Highlights from October’s Apprentice Coach Program

Create a conversation friendly environment.
Ellie Kormis

Ellie Kormis

ALTIS Director of Education

Last week saw the continuation of our very popular Apprentice Coach Program (ACP). What began last winter as an interactive, real-world shadowing and discussion week has now morphed into perhaps the best coaching education event in the sport. While the practical observation and interaction and the end-of-day organic discussions with Coach Dan Pfaff remain the highlight of the Program, we have now added a daily lecture series.

This time around, we were excited to welcome Dr Ian McKeown from Adelaide AFC, Matt Jordan from the Canadian Sports Institute, Dr Gerry Ramogida from Fortius Health in Vancouver, and Nick Winkelman from EXOS. Lecture topics ranged from athlete development in professional sport, to performance therapy, motor learning, dynamical systems theory and its application to strength, to cueing. It was truly an amazing week – one that was highlighted through our partnership with the EXOS Presents event over 3 info-packed days featuring Henk Kraiijenhof and Dan Pfaff. It was coaching education gold!

Here is what presenters/participants Dr Ian McKeown and Jeff Moreno, DPT, had to say about the October Program:

“I had the pleasure of attending the Altis’ Apprentice Coaching Program last week, truly amazing. Dan Pfaff, Stuart McMillan, Andreas Behm, and the Altis team put on a one of a kind opportunity with complete access to all their years of knowledge in the sport of track and field. If you are a coach that wants to truly see a multi-disciplinary approach to the management, preparation, and execution of the coach, athlete, therapist paradigm, this is for you!”

– Jeff Moreno, DPT

“The Apprentice Coach Program at Altis is a unique coaching education opportunity that should be a game-changer for anyone involved in sport. The guiding philosophy of the group to share expertise and challenge the status-quo makes for an enjoyable but equally thought-provoking experience. Dan, Stu, Andreas, and the rest of the staff are an impressive coaching team that exudes passion and knowledge in their particular skill-set, leaving you not only motivated to learn more, but to also be a better coach and person.”

– Dr Ian McKeown

We are now happy to announce the dates for the next 5 ACPs:

November 3-8
Features guest lecturers Brett Bartholomew (EXOS), Andy O’Brien (hockey S&C who works with Sydney Crosby, among others), Buddy Morris (football S&C with the Arizona Cardinals), and Dr Jeremy Koenig (sports geneticist – Athletigen). We still have a couple of slots available for this Course.

December 4-7
A weekend ACP that runs concurrently with our first ever Performance Therapy Program. If you are a coach who is interested in therapy, this one is for you! The Performance Therapy program is sold out, but there are still a few slots left for the ACP.

January 12-16
A week-long program, with guest-coaches still to be determined.

February 12-15
An ACP running in conjunction with our Performance Therapy Program.

March 9-15
We are looking at once again partnering with EXOS for this event.

April 9-12
Another ACP in conjunction with our Performance Therapy Program.

If you are interested in any of these courses, please leave your details here, and our Team will get back to you shortly.

For those of you that were unable to join us last week, or did not follow along on our Twitter feed, here are the highlights of this great 7 day event:

Coach Nick Winkelman started the ACP week with his fantastic presentation on motor learning and cueing.

“Attention is a limited capacity resource – our job is to focus attention and convert this to physical outcomes”

“Don’t solve the puzzle for your athletes…let them explore their own solutions”

Nick Winkelman

“The primary contextual trigger for athlete attention is saying their name”

“Be a minimalist. Create context. Make mental monsters”

“An external cue gives the assumption of self-organization”

“External cues are FAR superior to internal cues”

“External cueing has been shown to be the dominant force in effective cueing”

“Focus on the end point, not on the movement itself for best performance outcomes”

“Reaction time, speed of movement, and force production are improved or protected using outcome oriented cues”

“Thinking too much about performance – aka reinvestment theory – is THE primary reason why athletes choke”

Nick Winkelman

“Rather than cuing, we can protect against internal focus by creating drills that produce desired movement outcomes”

“Effective cues should include imagery for distance, direction, and description”

“Analogies are the core of cognition … they create context”

“Cues need to be meaningful to the motor system, and should be culturally appropriate”

Nick’s presentation was followed by the poolside chat…

“Do not underestimate the power of the de-brief to establish key performance indicators and mental skills” Pfaff

“Technology has somewhat reduced the complex nature of individual athletes to a single number or variable” Pfaff

“Podium performances are a product of athletes understanding gold standard physical, mental, and lifestyle factors” Pfaff

“Successful junior athletes can get stuck in the ‘more is better’ mantra. Coaching must evolve to address aging and injury factors”

Dan Pfaff

“Athletes all have a cultural nutrition history. Deviate as little as possible, while ensuring performance needs are met” Pfaff

“Simple posture analysis can be a highly effective method to determine rest intervals” Pfaff

“It can be dangerous for coaches to mimic contemporary models without taking into consideration athlete history or possible bias” Pfaff

“I am only good because of a great playing group, coaching staff, and medical staff” Ian McKeown

“Game sports – if you are playing the game right, the game trains you” Pfaff

“What is your ideal monitoring system? Coaches that pay attention”

Dan Pfaff

“In monitoring – who is the gatekeeper of information. Good gatekeepers help make practical sense of raw data” Pfaff

Matt Jordan spoke on Dynamic systems theory & its application to strength & conditioning…

“Seemingly random biological processes actually have logical structure – this can inform macro and micro programming”

“Variability is fundamental – no two movement patterns are exactly the same – we operate in ranges”

“What is optimal movement? – how much flexibility do you allow your athletes to solve problems?”

“How do we quantify variability? – know what matters, measure what matters, change what matters”

Matt Jordan

“A conversation about variability is really about changing your lens – can we identify optimal variability”

“Better athletes actually seem to have MORE variability – more motor flexibility to solve problems”

“Patients with damaged ACL make fewer postural corrections than healthy patients – less variability in the injured”

“The body is self organizing – we have more ways to solve challenges than there are challenges”

“Increased intensity = decreased solution space … as increases in intensity occur – the window of variability decreases”

“Take aways – what is optimal? How do we change our lens? When do you change the system’s natural solution?”

“Variability decreases in injured limbs – this must be managed with exercise and load selection”

“Movement and coordination are characterized by non-trivial variability”

“Analysis of variability provides insight into the control system”

“Identify the dancers and the nature of the dance”

“How is it that we are the only species on the planet that have movement coaches – can we influence the system to self organizing”

Poolside chat…

“Coaching itself can reduce variability if it creates rigidity. Increase variability by coaching less” Winkelman

“Quality of mindfulness/focus in low cognitive demand tasks, feed focus in high demand task” Pfaff

“Does your training/coaching menu address competition length, call room dynamics, environmental demands” Pfaff

“I have not met anyone in the world that does not respond positively to empathy and genuine engagement”

Dan Pfaff

“I use a hands-off, constraints-based coaching style that promotes self organization” Winkelman

“Top athletes are the best self-organizers – they choose a sport that matches their optimal self-organization” Pfaff

“Coaching is often simply crafting opportunities for learning” Winkelman

“The essence of sport is having fun – when you kill fun, lifelong development stops” Pfaff

“De-briefing is critical – successful leaders in business, sport, education all de-brief constantly” Pfaff

“The art of the de-brief is how to ask deeper questions – how do we best ascertain athlete knowledge of training expertise” Pfaff

“More coaches simply want to be scientists – we forget about the human element”

Stuart McMillan

Dr Gerry Ramogida spoke on The Coach-Athlete-Therapist triad…

“Combine compression-resistive and tension-producing body structures to improve performance”

“The body is connected throughout – this informs all we do”

“Anatomy photos are simply for our understanding – anatomy does not care about outer understanding, it is messy” Dr Gerry Ramogida

“Key mechanical areas of focus and observation”

“The first and most important aspect of speed is posture”

“Why dorsiflexion? The fastest athletes in the world attack the ground with a rigid lever”

“Proper posture allows us to better take advantage of reflexive processes already ingrained in the nervous system”

Dr Gerry Ramogida

“Micro movements mirror macro movements”

“Elite athletes nervous systems are very finely tuned – minimal therapy input often produces significant change”

“Therapy and coaching are both more effective as integration improves”
Dr Gerry Ramogida

“I have worked with many many patients who have seen significant performance benefits using fascial stretching – ELDOA”

“Decompressing the spine is key – when a segment does not move properly, connecting structures do not move properly”

“Decompression and fluid dynamics keep tissues healthy – losing movement = losing life to the area”

“Many are in a state of chronic inflammation which alters gut bacteria – more pathogenic bacteria enter and create toxins”

“Proper movement and lifestyle factors all work together to better the health of the athlete”

“Therapies – aka changes to the ‘system’ must be followed immediately with appropriate movement through ROM”

Dr Gerry Ramogida

Poolside chat

“Mechanotransduction and tendon function responds more positively to time under tension rather than eccentric loading”

“Isolatory schemes may have benefit in the short term, but the best schemes cover a range of benefits” Pfaff

“Be careful not to allow systemic pressure or myopic focus sabotage process orientation” Pfaff

“Use De-Briefing and Induction surveys to identify KPI’s – key performance indicators/inhibitors” Pfaff

“My ideal performance experiment – see what happens when programs are minimized only to the MOST basic elements” McMillan

“Plan B training may be more beneficial for motor learning and
coordination than some Plan A schemes”

Stuart McMillan

“My ideal experiment- find a balance between forms of preparation including visualization + biofeedback to reduce fatigue” Ramogida

“It’s easy to get addicted to the weight room – It can be like cocaine for power speed athletes. How strong is strong enough?” Pfaff

“Governing principle – minimize training gaps. Skills are like gold to me – gaps negatively affect skill acquisition” Pfaff

“3 lifts for all athletes – double support lower body pull, SL lower body push, upper body press variations” McMillan

The ACP was followed by the 3 day EXOS presents event featuring Dan Pfaff and Henk Kraaijenhof.

“Training theory is in essence a lesson plan – we can learn from the wisdom of teachers” – Pfaff

“Periodization – a delicate dance of art and science” Pfaff

“Through failures I have continually embraced art over science as a driver of plan creation”

Dan Pfaff

“The degree I am most proud of is from the school of hard knocks – the majority of my learning happened through failure” Pfaff

“Many of us are swimming in a sea of knowledge without the life vest of wisdom to keep us afloat” Pfaff

“Wisdom is obtained through the fire of trial and tribulation – cannot be rushed” Pfaff

“The slippery slope between over-reaching and over-training cannot be respected enough” Pfaff

“Who are your influences and mentors?” Pfaff

“Being a classroom teacher highly influences my coaching – taught me how to create plans that engage many people” Pfaff

“In track and field, there is no place to hide – your work is always on display in front of hundreds or millions” Pfaff

“My ‘gumbo’ of planning is largely based on complimentary and compatible items” Pfaff

“I am just not smart enough to prescribe specific percentages and exercises” Pfaff

“Our perceptual grid must take into consideration both performance indicators and inhibitors” Pfaff

“Some training items serve as neurological or brain plasticity reference points aka perceptual grids” Pfaff

“I create mailboxes to make sense of various of athlete characteristics” Pfaff

“If I write it in the program, the athlete and I should be able to understand and monitor it” Pfaff

“Monitoring systems and de-briefs are intertwined and integral to maturity and performance” Pfaff

“Years of poor test results during rest weeks lead me to in-route testing” Pfaff

“Mastery determines variability – need to repeat items to build context and understanding” Pfaff

“Athlete feedback and peer review drive evolution – our education as coaches is never ending” Pfaff

“Rest is important – how do you manage different forms of fatigue?” Kraaijenhof

“Peer review is critical- never work in isolation. How many coaches seek out review?…Not many I know. Pfaff

“Be weary of those who have no experience and still have an opinion”


“We should program minimum effective dose – not maximum destruction dose” Kraaijenhof

“The medal is in the shoebox, the record has been broken, but you always live with your body” Kraaijenhof

“If we see training as poison, we may pay more attention to dosage” – Henk Kraaijenhof

“On monitoring – the measurement explains the mechanism as long as data is relevant” Kraaijenhof

“If you get lost in the forest, you won’t get out by peering through a microscope” Kraaijenhof

“Diff forms of fatigue require diff forms of rest” Kraaijenhof

“Preparedness and Readiness are not the same” Pfaff

“Restoration is intensely individual – placebo can often be both valid and reliable” Pfaff

“As coaches our biggest insecurity is that our athletes don’t do enough – often leading to over-training”

Henk Kraaijenhof

“Everybody has a limit – is it smart to find the edge only to go over it?” Kraaijenhof

“Know your athlete – know what energizes them and know what demoralizes them” Pfaff

“What changes between training and competition – only perception not physical task” Kraaijenhof

“Averages tell stories about average athletes who attain average performances” Kraaijenhof

“If we were cows, it would be 2 sets of 4, and not 5 sets of 10!” – classic ‘Henkism’ (refers to number of ‘fingers’)
Henk Kraaijenhof

“Super compensation is multi-factored – systems respond individually” Kraaijenhof

“Be weary of super-compensation timelines – athletes are unique animals” Kraaijenhof

“Comprehension precedes control” Kraaijenhof

“Measure intelligently and objectively, then we can comprehend and make informed decisions” Kraaijenhof

“Arousal states are unique to individuals – finding trends is paramount” Kraaijenhof & Winkelman

“Create the proper environment and people will respond accordingly” Kraaijenhof

“Both physical periodization and mental stress affect major competition performance” Kraaijenhof

“Keep easy weeks easy – don’t allow athletes to sabotage by over exerting”

Henk Kraaijenhof

“An ice hockey players job is many 5-10 second bursts- what good is VO2 max?” Pfaff

“Imitation drills can lend themselves to understanding movement context” Pfaff

“Our recovery strategies are largely influenced by athlete feedback and logic- don’t rely on studies” Pfaff

“As athletes extend their career, volume, intensity, and density must be managed appropriately” Pfaff

“Creating movement context and understanding with general skill drills pays off when they get to specialized drills” Pfaff

“Coordination exercises can provide context for specialized exercises – dependent on training age, time of year, skill level…” Pfaff

“This generation can struggle w/ reporting on their body awareness and feeling relative to movement performance.” Pfaff

“Obadele Thompson was a fascial monster (allergic to weight room)- he used range of motion to his benefit” Pfaff

“Provide athletes w/ context around how you will coach, instruct and provide feedback” Pfaff

“If a quality is developed through the nature of practice/play, we are redundant if we develop the same quality in isolation.” Pfaff

“More comprehensive athlete profiles lead to more comprehensive and informed programming” Kraaijenhof

“As you continue to profile, you will develop norms with which training can be better informed” Pfaff

“Recovery of what – from what?” Kraaijenhof

“Big challenge for coaches – can we live in ‘the grey’ and be comfortable in uncertainty” Winkelman

“Coaches often need mentorship in technical knowledge and life skills in order to be best” Pfaff

“No matter how hard we try to organize training – it is important to understand life is chaos” Kraaijenhof

“Does group training really benefit anyone? Can we effectively address individuality?” Kraaijenhof

“Optimizing performance- giving the athlete what they need at a particular time” Kraaijenhof

“Weekly monitoring is quite different than traditional testing” Kraaijenhof

“How often do we copy the peculiarity of a gifted athlete, even if it only works for them?”

Henk Kraaijenhof

“In technique, there are two sides to the coin- what is the cost of overemphasizing one side?” Pfaff

“The most specific form of training is competition itself” Pfaff

“The competition trains psychological, physical, emotional performance indicators best” Pfaff

“In training design, there is art to balancing landmark workouts and variable workouts – what has to happen versus what is nice to have” Pfaff

“Constant program analysis throughout the year reduces overtraining, training gaps, inconsistency- power and art of de-brief” Pfaff

“Comparison, dialogue, and research come forth freely when there is a common communication platform” Pfaff

“Sprinting is more complex than agonist – antagonist – it is a delicate symphony of mechanics” Pfaff

“Proper mechanics must be constantly reinforced – poor mechanics is a primary injury contributor” Pfaff

“We demand high accountability and awareness of the arms – they talk directly to the legs in sprint” Pfaff

“Are coaches aware that worlds best sprinters heel touches ground at 50m? Rationale for dorsiflexion” Pfaff

“When looking at performance factors, studies, nutrition, etc – moderation in all things – respect the symphony of effects” Pfaff

“The geometry of ground contact has a large influence on flight mechanics in sprinting.” Pfaff

“Fastest limb speeds recorded are in martial arts – they don’t all lift weights, and 90% of them stretch … research paradox?” Pfaff

“Sprinting is a cyclic pattern- there should be symmetry in movement. Contact angle and time have great influence” Pfaff

“Sprint mechanics are reflexive- sometimes in learning we don’t reach this flow state” Pfaff

“Understanding sprinting is about the deep study of kinesiology, biomechanics and motor behavior.” Pfaff

“Sometimes there is a price to pay for cues that improve context, as conscious thought distracts flow state.” Pfaff

“Is there a correct technical model, or just commonalities among world’s best?” Pfaff

“There are certainly common denominators and landmarks for high performance mechanics/movement” Pfaff

“Over-rotation kills – angle of projection is critical” Pfaff

“Those who load the blocks more heavily in set tend to have low heel recovery” Pfaff

“Congruency among limb angles is paramount” Pfaff

“Perspective is everything-Great coaches create paradigms through many lenses” Pfaff

“We need flight time to organize limbs- bias is always to coach the ground, how about flight?” Pfaff

“We grow into landmark technique over time- allow the athlete to learn within their skill set and be progressive with challenge”

Dan Pfaff

“What good is analysis if we don’t synthesize the sum of parts in practice” Kraaijenhof

“If you drop your keys in the dark, a laser pointer won’t help you find them…Generalist vs. Specialist mindset.” Kraaijenhof

“You can’t overrule architecture.” Henk Kraajenhof and Dan Pfaff think alike!

“Decision time is correlated with factors such as IQ, age, lifestyle, and personality” Kraaijenhof

“Fiber type has significant impact of preparing for major comp- more type II = more rest” Kraaijenhof

Henk Kraaijenhof discusses pros and cons of supra maximal speed training …

“Is the first rep in a set training the same quality as the last? Can you maintain power throughout?” Kraaijenhof!

“Mechanics of the foot and leg are speed dependent- using the full foot utilizes proper mechanics” Pfaff

“Power is nothing without control” Control is nothing without power”

“Short/long term stress can cripple athletes – do you bend, break, or bloom?”

Henk Kaaijenhof

Where can we learn most about pressure? Special forces populations. Perception matters

“Cool and calm outside-volcano inside. How do athletes manage arousal/perception?”

“Everything we think or feel causes a physical response…Mind-Body-Gene interaction.” Kraaijenhof

“Life is sport = sport is life. Emotional/psychological factors impact performance greatly.” Kraaijenhof

“If an athlete panics, the worst thing a coach can do is panic. Help the athlete re-frame the situation (mental solution).” Kraaijenhof

Special forces team training- the impact of CNS fatigue has life/death consequences. Kraaijenhof

“Q: If you ask an Olympic medalist one question after win? A: now what?” H. Kraaijenhof


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