why?’. This does not mean to ignore another leader. Don’t be awkward by doing the opposite. There is a right and wrong time to question someone’s leadership. Speak to someone in a position of authority first.

3. Be a sponge

Listen to your Manager, coaches, physiotherapists, experienced professionals. Absorb and take it on-board. Applying yourself will help you get further in your career.


Keep It Simple Stupid. How many times have we heard and/or used this acronym. How true it is. The good players do the simple things well.

5. Read

In my profession not many people actually read. This might sound daft. They can read but don’t bother. Read whatever interests you.

6. Practice Purposefully

Practice regularly, practice consistently, it should be hard work, it might not always be fun and it can be easily repeated.

7. Feedback

Having a mentor or having somebody with experience to provide you with feedback about your performance, practices and efforts will help guide you to improvement. This can be tough and your mindset is crucial

8. Mistakes

Make mistakes. We should try and learn from our mistakes. You may make the same mistake twice, three times. The point is to eradicate the mistake piece by piece.

9. Mindset

Develop a growth mindset. A growth mindset will help you achieve a greater outlook, inspire others, help in your personal relationships and help to bring up your children.

10. Moderation 

If you do too much of one thing it can become a bad thing. This may decrease your performance and maybe increase your risk of injury. My advice is all things in moderation: Strength & Conditioning, practice, rest & recover, meditate, have fun, drink, eat bad things. Whatever you do, do in moderation.

The Answers

My top 10 tips are based on my experiences. They are definitely not all of them.

Let me know what your top tips might be.

Lucky or Unlucky – Which One Are You?


Luck is something we either get or receive. Being unlucky is something that happens or doesn’t happen. In a sports setting who tends to get lucky and who gets unlucky?

Gary Player, famous golfer, once said “The harder I try the luckier I get”. This is a statement jesting the concept that luck has either got nothing to do with it or luck can be influenced.


Manchester United Football Club are lucky?

When we watch a football match do we often see a team get “lucky” with a goal to win or draw a match when perhaps to the football fan they didn’t deserve it. For those that follow the English Premier Football League know that Manchester United have dominated the premiership over the past 20 years. How many times have they won a match when not performing that well. Who can be that lucky for that long?

Its the deep, deliberate or purposeful practice concept that springs to my mind. Gary player agrees. Here is another example. When Eric Cantona made his debut for Manchester United in 1992 he brought a different concept to training. He continued to practise after the others went. This philosophy had an effect on the other players at the club. They stayed and purposefully practised. Let’s get this straight, Eric Cantona was not the catalyst for Manchester United’s success. It is Sir Alex Ferguson’s. The point I am making is the correlation of purposeful practise and luck. There is another point to my post. Feedback.

Collingham Football Club

When coaching and playing for Collingham Reserves Football Club, I have been trying to make a point of not saying unlucky when a player misses the target. This phrase is used a lot. Look at the situation this way. A player shoots and puts the ball over the bar. Someone says unlucky. Is that a question of luck when giving feedback. It doesn’t matter whether coaching children, adolescents or adults the message we convey by saying unlucky is that shooting is a question of luck. Is that how we should advocate success?

LogoAgree with me or not but I believe it is down to a growth mindset and quality coaching not luck. Feedback might be “Well done for getting into that position. However, you must hit the target”. This player will strive to hit the target. The next time he hits the target and the keeper has to make a save. The ball could go anywhere afterwards. A deflection, a ricochet or out for a corner. The feedback initially might be “Great effort. Let’s work on making the Goal keeper work hard to make a save by perhaps shooting towards the far post”. This will give the player confidence and the understanding that hard work and effort will lead to success.

The Answers

Some might think this topic or my point is just semantics. I feel it is not a question of being lucky or unlucky. The message here is practice purposefully and develop a growth mindset by providing the right feedback.

Welcome To The Guaranteed Road To Superstardom

Welcome To The Guaranteed Road To Superstardom

How do we become talented? Some people Talent booksmight say we need to show a natural talent for the activity, encouraging parents, lots of practising or luck. These are the kind of comments I have heard and used myself in the past until I read quite a few books on the subject of Talent. Talent is perhaps a word that should seldom be used when labelling or describing young athletes. To become a Talent involves something that we can all do and does not require being a natural or a talent. It is called practice.

Having read these books I discovered the 10,000 hour theory. I knew then how important my role was to help others become a professional sports person and how much I could have an impact on our next generation of athletes.

I want to discuss the 10,000 hour theory and late specialisation specific to team sports that will propel you to superstardom. I will explain how deep practice relates to Strength & Conditioning and its fundamental role in developing athletes.

10,000 Hour Theory

Theorists believe that it takes 10,000 hours of deep, deliberate or purposeful practise to become an expert. In real terms that many hours would equate to 4 hours of practice 5 days a week for 10 years. A challenging route for many aspiring athletes. Before you send your child or footballers off to regular daily practices, children at the age of 6 years would practice for less hours in comparison to a 14 year old. Let’s go into a bit of detail about deep practice.

deep practice picDeep practise, researched by Anders Ericsson and colleagues, is quite specific. Deep practise is characterised by several elements:

1. Deep practice is an activity designed specifically to improve performance
2. Often with a teachers help
3. It can be repeated a lot
4. Feedback on results is continuously available
5. It is highly demanding mentally, physically or both
6. It isn’t much fun

This is true, not all exercise is fun. Let’s move on before you chastise me!

According to a panel of experts on youth training, exercises such as hopping, throwing, jumping, catching, sprinting are key areas for athletic development and are considered deep or purposeful practice.

Late specialisation vs. Early specialisation

There are possible problems associated with starting children at a young age solely in one sport – Early Specialisation. Early specialisation in a team sport might lead to injury and dropping out of the sport.

Too many athletes, coaches and parents have taken the 10,000 hour theory and ran with it. I read a blog by Mike Boyle (a very well respected Strength & Conditioning Coach. Follow him at and he wrote that young athletes should develop overall athleticism by playing a variety of sports and perhaps athletes should specialise in their teens – Late Specialisation. Participating In different sports throughout the year motivates athletes and reduces their chances of developing injuries by playing the same sport performing the same movements all year round.

Early Specialisation In Individual and Team Sports

In my experience as a Strength & Conditioning

Open your eyes...

Open your eyes…

Coach I hear with regularity that athletes needed to commit to 16 hours per week. I was curious to why this figure was being employed? Finding this information on the 10,000 hours theory made sense as to why children were being encouraged to commit that many hours per week. Mark Cavendish spoke about this hourly commitment in his book ‘Boy Racer’ whilst he was a junior training with the national squad. I have worked with several national junior swimmers and tennis players who also spoke of similar hours. Here comes the bad news – they had many dysfunctions.

I also experienced a specific mentality whilst working with professional football players, they believed to get better they needed to practice more. They had many dysfunctions. This is the same with runners. They believe to get faster you need to run more. Runners also had many dysfunctions. Within the wide range of sports people I have trained, dysfunctions are common.

Do you know what happens to the majority of athletes who practice without participating in a Strength & Conditioning programme? Fatigue, overtraining, a decrease in performance and more often than not injury occurs.

“Performance enhancement is always second to injury reduction” Mike Boyle (2010).

What I did with these athletes was to reduce their hours training in their sport and use that time to do Strength & Conditioning. We can never tell how quickly an improvement in performance may happen but the important point here is that a structured and comprehensive Strength & Conditioning programme should form an essential part of an athletes training regime whether they participate in a team or individual sport.

The Answers

If we provide Strength & Conditioning to individual and team sports starting at a young age and at grass roots level we could perhaps see an increase in athletes and prolong athletic careers.

Strength & Conditioning is deep practice. Deep practice is the road to superstardom.

My post does not go into depth about the 10,000 hour theory. There are many factors for an athlete to be a success. I would advise you read a few of the books I have listed preferably one of the first three books.




1. Bounce by Mathew Syed
2. Talent Code by Daniel Coyle
3. Talent Is Overrated by Geoff Colvin
4. The Millionaire Mind by Thomas J. Stanley
5. Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? by Louis V. Gerstner, Jr.
6. Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential by Carol Dweck
7. What Makes An Olympic Champion? Gold Rush by Michael Johnson
8. Jonny My Autobiography by Jonny Wilkinson
9. Size Doesn’t Matter by Neil Back
10. Red by Gary Neville
11. Gerrard My Autobiography by Steven Gerrard
12. Advances In Functional Training by Mike Boyle

Children should not be Strength Training, or should they?

Willows Strength & Conditioning

Children should not do strength training, or should they?


I want to discuss the myths and benefits of Strength & Conditioning for children. In my experience I often hear that strength training is not appropriate for children. I have frequently heard that strength training can make children bulky and slow, it stunts their growth and lifting weights can damage growth plates. What if I said that these statements were false? Lets put it another way. Why would a Strength & Conditioning Coach give a child or athlete exercises that make them slow at running, too big to run, make them short and stop them growing! Because all athletes are far too tall these days? Really?? Many studies, including research from the UKSCA (United Kingdom Strength Conditioning Association), promote strength training as a key element to a child’s physical development.

Over the past 15 years or so sport science has made some huge developments in the way we train people. Hundreds and hundreds of studies have provided essential data along side years and years of quality coaching experience. Strength & Conditioning now plays a huge role in professional sport and has become a key area for the development of the youth athlete.

What is Strength & Conditioning (S&C)?

Strength & Conditioning is not bodybuilding, it is not strongman training and it is not a circuit of tyre flips, bench pressing and deadlifts. S&C is a cutting edge and specialist method of training. Strength & Conditioning should develop all aspects of an athlete. These should include exercises that improve mobility, stability, plyometrics, speed, power, strength and fitness. For example exercises such as foam rolling, static stretching, pre-activation, dynamic warm up, running mechanics, hopping, jumping, throwing, sprinting, derivatives of the Olympic lifts, strength exercises and fitness drills.

Strength & Conditioning for Youth Football

Strength & Conditioning should aim to do 3 things:

  1. Reduce the risk of injury whilst training
  2. Reduce the risk of injury whilst performing
  3. Increase sports performance

In some of our children’s football, rugby and athletic clubs outdated exercises are still being used. Have you seen your son/daughter doing sit-ups or crunches? These exercises are almost archaic and can actually lead to discogenic problems. In other words, repeated bending of the spine increases risk of disc herniation. These type of exercises may damage your child. I have personally seen outdated programmes given to many athletes. I find this extremely disconcerting.

Football players get many injuries whilst playing in a match. I’m not talking about a bruise i.e. an acute injury but a chronic injury e.g. knee pain, hip pain or low back pain. I have been involved in training grass roots to professional footballers and applying S&C methods is an effective method of reducing these common injuries. Whilst at Lincoln City we went through a rigorous pre-season with no chronic injuries. This is practically unheard of.

You might ask should my child be strength training? Everyone needs to earn the right to do strength training by possessing adequate movement. I advocate and stress that a child, or anyone for that matter, should be able to competently perform a movement and be stable before they should make it harder by adding a load or weight.

Children and adolescents develop at different ages. Studies have shown that specific stages of a youth’s development dictate what Strength & Conditioning should focus on. For example between the ages of 6-8 for a girl and 7-9 for a boy, children should develop multi directional movement and speed. Lifting weights is perhaps not fundamental for their development at this stage.

Strength & Conditioning is the foundation for everyone and all sports

Strength & Conditioning is a fun and effective way of getting your child to do exercise. I believe all children and adolescents whether they play football, rugby or not should be exercising. The huge popularity of the London 2012 Olympics has shown that different sports may require taller or heavier athletes. Our children can have certain characteristics for certain sports. Strength & Conditioning provides the foundations to increase the potential for a healthier life and maybe becoming our next gold medalist!

Those athletes that possess strength show other qualities. Let me explain. To be fast you have to be strong. The fastest athletes are the strongest. To have power you must have strength and speed. Improving your strength will also increase your fitness. You will be able to push harder on every stride, turn and accelerate quicker and this extra strength means you can work at a higher intensity.

Mindset: Support Positive Change

I have been using these Strength & Conditioning methods with a wide range of people, not just athletes. I have found that it has made huge improvements to people’s lives. My focus is to apply these methods to our children, the next generation of athletes.

Strength & Conditioning at Collingham F.C.

I am a father of four children and live in Collingham. I play football for the Men’s team and I too have concerns for my children and want the best for them.

I want to help promote Strength & Conditioning as an innovative method of exercise that helps combat many issues mentioned above. I am delighted and proud that Collingham FC offers Strength & Conditioning at their club. At present I do a session available to anyone from the age of 14 years to men’s. I feel that this club has great potential and has given me the opportunity by offering you Strength & Conditioning.

If you would like to ask me any questions regarding this article please contact me on 07720 572 533 or email:

Ian Willows

Strength & Conditioning Coach