It is every coach’s dream to get the opportunity to train and coach a future world champion! It takes both elite physical and mental skills to achieve this level of performance! Many athletes have one of these attributes; very few have both. This combination of world-class athleticism and a world-class mindset is what makes the best of the best!
The question that drives me forward that keeps me up at night and gives me purpose on a daily and moment to moment basis is how I, as a coach, help cultivate and grow the athlete’s abilities and mindset! Ultimately how do I help them achieve their goals!
I don’t think there is a right answer to these questions, only well thought out ones! The human organism is so complex and dynamic; it is impossible to create the perfect plan. The process is more about organizing the athlete’s time and effort in a way that enhances their chances of being a success at their sport or competition. Yes, we need to understand strength and conditioning principles. Yes, we need to understand stress adaptation. Yes, we need to apply quality planning and periodization, but more to this equation needs to be appreciated!
Too often, strength coaches/ trainers neglect to appreciate the dynamic nature of the athlete and how many diverse variables there is that play into desired outcomes. It is the performance we are after! Training is intended to supplement the athlete’s sport, fill gaps of force production, range of motion, variability, strength, power, and ultimately build resiliency so that the athlete can express their athleticism as efficiently as possible in their sport.
But how do we do this? Again I don’t think there is a right answer, but only ones that make more sense.
We have to be careful not to become dogmatic about any one model and understand there is no perfect model. Models are designed to simplify complicated things that ultimately cant be simplified!
So with all this being said, where do we start?
First, we must perform a needs analysis to evaluate current positions, compensations, breathing movement patterns, as well as understand the goals and problems that need to be solved. Between this starting point and desired outcomes, there is a dynamic, adaptive relationship between the athlete, environment, past experiences, intentions, actions that are continually pulling and pushing things in different directions. It is this understanding and acceptance of the complexity of the task that I believe makes an elite coach! The coach is there to evaluate, manipulate stress, organize the effort, and time in a manner that leads towards desired outcomes and goals of the athlete.
Variables to Cultivate:
- Sensorimotor awareness and efficiency
- Quality positions
- Environmental Adaptability
Understanding these variables and how they affect desired outcomes is key to be an elite coach and athlete!
It was around 2 years ago I started working with Sugar Sean Omalley full time. Before that, we worked together in a more limited capacity. We worked together from more of a recovery/mobility/movement standpoint. But right away, I could sense his athleticism and even more his desire for growth. It is this desire that I believe makes him unique! He is relentless in his passion for growing, and he approaches this with the eyes of a child! A beginner’s mind that is not after the result but embraces the process. This is another key to development as an athlete! The journey is the real reward!
In Zen Buddhism, there is a saying. It is wisdom which is seeking for wisdom. I love this! To me, the meaning is simple yet so profound. It is the wise that are trying to grow while understanding they will never get there. It is a continual pursuit of growth that is the noble pursuit in life.
Every day is an opportunity to get closer to your goals! You can choose to move closer or get further away! Sugar Sean approaches his life this way!
You get to choose and have control of this! It is the elite that understands this and embraces this opportunity for growth.
Mindset & Adaptability
Sugar Sean has trained his body and spirit in extreme natural environments. We regularly do our strength and conditioning outside in the hot Arizona climate. Sean nightly uses his sauna and cold plunge to build resiliency in both his mind and body. These extremes present a unique opportunity to become more resilient! It also teaches us to unite the mind and body, which is where flow state is achieved. When we live in our heads, in our thoughts, it is impossible to be entirely in the moment. When we learn to follow our breath and simply observe it, powerful things can be achieved. The great martial artists have known this for centuries.
It is our mindset that enhances our ability to achieve excellent athletic performance! And our mindset is in our control! Our inner strength to control our conscious experience is what determines our happiness and increases our chance of success at sport and in life!
Breathing is vital on many fronts for our athletic performance, general health, mental health, sleep, movement variability, movement specificity, and overall quality of life! I could write a whole blog on each of these different components, but just release it matters for simplicity purposes!
Breathing is vital to our existence!
Breathing is the movement that is performed in respiration. It is blended in with everything we do. During walking, eating, training, sleeping, and every other function, we are involved in an intimate dance with our breath.
We must first become aware of our breathing and learn to connect and observe it before we can consciously control it! This seems simple, but many never make this connection, and this connection is the most crucial step to tap into the powerful mental and physical benefits of our breath!
Breathing is mostly unconscious and automatic, it influences our actions and our emotions, it has a powerful impact on our state. It also is changed by our emotional state! This feedback loop can go both directions; this is important to understand.
Sugar was already practicing meditation and cultivating a relationship with his breath before we begin to work together. This made our process of expanding and deepening this relationship that much smoother!
After accessing his breathing patterns, joint orientation, and movement compensation, we devised a plan that would help him balance out pressures in his body and move with more freedom. This is a bit hard to understand, but just realize this airflow affects our axial skeleton. So the way we breathe has an effect on the positions of our bones. Our bones’ positions affect the orientations of our muscles, and the orientation of our tissues affects our ability to move, which can affect health and increase our risk of injury!
This stuff matters!
Evaluating the Athlete
Along with creating better pressurization and breathing, it is essential to understand the athlete’s natural abilities and the gaps that need to be filled! In Sugar Sean’s case, he is a naturally powerful, explosive athlete. He needed to build a base of stability and strength as well as aerobic capacity. Many times athletes that are gifted in their ability to explode rely on passive structures for stability. They need to learn to engage the diaphragm, create a brace, and use their muscles for stability. This will enhance their ability to control their power while minimizing their risk of injury.
Again we come back to breathing! When we learn to connect with the breath, we can learn to control it. Suppose we understand the limitations of breathing variability and where the individual is stuck. In that case, we can work to create more flexibility and variability, which will affect positions and help create more stability. Positions will have an effect on the ability of the thoracic and pelvic diaphragms to work in unison and create a platform to move. This allows muscles to do there job and minimize stress on joints. These principles are many times misunderstood in traditional strength and conditioning. This, combined with solid periodization and stress application, is crucial for achieving desired outcomes in training.
A Holistic Approach to MMA Performance
It is a beautiful thing when solid principles are applied to an athlete that is willing to embrace daily growth! The daily challenges, obstacles, and experiences make the journey and life a beautiful thing!
I am grateful for the connection and opportunity to be a part of team Sugar Sean O’Malley! This journey has only just begun! And I look forward to the moments ahead of us while working to stay connected to the present moment.
More information on Sugar Sean O’Malley > Sugar Sean
To support Sugar Sean O’Malley check out his website > Sugar Sean O’Malley Merch Store
Timbo Sugar Show Podcast > The Timbo Sugar Show
To download FREE Strength and Conditioning Plans >
Much Love and Much Movement
For Brandon, fitness has been his passion for as long as he can remember. In high school he was a three-sport athlete and received a scholar athlete award in football. Later, he attended Arizona State University on an academic scholarship and received his degree in Kinesiology in 2004. When he was a junior in college, he started Personal Training and has since turned this into his career. Brandon is a natural teacher who is passionate about health, fitness, wellness, and life. Each and every day he feels blessed to be able to do what he loves most…help people achieve a healthier life! Working with his best friend and having clients who he considers to be his family is one of the best jobs he could ever wish for. What he loves most about being a personal trainer is helping his clients achieve what they thought was the “impossible”!
Brandon’s philosophy is that exercise and fitness should be viewed as preventive medicine. If one takes care of his/her body today, he/she will stay healthy for the remainder of his/her life. His main focus is on functional training that incorporates normal daily movements which strengthen core muscle groups and help deliver a functionally fit body. This body will then be efficient with all activities, from athletics to everyday movements.