What Numbers Don’t Tell

John,

I will be attendi­ng and doing spring football workouts at UIW in San Antonio, Texas. I am a 22-year-old freshman with no guaranteed spot on the team as I am a hoping to walk on, but I have faith. I would like to play wide receiver or will at least try to be. My father was a talented running back in high school but got involved with the wrong crowd and went to prison. Looking at your Power Athlete programs, what would you recommend for a young go hard trying to playing wide receiver. Here are a few of my recent PR's as I work as a CrossFit trainer and am in the military reserves.

Squat Clean: 265 pounds
Power Clean: 255 pounds
Deadlift: 455 pounds
Snatch: 175 pounds
Back Squat: 355 pounds
Front Squat: 315 pounds
Bench: 245 pounds
Strict Press: 175 pounds

Thank you and God bless.

Shyrell

james_townsend_nfl_crossfit

 

Shy,

Here is where we run into problems. PRs tell me nothing about your ability to play football.  Instead of blindly recommending a program, let me first paint you the entire picture so you’ll have some perspective.

Football is a competitive endeavor which requires you to execute your will over an opponent. While being strong is a great headline, it doesn’t tell the entire story.

For example, your “recent PRs” do not indicate speed, which is the great equalizer for a less talented or smaller player. Being faster can translate into on field success.

Even then, while being faster can translate to on field success, it cannot exist in a vacuum. There are plenty of fast guys running the Texas Relays that will never get a scholarship, let alone make a college roster, simply because they don’t know how to play the game.

Your training information is what we call “closed loop” skills. These skills have a predetermined start and finish and do not require the CNS to process feedback from external elements that dictate your ability to execute properly. Sports like track and field, CrossFit, weightlifting, and powerlifting are examples of closed skills.

In short, these skills can be practiced repeatedly until the CNS has committed them to muscle memory. Closed-skill sports require an athlete to compete against him/herself to execute a skill in a competitive environment.

These highly technical sports require years of dedicated practice to master and compete on the world’s stage.

Football, by contrast, is open loop and requires an athlete to process information in real time and react accordingly.

Imagine a running back in the backfield ready to take a hand off for an inside zone play. He knows if the guard blocks down hard, he will have to cut back to the backside A/B gap. If the guard covers up the “3 technique”, then the running back can keep the ball front side. But until the ball snaps, he won’t know which he will choose. His read is predicated on the actions of several others. His reaction to the defenders will dictate where and how he runs the ball.

While all of these skills take practice, they require the athlete to process information and react accordingly in real time. His response time must be just right to make the cut and sprint to the open field. Too early and the play won’t develop, too late and he will get hit in the backfield for a negative play.

Football also demands a high level sport intelligent quotient or "Sport IQ”. This means your ability to decide isn’t just dictated by another’s movement but also each play’s demand. Multiple masters –mental, physical and emotional, always govern an athlete’s Sport IQ.

power_athlete_football_beckham_catch

The mental aspect comes from having played the game and rehearsed your skills in open loop environments like practice. Lets say you are supposed to run a “Smash” where two receivers are involved. One is running a “Quick Hitch” and the other a “Corner” route. If the defense is in "Cover 2", you will know exactly where the ball is being thrown.

The physical is expressed where now you have to run the route perfectly timed to the throws. The quarterback seeing "Cover 2" expects your route and timing to be perfect. You must execute the route despite the defender doing his best to impede your execution.

The final, and often most difficult, aspect of playing football is the emotional. Are you able to run that route in pain, losing by 4 touchdowns, knowing full well when you catch the ball, a larger defender will hit you with intent to cripple?

I know many smart football players who know where to be on every play, have all the physical skills, but lacked the emotional component to play the game in 115+ degree summer heat or -40 degrees in driving snow, while taking punishing hits for 3 hours. It takes many intangibles to play the game at a high level. These are cultivated over a lifetime of competition in both the closed and open loop environment.

Football is a game that tests your ability to want to play. It tests your athleticism, as it requires you to move in relation to another player and impose your will. It requires intelligence to know what to do on every play against every defense and make the proper decision in real time. This is all done among thousands of people are screaming in hostile environments while you are tired, beaten and broken.

If “…the best trick the devil ever played was convincing the world he did not exist...”, then the best trick keyboard warriors ever played was convincing the world that weight room PRs equate to on-field success.

From personal experience, the weight room is a proving ground and place to build competency in primal patterns, strength, and speed. That said, it is also only a tool among tools in the scheme of overall Game Day performance. Your ability to display that strength dynamically as power and explosiveness only happens with a high “Sport IQ”, developed over hours of knowing what to do and how to do it when the pressure is on.

Back to your original question: Field Strong would be most useful for your goals. The program is designed to develop athleticism by increasing your proficiency at executing primal movements through space to accomplish a task.

The program puts strength and speed at the forefront by challenging posture and position daily using barbells, body weight, plyometrics, speed, and change of direction.

The program as written is capable, but is ultimately only as good as the person using it as one of many tools towards their goal.

Good luck and I wish you all the best,

John

John

John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and creator of Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year starter in the National Football League and NFL veteran. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft and went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early and retiring in 2009. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John has worked with the MLB, NFL, NHL and other professional and Olympic athletes. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete and the CrossFit Speciality Seminar: Sports Specific Application. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie or at Power Athlete.

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One Response to What Numbers Don’t Tell

  1. tyler

    Loving the uptick in articles recently.

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