How Can a Single Player Improve An Entire Team?

by: Adeel Rahman on

At the beginning of every sports season, there are different worries in the mind of the coach. However, the most important of all, and the one that will dictate if it will be a good or bad season is the performance of the team. Obviously, this is not a factor that will pass after just a few games, or even in half of the period, it must be attended during the whole year, otherwise, the objectives will not be accomplished. The efficiency of the players can be influenced by many variables, and it’s the job of the coach and his people, to work so these variables are in favor of the team at all time. Nevertheless, not all these elements are only over the shoulders of the coach, sometimes it is in the hands of one single player. But, how can a single player improve an entire team?

No matter the sport, soccer, baseball or basketball, in every team there is always one player that carries the weight of the team on his shoulders and who gives that extra boost that many times the team needs to gain victory. At the contrary of what many people believe, this doesn't mean that this player is the one who scores the most. Not at all! This is the guy that makes the team functions completely, the one that knows how to get the best of his mates and who sometimes can be a coach on the field. The influence of this player is very important since he often acts as the leader, the one that the rest of the team look up to and follow.

This player is a key stone on how the team works. Because he has an influence on the physical aspect as well as on the collective mentality of his teammates. His presence or absence can determine the development of the squad on the game. Like it is said before, this key player is not necessarily the one that stands out in the statistics because he may not be a frequent name among those players that score a lot, but instead he is the one that makes the chemistry of the team flow. This happens because he is aware of the complete squad during the whole game and which actions to take to ensure that the team works as a well-oiled machine, focused on winning each game. Maybe this player is the one with the longest trajectory on the team, which grants him the possibility to deeply know the entire time and earns him the trust of the rest of the players, the coach, the owners of the team and most important the fans.

The team's soul

When this key player is on the field, the rest of the team feels empowered to face any adversary. It is not rare that this player also counts on the respect of their rivals because of even they acknowledge him as an important athlete that motivates his teammates and gets the best of them, so frequently they will try to override him.

However, the impact this important figure has over the team is not limited to the playing field. In the lockers, the bench and even in training, this member also plays a unique role. This is where he motivates the team, where he calls them to analyze their performance, and a really important aspect, where he can bring together the team through their personal relationships. The friendship among the players of a team is a vital aspect that allows the institution to work better because the members will identify with the values they all have in common and then they will be a real unity. And in this moment the charm of the leader is essential because thanks to it, he can construct all that social connections of his partners.

This player also represents the values of the team, and it is part of its identity. It is an example to follow for the rest of the institution, so he is very watched by many people. That is why it is normal to see this player in every game, even when he can’t play for any reason. This was the case of Cristiano Ronaldo in the final game of the Euro Cup 2016, where he suffered an injury and had to leave the game. Nevertheless, this didn’t mean the end of the performance of this great player with his national team during this vital encounter. Just minutes after he left the stadium for a medical checking, he returned and encouraged his fellow teammates to give their game of their life, and this action was without a doubt a key factor for the victory of Portugal that day. That level of commitment is proper of this kind of players, and it works as inspiration for everyone else.

Absence of an irreplaceable

As it can be seen, this player is very difficult to replace, but that doesn’t mean that the coach doesn’t have to look for a possible replacement or prepare the rest of the team for a scenario in which he is absent. Even with all the preparations and the great level of this player, he is a human being and there will be a time when he may not be around. So, even when this key player improves the performance of the team in different ways and through many kinds of resources, the team must know how to work without him. This is not an easy task and there have been cases in which the team may take a time to find a new player who assumes this role.

The relevance of this kind of players is indisputable and every sports team counts on one of them. He is not necessarily a star, which is why he may not be the most famous of the team or the one with the best salary, but he is without a doubt a corner stone for the good performance of the team.

Sports Psychology: How To Have A Winning Attitude

by: Adeel Rahman on

The most famous athletes in sports are the winners. In the words of Walter Hagen, “no one remembers who came in second.” And it’s no surprise. The people that you and I look up to are those who are successful in what they do. But what makes these athletes successful? What do they all have in common? The answer is simple: A winning attitude.

When it comes down to the final minutes and the game is even, it will all boil down to the athlete’s mentality. After minutes and hours of pushing your body to extreme levels just to win, it is only natural for the human body to feel burned out. When that happens, nothing else is going to push you even harder but your own psychology and it is evident in the greatest of winners. Read further to find out what it takes to have the winning attitude.

WORK ETHIC

Training is a huge part of what makes our favorite athletes so great. It’s not all about talent. As NBA superstar Kevin Durant once said, “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.” You can be blessed with all the talent in the world but if you don’t work hard to achieve your potential, then someone else will always be wearing that gold medal. It’s very important to keep in mind that most games are won or lost even before it is actually played. Most games are decided in the athlete’s preparation. If you want to win so badly, train as if your life depended on winning. Aim to better yourself each and every day.

FALL IN LOVE WITH YOUR SPORT

There is no champion in the entire world that doesn’t love what he is doing. Be obsessed with every single detail of the sport and it will all play in slow-motion. Be consumed by your desire to win and be the best. Just like in relationships, however, falling in love isn’t always rainbows and butterflies. You have to be ready to take whatever hardships that comes with the sport. Enjoy it — the good and the bad. Which takes us to the next item on our list..

OPTIMISM Can Help Achieve Winning Attitude

Michael Jordan, widely known as the best player in basketball history, once said a very good quote with regards to success. He said, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that’s why I succeed.” If one of the greatest athletes the world has ever seen has had his fair share of failures, why should you be afraid to fail? In any sport, there will always be roadblocks that will try to hinder your progression but that doesn’t mean it can stop you. In fact, it shouldn’t. There’s a mountain up ahead? Climb it. You’re at the edge of a cliff and the finish line is at the bottom? Either find another way or learn how to fly. You will have your share of failures and trust me. That’s okay. Let your loss be your motivation to win even more.

DREAM BIG

Every superstar didn’t just become big overnight. They dreamt about it. Kobe Bryant wrote about it in his farewell to basketball. In his poem, he said he was six years old when he fell in love with basketball. That’s when he started dreaming about shooting game-winners. Lebron James, the reigning NBA finals MVP and world champion said he’s always dreamed about winning a championship for his hometown. Tiger Woods, arguably the best whose ever played golf, has dreamt about surpassing Nicklaus’ record. The list goes on and on and on. Every great athlete has imagined themselves becoming one. Set goals for yourself and work hard towards achieving that goal. Don’t be afraid to dream about things that no other athlete has accomplished. As Mike Tyson once said, “I have to dream and reach for the stars, and if I miss a star then I grab a handful of clouds.”

CONFIDENCE & HUMILITY

The one thing that separates great athletes from the ones who are just there to play is a balance between self-confidence and humility. Too much confidence is narcissism and lack thereof doesn’t mean humility. Have you played with anyone who just keeps on talking but isn’t really all that good? It’s not always the case but chances are that guy who keeps running his mouth is making up for his lack of skill. Don’t mistake trash-talk for confidence because it can also be just another cover up. Have confidence in the things that you poured your heart in to. Be confident in the things you practiced to the point of exhaustion but don’t let that confidence trick you into thinking that you’ve already reached your peak. The best athletes are humble enough to know that even after becoming champions, there is always something they can work on to become even better.

***

winning attitude isn’t something you can have overnight. It’s a habit and like any other habit, it will need numerous times of repetition. Also, habits are very hard to form which is why a winning attitude is crucial to an athlete’s success. The good news is, although hard, it is very much possible. So as early as now, start forming this habit. At the earliest part of your day, remember to believe in yourself. Wake up with confidence and don’t let a day pass you by that you’re not thinking about and working hard towards your goal. Do this today and every day after, then who knows? In a few years, you might see yourself among the ranks of the all-time greats.

How Do Fighters Improve Strength? Build Fighters Strength!

by: Adeel Rahman on

We often see fighters use lots of kicks and punches, but in self-defense sports such as Brazilian jujitsu, fighters actually use joint locks and chokes to disable their opponents. Besides skill and technique, working on strength is an essential aspect of the game. Obviously, to use these chokes and locks, fighters need to take their opponents to the ground.

How can they do that if they are not strong enough? What is even more, you will need strength to resist attacks because, you know, your opponent will not just stand there waiting for you to attack. Especially when you meet with an opponent who is equally skilled as you, strength will be the element determining the winner.

Basic Strength Exercises For The Lower Body

Squats

Having strong legs will ensure you a takedown. A very effective exercise that engages not only your legs and glutes but also your back and hamstrings are definitely squats. Now, this may seem like a simple exercise, but why don’t you think twice? If you ever tried doing squats and haven’t felt all these muscles working hard, then you probably did something wrong.

As suggested in this article, there are a few key things to pay attention to when working squats if you want to avoid injury. Based on the article, squats below parallel are actually not bad for the knees, as it is mostly assumed.

First of all, the position in which you get when you do these below-parallel squats is a natural position for our bodies. Now, let’s see why squats will not hurt your knees if performed correctly. A squat is not a knee-dependent but a hip-dependent movement. Of course that your knees have to bend, but the majority of the stress goes to the hips. However, the thing with the hips is that they are surrounded by muscles. These muscles have the ability to quickly adapt to this stress as they get stronger. All this means that the hips are much better protected from the knees. To make sure that the hips get the majority of stress while doing your squats, you should pay attention that you drive your knees slightly out to the sides and push your hips back during the descent.

The next thing to pay attention to is the position of your back. When doing squats, you should assume a more horizontal back angle. This keeps the stress off the knees because it allows the hips to do their part of the work. What is even more, you will also improve the strength of your back. When squats are done correctly, they work all the muscles mentioned above, protect the knees and the spine. At the same time, this will allow you to lift heavier weights as you progress.

Here’s a video tutorial that shows the perfect form of squats.

Deadlifts

Basically, when doing deadlifts, you will feel that they work almost the same muscles as squats. Why do them then? Well, deadlifts target those muscles in a different way, and thus the exercise has a different effect on improving your strength. In other words, with weighted squats, you begin by lowering the weight whereas with deadlifts, you lift the weight from the floor.

Deadlifts are also an upper-body exercise, as they work the arms and shoulders, which squats miss to target. So, this exercise is a good choice if you want not only to have strong legs but also to improve your physical ability to work your guard.

Upper Body Exercises

Bent Rows

With bent rows, fighters don’t work only their back muscles but shoulder muscles as well. This exercise primarily focuses on the shoulder muscles around the rotator cuff making it stronger and healthier. Although this is a simple exercise to perform, you should never forget that doing it correctly will reduce your chances of injury. So, check the video below to see how to do bent rows.

Bench Press

This is maybe not that much popular exercise nowadays, but it is definitely one of the major upper-body exercises. So, how does it actually work? Bench presses will work the front of your shoulders, triceps, and back. If you want to isolate the muscle groups even further, you can change your grip on the bar. It is now obvious why fighters include these presses in their strength training — all these muscles are extremely important in grappling.

How Do Fighters Improve Their Grip Strength?

Working on improving your grip will actually challenge not only your hands but also your wrists and fingers. Thus, you will be able to hold the weight for longer time and lift more weight. The first thing that probably comes to your mind is a gripper — a simple and effective exercise for improving your grip strength. However, there is more you can do to get that crushing grip. So, how do fighters train grip?

Farmer’s Carries

For this exercise, you will need two kettlebells or dumbbells. The exercise is simple to do, and it doesn’t focus only on your grip but on your forearms, shoulders, core, and hips. To do the exercise, walk a distance of 20 feet holding two dumbbells or kettlebells, one in each hand. The exercise adds motion to your grip, so you will really feel that weight. As you progress, you can try walking for 40 or more feet.

Barbell Holds

This one is similar to deadlifts, so you won’t have any problem with them. First, grab the bar with a double overhand. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart. Stand tall as you would for deadlifts. The point of this exercise is to hold for time. If you are a beginner, you should go for about 5–10 seconds. You should try to do 3–5 sets of these.

Plate Pinches

As you can guess from the name itself, you will need plates for this exercise. Find two plates that are flat on one side so that you can pinch them together. It is recommended to begin with 5 lb plates. Pinch them and hold for about half a minute and repeat this for several sets. As you progress, you can move to two 10 lbs plates. With this exercise, you will improve your pinch grip.

Towel Pull Ups

Yet another exercise which will help you improve your grip by leaps and bounds are towel pull ups. All you need are just a couple of towels and a standard pull up bar. Drape the towels over the bar and perform regular pull ups.

Band Hand Extensions

Another exercise that will strengthen your grip and prevent injuries as well is known as band extensions. Now, there are professional bands that you can buy, but you can also use thick rubber bands or even rubber bracelets. Read on to see how to perform this exercise.

Place your band around all 5 fingers. If the band is not that thick or strong, you can even wrap it a few times around your fingers. Then, extend your hand outwards and keep repeating the movement. Another option is to extend the hand outwards and hold for some time. After a short break, extend again and hold.

***

All these exercises are a very simple addition to your strength training routine, but they can yield great results. Otherwise, why would all those fighters include them in their strength workouts?

Genetics & Sports Injuries: How Our DNA Makes Us Prone To Injuries

by: Adeel Rahman on


Injuries and sports go hand in hand. Athletes are on a constant lookout for ways to improve their athletic performance forgetting that high-intensity training sessions increase the risk of injuries, especially if accompanied by high impact loads. We could see elite players such as Rafael Nadal or Juan Martin Del Potro struggling with injuries which forced them to stay off the court for a longer period of time.

Why some athletes seem to be unlucky to suffer injuries every now and then? Is there something in their bodies that make their muscles, ligaments, or bones tear or strain more frequently? A growing number of researches suggest that DNA may be the answer to this question.

Connective Tissue Injuries: Environmental vs Genetic Factors

Realizing that a majority of sports injuries are actually soft-tissue injuries (ligaments and tendons) has led to a rapid growth in interest and consequently research activity as well.

Not all connective tissues are the same, and more importantly, the same connective tissue may have a different structure in different individuals. The factors which have the greatest influence on these differences in connective tissue are of environmental and genetic origin. Environmental factors typically refer to nutrition and diet, exposure to mechanical loads during training, exposure to drugs, etc. whereas genetic factors are related to variations in genes encoding for a specific collagen or any other protein. So, the ability of any connective tissue to adapt to the mechanical load will depend on the interaction between environmental and genetic factors.

Until recently, the research in the area of sport-related injuries was focused on understanding environmental factors. However, the focus has shifted to identifying the relation of intrinsic genetic factors to injuries in sports. There is now a growing body of evidence showing that there are genetic risk factors for Achilles tendon ruptures, Achilles tendinopathy, stress fractures, as well as anterior cruciate ligament injuries.

Some Athletes Have Genes That Make Them Prone To Injuries?

So far, it seems that a number of researches have led scientist to the point of understanding how DNA makes athletes prone to injuries. Scientists have identified specific genes that are in some way linked to making athletes prone to injuries. Although, a number of researchers hold the view that the likelihood of suffering from specific sports injuries is more likely to be caused by multiple genes, identifying specific genes is a huge step forward to understanding how our DNA makes us vulnerable to certain injuries.

Genes Responsible For Collagen Production & Their Relations To Injurie

Since collagen is the main component of ligaments and tendons, some studies in the field of sport-injury genetics have focused on those genes and their variations that control the production of collagen and their variations. Moreover, collagen proteins are found in the structure of bones and tissues as well. However, in some people, variations in the structure of these proteins may be observed, which leaves body structures either weaker or unable to repair themselves after injuries. A group of researchers from South Africa was able to distinguish specific variations of the collagen gene named COL1A1. The researchers paid special attention to those recreational athletes who had suffered traumatic ACL injuries. The results of the research indicated that the variations of the mentioned collagen gene were under-represented in this group of participants. Compared to the group of subjects who hadn’t had any injury, these recreational athletes were four times more likely to have a blood relative who had suffered the same injury. These observations led the researchers to suggest that genetics is to some degree responsible for the strength of the ligaments.

Another research linked the same gene to other soft-tissue injuries such as shoulder dislocations and Achilles-tendon ruptures. The TT genotype, one of the three potential variants of the gene, has been related to making ligaments and tendons prone to injuries. Thus, researchers discovered that this variation of the gene is found in only 5% of the population – those lucky ones who are extremely unlikely to suffer a traumatic tendon or ligament injury.

The COL5A1 is another gene associated with collagen production, and this research from 2009 linked it to a higher risk of Achilles tendon and the ACL. Moreover, another research indicated that the gene may be related to a greater susceptibility to exercise-induced muscle cramping as well.

Genes Responsible For Bone Density & Muscle Strength

Investigating the relation between injuries and genetics, some researches also focused on bone-mineral density and identified genetic markers associated with this measure of bone strength. Moreover, a growing body of research has indicated that there is ground to claim that increased rates of stress fractures in younger women and osteoporosis in older women is related to genetics and tend to run in a family.

There is also a number of researches that associate muscle strength with genetic factors, more specifically with the ACTN3 gene. The observations obtained so far indicate that RR genotype may be linked to the capacity to produce more strength. Moreover, it has also been associated with lower muscle damage susceptibility. Of course, further research is necessary to confirm these observations and give a clearer picture on the link between this gene and muscle strength and injuries.

***

Although genetic testing is a topic which raises a lot of questions, many believe that in this way athletes may get valuable information about their genetic makeup that may increase their competitive edge. However, the information obtained through research of this kind is not valuable only to elite athletes. A great number of amateur athletes also suffer from injuries they get during matches in recreational leagues or when they participate in outdoor sports activities. Even though knowing one’s genetic makeup won’t help the athlete avoid all the possible injuries, it can still be used to the athlete’s benefits by revealing those at higher risk and minimizing problems. For now, we are still waiting for some larger-scale research that will give a clearer picture of the matter. Further and more extensive research into the field will hopefully yield results and observations that hold the potential for injury prevention for athletes.

How do athletes strengthen connective tissue to prevent injury?


Boxing and Head Trauma – History of brain injuries in boxing and its impact today

by: Adeel Rahman on

If you have seen a few boxing matches in your life, then you would know that boxers can really take a beating. The whole professional sport is about beating down your opponent. While this means that both players are susceptible to some form of physical injury, head trauma is most common. In fact, if you have come across the recently released Will Smith starring blockbuster “Concussion”, then you would know how many sports have a history of head injuries. 

Boxing is an incredibly popular sport, and most professional boxers have sustained some form of head trauma. This, in no way, has slowed or deterred the popularity of the sport, especially when the likes of Muhammad Ali were its ruling champions. After Ali’s recent passing in June, speculations emerged linking his neurological decline due to Parkinson’s, to his professional head trauma during boxing. There is currently, no concrete evidence that could directly link Parkinson’s or any other Neurodegenerative disorder to head trauma. However, more recent studies have shown a dramatic coincidence between traumatic head injuries, especially in sports, and subsequent neurological decline with age. Does this simply mean banning sports like boxing or martial art? While this is up for a later debate, currently there is a need to assess the level of trauma past and present boxers have, and can sustain. Moreover, there is a need to create a general public awareness of these incidents and their consequences. Other professional sports like rugby and football also have a history of head injuries, but it prevails more in boxing due to opponents aiming for each other’s heads or faces for knockouts.

The unfortunate death of Frankie Campbell

Perhaps one of the most traumatic boxing incidents is the match between Frankie Campbell and heavyweight boxer Max Baer in 1930. Campbell had the lead when Baer, in an aggressive charge, gave him a seriously fatal knockout by a blow to the jaw, followed by a continuous streak of brutal power shots. The fight ended with Campbell falling to the corner of ring unconscious, only to never recover. Campbell was declared dead on his arrival to a hospital. The doctors attributed his cause of death to cerebral hemorrhage due to severe blunt force trauma. They said his brain had subsequently detached from the skull’s connective tissue. The incident in a way opened the eyes of people towards the violent reality of the boxing world.

Benny “the kid” Paret

Benny Paret was a Cuban boxer who died due to injuries he sustained in the boxing ring at the age of 25. Paret was defending his welterweight title against Emile Griffith in a televised match on March 24, 1962. Griffith subjected some twenty-nine consecutive direct blows to Paret who collapsed right there in the ring. The unconscious boxer fell into a coma and died 10 days later due to cerebral hemorrhaging. 


“Who killed Davey Moore?”

If you are fan of Bob Dylan, then you must certainly be aware of his 1963 song titles “who killed Davey Moore”. The song was inspired by the tragic death of Featherweight world champion Davey Moore as he fought and lost to boxer Sugar Ramos on March 21, 1963. Moore was knocked down by Ramos in the ropes after successive blows to the head, and a blow to the neck. This subsequently injured his brain stem, although Moore got up from the ring and gave interviews. The seemingly fine boxer went back to his dressing room complaining of headaches and collapsed. After being taken to a hospitable, doctors diagnosed him with terminal brain damage. Moore remained in a coma and died 75 hours later. This incident in conjunction with the previous deaths in boxing due to head injuries spurredcontroversy about boxing as an increasingly dangerous sport.

What has changed today?

In the world of boxing today, the impact of those who died in the ring, still resonates. Meanwhile, science has continuously tried to enlighten the short term and long term effects of trauma sustained from boxing. With heavyweight champions like Floyd Mayweather coming under light for regaining the popularity of the sport, the injury factor has not been subsided. More and more studies today are linking neurological deficits in veteran boxers to their sustained head injuries.



However, boxing seems to have made a permanent mark and evolving continuously. Players today, have an updated way of going about the sport than their predecessors. Protective gear such as gloves, mouth guards and headgear are influenced more by research in order to provide maximum safeguard. 
Boxers are being taught to enhance their defensive skills, and to improve their punching techniques as well. There is a need for a lot more science to go into making the sport a lot safer for its players. Boxers are subjected to harsher penalties for subjecting their opponents to any personal fueled violence. The ring is to be fought at, in a completely professional manner. Increased number of consecutive strikes are also opposed. This increasing understanding for the impact of boxing on a person’s health can make this sport less of a bloodbath. But then again, a lot more effort is needed, with more emphasis on the safety of the boxers rather than the amount of money involved. 

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