loris bertolacci

Sport, Health and Fitness

SKILL BASED CONDITIONING. IS IT ENOUGH? NO!

Small sided games and fitness through games has really made its mark in team sports training. Lot’s of work filtered through from Hockey and other sports and in AFL we saw the Adelaide Crows pioneer this approach. Nevertheless they used other means (for example ergometer work) to supplement fitness, but less formal running. But has their high injury rate occurred due to high fitness levels and poor motor patterns? Who knows? This is a bad mix and at the base of my discussion. This approach has filtered through to many sports and recently we saw a research article by Gabbett on Volleyball with juniors. Obviously “bang for buck” in simplicity is far greater when things can be combined but my opinion is that there is a downside to what seems a simple solution to fitness. Yet I have seen many problems with this approach.

We have seen an explosion in sports science in Australia and a huge influence on sports such as cycling and rowing for example. Team sports have achieved enormous benefit due to sports science, with areas such as load management, heat management, hydration and many other areas receiving enormous backup. Huge factors and load management has been a big one with GPS and databases etc.

Sports such as soccer are now creating skill based TID schemes where kids are encouraged to play heaps of games and learn lots of skills early and then they are selected later on from a larger pool of skilled players. Simple.

But we have direct evidence that the relative age effect destroys the careers of many young players and only the gifted younger ones come through (and in fact succeed more often) coupled with kids with advanced maturity that sneak through. So many good kids are left behind. That is kids that are born early and who survive due to talent, do well at elite level. On the other hand the “bruisers” with no talent also do well as well as older kids. So many young (born early) players are lost and this is mainly a physical factor due to maturation and/or training.

And look at Tennis. We have a massive generation of players whose parents have mortgaged their houses for coaching and yet no result so far.

Sports Science has been little assistance to track and field. The scientists would say that the coaches do not want to listen. But my opinion is that the sports scientists have little to offer because very few really know how to create advanced athletes. Sports Science is awesome at telling us how to manage a player in Malaysian heat but has little idea how to propel someone over 2 45.

In team sports like AFL we simply aimed at the average. One needs to be good at many areas. Intermittent sports require a broad long term base of conditioning and good acceleration and a sufficiently developed aerobic system to assist repeat efforts. Average to OK in the gym and average to OK in power. All achievable and in the end injury management becomes a key as does talent. My experience in all these team sports is much the same. One usually does not need to create super athletes. But if a team has a core of players who have talent and also have developed all their fitness skills (running/jumping/change of direction etc) then that team should always beat a mob that can play and are fit but lack “fitness” skills. Always the same principle. All things being equal, one factor will make the difference.

Getting back to tennis, my opinion is that strength and conditioning and fitness are simply massive factors why we are falling behind in many sports.  And this needs to happen early. Puberty. And by then kids should be fully developed in all facets of running and jumping and change of direction and also have a broad base of conditioning. What we see in OZ is a huge number of skinny kids with good aerobic qualities and one sided bodies coming up against explosive “Europeans” and now Asians. Forget what happened 30 years ago. No one played tennis.

And with all due respects let’s not really consider many sports in OZ like netball and cricket and AFL because they are not played on the world stage. Our female basketball improved when they started all going OS. So there is nothing to compare here. Even Rugby League is limited in exposure. Rugby Union is only now starting to go PRO all over the world and we will see the effect of that in ten to twenty years.

In Athletics we do not have coaches for kids. Kids are not taught. There are other problems but it is difficult to change bad habits. In AFL usually paid and competent fitness personnel spend 2 to 3 years fixing up massive deficiencies in players from 17 to 20. And that works and we see a reasonable product by 21. That’s ok for footy and then add some skills based games for fitness and VOILA …Fit and at 25 yo the team wins games.

We have seen the push to work a lot on agility versus change of direction. But my experience was that the freaks (e.g. Gary Ablett) had it all. Ability to change direction, balance and then vision and skill.

In Volleyball all I see is skinny little frail kids jumping around and getting fitter BUT reinforcing very poor “fitness” and neuromuscular habits. Once ingrained hard to change. And Volleyball is a real sport. Played everywhere. Lot harder to succeed in than cricket and netball and AFL. So strength and conditioning at an early age is now in my opinion an absolute priority. We must have players ready at 16 to 18 to explode on the world stage. In AFL they usually cannot squat with a broomstick at that age and it doesn’t matter. One has time in the cloistered environment of AFL. But in tennis and athletics and volleyball and soccer, there is no time. Be good early or perish. So know how to play the sport, make decisions on court, do the clean and jerk and bound through the roof. Not balance on a swiss ball.

I have spent 15 sessions with an elite junior soccer team (12 yo) and have done 45 minutes a week of running technique and core and balance work. The results have been great and now many players are starting to challenge other players in state teams from other clubs. The coach says they are more explosive, balanced and change direction. Add skills and decision making and a talented player assumes their right position. And the young boys like doing it as long as they are not being flogged and they are learning and having fun.

The skills based approached in my opinion can be lazy. Simply get heaps of kids doing the sport and see who comes through. Chuck them a ball and let them play. Of course they will get fit.

It is obvious that one has to learn the sport early and learn to make decisions. We know that multi lateral development is the key at least till puberty. But the missing link is strength and conditioning and movement education at an early age. And core development and balance.

Of course if I get kids to play all day at 100% pace in the backyard chasing dogs and jumping fences they will improve in their vertical jump and 5m tests. But we need to slow down and realize that life aint that easy, and ask the question why we struggle in so many sports.

I think sports science has to slow down a fraction and ask the question “Can I get a male volleyballer to vertical jump 95cm?” or a tennis player to explode sideways and drop their centre of gravity and smash a forheand back to NADAL. Having good salt balance in a drink at Wimbledon will not help if you cannot get to the ball.

Let’s remember that the best coaches are ones that combine ART and SCIENCE.

I love sports science and in fact if we can attend to the strength and conditioning issues at a young age and have skilled kids ready to go at 14 to 16 we will dominate the world. My opinion.

So in summary.

Do everything in development. Zero shortcuts.

And forget non-international sports and non eccentric sports (circling/ rowing, swimming, kayak etc) when comparing and or using sports science.

Ciao

Loris

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July 18, 2008 Posted by | AFL, Development, General, Soccer, Strength and Conditioning, Tennis, Track and Field, Volleyball Strength and Conditioning | 2 Comments

Preston Athletics Club and Sunday Morning Training

I was at my old club on Sunday 21 October and Jeff Hawkins was coaching his large squad. Melissa Drew, a sprinter, is seen jumping over hurdles at Edwardes Lake Athletics Track in Reservoir.

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He successfully coaches all events and is an example of the talented coaches in sport who do so much for no financial return and actually provide elite coaching. In fact I have been involved with team sports at the professional level for 20 years and to be honest a coach like Jeff does it better than some I know on 1/2 million dollars or more. My brother in law ( Gus Puopolo) also provides a world class service to athletes at Ringwood and charges nothing and gets results. In all sports not just athletics. The contrast in coaching abilities with some ( not all!) of the people I have worked with is amazing when one compares the work ethic and ability of guys like these. But of course AFL and Rugby and all the other PRO sports get lots of exposure, so if a coach is involved with a winning team then instant guru status ensues. And that is the way it is. C’est la vie. Perception often becomes reality.

I started at Preston in 1967 and my dad coached me till the 70’s. I won the Nationals in 1980 training at Preston then went to the AIS in 1981.

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Jeff is seen coaching Melissa Drew ( white shirt) who has run 12.2 electronic and also Olivia Natoli ( blue shirt) who has just started athletics and has run 13.6.

hAWKINS

 

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He can be seen giving advice to distance runners one minute and then conducting a plyometric session. Pretty impressive.

Melissa Drew seems to me to be a real hard working athlete who has ability.

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Good luck to Jeff, Melissa, Olivia and the rest of the squad for the season.

October 22, 2007 Posted by | Track and Field, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

HAMSTRING REHABILITATION E BOOK

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Available on my website now

Loris Bertolacci Site

http://www.bertolacci.com.au/LorisBertolacci/Welcome.html

This E Book is a complete resource for anyone that needs to devise practical programs for hamstring rehabilitation. It delves into the current research on this area to back up the programs.

This 120 page manual includes over 150 Exercises and 8 different programs including specifically designed Running, Agility, Stretching and Weight Programs to help any athlete get on the road to a safer and more sound recovery.

Section 1: Hamstring Theory

  1. Introduction

  2. Anatomy

  3. Overstriding and Hamstring Injury

  4. New Studies Implicates the Core in Hamstring Injury

  5. Other Muscles that Impact on the Hamstring

  6. Hamstring Exercises

  7. Why Injuries

  8. Trunk Stability and Hamstrings

  9. Different sports and Hamstring Rehabilitation

  10. So what do you do if you hurt your Hamstring?

  11. Healing Times and Rehabilitation

    Section 2: Practical Section

    Program Advice

  12. Sample Sessions

  13. Mobilization Sessions

  14. Running Sessions

  15. Mobility Drills

  16. Running Drills

  17. Running Sessions 2

  18. Strides

  19. Agility Sessions

  20. Weights Sessions

  21. Stretching after Training

  22. Plan your own rehabilitation

October 14, 2007 Posted by | AFL, General, Rehabilitation, Soccer, Strength and Conditioning, Tennis, Track and Field, Volleyball Strength and Conditioning | Leave a comment

HAMSTRING REHABILITATION AND HEALING

Soon I will publish an E Book on strength and conditioning programs after a hamstring injury. Specifically soft tissue and not back related etc. One area that seems to cause problems is athletes working too intensely too soon after a muscle injury is diagnosed and taking gambles. Jarvinen’s review emphasizes the need for 3 days immobilization to allow healing as a critical phase. Respecting the stages and phases of healing in soft tissue injury is vital. Some researchers categorize these stages differently. From acute ( inflammatory) up to 7 days to proliferation ( 7 to 21 days) and maturation and remodelling ( >21 days).

Not respecting healing dogma is fraught with danger given that means trying to beat nature. Programs in my e book are based on this dogma. And Jarvinen is very clear about the processes involved.

I was lucky to work in the AFL for 20 years and since 1999 till April 2006 I was operating at approximately half the average games lost for hamstrings in the AFL. I coached sprinters in the 80’s and simply spent a lot of time researching and working this area.

HEALING MUSCLE INJURIES
Muscle Injuries: Biology and Treatment: Järvinen
The American Journal of Sports Medicine, Vol. 33, No. 5

This study emphasizes the need to immobilize in the acute phase which as minimum from healing studies should be 3 days.

REST IS CRITICAL IN THE ACUTE PHASE!

Even slight use of the injured muscle in this Acute Phase needs to be avoided according to Jarvinen. He also talks about reruptures at the same site if mobilization is too soon. By resting in this phase less scar is put down.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THIS IMMOBILIZATION PHASE ?

PARADOX: Use it or lose it!

The rest in the immobilization phase allows the scar to get some strength. In fact after 10 days the scar is quite strong

After the immobilization phase is over then active mobilization enhances the penetration of muscle fibres into the scar tissue, limits the size of the scar and aligns the regenerating muscle tissue.

“If immobilization is continued past the acute phase (first few days) of muscle regeneration, the deleterious effects become particularly evident during the remodeling phase of muscle healing”

September 4, 2007 Posted by | AFL, General, Rehabilitation, Soccer, Strength and Conditioning, Tennis, Track and Field, Volleyball Strength and Conditioning | 1 Comment

Secrets of Loris Bertolacci

This is from 1988 and I wrote it at Essendon Football Club so all history now.

Also I am not sure if anyone read it. I would write these things then shelve them. I must admit I was always very impressed with Brian Donohue who was Sheedy’s right hand man. He always listened intently to what I had to say and really embraced concepts like 3 weeks hard and one easy. Also he was computer literate and kept strict statisitics well before John Orchard did anything. And they were very well organized. He was ahead of his time.

These sheets are a bit like the dead sea scrolls, really but I hope of some historical interest given the development at the time of the 1990 team and the 1993 flag and the implementation of these concepts in those days long gone now that Hird and Sheedy are ready to go.

Hard to read but if of interest have a look. In a way all stuff volleyballers should do in theri development anyway.

I was giving Mateyev a bad wrap in 1988. And functional cycling then was hot off the press from Bondarchuk. Track and Field training techniques were miles ahead in the 70’s and 80’s. In fact all that has changed now with sports science and the information revolution is that lots of fine tuning needs have been studied that help the specific needs of individuals and situations like heat stress and osteitis management for example. These developments are fantastic but the basics remain.

And long term physical development of juniors. HA. Big business now!

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August 1, 2007 Posted by | AFL, Development, General, Strength and Conditioning, Track and Field, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

George Bertolacci

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My dad loved sport. Talk about functional strength. He used to grab 100kgs at 45 and stand there and military press it for rep after rep. Then he could press me overhead. At his heaviest he was 155kgs and at his fittest was 110kgs. Big.

When I trained in Italy , all his mates in Livorno ( near Pisa) used to tell me about how he was the best arm wrestler going around and how they used to bet on Giorgio in the bars. He had massive wrists and even at my strongest he killed me.

Dad played Rugby Union in Italy with Livorno and was the kicker. He also played representative water polo and was a very good swimmer. He represented Tuscany in Athletics also and did a stint in graeco roman wrestling. All at state level.

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He had a game or two of Aussie Rules in 1952, I think with Reservoir and kicked a few with place kicks. He came out to OZ in 1951 ! Apparently he replaced a player who went to Essendon so the story goes. He only had been in Australia for a year but had worked with the Americans in the war and so spoke English. He even had a training run in February with Fitzroy the next year, after a game with Reservoir and rode his bike to the wharf for work then back to the Brunswick Oval for training and promptly did his hamstring badly on the first night of training. So he started athletics again and competed with Coburg. He represented the state in the throws after that and was the anchor man for the wharfies at Port Melbourne and this shot was in the Herald Sun of those days.

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He played Table Tennis a lot at a high standard and at 130kgs used to play against 50kg Asian guys at Albert Park. He had a short temper so sometimes the bat went flying and his opponent was in fear of his life.

He did a lot of soccer coaching in the 60’s until he started coaching me in Athletics. He started me in shot put in 1967 and I boomed. But like so many young people by 16 I knew it all and went on a long distance running binge to lose weight and as he had told me would happen, my throwing career faltered.

The last athlete he coached was Saverio Rocca in the discus and the big Sav had to come to my dads house and tell him that he was playing with Collingwood. I could see Saverio was nervous and dad was not happy. After all Sav was a better athlete than he was a footballer and I think dad knew he had lost a huge talent. Before that he coached many athletes and the best was Paul Nandapi. Paul won a heap of titles and medals in the commonwealth games. But with dad at 16 he was throwing mid 50’s with a senior discus and almost 17 metres in the shot put. Then he went to the AIS at 18 . Dad had a real knack of getting young athletes up and he won so many championships over 20 years. He never overtrained them and always made it fun. They sprinted and jumped and did a bit of everything and not too much of anything. It worked. The AIS sent him a plaque years later for his contribution the sport

He started the second pizza shop in Melbourne ( GIPIS) after TOTOS and one day 2 drunk guys came in and started a fight. I ran in and they knocked me out. I was 16. He grabbed them both and threw them in the car and when I came to, made me hold them and we drove to the police. One was the middleweight boxing champion of Australia. One chap once grabbed a pizza and ran out, and dad at 45 sprinted out the shop and ran down High Street and rugby tackled him to the ground. Big fast twitch man. The thief coudn’t believe it. Lots of Fitzroy players lived in the Northern Suburbs and they came to GIPIS after a game. Dad was a great sketch artist and would make funny sketches of players like Gary Wilson.

We always had sportspeople around our house. Kevin Murray ( Fitzroy Captain) lived up the road in Reservoir and was a real friend of the family. Whenever Italian sportspeople would come out to OZ Dad would seek them out and invite them home and Mum ( Rosa ) would cook them a treat. Fencers, athletes, boxers. All world class sportspeople at our house. I remember once dad picked up this boxer who was going to fight Johnny Famechon as he marched to a World Title. The boxer was from Livorno ( dads town) and in the car he told us he was retired ( Ex – European Champ) and was out only to earn some money and help Famechon get up the rankings!

I think a special day was Sundays at the Bertolacci house. We would train at the Preston Athletics Track at Edwardes Lake. Often some good throwers would appear to train with us like Matt Barber and Phil Nettle and other behemoths. They would come home to Lunch with Paul Nandapi and a few other big guys and mum ( Rosa) would have about 100kgs of pasta ready and 189 Schnitzels and bowls of potatoes and so on. They ate and ate. I watched in amazement. Then they went in the lounge room and watched World of Sport and fell asleep. When carbed up they would the weights on Sunday night.

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Once Saverio went to Collingwood , dad decided to wrap it up and I wish he had kept coaching. Kept him switched on and a step ahead of diabetes. After that he moved to Rosebud and lost touch with coaching and fell into ill health. Rudy Villani my cousin ( and a great athlete) said at dads funeral that George had given us our love of sport and an appreciation of all sports. He loved to watch great athletes and loved all sports ( loved AFL) and this was very important for our overall sports development.

Thank god he died before all the crap was written about me in the media in 2006. Mum and Dad would never have understood it and to be honest nor have I. Had nothing to do with sport dad. But one thing that dad left me was a love of sport, and that remains and I will coach and produce athletes and high level performance  just like he did .

July 31, 2007 Posted by | AFL, General, Strength and Conditioning, Track and Field, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Ages and Track and Field

Development is wrapped up in lots of “science” but there seems to be a certain predictability with different sports and stages of development. Whilst there is a change from year to year the one constant seems to be the age 25 and 2 to 3 years either way. Seems simple and is but gets lost given that 16 years of age is a long way from 24 for instance. 2007 to 2015.

As Michael Poulton outlined using results from a model that looks at the number of athletes per event in the world’s top 100 at the end of the 2006 season , OZ has some numbers there. My statistics are at best a trend only but do reflect the mature status of elite performers. Obvious really but often people think there are heaps of 20 year olds stacked in top 100 even 500 for each event. And my main thrust  is simply that structures have to be in place to keep athletes in the sport from 16 to 22 for example.

Now the competition is with things like the TAC development squads and the lure of Soccer for example. Little Athletics should provide the base ( but in my opinion is a bit too young ) and then ideally there should be structures in place to foster development with professionally run clubs. Wishful thinking I know but athletics would explode and feed off the sports science and “institute” driven revival since the “1976 no medal debacle” in Montreal.

We see the AIS employing heaps of full time after school positions in OZ and I cant see why we couldn’t have regional coaches employed at varied venues to keep young people training in athletics and in fact active. Maybe wishful thinking. Again these days money is needed and that is tough for Athletics to generate . Again I am heading to the sad fact that these days most people won’t and can’t coach for hours for zero money night after night in the cold ( and the heat!) . This is one of the strange expectations that exists when parents will pay for swimming and other sports. Odd. IE That is that athletics should often be coached for nix!

I have attached a rough calculation of ages for 100m rankings now and also in 2000 and a look at different events which changes the averages.

top-50-ages-and-average-ages-as-of-july-07.doc

July 25, 2007 Posted by | Track and Field, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sports Science and Athletics

We have seen a huge growth industry in sports science in Australia. Recently an article by Ralph Doubell (1:44.40/15-Oct-68/Mexico Olympic Gold Medallist) spoke about the fact his record still stands even though there is this industry in OZ. I dont think there would have been more than a handful of people then working in sports science in Australia.

Can sports science help track and field? Certainly in AFL it provides a lot of useful information with heat prevention strategies and tools to measure game demands and training loads for example. These measuring tools are often invaluable to justify training interventions with coaches for example. On the other hand some aspects of sports science sometimes often only creates work and data for researchers.

I find physiological testing in the lab to be very useful for example. Simply doing this lets one link fitness tests and performance trends to the athlete profiles and positional needs. Add to this genetic profiling and one can have a pervasive argument available to a coach to play someone at full forward or as a midfielder.

I have databased every player on an AFL list using ultra sound for TA control. Very important despite the hoo ha on this stuff. The explosion in information on rehabilitation has been critical to my work .

So back to athletics? Steffenson has to go overseas to improve. Ron Clarkes name is still in the books. Charlene Rendina (Aust National 800m record holder 1:59.0 on 28-Feb-76) was one athlete I watched train at Preston year in and year out and saw her methods. My brother in law trains many champion throwers at Ringwood and in fairness to Gus Puopolo he would not pass Exercise Physiology at University today. My best man at my wedding Ken Lorroway jumped 17 46 30 years ago!

How can the famed sports science industry help OZ track? Can it? Of course in cycling and rowing and swimming things are easily measured and then fed back to training. A number of obstacles exist I believe. I have heard criticisms from both sides about this. Coaches saying Institute conditioning programs are not relevant, soft and too focused on core and not strength and power and that staff at ground level are not good enough. Institute people saying that athletics people simply don’t access them enough and have closed minds. Both arguments have merit. But maybe it is the systems that dont allow sports science to filter through.

Added to this is a problem with Little Athletics where kids do Aths so early when I believe they should play football and basketball for instance. Multilateral development.Average age of sprinters is almost 26! It takes so long from little aths to produce champions. Another argument for another day but senior numbers are down? Why?. Probably the lure of money in other sports. Little Aths is good for health and fitness but track and field ?

I believe that Athletics is a sport that requires coaches who have enormous knowledge and experience but at the end of the day simply a track and some weights. The key is to get highly qualified and highly experienced coaches at ground level out there in the suburbs. And more importantly pay them! These people need to be hardcore athletics people who ideally have sports science backgrounds and UNI qualified if possible. But first they must live the sport. World Champions can be produced anywhere in athletics. But is the expertise and are the professional coaching structures out there?

The world has changed as it always does and married professional people cant go the track and coach for nothing anymore from 4 to 8pm. Work hours have exploded. One goes to clubs and their rooms are often locked. True business like structures don’t exist because there is no money! At the end of the day Franz Stampfl made a living out of athletics and he certainly produced a few!

The biggest mistake I made was leaving Preston to go to the AIS in 1981 on Day 1 of the Institute. I had gone to Europe and studied my sport inside out with all the gurus, had a video camera then and created a venue at Preston and was on the way. Went to Canberra and simply it was far too early in its history. What I needed was video technology and biomechanics and sports medicine back up and moreso a coach willing to watch every throw but not a new venue.

It is a tough call but I think we have some great venues in Melbourne stacked with non paid well meaning coaches. If these venues had qualified paid coaches who had to clock in and out and be accountable ( and were qualified) with back up provided then kids I believe would come through. The kids dont need money. That is a fallacy. Parents will pay if this is available.

Thus the Sports Science explosion could filter through to the practical and varied environments that exist. It is very sad that highly paid strength and conditioning gurus abound in OZ but many wouldn’t have a clue how to program elite athletes in their conditioning programme and are not the solution for track and field. So yes sports science can help Athletics but it is a unique sport and requires unique solutions.

July 24, 2007 Posted by | Track and Field, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Preston Athletics Club

I recently joined up the club again. Jeff Hawkins is the coach there and has done a great job in getting some really good juniors up and running. Very organized and motivational coach. It is amazing how many kids these unpaid coaches help. My father was a very successful coach at the club just like Gus Puopolo is at Ringwood. They produce champions but help all. And all these guys do it for nothing. And they all do a great job and in fact right up to the standard if not better than many professional strength and conditioning people around the place. Just no money in Athletics and thus little kudos unless one produces an Olympic Medallist. There is a nice synthetic track at the lake now and recently I saw Adam Basil training there so must be a good track. Unfortunately there is no fence so on nice days it can be a bit crowded with bikes and festivals.

http://www.prestonathletics.org.au/

July 22, 2007 Posted by | Track and Field | Leave a comment