Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Blown Away

OK, I am blown away, and I want to tell you about it, but first there was one game last week in the WFA that merits a short discussion, and that was the Pittsburgh/Boston game. I’d picked Pittsburgh to finally break through into the upper sphere of the National Conference by beating Boston. To me, he Renegades seemed a little lackluster lately, and given their daunting upcoming schedule, perhaps ripe to be taken down. Well, I underestimated Boston before and was proven wrong, so why not this time? Boston came out on top, 51-32.

With that win, we’re better able to slot where Pittsburgh stands, and that was of interest because they were IWFL champs last year, and were looking really good so far. For now, there is no grand re-ordering in the WFA universe. It’ll be Dallas and Central Cal in the West (although I’ll give Portland a 20% chance at an upset of Central Cal), and then DC and either Chicago or Boston in the East, dependent on how this week’s Chicago/Boston game turns out. I really have no idea how that will turn out, and it should be a great game.

OK, back to the main topic…..this past weekend I was in Phoenix at LeCharles Bentley’s OLine Performance World ( I’ve talked about him and his training plenty of times before, and had become a fan. Back in January he announced that he was going to hold a free coaches’ clinic in May, and that it was limited to the first 50 to register. So I made sure that I was one of those. Later, I heard that they accepted 80+. Now, I don’t know what goes through people’s minds, but I’m wondering if since it was free, there wasn’t as much value attached to it by some folks. That was their mistake. There were only about 35 coaches there, and it was the perfect size group. I think I was able to at least speak briefly with everyone there at some point, and the instructing coach to student (us other coaches) ratio was great.

LeCharles is a dynamic speaker and coach. He can get people fired up at the drop of the hat. His progression in leading students from skepticism to discipleship is masterful. Those who disagree or question aren’t ridiculed, but shown the “why”, the “how to” and the “how to do”. I can now say that I’ve watched his teachings on film, seen it in person, and felt it/done it myself. There is no quicker way to become convinced that something is right than when you do it yourself and have success.

CJ Davis is one of LB’s fulltime coaches. After playing at Pitt, he had a short NFL career with Carolina and Denver. He is a phenomenal teacher and communicator, and was dispensing knowledge, demonstrating and coaching us throughout almost every break. I had him as a demo partner in one drill, and the way he took me through it made me wonder about my own ability as a coach!

Matt Lee is LB’s strength and conditioning coach. His knowledge of training, kinesiology, power development and functional movement is absolute first class.  His presentations (with CJ demonstrating – we felt a lot of what was taught, but I’m glad we weren’t called on to front squat and snatch!) made me into more of a believer in Olympic movements for offensive line development than ever before. All I’d heard before regarding oly lifts is they “develop power”…..OK, great. Not inspiring. But Matt broke it down for us and explained why what he was talking about was so important, and exactly how it would make our players better. I can guarantee you that if I’m ever at a place that has a S&C program again, I’ll be incorporating his teachings.

Also, there were three current NFL players who came down on their own time to help out. Chance Womack (Tennessee), Larry Warford (Detroit) and Patrick Omameh (free agent, played for Chicago last year) are all very capable teachers and super nice guys (I just wouldn’t want to line up against any of them). I have a suspicion of “former/current players” being coaches because so often it seems they rely on their superior athletic talents to get by and don’t develop their communicative skills and don’t have an appreciation for what the average guy has (or, more likely doesn’t have) to work with. But these guys were great at offering suggestions, looking at what we were doing wrong and having the ability to fix it. I was working through some stance issues and Patrick came over and talked me right through it, told me exactly what changes would make me better. I can’t say enough about how helpful they all were.

Finally, there were two CFL guys there. I didn’t catch their full names (Matt and “Big Dog” was all I got), and they served as demonstrators as well. After Patrick helped me on my stance and ensuing pass set, I just remember Matt saying “Wow” – that pretty much made my day.

So, by now you’re thinking, “OK, great – they’re nice guys and great teachers. What did you learn?” Fair enough. I learned movement patterns. I learned how to move with purpose and intent. I learned how to move from the ground up, and I learned how to fight pressure with pressure at any point during a play. I learned that if you start bad, you’ll finish bad. I was taught OL play from an entirely different perspective.

There will be more clinics given by LB. The talk right now is to have one in July. I probably won’t be able to make that one, as our season games will be starting then, but if he sets a certain weekend (second one of May, for example) as a constant, then I’ll make my reservations years in advance. If you can’t tell, I have zero reservation in recommending that anyone remotely involved in OL play should pay attention to what LB has to offer. Make the trip when it is offered. I promise you you’ll thank me after.

What’s got me just as excited is that I’ll get a chance to teach what I’ve learned to a brand new group of young OL next week when I’m in Las Vegas to conduct a high school OL mini-camp. Before this weekend, I had an idea of what the practice plan would look like. No more. In a sense, it is perfect, because the staff has just taken over at the school and wanted to concentrate on just the basics. And I’ve gotta admit that at one point I found myself wanting to push that envelope further. But now I have a much better understanding of the pace and importance of movement, and the learning of those patterns. So I’ve got two practices with the Nighthawks this week….we’re going to be spending our first 10 minute Indy periods from here on out focusing on stance and movement….and then I get to teach the high school kids.

Who’s got it better than me?  :-)

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