Mum Can I Have An Ice Cream

It's that time of year (although round my neck of the woods, he's always paying a visit up and down our street) when the ice cream man cranks up the tunes and pays a visit to the street with all sorts of tempting treats on offer.

It's also been the off-season for many sports and now we are heading into pre-season and I think there are some parallels between the ice-cream man and the performance guru!

Eddie Murphy does a great job of explaining what happens when the ice cream man comes to town in his stand up show (I was probably way too young to be watching this!) If you've never seen this then check out the video (he's got a potty mouth so don't watch it if you're easily offended!).

Funny right? But here's the thing, there are parallels to what happens when the ice-cream man rocks up and what you often see in pro-sport when the 'guru' comes to town for off-season and pre-season training.

At around 5s into this video is where I see the similarities.

"no matter what you're doing you will stop and lose your mind!"

We see this all the athletes at the top of their game that are switched on will lose their mind when the guru rocks up at the training camp with some parachutes and face masks!

"there's something about the ice cream man than makes kids lose it!"

All of that solid training they've been putting in goes out the window. Now they're doing all sorts of weird and wonderful things to get them in the best shape of their life ready for the new season!

"they can hear that s**t from ten blocks away, they don't hear their mother (insert coach!) calling them but they hear that mother f*****g ice cream truck...and no matter what was going on, the ice cream man comes and it stops!"

They can find this stuff in an instant. Never mind the coach that's working with them on a day-to day basis working hard to get them in shape. Once the distant sound of a performance guru can be heard, no matter what is going stops! "MUM, MUM THE ICE CREAM MAN IS COMING."

At least the kids tell their mum that the ice cream man is coming as ask if they can have ice cream. Most pro's will just crack on without asking or considering how it fits into their long term development. Instant GAINZ is all that matter! The first the teams physical preparation team know about it is when it's up on instagram!

So why do athletes heads get turned?

Well there could be a bunch of reasons but I think it probably comes down to a couple of factors.

Doing the fundamentals is not the most exciting thing in the world and it's often difficult for the athlete to make the connection between what they are doing in the gym and what is taking place out on the pitch or on the courts. We (the coaches in charge of physical preparation) are doing a pretty crappy job of delivering a programme that strikes the balance between nailing the fundamentals (eating your veggies) and providing just enough fun stuff (the ice cream). That's right, maybe, just maybe we are doing a shitty job!

If we accept that 99% athletes would rather be anywhere else other than the gym (lets face it, only S&C coaches, olympic lifters, power lifters and cross-fitters like going to the gym just for the sake of it!) then we have to get much better at making the connection between the physical preparation that take place in the gym and the performances the atheltes want out on the pitch/court. Remeber, they started playing their sport because they loved their sport, not because they get excited about shifting tin!

Once we get better at making the connections we should embrace positive pollution. My colleague Mark Jarvis coined the term “positive pollution” and I really like this concept. Somewhere in our programmes we should be comfortable with some training that may not be the best for optimising performance, but that the athlete engages with. Make sure they get the fundamentals boxed off (eat those veggies) but allow them an ice cream every now and then. If they really really really want to do some 'vanity abs' let them crack on, but make sure it's not the only training they perform for their torso.

It's a delicate balancing act and I'm not suggesting you morph into the ice cream man that only has the fun stuff in his van. But maybe, just maybe you can have one or two ice creams on hand when needed to keep your athletes on task.

Get better at coaching so that your athletes become comfortable performing a fundamentally solid programme without becoming distracted by the loud and in your face physical preparation guru driving an ice-cream van, with a line of kids chasing it down the street looking for the next quick fix of something tasty and sweet!