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Tony Tuesday #9: THE BET

The other day a friend came over who happens to be a 50 meter specialist. Chris had competed at the college level, and now trains rigorously with a club team. After a while, we began to talk about sprinting. Because I haven’t been training, he was convinced that he could beat me in a race. We ended up making a bet about who would win a 10 meter sprint. 

 

But Chris made a big mistake. He let me to dictate the rules of the race: we would start in the water, with our hands on the wall. The 10 meter race was also very short.

 

We jumped in my pool, and when my wife Sara gave the signal we raced forward!  I won, by at least a body length.

 

Chris had failed to consider several key differences between water polo players and swimmers. Swimmers use the momentum of a dive to move forward when sprinting. Their subsequent strokes are long, deep, and often use excellent technique.

 

In contrast, water polo players learn to propel their bodies forward from a static position in the water. We do this by rotating our bodies over our hips. It’s the explosiveness of this rotation that allowed me to “jump’ way ahead of Chris at the beginning of our short race, leaving him unable to catch up. My strokes were shorter, quicker and technically “uglier” than Chris’, but more effective at moving super fast.

 

In fact, the ability of a water polo player to rotate their body over their hips is an excellent metric of their talent. In countries like Serbia, where water polo is huge, young kids are taught technique for this rotation from the moment they enter the pool. They are also taught to swim with shorter strokes, to keep their heads up when swimming, and to use quick stop/go movements for positioning. 

 

In the USA kids often start water polo after first learning to swim conventionally. Conventional swimming emphasizes stroke technique and keeps the head under water. While this training is helpful, it means that USA kids often take longer to adjust their swim technique in ways that maximize their water polo potential.

 

This means that if you’re serious about polo, it’s never too early to learn water-based positioning. If you don’t, you might also find yourself on the wrong side of a bet (Chris is buying me dinner and it’s going to be satisfyingly delicious:) 

This coming September a huge decision will be made: an invitation to host the 2024 Summer Olympics will be given either to Los Angeles California or Paris France. I am working very hard to convince the Olympic Committee that the Games should be held in Los Angeles. There are several key reasons why I’m pushing for this outcome.

 

To start, LA has already built many of the facilities needed to successfully host the Games. LA previously hosted the Olympics in 1932 and 1984. Many of the sporting venues built for these Olympics are still in use and can be repurposed for the 2024 Games. LA (and the surrounding area) are also filed with venues for current professional and club sports teams that can additionally be used for the Games. This existing infrastructure should help LA avoid a pitfall that has plagued many of the last cities to host the Olympics: serious problems with financing and building fully functional Olympic venues by the necessary deadline.

 

LA also has historical ties to the Summer Olympics that will add significance to the 2024 Games. The first ever Olympic Village was introduced during the LA 1932 Games. The ’32 Games also marked the first time a three-person podium was used to formally award medals. One very cool thing about the 1984 Games is that the city of LA made an unheard of $215 million profit from the event. The money was invested wisely by non-profit Organization LA84, and used to support numerous youth sporting programs for decades to come.

 

In addition, the LA area is a global epicenter of athletics and healthy living. Restaurants and markets featuring organic food are popping up all over the city. “Farm to table” eating, that allows diners to bypass the hormones and pesticides often added to food products, is also becoming a standard LA trend. This type of dining complements the average LA resident who already devotes serious time to athletic and outdoor endeavors. In part because LA weather is temperate and sunny, the community is filled with people who prioritize surfing, hiking, swimming, running and camping etc. Residents compete regularly in these and other arenas at an amateur level, and great effort is made to involve youth in athletics at a very early age. Since the Olympics also showcase amateur sports, this “LA vibe” is perfect for the Games.    


The influence that a role model can have on a young athlete is amazing. As a youngster, I took a mentor’s exact words to heart on numerous occasions. For example, when I was 11, one of my idols on the USA Olympic team insisted that his “breakfast of champions” was chocolate milk and chocolate donuts (the ones at 7 eleven that come in packs of 6!). Well, I had that for breakfast every chance I got until my Dad asked me what I was doing. He explained that so much sugar wasn’t actually very good for my health.


When I first made the USA National Team at 16 I was just a kid who loved to play. But it wasn’t long before I realized that actually getting to the Olympics was going to be war. I was accustomed to scoring at least 2-3 goals per game. When I started to score less (or not at all!) during national team practices, the change came as a huge shock. In fact, I had no idea how to adjust my thinking and accept the new situation. I subsequently found myself at the FINA World Championships in Australia playing what felt like the worst tournament of my life! I didn’t score during the first quarter and felt like a complete failure.


At that exact moment, the great Monte Nitskowski (assistant coach) pulled me aside. He told me not to worry about scoring because, in the end, water polo greatness is most determined by the capacity to be a dynamic team player. From that moment forward I entered every game visualizing defense. I wanted the players who guarded me to later have nightmares thanks to the fact that I never, ever stopped moving. If the opportunity arose I would shoot, but I also focused on making assists, sprinting for the ball, and making steals on defense. It was this change in mindset that led me to my first Olympic Games.


Now I run my own water polo clinics, camps, and training sessions for young players. The advice I offer these players stems from great personal reflection and/or background research. I know I am training the future stars of the sport, and if my advice is half as helpful as that of Nitskowski’s or that of my other mentors then I know these talented kids have a great chance to succeed!  

POSTURE with Dr. McMichael

Posture is not a fun topic. It’s like drinking more water. We all know we should make more of a conscious effort, but few of us do.

I’m hoping that by providing some reasons as to why proper body posture is important, as well as some simple daily exercises, you will be able to improve your posture thereby improving the longevity of your musculoskeletal system.

Every body will go through a natural degenerative process. Vertebral discs become drier and therefore shrink. Bones become less smooth and lose some of their shape. This can lead to pain and reduction in range of motion (ROM).  Genetics play a role in degeneration as well as traumas such as car accidents, however, posture also plays a role and is something that is in our control.

Poor posture, which does not allow the body to move in the way it was designed, speeds up the degenerative process of the spine by increasing wear and tear on the joints. This means that the better your posture is the better chance you are giving yourself at a healthier body for a longer period of time.

Proper Posture: Side view

Your external acoustic meatus aka EAM aka that hole in your ear should be directly over the front 1/3 of your shoulder. This is important because every 1” that your head is leaning forward over your spine, it is an additional 9lbs of force on the neck and, once again, speeds up the degeneration of the cervical spine. I suggest having someone take a picture of you from the side to see where your head naturally lies. Initially, it might feel like you have “military neck” when you hold your ear over your shoulder. However, it will feel more natural with time.

Your greater trochanter which is found on the widest part of your hips should be directly over the front 1/3 of your knee. And your knee should be over the back ¼ of your foot.

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I like to break posture down into 2 sections: Upper Crossed Syndrome and Lower Crossed Syndrome

Upper Crossed Syndrome

Most of us have what is described as “anterior head carriage.” This is when we hold our head more forward than it is meant to sit which causes a chronic pattern in our muscles. Since we hold ourselves in this unnatural, yet socially acceptable position, we cause a lot of health issues for ourselves over time including but not limited to headaches, shoulder pain, osteoarthritis, and tight neck.

With the ear being in front of the shoulder, this position causes tight pectoral muscles and upper traps as well as weak deep neck flexors and weak lower traps and rhomboids.

The exercises to correct this “anti” posture are:

Hold elbow at a 90 degree angle against a door jam or protruding wall corner and turn your body away from the arm you are stretching. You should feel a gently pull in the front of the shoulder. Repeat on the other side.

 

Put left arm behind your back to anchor that shoulder. Place the right hand above the left ear and gently pull your right ear to right shoulder. Repeat on other side.

 

Keeping your chin parallel to the floor, pull it back to create a “double chin.” I suggest doing this exercises in your car against the seat headrest for added isometric resistance.

 

Tie an elastic exercises band to a door handle and stand facing the door holding one end of the band in each hand. Keep forearms parallel to the floor and pull back while squeezing the shoulder blades together. Release the pull in a slow, controlled motion and then repeat.

When you stretch a muscle it lengthens the fibers combating muscle tightness. Strengthening a muscle shortens the muscle fibers. By strengthening the rhomboids it will actually shorten the muscle and over time physically pull back your shoulders. Same with the neck flexors.


Lower Crossed Syndrome

Something else I see in almost everyone are weak glutes and abs (since we sit all day which disengages both muscle groups), and consequently tight low back and tight hip flexors.....

Greetings from Gwangju!

It has been an eventful first week here in South Korea. After a 13 hour flight to Seoul, we unfortunately missed the train to Gwangju by about 10 minutes and had to entertain ourselves in the airport for three hours while we waited for another train. After a two and a half hour ride to the center of Gwangju, we caught a quick bus over to the Athlete Village at about 1:00 A.M. local time. We checked in, got some food, and took a much-needed night of sleep.

Because our first game was not scheduled until the 4th, we got in some good training by ourselves and also with the Italians, who were guided by former Bruin Cristiano Mirarchi. However, a last minute schedule change for the games threw us a curveball; we were now scheduled to open against Japan on July 2nd instead of the 4th. We played hard and defeated the Japanese 13-12 to open the tournament.

After a day break,

After a good month of training and ending with tough games vs Serbia, Team USA started a 3 week tour of Europe. We started in Rome for a friendly tournament. In Rome the outcome was not great after losing all 3 but we were jet lagged and hopefully we will learn from our loses. After the tournament we had 1 day off where the team got a special tour of the vatican (through a contact we met on the flight over!). After we then drove down an hour to the Olympic Training center outside of Rome for 2 days of tough trainings. After that we spent 4 days in Opatija Croatia doing common trainings with the Croatians. Opatija is a resort town and our hotel was located on the beach in a highly touristic area. Training in Croatia is always a treat, you get great trainings great food and always stay in a wonderful hotel. After those 4 days we took a 5 hour bus to Bergamo Italy where our team will start tonight vs Serbia. Winner of this tournament will automatically qualify for RIO 2016!...

Hi everyone,
 
Our team just finished up a series of games with #1 in the world Serbia. It turned out to be a really great experience for our team. We trained 4 hours every morning with them and then set up 4 test matches around California and our last game in Chicago. 

It is amazing how important being mentally strong is in sports. At 33 years old, I physically feel great. I played most of all the games, three quarters or more, and in the finals I was in the whole time except for two minutes. But although my body felt strong, my mind was tired. It was not only due to all of the games, but also to the traveling, learning to play with new teammates in the US, being far from family etc. In the final game we (SESI) missed a ton of opportunities, myself included, and it was not our day. Somedays the ball just won't go in! Pinheiros played smart and made the bigger shots. 

A few days ago, I flew from Sao Paulo to Colorado Springs to begin training with Team USA in preparation for the Super Final qualification tournament in Corona Del Mar at the end of the month. It was great to finally get back with the guys and really focus on trainings and getting in shape. 

Tony Tuesday #2 - WPO

Today I want to talk about the Water Polo Players' Organization, or the WPO. In water polo, just like in most other sports, us athletes put in countless hours of lifting, swimming, training, resting, recovering mentally, managing our nutrition, etc. But although we work so hard in the pool, for those of us that are really serious about the sport, we also need to start working outside of the water.

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