I first emailed Tim in early December to ask about the performance testing he did at Nationals. I knew we were going to be good friends when Tim said of ultimate players, “It’s just a matter of making the athletes realize that they are athletes and they must train like athletes.”
Until recently Tim Morrill has been getting a master degree in exercise science and being a strength coach at UNI. Since then he’s been meandering around the East Coast doing various interesting things including visiting Mike Boyle’s training facility in Boston. When I heard he was going to be in Philly, I insisted he make a detour to visit me in Lancaster. After two months of exchanging a ton of emails, swapping book suggestions, chatting too long on g-chat, and working together on the “Building the Ultiamte Athlete: Expert Panel,” I was super psyched to meet Tim in person.
We did the obvious things you’d expect myself and a strength and conditioning coach to do. We played indoor pickup (only after doing an extensive dymanic warmup of course), we discussed the biomechanics of throwing, Tim finagled his way into a winter league game, and we spent an evening cringing and foam rolling while watching strengthcoach.com podcasts.
Tim also made some non-obvious choices. I think a part of me expected (and maybe hoped) Tim would whip out some kettle balls from his Jeep and put me through some crazy workout. Instead, Tim absolutely insisted that we visit Bikram’s Yoga in Lancaster. He had their schedule memorized! We also read books, went hiking, and ate ice cream for dinner Saturday night (don’t tell anyone about that last one).
A theme emerged from our discussions: strengths and weaknesses
Though Tim and I know a lot in the field of strength and conditioning, the ways of the body remain mysterious. And though Tim and I know a lot about how to improve our own levels of athleticism, we are still very human.
I had another calf episode during Tim’s visit. My calves were so sore the day after indoor pickup I could not walk normally the next day. I was hoping Tim might have the answer for me. We discussed some possibilities: Lack of ankle mobility? Tissue quality? Just a fluke of dehydration? No conclusive answer.
Tim talked a lot about his asymmetrical ankle dorsiflexion which has an effect on his squatting form. He worries about adding strength to his asymmetrical movement patterns. Ask Tim to show you his calves next time you see him. It doesn’t take an expert in exercise science to notice his asymmetries there!
We both have issues we’re working with that have no easy, immediate solution.
Yet strengths and weaknesses are always intertwined. Does Tim’s imperfect squatting form inhibit his abilities as a strength and conditioning coach? Probably not. In fact, he most likely has a better understanding of good squatting form because he’s had to think about it a lot. Most likely his issues increase his empathy and understanding of other athletes with movement pattern problems resulting from injury.
We also theorized that the ease with which I performed the balance postures in Bikram Yoga may be in part due to ankle stability. There is a trade-off between stability and mobility. If my ankles are over-stable and under-mobile, how would this effect what’s happening with my calves? Not sure, but it’s a good place to start looking.
I think it’s important for players to understand that even people who spend a lot of time devoted to increasing athletic performance still have very real and very human problems with their own bodies.
Too often I hear players place artificial limitations on themselves. They think they are too old, too injured, too fat, or too whatever to take their game to the next level. Many players are under the impression that they have peaked in high school or college and it has to be all downhill from there. This is all nonsense. Unless you were doing serious athletic training as a high schooler (and I’m not talking about just being on the soccer team), chances are you have barely tapped into your full athletic potential.
Is anything holding you back?
What issues are you struggling with? Post it in the comments below!
Regardless of what type of athlete you are today, you can become a better athlete tomorrow. Aim for progress, not perfection. Best of luck in your training today! Let us know what you did to make progress.