Look after your feet

(part of a series of previously published articles by John Morrison, A Sporting View)  

WHEN I was young, I remember my mother and father taking great care of their feet.
They liked to walk around in their bare feet a lot and they always washed their feet every evening.  It was a thorough washing and later in life, I found out myself that there is something very therapeutic in regular washing of ones feet.  My father used to say that your feet were a window to your soul and an indicator of your state of health.  It came as no surprise to me then that professional sport have been using podiatrists, or people who look after your feet, for some time.

It has now become a common feature of use in some gaelic football counties and is proving of great benefit to players.  The need for balance and good posture is vital for the execution of skill in gaelic sport, indeed all sport, and it is important that children are taught how to walk properly and then, later in life, how to run properly.  Thus, I always advise clubs to try and have an athletics coach available for all underage coaching.

Failure to get posture, walking and running right, as well as players being poorly conditioned to take hits and knocks in our games, can create problems with alignment.  Poor alignment is one of the three main causes of injury in sport the other two being overtraining and changing of training surface, (say from hard to soft and back to hard, and so on). I advise parents, especially around the time of puberty in their child, to have their alignment checked at least twice a year. Doing so may avoid problems with joints later in life or for the need for ‘orthodics in their shoes.

Recently, while coaching the U-14 Mid Development squad we were teaching or revisiting the art of kicking in the young players.  Using an activity known as ‘33s allowed coaches the one-on-one look at each players contact, power and direction of kick.  Some players could not kick a ball straight. On investigation I discovered things like feet and toes curving inwards, feet splayed with one or both feet pointing at an angle and not straight forward.  Essentially the young players needed work done to their feet, posture and alignment.  As a coach using things like brush-shafts or poles could straighten the kick but essentially treatment was still needed on their feet.

Another young player dropped his shoulder each time he kicked and the ball curved away wide.
When I walked beside him as he kicked and didnt allow his shoulder to drop, his kick was perfectly straight.  Again an alignment problem that needs fixing.  A lot of the players had no power in their legs to kick the ball long distance, simply because they had no muscles developed in their legs.  Strength and conditioning training in players, both boys and girls, is seriously neglected in gaelic sport.

How to develop strength in adolescents is an article in itself.  Suffice to say here that, before adolescence or puberty, children are better equipped for aerobic activity, let them play.  After puberty, (girls immediately, boys 12-18 months), conditioning can start.  Strength training follows a pattern of muscle creation, muscle growth and muscle building to strength and power.
Body resistance exercise will be used before light weights, which are followed by heavy weights.
All this takes a number of years and at all stages good technique, (which coaches should know), is emphasized.  Care of the feet underpins all this development.  Children let coaches know by their feet if they are enjoying something.  They come back if they do enjoy and dont appear if not enjoying. 

Recently, Ive had letters from a number of parents complaining about poor practice from their club coaches.  Some of the details of harm caused and mental damage done has upset me.
There are possible cases for calling in the Child Protection Agency to deal with the malpractice!
But, like the parents, I am a lone voice and until all parents come together and demand good practice in coaching then nothing is likely to be done.  I would advise parents to ‘let their feet do their talking and as a group go and demand for the proper development of children in sport.

Walk tall.

John

 

 

15-Sep-08 by John Morrison