Individual Sports vs. Team Sports: Our View From Here

Team sports and individual sports both achieve athletic development and good character. However, the principles that dictate success relative to each are different. Individual sports foster mental toughness and personal mastery. Team sports teach kids cooperation and “teamwork”, for lack of a better term. Both are valuable for kids to participate in, but I’d like to take a minute to talk about some of the differences.

It seems in our culture we focus popularly on team sports, while still placing emphasis on that “star” player. Although this will probably guarantee a scholarship, it won’t help on the field unless the team works together. Team sports teach kids how to cooperate with their peers and work together for a common goal, which they then get to celebrate. They learn hard lessons about sportsmanship and etiquette. Hopefully, they begin to understand the importance of knowing when to lead and knowing when to follow. I know personally growing up playing team sports and particularly as team captain throughout high school taught me that to lead was also to follow. You cannot successfully do one without the other. With team sports also comes the shared responsibility of not letting your teammates down. There comes a time when each player needs to be willing to put it all on the line for each other, where every team member needs to commit or it just won’t work. There is nothing quite like sharing such a victory with your teammates. On the other hand, when it doesn’t come together, it is time to learn that blaming others is not the answer.


Team sports dilute the effects of strongest players and diminish the effects of the worst players. No such luxury exists in an individual sport like weightlifting. In individual sport, you are your own competition. That is obviously not to say competing against other athletes isn’t still the realization of training. It means that every time an athlete walks into the gym to train, they are there to try and do better than whatever their best was the day before. It requires an immense amount of focus, drive, passion, and discipline. There is nothing to hide behind, no one to fall back on. Athletes often experience plateaus in performance that can be trying to push through, and the pressure on competition day is in it’s own category. Personally, I never knew what I was capable of until my first weightlifting meet - even after years of being an athlete. It is an experience I know I want for every kid from the moment they first time they walk into our gym. It is not about the kilos on the bar, it is about training for months to overcome physical obstacles, and then overcoming the mental obstacle of stepping out on the platform and putting it all on the line.

Individual sports also allow for very personalized attention and training. The training is programmed to work on specific weaknesses of an athlete, which is something you see less of in team sports. Particularly in weightlifting, where mastery of the lifts requires a broad foundation of physical literacy, coaches get to take the time with kids to ensure any poor movement patterns are corrected right away. This is important for preventing sports injuries, which are more common in team sports than individual sports according to studies done by sports medicine specialists. One study showed that Weightlifting”produced just 2 to 4 injuries per 1,000 hours of training. For comparison, sports like ice hockey, football, soccer, and rugby have injury rates ranging from 6 to 260 per 1,000 hours, and long-distance runners can expect about 10 injuries per 1,000 hours of pavement pounding.” Individual sports emphasize personal mastery and usually involve a high level of technical proficiency to be competitive. This means extreme attention to detail is paid to each athlete, and coaches get to really know the habits, strengths, and weaknesses of each one. Training then adheres to all of these factors.

It is not surprising that our culture participates in team sports more than individual sports. In all honesty, team sports tend to be more enjoyable to most people. Research supports this, and I personally had that experience growing up. I love team sports. I think it’s extremely important that kids enjoy their athleticism so that it’s something they choose to participate in their whole life. Specialization at a young age should be avoided anyways to ensure a long, healthy athletic career. Weightlifting supports training for team sports and fortifies kids with characteristics they will struggle to develop in other activities. Although it is an individual sport, weightlifting still offers a lot of the enjoyable parts of team sports. When you step on the platform, you are representing a team that you train with and that has your back. The training environment is very important, and your teammates are always there to push you harder. The relationships you form as a weightlifter with your teammates, through your common struggle and shared goals, is unlike any other sport I have been in. This sport is the next frontier in developing athleticism for American youth. Which bring us to my favorite life-lesson: the greater the challenge, the greater the reward. The more discomfort, the more growth.  


Orange County Youth Coach Discusses Sports and Academic Achievement


Over the last few weeks I have touched on some of the benefits of sports for youth. In that spirit, I’d like to discuss how sports are involved in academic achievement. All of the qualities reinforced by organized training and competition are paralleled with the qualities it takes to be successful in school. Hard work, discipline, focus, goal-setting, responsibility - these are just a few examples of characteristics we see in successful weightlifters that we also see in successful students. There is plenty of research to support this.

In a study done by Howell Wechsler, fifty students were examined to determine the effect of physical activity on academic performance. After multiple studies, over half showed improved performance and almost none had negatively affected grades. There have also been studies that show participating in school sports creates a deeper sense of commitment to adhere to rules and values. Physiologically, exercise is positively correlated with increased focus and attention span. The physical limitations of inactivity (see last weeks blog post) are also damaging psychologically, which in turn affects academic achievement. In another study, engagement in physical activity was shown to increase dedication to schools and an increase in self-esteem, both of which are variables for higher grades.

But what about the potential of sports to take away from focus on academics? This can happen as a result of a narrow-path mentality. While maximizing physical potential to pursue a successful athletic career is supported by our program, it is not our only goal for our kids.  Many schools have installed academic requirements to negate the tendency of sports-centered students to spend less time focusing on their studies. A student who is seriously dedicated to their sport tends to adhere to the grade requirements to stay eligible to participate. The earlier kids establish a positive feedback loop with hard work and reward, the better, however many schools are now cutting physical education time from their curriculum due to different priorities in allocating funds. The No Child Left Behind mandate and pressure created by state-to-state standardized tests has stressed our educators. Less time spent on physical activity and more in the classroom does not necessarily result in better grades. Schools are trying to save money and make sure their students are passing the required exams at the same time, and the physical education system is paying for this. Involvement in extracurricular sports is the best way to combat these changes. Kids need a consistent model for physical and psychological development as much as they need one for education. These all work together, but not one of them should be neglected.

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If there is concern by parents that spending extra time playing sports may detract from time spent studying, it probably makes more sense to be concerned with the time kids spend engaged in other activities, such as watching T.V., that are not contributing to their overall development. Sports and academics are really on the same page, and this is something we want to showcase with our athletes. At Socal we want our athletes to be extraordinary in all of their pursuits. We are firm believers that the way you do one thing is the way you do everything. With weightlifting being a particularly challenging sport, the potential for growth and character building experiences is ceaseless. The necessity for attention to detail, and PATIENT hard work every day are ingredients for our motto “pursuing excellence” not just inside the walls of our gym, but in the classroom, on the field, or wherever our athletes go.

Our focus is the bigger picture. It is to enrich the whole lives of our youth athletes, with excellence in sports not coming at the cost of any other important area of their lives. We realize that our athletes walk in our door with all kinds of other things on their plate - school, work, family, fun, relationships. Each should encourage growth in each other - physically, academically, developmentally. Rather than sports being a distraction from studying, we believe the opposite is true, and that sports can positively relate to grades.


Weightlifting Coach Discusses the Importance of Keeping a Training Log

The Importance of Keeping a Training Log.

We use Train Heroic to program for our athletes and as a way to track their progress. The importance of keeping a training log is often overlooked. People come in, look at their session for the day and simply refer to the app to see what exercise they are doing, and what weight is supposed to be on the bar. While having an app is incredibly convenient for the athlete to use, it is often times underutilized and a lot of value is lost. When athletes fail to fill out the pre and post lift survey, and pass up logging their makes and misses, they are withholding useful information from their coaches as well as themselves. We recommend not only filling out whatever app you use with as much detail as possible, but also encourage you to keep a personal log of your own.


What We Track in Train Heroic

When athletes fill everything out in their app we are able to track numerous metrics that allow us to continue to program effectively. First and foremost, we can track their progression throughout the training cycle. We can see how different phases of training affect them positively and negatively, and can make adjustments based on that information. We can also see what days affect different athletes throughout the week. If we see someone come in every 4th day of training and have a bad day and we go into the app and see that their readiness is low, stress is high and sleep quality is poor, then it would explain why training goes south on that day. That 4th day can also be a result of the weekly accumulation of volume and intensity but if we have no way of seeing how their body is responding if nothing is filled out. When we have access to this information, it allows us to take fatigue into consideration adjust the program accordingly. Coaches can obviously see how everyone is doing in person, but remember that training sessions can get packed and we don’t get to see every make and miss.

Things You Can Track With Your Personal Log

Example of a personal training log

Example of a personal training log

Keeping track of your training is just as beneficial to you as an athlete. Writing down what you are doing every day allows to you to think about the training that lies ahead. It gives you a time to visualize and mentally prepare for the day. Your log is also much easier to access than an app. You can quickly flip through pages to look at previous training sessions instead of having to scroll back through an app.

The most important reason to keep a log is to track your progression. There will be times that you struggle in the sport, and having something to look back on can be quite helpful. Maybe you are having trouble hitting your snatches on a certain day, and you pick your log book up and look back to six months ago when you couldn’t even hit the weight on the bar for a single. Having access to those training sessions can do a lot for your morale as you battle through a training cycle.

The final and often times overlooked part of keeping a training log is the notes you can take. Commenting on the day or a certain lift can be just as important as writing your numbers down. Maybe you did something different on a clean and jerk and it felt great, LOG IT. Maybe you know that your sleep was bad, or you had a stressful day coming into training and the lifts are feeling heavier than normal, LOG IT. Whatever you think is necessary to write down should make it onto the page. Being honest with yourself can do wonders for your training. You are able to see what you do on days that you feel great and vice versa.

Whatever reason you have for keeping a log, do it. You will benefit, your coaches will appreciate it, and if none of those appeal to you, at least you will have something you can look back on when you are older!

Inactivity in Youth: The Real Cost

Consequences and Solutions

It’s no secret that Americans have become increasingly sedentary and it has caused an epidemic of health problems. More and more people have been sitting at desks and technology has made everything easier and faster and more accessible. As we have evolved, we have adapted our environment to our comfort, rather than us adapting to our environment. As this process continues, we are losing our ability to maximize our physical potential. Our brain-power is costing us our physical health. Our bodies have suffered as a result, and we are learning a very hard, costly lesson. The best thing we can possibly do now is make sure that we do not pass this problem onto the next generation, because the damage goes beyond physical health. It is a detriment to mental health and overall well-being.

Inactivity in youth is a huge problem. Enrollment in youth sports is down, and there are a few causes of this. Funding has been cut from many public schools system resulting in the suffering of athletic programs. Couple that with the availability of technology to kids and the amount of time they spend playing video-games or watching T.V. that they might have otherwise been running around outside, and you have the perfect storm for inactivity and the health issues it comes with. According to one study, “It appears that only about 30 percent of kids get the recommended 60 minutes of vigorous physical activity every day. The result: Roughly one-third of America’s youth are becoming overweight or obese.”

There is evidence that lack of physical activity and involvement in sports can lead to a higher engagement of high risk behavior and even cause mental health problems and suicide attempts, all of which are on the rise. Technology that appears to have us more connected than ever may actually be causing feelings of isolation and loneliness and a lack of face to face interaction with each other that is particularly important in the development of kids. The relationships we maintain online are superficial compared to the emotional satisfaction of face-to-face interaction and connection. The research is showing the exception to this is youth who participate in social media but still maintain healthy levels of social activity.

Again, children who become habitually inactive are at risk for more than just poor physical health.  Their brains and physiology are extremely plastic, meaning they are continuously being molded by new experiences, and they are very pliable to allow for acquisition of new skills.  Brain development and physical literacy have a positive relationship. As our brains develop we become capable of more physical activities and the more physical activity we engage in, the more our brain develops and new pathways are formed and skills we acquire. Psychologists agree that we largely become who we are because of positive reinforcement. When we are rewarded for good behavior, we repeat the behavior until it becomes a part of our make-up.


Enter weightlifting, a sport which requires precise awareness of movement mechanics and constantly pushes the body to form new adaptations as you gain strength and technical proficiency. Not only does weightlifting create formidable athleticism, it benefits the psychology of its participants. This is equally important in combating the consequences of inactivity for kids. It is a mentally tough sport with a high level of reward. Progress takes focus, time, patience, humility, and hard work. When these variables accumulate into achievement, the whole process and feeling of accomplishment becomes a part of your character. This is a continual process that we build slowly with our young athletes. And it is in this process of training, failing, overcoming failure, and then succeeding that we find what really matters and gravitate towards it.

 Sports are our vehicle for developing positive, healthy habits that affect each area of our lives. That is why we do what we do. The absence of physical activity needs to be addressed because it threatens the well-being of our kids in all kinds of ways. We provide an environment that strives to make time in the gym fun and fulfilling for our kids, so that we can lay down a foundation that will last a lifetime. Inside the walls of our gym we make meaningful connections, both relationally and with movement and technique. At SoCal we believe in the sport of  weightlifting and in its power to positively benefit anyone who is willing to make a commitment to it, and we are pushing to share this with as many kids as possible.


Newport Beach Youth Sports Coach Discusses Sports Injuries

Sports injuries and why they’re avoidable

More than 3.5 million kids under age 14 receive medical treatment for sports injuries each year.

While this is an alarming statistic, not all sports injuries are created equal: acute injuries account for a small percentage, but the majority are chronic, meaning they build over long periods of time as a result of poor movement patterns and overuse. Chronic injuries are usually reoccuring, and not managing them can be detrimental to an athletic career. The good news is the chances of developing a chronic injury can be lessened by ingraining proper movement in athletes from a young age. In fact, the younger you start the process the better.

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If what you’re looking for is that competitive edge, nothing will get you further in your athletic career than learning and mastering the basics of movement. It is the best way to reduce risk of injury and facilitate a long, successful athletic career. More and more kids are being prematurely pushed to specialized training in hopes of becoming the next Tiger Woods or Kobe Bryant, but they’re missing the big picture. Whether the goal is competing in the olympics, or a long, healthy life, the foundation is the same. It is important not to rush the development of the basics.

We can all identify that person in the gym or on the field that just “moves really well”. They are composed and smooth in their movement, and we often say things about them like “they’re so athletic” or we quickly attribute their ability solely to genetics, when in reality athleticism can be learned and cultivated. Movement, mindset, and achievement of goals are processes that demand intention, discipline, focus, and the ability to identify the variables which are in the athlete and coach’s control.

There are many potential obstacles that can arise during a successful athletic career and with regards to Olympic Weightlifting, the stigma of injury is one of them. There are assumptions about high injury rates in Weightlifting that create a barrier of entry in the sport: Parents are afraid of their kids lifting weight, “stunting their growth”, and/or getting injured under heavy loads, but proper movement fundamentals at a young age are the best way to control these issues.

Many myths about Weightlifting have presented themselves in the past. People look at the Snatch, Clean & Jerk and squats and assume that they are bad for your knees and back. The idea that Weightlifting has a disproportionately high injury rate in comparison to other sports is not supported by any empirical data and as the sport grows in popularity we are seeing a slow shift in this mindset. The truth is that Weightlifting is much less dangerous than many of the sports parents sign their children up for. According to a review done by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, Weightlifting has a much lower risk of injury than contact sports. They looked at 9 studies and concluded that Weightlifting ran the same risk of injury as other non contact sports.


Getting younger athletes involved in Weightlifting is the next frontier. Although it may be uncommon in America, many countries have programs designed to teach children the fundamentals as early as possible. The earlier the child is able to drill the technique, the better chance they have to succeed later in the sport without injury. Why do we allow our children to learn the fundamentals of sports such as baseball, football, and soccer at a young age, but shy away from Weightlifting? Instead of our children moving with light loads and empty bars building proper technique, they are forced to stay away from barbells and PVC pipes. By the age actual weightlifting movements are taught, in high schools or college, it is done quickly in large groups of athletes where it’s almost impossible to teach the safe, technical foundation of a Snatch or Clean & Jerk - just look around in any high school weight room, poor technique and injury-prone movement is everywhere. This quick, ineffective teaching is done in order to get as much strength from an athlete while spending the least amount of time with them. This method decreases the value the lifts bring the athlete as a whole and hurts the athlete in the long run. Those who learn to move properly off the field, will excel on the field and limit the chance for injury by a large percentage.

Athletic development programming for kids is the road to a long, healthy athletic career. Chronic injury is a huge problem in sports, but it can be avoided with good coaching from an early age. At SoCal Weightlifting Club, we wish someone had given us what we offer to our young athletes and we know any of our other weightlifters would say the same. We have heard countless people talk about how bad their early exposure was to strength and conditioning, and many others say they never had it in school at all! To be given the guidance at a young age that builds a foundation upon which all athletic potential can be accessed for as many years as possible is priceless. So together let’s control the variables we can and get young kids moving properly!