Daniel is the founder of Guzman Performance and a leading Performance Coach for soccer athletes around the world. Over the past decade, he has coached athletes at The Los Angeles Football Club, The United States Men’s National Team, and The Los Angeles Galaxy. His methods have helped both healthy and injured athletes across multiple sports improve their performance. He has coached teams that have won championships and broken records, and he has set the new standard for injury reduction and player availability. Daniel’s personal mantra has always been to improve his best – with growth being the greatest goal. He hopes to inspire athletes and coaches to aspire for more in all of their personal goals.
The best way to prevent injury is to train for the demands that you will face in competition. This includes doing sprints, changing direction, and ball contacts if playing a sport like soccer. Additionally, strength training can help with hamstring prevention. Transcript: "The best way to train for injury prevention is to train for the demands to come. If you're an athlete and you have a competition on the weekend, what are you going to be exposed to in that game and how can we train that and work backwards from that? So if you're going to play a basketball game and you're going to play 30 plus minutes over that game, have you been training throughout the week for what you can do in that game? If it's in soccer and you're a 90 minute player, have you done the sprint distance you need? Have you done the change of direction? Have you done the ball contacts? All that kind of stuff is what's going to help with the injury prevention side. At least in soccer we know that the hamstrings are the number one soft tissue injury in the world. It's been that way for a long time. And so how are we best preparing our athletes for hamstring prevention? We do that through sprinting protocols and different strength stuff in the gym. But more importantly, it's the actual training they're getting on the field and how do we have those conversations to shape the training that is going to set them up for success on the weekend."
When preparing for a season, it is important to recognize the various parts of the season and use different ways to taper for each part. You need to look at what your starting eleven are doing, as well as the players who are more likely to be subs or reserves, in order to best prepare them for the increased intensity and volume that will come with matches. Transcript: "Anytime we're structuring preparation or we're trying to taper for something, I always think what is the end goal? If the end goal is the competition, that's one starting point. But there actually might be bigger parts of the season you need to recognize. Working in MLS, one thing that we always thought about was in the preseason, of course, you were trying to prepare the team for that first few matches of the season and make sure they can appropriately and progressively achieve fitness. But we know that coming into the summer, there might be a domestic tournament or there's going to be more regular season games. So they're now going to play a game weekend, midweek, weekend. And so that's going to be an increase of volume and increase the intensity of their match play. Now by knowing that, how do we best prepare the team? Well, we have to look at what our starting 11 is doing, but also our players that are more or less subs or reserve players, they're going to be playing a bigger role as well. So there's different ways to taper and you're tapering a bunch of different things each week, each month, that best prepare for different parts of the season. It's much more complex and you have to make sure that you're looking at every single aspect."
My daily habits to stay grounded and happy are spiritually feeding myself, exercising, and spending time with family. Transcript: "What are the daily habits you have to remain grounded and also stay happy? This is real simple for me. There's three things that I have to have. Am I feeding myself spiritually on a daily basis? That could be devotional. That could be speaking to someone and getting some daily prayer or having some prayer time for myself. The second thing would be, am I feeding myself physically? So am I moving? Am I able to be active, break a sweat, feel like I can actually let off some energy or play a sport that's allowing me to exercise? The third thing would be family time. Family is super important to me, so can I play with my kids, get some quality time with my wife? If those three things are checked off, I feel like I can stay grounded, very humble, and definitely happy on a day-to-day basis."
Injury risk can be increased by rapid increases in training load, which can happen when an athlete goes too hard right away after an offseason period. It's important to increase the training load gradually to allow the body time to adapt and grow in its own time. Transcript: "It's a really interesting question because whenever we're talking about how an athlete could get injured, it's a little bit of a dangerous conversation. Of course, we want to address the risk, but if we're trying to tell them you're going to get injured on this day, I don't know if that's really fair to say. What we can look at is how they progress in their load and if they have these massive increases of training load, be it from just pure running, swimming, biking, or their actual sport, whatever it might be, that could put them at an increased risk of injury. Basic examples, if an athlete is coming from an off-season period where they might have some down time and not doing a whole lot of training, and prepare for their pre-season, they start running or playing their sport at a very high volume and intensity, that get out of the gate fast and do as much as possible may not work best. I always tell the athlete, you can't water a plant faster for it to grow faster. You have to have very specific dosages of that water and allow the plant to grow in its own time. Well, we got to be really smart about that."
To train max velocity, coaches must emphasize the cyclical nature of the movement and its quick ground context. They should explain how to achieve this by having athletes imagine they are riding a unicycle, smashing their heel to their butt or calf to hamstring. Additionally, coaches should use different drills such as cubes and plyometrics to help athletes understand and practice the concept. Finally, coaches should ensure that athletes stay upright and contact the ground quickly and forcefully. Transcript: "So when we are talking about training max velocity within a team setting, I think there is a few ways that we have to discuss. The first thing is train it early and train it often. So I think max velocity is one of the most difficult things I have seen soccer players try to attain when they are trying to learn this movement skill. How do we train it? Well showing some sort of video would be helpful but I am going to try and talk you through it. I try and talk the athletes through this idea of riding a unicycle. I am able to stand against a wall or a fence or another athlete and show them the cyclical nature of what we are trying to do. I might talk to them about smashing their heel to their butt or their calf to hamstring in that movement so they don't have a very long heel recovery. Think about someone sprinting and their leg just hangs out way back behind them and they have this long cycle of their heel recovery back up into that high knee sprinter's position. We might talk about short ground contacts and have a theme for their whole entire day or in the warm up and we want quick ground contacts which can carry over into our plyometrics and then maybe we find a way to introduce that into the gym as well and have that theme in their head. But typically we are talking about shapes about staying upright, as tall as you can be and we are contacting the ground forcefully and quickly and then I tell them smash that calf to hamstring and bring that unicycle, that cyclical action a lot quicker. Now that has worked with a lot of athletes. Sometimes we have to use different cues or different ideas but that cyclical nature and tall upright posture is something that has really worked well for me and my athletes."
The best way to measure hamstring strength is using a Nordic Board to get force readings while performing the Nordic Hamstring movement. Additionally, making the test part of the training and the training part of the test will help improve the accuracy of the results. Transcript: "The best ways to measure hamstring strength. Well, we could look at a movement like the RDL in the gym and we maybe could say, hey, they're able to lift this much weight with this movement and so the hamstrings are contributing to that. I don't think that's as accurate and we can't get super objective with that besides just saying here's how much weight they lifted. The problem there is there's other things that contribute to movements like that and we need to find something that isolates the hamstrings a little bit more. Something that I think has been really valuable is some sort of Nord board where the athletes are in that Nordic hamstring movement and we can get some sort of force readings from the hamstrings and get a little bit more specific there. Now, is that perfect? Probably not. There's still some holes there a little bit, but it's getting something closer to measuring the hamstrings that we can do consistently and we can do often. I think the most important thing when it comes to hamstring strength is that we make the test part of training and the training is part of the test. So what I like to do is for using the Nordics, we're going to train that Nordic when they feel like they're progressed at it where they can actually handle the volume and intensity of that, then we will just bring in something like the Nord board and so that the athletes are testing on a weekly basis, but really it's just part of their training. Part of the being good at the test is training that test and if we just make a smoother integration of that, we can get better readings which ultimately can just give us insight into how we should progress or regress an athlete."