John Grace is a performance coach for the Chicago Fire FC of the MLS. He previously spent time at Orlando City SC and is the former Assistant Director of Performance at Athletic Lab. Grace holds a master’s degree in Coaching & Sport Performance from Ohio University.
Certain players have an edge in high-pressure situations because they have experienced those situations more often and are better equipped to handle the pressure. Transcript: "Why do certain players have an edge in high-pressure situations in soccer? I think the reason that certain players have an edge in high-pressure situations is simply because they've been in high-pressure situations many times. You learn from experience. You learn how to calm your anxiety in those high-pressure situations. Typically, you do find that when you are maybe underdeveloped or maybe not as experienced, you crumble under pressure. That is pretty typical. But when you experience those high-pressure situations more and more and more, you become immune to some of the anxieties that would come along with it. Usually, too much anxiety or fear creates a situation where you make more mistakes. I think that's why some athletes and some soccer players in general will have more success. They've simply seen it more often. They've been in those situations more often. I think the ones who have had more experience in those high-pressure situations can tolerate it a lot better and have it not faze them. And that goes with anything. The more experience you have in a particular situation, the less it will bother you."
The only negative of taking creatine is that it can cause water retention and bloating. To reduce these effects, you can lower the dose to 2.5-3 grams a day. Transcript: "Well, the question before was on the benefits of taking creatine. And so this question is, what are the negatives of taking creatine? As far as I know, and this is based on the research that I'm aware of, and I could be missing something. So please take this as you will. I think the only negative that I'm aware of is you might have some water retention that might cause some bloating or what would look like maybe weight gain just from water retention. And obviously the bloating can be potentially uncomfortable. In that case, I would just reduce your dose a little bit. Typical dose is five grams a day. Maybe you could take that down to two and a half or three grams a day and see if you have better results on the bloating side."
The most useful certifications for a strength coach are the NSCA and CSCCA, as well as a Sports Science certification and CPR/AED certificate. Transcript: "What certifications are most useful for a strength coach? Well, I think I'm not the only one that will say this, but the NSCA CSCS is probably the gold standard in collegiate and professional level for strength coaches. The CSCCA, the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Association is also quite good I've heard. But some that maybe haven't been mentioned, I would think about potentially getting a sports science cert. So the NSCA has come out with one that I have not taken, but I've heard good things about. That might be something that if you're already deep in being a strength coach or have good experience, you may want to branch out and get some sports science understanding. That is a pretty near crossover to strength and conditioning world. The other one that I would probably get would be CPR, CPR AED. From a safety perspective, I think you need to have an understanding that if there's an emergency and you're the first responder, that you need to know what to do and how to instruct others around you to have the most safe environment for your athletes or for anybody else that you may be coaching."
When choosing lower body exercises to do in a team setting, it is important to consider the physical demands of the sport, the highest injury rates and what the sport is already doing in training and competition. Exercises should support performance and reduce the risk of injury. Transcript: "What lower body exercises should I do if I have 15 minutes in a team setting? Well, first, I think we have to look at the sport itself. What are the physical demands of the sport? Is there a high strength component? Is there a high speed component? Is there a high power component? A high flexibility and mobility component? I think we have to look at that and prioritize based on what is needed in the sport. I think we can also look at what are the highest injury sites, the highest injury rate sites of the body within the sport. So is there high rates of hamstring injuries? Are there high rates of quad injuries? And so on and so forth. I think from there we can start to decide what exercises we would want to do to fill the buckets of performance and injury risk. And lastly, I think we need to look at what is the sport not doing itself. So in competition and training, the athlete is going to get doses of certain qualities, maybe speed, maybe acceleration, maybe changes of direction. So if we look at maybe a lot of jumping, and if we look at that, I think we need to look at what the sport itself is doing in training, in competition, and not do so much of that and support that training and do something a little bit less specific and maybe what some would consider more general to try to reduce overuse type of injuries. So if I layer more jumping onto a basketball player in season during competition, it might not be a great idea. I might do something a little bit more slow strength to support his ability to jump and withstand the landing forces. So again, what's the demands of the sport? What are the highest injury rates? And what are we not doing within the training and competition itself?"
Yes, creatine can be beneficial for athletes of any type - not just those who need speed and power - as it has been shown to support both performance and brain health. Transcript: "The short answer is yes. Almost always I think for not only speed and power and strength athletes but also some endurance athletes because there's been not only support for things like strength and power but also there's been now recent research support for things like concussion and brain health. So I think for any athlete, any contact athlete or really anybody in general, creatine can be fantastic for not only from a performance side but from a cognitive or maybe brain injury or health side as well."
To strengthen the tendons in the knee, I recommend doing high intensity storage and release activities such as plyometrics, deceleration exercises, changes of direction, and jumping actions. Additionally, you can use high velocity eccentric exercises with flywheel devices and heavy loaded fast quarter squats. Transcript: "What workouts would you recommend to strengthen the tendons in the knee? Well, first let's say that we are talking about very healthy tendons. I don't want to get into an unhealthy tendon or a tendinopathy. That's a different case and a different story. But if we're talking about a completely healthy tendon, you can think of the tendon as a steel spring. And steel springs can be very, very, very stiff or they can be not so stiff. And when we want to train for that steel spring to become stiffer, we need to do high-intensity storage and release type of activities. So that could be plyometric activities. That could be deceleration activities. That could be changes of direction. That could be various jumping actions as well. And so I think those would be from a more specific side. So I think you'd have to look at your sport and determine what the sport's needs are. From a more general side, I think we can start to look in the weight room with very high-velocity eccentric exercises as well. This takes time to build up to safely. But if we can get to high-velocity eccentric exercises like flywheel devices, like fast quarter squats, things like heavy-loaded fast quarter squats, things like that, I think we can start to load the tendon that way as well or maybe improve stiffness. But ultimately, I think you're going to have to go the route of plyometrics and jumping actions, typically speaking."