Two roads diverge in a wood, and I,
I took the path less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost’s poem, ‘The Road Not Taken.’, was probably ruined for you in school. I know it was for me. I vividly remember talking in class about some idea where I’d drive a vehicle across country between the two roads whereby essentially being able to ‘take’ both if I wanted. And there wasn’t anything a stupid poem could do about it. I dare say some kid somewhere now has suggested in class that Google Maps had surely already been down both roads in that yellow wood and we’d be able to make the best choice well ahead of time.
We’ll seek comments from English teachers on that.
I have lamented before on the false argument going on about how kids shouldn’t specialize in sports. They are encouraged to participate endlessly in a cycle of yearly sport, but never over-come fundamental flaws in their general preparation; the very thing that the variety of sports is supposed to solve. My retort being that endless participation with no attention to detail is foolhardy and creates unprepared athletes. It is also prejudiced against kids, assuming that they are unable or repulsed by structured training, and that a training structure of efficiency is synonymous with humorless robotic East German cyborgs.
In the last two weekends, an experiment has been realized of two athletes preparing for both weightlifting and gridiron simultaneously. This is not something that you would choose to do. The sports are in competition with each other as the physiological adaptations are quite discrepant. One is an expression of maximal strength and power coupled with the fine detail of barbell mechanics and mobility. The other is a team sport/invasion game of specialized player skill components, and is characterized as being alactic/aerobic in its taxation of the energy system demands.
It was a largely a mark in change of the calendar that brought the possibly of two Shire Speed and Strength athletes being able to prepare for the AWF Weightlifting Nationals as well as the start of their Gridiron season, just a week apart.
Both Jackson Young and Haoping ‘Ping’ Tang played Gridiron in 2014; a change in the timing of their season from the usual February-June to September-December however meant there was an extended off season. Being that they were already proficient in barbell lifting and using it as general preparation for Gridiron, it was only natural to enter a competition and give birth to the Shire Speed and Strength weightlifting team.
Internationally, weightlifting is a storied and well-developed Olympic sport. ‘Olympic Weightlifting’, by its very name, is drawn into greater prominence around the world during the quadrennial Games and its usually the case in Australia that only during the Games people really give it attention; the sport not being nearly as popular in Australia as it is in other countries.
With a last weekend in August date for AWF Nationals, and a first weekend in September start to the Gridiron season, training sessions would over-lap. Gridiron practice began June 26th and we had to program lifting sessions as well as on-field practices that included tackling, running, blocking and being tackled: a growing amount of physical contact that is difficult to quantify.
All football codes at the highest levels for some time, have seen the advent of GPS tracking to totalize the distance covered and speeds reached during a practice and game. This data is used to manage and manipulate the training load.
It is difficult however to properly measure the effects of contact on the body. Falling to the ground and/or being hit by opponents ‘could’ be measured, however the g-forces effecting a sensor attached to the body may not properly assess the state of the effects of the impact on the constituent parts of the body and all its systems.
Attempts to measure the effects of training on the body are also popular. Testing the state of the autonomic system and whether the body is in a more sympathetic or parasympathetic dominant state is a telemetry concept that is meant to lead to decision making on the readiness of the athlete to train at that time.
The issue with that, is that it is highly influential; every persons knows what I’m talking about when I say that we’ve all had those experiences when we’re sluggish, beat up and unmotivated only to have the equivalent of realizing that someone just stole your wallet then the adrenaline kicks in, we become hyper-aware and hyper-motivated.
Each athlete had a slightly different template.
Jackson, living closer to the gym had morning sessions included.
AM session, Backsquat and Snatch Balance
PM session, Power Snatch Heavy, Clean and Jerk complex, Snatch Medium
AM session, Clean Pull and trunk work.
PM session, Snatch Heavy + accessory work.
PM session, football practice.
AM session: Front Squat
PM session: Football practice
Snatch balance, Heavy Clean and jerk, Medium Snatch.
Conditioning work PM session.
Haoping had a slightly different template. Finishing work earlier, he would start early in the PM time slot and have longer training sessions. He also had a sprained knee 5 weeks out from Nationals from a football practice session and could only work on Pulls from the floor and presses for 2 weeks. He was unable to squat, Snatch or Clean and Jerk during this period.
As the running was greatly added to his training,
Snatch, Front Squat, Clean Pull.
Clean and Jerk, Snatch balance, BTN Push Press in Snatch grip, Trunk work
AM Session Clean and Jerk, Power Snatch, Clean Pull
PM Session Additional football practice
The results were extremely pleasing. Jackson and Haoping were 1st and 2nd respectively in the Junior National 105kg class at the Australian Weightlifting Federation National Championships in Melbourne last weekend. Jackson PR’d both lifts and his 3rd attempt Clean and Jerk was enough to claim a record that had stood for 16 years! Haoping took out 2nd despite weighing in 10kg less in bodyweight.
Six days later and both boys turned out for the Sutherland Seahawks Colts team and contributed to the team’s 40-0 victory over the West Sydney Pirates.
From here, training changes again. Each athlete will now switch to maintenance training with their barbell lifting whilst more conditioning and recovery work is added for football. Football is now the main focus. Bye weeks will include slightly more volume in the weight room but importantly they will be kept fresh for game days.
You wouldn’t choose to do something like this from the outset. These sporting tasks are not very complimentary in terms of preparation or performance; but in this case, you only live once, these guys stumbled across a rare opportunity and set about the difficult task nonetheless.
Its interesting to note that when your general preparation for one sport is the specificity for another, and you are efficient with it, you can actually transition between the two; and that, that has made all the difference.