First things first: I LOVE Karch Kiraly. I talk to kids about Karch Kiraly every single week. A lot of the kids I talk to STILL do not know who he is but I have blogged about him before and he is a hero for myself and other fans of volleyball in the USA and worldwide.
But on this topic Karch is wrong. Very wrong. This blog post has been shared several times via social media and I just cannot take it anymore.
USAV was wrong to utilize this picture of plank exercises being performed this way:
These exercises are to be performed correctly and are to follow a proper progression. I know, believe me I know, these exercises look hard. They ARE HARD! But if they are to aid the athlete in the development of high-performance they are to be performed correctly. No need in attempting to make someone feel like they are better trained than they really are. I am sure the athletes performing these are thinking they are doing great work. So when someone like myself comes along and critiques and attempts to correct them we have an uphill battle because they have believed all this time that they have been killing it on their core strength. I quote one of my mentors, Michael Boyle, often on this, "Your athletes are the mirror you see yourself in and the window that others see you through. If they are doing something wrong it is directly your fault." If Coach Boyle walked in and saw these exercises being performed this way I would be embarrassed, not proud. It can be basic, as Karch's blog suggests, but it has to be done right! Would USA Volleyball allow a picture like this to represent their program and process:
Karch was wrong when he suggested multi-tasking as a solution to managing the young athlete's time. A sweet gesture, perhaps, by attempting to give these athletes credit for being soooooo busy but reality tells a different story. According to this study, commissioned by Nokia, not just young people but people in general who have a smartphone check it every 6 1/2 minutes, 150 times a day! Talk about a time waster! That is a great place to start: put your phones down!
When I mentioned before that many of the kids I talk to every week do not know who Karch is that is not to slight him but this does suggest that even as "volleyball addicts" these kids are not paying attention to volleyball, its history, or its heroes if they do not know who Karch Kiraly is. We have to find a way to make those things that are truly important the most important thing. Lou Holtz says this terrifically with his WIN "What's Important Now" philosophy. Smartphone? Not important. Studying? Important. Getting better at volleyball? Important. Getting stronger? Also important.
Beyond that the research is pretty clear that as multi-taskers we suck. Better to give one task our full attention than to attempt to do too much at once and water down learning and transfer effects. There is a quote that comes from Zen philosophy that says, "Before enlightenment chop wood carry water, after enlightenment, chop wood carry water." It is the purpose that lies beyond just doing the thing that makes what we do significant.
Karch was also wrong to solicit the advice of an athletic trainer who by definition, according to the NATA, are not exercise professionals. It is a rather harmless wrong in the big picture goal of this blog post but nevertheless still wrong. The team has a strength and conditioning coach, Tim Pelot to my knowledge, and Karch and/or USAV should have done the right thing and involved him in this discussion from the beginning. If Karch had asked Tim for advice in handling injuries I am sure that athletic trainers on the other side would be equally offended. That is not his job and any strength coach who suggests it is is acting unprofessionally. There are exceptions to this as there are many professionals who are dual-credentialed as athletic trainers, physical therapists, and/or strength and conditioning professionals but we cannot assume that those other skills are a competency and I will make no such assumption here.
This all was very likely an afterthought to USAV in their big picture of things, I mean it is JUST a blog post, but none of this supports the idea of "conditioning as homework", as John Kessel of USAV has stated many, many times before being anything more than a token gesture that volleyball athletes should try to strength train some when they can squeeze it in. I hold USAV to a very high standard and think very highly of the work they do, that Karch does and has done, and that John Kessel does. That is the reason I find this to be so disagreeable and so upsetting.
In the closing of the blog post Karch talks about how his dad would sneak away from work for 90-minutes every day to play volleyball on the beach. As his dad was a doctor doing very important work I think that this carries with it a great lesson but not as it was suggested being attached to the rest of the blog. If it is important you will find a way to get it done, as Karch's dad did, but if it is not you will find an excuse. Find a way!