Carolyn provides insight on fitness, sport skill development and overall health with CoachUp, which helps athletes find private coaches in every sport, nationwide.
Questions are italicized: Answers from Carolyn are in BOLD below.
I saw in your Google Hangout with Victoria that you mentioned you were 6-feet tall in 6th grade, yet you’ve always had good shooting range throughout your career. It’s very common for basketball players who hit growth spurts at a young age to ignore the outside game, only to suffer when they grow older if they fail to keep on growing. Do you have any tips for tall, young players that may not be interested in diversifying their game?
I definitely suggest assuming you will play most positions. One aspect I really appreciated about playing professionally overseas and even a bit with USA Basketball, is that they really embrace versatility and require athletes to memorize all positions in the offensive sets as they play mismatches, rather than just positions. The bigger picture is to take advantage of the player who is guarding you. If they are bigger/slower, take them off the dribble or beat them with your tempo the entire game (better conditioning). If a player is weaker/smaller, take them down low and take advantage of what strengths you have over them. If they are slow to close out, you definitely need to be able to knock down the 3 and mid range shot every time. Your opponent should never know what to expect and you should be able to score on them anywhere on the court. I developed a 3-point shot as early as possible in middle and high school. The weight room really helps along with strategic cross-training such as yoga, cardio circuits and overall cardiovascular training. The most important thing is recognizing how you can create mismatches in game settings and taking advantage of your defensive opponent by utilizing your strengths.
You’re obviously very involved with fitness, nutrition, and overall wellness as well as basketball. As a coach, do you like to review your players’ lifestyle and fitness choices before beginning skill development?
I typically offer nutrition, cross-training (weights, yoga and cardio) support services to athletes when we start. I really enjoy designing nutrition menu plans for athletes as well as their overall lifestyle choices with sports nutrition and cross-training. I also promote not drinking with my college and pro athletes and take a look at their sleep patterns as well as overall lifestyle choices. These choices help athletes be their best off the court and field as well for a lifetime. Many times you see athletes who don’t implement all the components that are essential to reach their goals and that are conducive to optimal mental and physical performance. On-court basketball skill development is great, but this must be backed by strategic sports nutrition, cross-training and overall healthful lifestyle choices, if one desires to reach their full potential.
So much of basketball today is about quickness and explosiveness. Do you have any fitness or nutrition tips for players who want to maximize these smaller, shorter movements?
Yes this is definitely true. Having the fastest first step, or quickest reaction time to get to the ball is very important. Depending on the age of the student-athlete there are a variety of exercises you can do that are age appropriate. For younger athletes, you want to follow guidelines set forth to eliminate damage to growth plates as children and teens are still growing. For those who qualify and are ready, explosive plyometric drills with the ball and as they get older with weighted balls can be effective. Biomechanics are essential to lowering risk on injury and for proper development. I have CEC’s in a variety of areas and one of them is biomechanical assessment, hence I always apply this knowledge as certain exercises are being performed. All of my CEC’s are listed at www.fitforlivinglife.com. You can also replicate hard cutting drills that are lateral, horizontal and vertical, which mirror sport specific movements during skill training. It is important to replicate the movements that mirror that which occurs in the game setting for optimal development. I integrate ladder foot drills for coordination and quickness, which is safe for all ages and stages. I do enjoy integrating both explosive and quickness drills, while being very cognizant of the athletes age, growth stage and what is appropriate for their goals relative to their age and stage.
In your conversation your Victoria, you mentioned how great coaches don’t necessarily need experience at the highest level (your college coach Tara VanDerveer being a prime example). Having played at the highest level, how has your professional experience benefited your effectiveness as a coach?
Yes I do believe some of the best coaches I have had did not necessarily play professionally, but they have studied the game and are very good with building teams. Being a former pro athlete and playing USA Basketball has really shaped my ability to understand team dynamics in a variety of settings. The experience on a roster is very unique and you operate within the system as a player, versus shaping and coaching the system. Operating inside it allows one to know what players think as they go through different roles and have varying expectations throughout their playing years. If you have played at a given level, you can relate to what players are thinking, feeling and what may be best for team chemistry and performance based on articulated expectations. Understanding the game physiologically, psychologically and technically are all essential to being a good mentor and coach. Being an effective coach is measured by getting the most out of each and every player you work with and having the unit work towards common goals together. I really enjoy coaching both boys and girls at a variety of levels.
Lastly, what inspired you to get involved with overall fitness and nutrition in combination with basketball, rather than just basketball development itself, after your career?
I actually started studying sports nutrition and cross-training in 6th grade due to my fascination with fitness and how nutrition directly affected obtaining ideal body composition for one’s sport (muscle to fat ratios). This interest started early out of my desire to become stronger in the weight room and do it the right way through strategic training and nutrition. I also saw many elite and even pro athletes not fueling their bodies the right way to optimize mental and physical performance and this made me want to help them. Some athletes were gifted, but the lifestyle choices they made didn’t allow them to reach their full potential or at times cut their playing years short due to their habits. I also became a certified trainer before going to play pro basketball overseas, so I could train clients on the side for general fitness and health along with the basketball skill development. Over the years, I have obtained CEC’s in many different areas and work with a variety of demographics beyond athletes including pregnant mothers, at-risk patients, general public who are seeking to live healthier lifestyles, young developing student-athletes and elite/pro athletes. I really enjoy helping people reach their goals and having lifestyle choices they can experience for the rest of their lives that lends to longevity and vitality for generations to come. After playing professionally, I also took a keen interest in programming for transitional athletes as well as how programs can shift and adapt to our changing needs with time. Everything we do physically can be shaped around our needs at any age and stage in life. I truly believe the influence to lead healthier lifestyles starts in the home and each person I help can set a good example for someone else. More information about my work and philosophies can be found at www.fitforlivinglife.com.