Life wasn’t always easy for Raymon Gaddis and Andre Blake.
Professional soccer has always been a dream but getting here was half the battle.
Gaddis and Blake were born worlds apart, one hails from a small town in Jamaica while the other calls the American Midwest home. From the outside these may seem like opposite ends of the residential spectrum but dreams manifest themselves no matter the circumstances. But for these two being a professional soccer player was the only occupation they believed in.
As both players find themselves productive members of an American professional soccer team it would be understandable for them to think their jobs were done but this could not be further from the truth.
This sense of responsibility led both players to the Boys and Girls Club of Delaware on an overcast Wednesday evening to share their stories with a group of young Wilmington, Delaware children whose circumstances bear a striking resemblance to the player’s upbringing.
“Everyday that I play for the Philadelphia Union I don’t take it for granted and I feel a sense of responsibility to the community because I made it out of my circumstances,” Gaddis said during a recent interview
Most of the children in the crowd were members of Mike’s TEAM a mentoring program where volunteers from the surrounding area come once a week for an hour session where the volunteer helps a child with homework, academic practices, and life-skills. Many of the children come from low-income families and Mike’s TEAM provides them with a positive environment where they can focus on achieving their goals.
The organization has a three-fold mission statement that promotes the self-worth of youth, enables youths to make positive life choices, and finally strives to improve their lives, and communities.
A place like this oozes positivity, but reinforcement from those that have lived that life is what can make all the difference for these aspiring young minds.
Enter Raymon Gaddis and Andre Blake.
When Gaddis and Blake arrived at the event many of the children had a vague idea of who the Philadelphia Union were and what the club stands for. Like most young people the minute they heard professional athlete their ears perked up and they became fully invested in what the players had to say.
Andre Blake and the kids of the Wilmington Boys & Girls Club share a laugh during a meet and greet Wednesday
“To see successful, professional athletes and hear stories about the adversity they encountered as young people was very powerful for the Club’s youth. It was moving to see the kids understand that these players faced challenges similar to their own,” said Mike’s TEAM Executive Director Megan Kneisl-Faulkner.
Looking around the at the young, impressionable faces, many sat wide-eyed listening to the two players speak, for the kids it was a moment they won’t soon forget, but the same goes for both players.
“I feel like I can relate so much to these kids, and I hope that my message can stick with them whenever they are going through tough times or facing adversity. They can think back to today and what I have gone through to get here,” said Blake.
The key word from the entire day was adversity, and not simply how to deal with it, but how to overcome it. Both Ray and Andre used the word extensively in their discussions with the kids, because they understand the importance of succeeding through the hard times.
For them success isn’t necessarily all about becoming a professional athlete, it’s also about becoming a good person. Both players made sure to remind the kids that while it may have been their dream to be professional athletes, it’s not only about what you want to be, but the journey you take to get there.
The players stressed that this journey is going to be full of adversity, and sacrifices are going to have to be made. Ray described keeping his “eye on the prize” while some of his closest friends were making the wrong choices he had to remain stalwart in his mission.
Both players admitted it can be hard because often what others are doing around you is more “fun” then extra time in the weight room or a weekend study session, but these are what make you successful.
Success isn’t measured by the car you drive or the house you live in, true success is defined by the person you are, both players know that events like this are where they can truly articulate this message, and why they are so inclined to come to places like the Boys and Girls Club.
Ray and Andre were once the kids they spoke to, they grew up facing challenges on a daily basis that required them to make tough choices, but the right choices.
“My senior year of high school a group of guys that I hung with decided to rob a store, I told them it wasn’t right, and I literally walked the other way,” Gaddis recalled. “A couple of them got caught and I was grateful I chose to turn the other way. That’s a prime example of choices, and I always had ambitions of doing more.”
This type of experience has a profound impact on a human being, you look back in life and value the right choices you made because they are what make you into the person you are today. It’s also experiences like this that make Ray and Andre want to give back to the community.
They have seen people close to them make the wrong choices and let adversity define their lives.
It’s the mission of both players to communicate to all young people they come in contact with how to take that adversity and use it as motivation to do well in life.
A significant California trip where points are vital and a recent Jamaican national team call-up remain the focus of both players but these professional responsibilities don’t take away from the profounder parts of the job description.
“These guys are great! I think the Union is my new favorite team,” said Jaseem, a young Mike’s TEAM participant.
The children of the Boys and Girls Club of Delaware and Mike’s TEAM are the real teammates on this day.
- Written by Philadelphia Union digital media intern Doug Ammon
Last Saturday, the Philadelphia Union honored the family of tri-state soccer legend in Stan Koziol.
Koziol, affectionately known as “Stas” or “Stosh,” passed after a battle with leukemia.
He was 48.
He is survived by his wife Margret and his two children Nicole and Matthew.
Before the match against D.C. United, the Philadelphia Union Foundation presented a check to the Koziol family in the amount of $3,500. However, as a result of our fans and constituents, the Foundation raised an additional $1,500 and reissued a $5,000 check to the family.
A native of Clifton, N.J., Koziol attended Loyola (Md.) University where he was a two-time All American and still holds the program record for assists. Following college, he turned professional where he enjoyed an eight-year career playing in the old American Professional Soccer League (APSL) for the Maryland Bays (1988) and the Boston Bolts (1989-90). He played internationally for the Puerto Rican national team during qualifying for the 1994 FIFA World Cup and had a fantastic indoor career, playing for the Baltimore Blast (1989-90), Hershey Impact (1991-92) and Canton Invaders (1992-93).
Through the many stops of his illustrious career, Koziol made many friends along the way. Philadelphia Union CEO and managing partner Nick Sakiewicz considered Koziol one of his dearest – family even.
“Stas was like family and a dear friend whose tenacity on the soccer pitch followed him off the pitch and throughout his life,” Sakiewicz said. “It has been an honor to compete against him, play with him and, most importantly, to have known him for most of our lives starting with growing up on the streets of northern New Jersey playing soccer. Stas touched so many lives. We will all miss him immensely.”
On behalf of the Philadelphia Union Foundation and the entire Philadelphia Union family, we’d like to thank all those that contributed to support the family of our fallen friend.
In a few weeks thousands of people will participate in the Philadelphia Marathon. Runners from all over the U.S. will head to starting line on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to test their endurance, mental capacity as well as their will power. For months these people have been logging long hours in an effort to reach their goal of crossing the finish line. For some runners their goal will be to finish. For others they may be aiming for the coveted entrance time for the Boston Marathon. Whatever their personal goal is the race is ultimately decided by their preparation and mindfulness. Before they embark on the 26.2 mile journey I would like to share some tips for them to help them along the way. Below are 26.2 things you should do before the gun goes off. These tips are in no particular order.
No. 1: Get a massage before race day.
No. 2: Make sure you know exactly what you want to eat the morning of the race. DO NOT try any new foods the morning of the big race.
No. 3: Recruit friends and family to watch you along the route. A great place for them to cheer you on is when you are coming out of Manyunk. Why? Because after Manyunk it gets pretty quiet for a few miles. This is where you will need some help.
No. 4: In your mind break the race up into three (3) parts. Part 1 is the first 10 miles (start slow, don’t get caught up in the excitement). Part 2 is the second 10 miles (remember to hydrate as needed, enjoy the fans along the route) and part 3 is the final push the last 6.2 miles (dig deep, the finish is near).
No. 5: Take a few days off to allow your body to rest up. Don’t push yourself to hard leading up to the race. Most of the hard work has been done!
No. 6: Give your friends your bib number so they can track you (via text alerts) during the race.
No. 7: Have your name somewhere on your chest or back so anyone can cheer you on. This will help a lot around mile 22.
No. 8: Make sure your nutrition plan the week leading up to the race is good.
No. 9: Bring extra toilet paper with you to the race.
No. 10: Have a heavy sweatshirt and sweatpants the morning of the race. Be prepared to donate them about 15 minutes before the race starts.
No. 11: Bring peppermint tums for you in case your stomach gets upset.
No. 12: Use body glide between your thighs and on your chest as well as those "hard to reach places." This tip alone will save you pain both during and after the race.
No. 13: Make sure you TAPER the week of the race. Maintain some high intensity very short runs but dramatically reduce the volume of your training.
No. 14: If you struggle with sleep have a plan in place and work on your sleep hygiene. Magnesium is a great supplement to help you calm down before bed.
No. 15: Get a really good pair of socks for the race. Good socks can make a big difference.
No. 16: Buy a nice light coolmax hat/headband and gloves for the race.
No. 17: Make sure you are hydrated going into the race. Balance your hydration between water and a high quality sports drink.
No. 18: Look at the route map before the race. Know that there is a decent hill between mile 9 and 10 (right after the Philadelphia Zoo).
No. 19: Arrange a place for you to meet your family after the race.
No. 20: Run with a pace group if you are running for time and have a specific goal in mind.
No. 21: Go to the expo early and take in the atmosphere.
No. 22: At the expo once you get your race bag check to make sure that you have the correct bib number.
No. 23: Wake up about three hours before the start of the race and eat your normal breakfast.
No. 24: The meal the night before is very important. Eat a good balance of protein, fats and carbohydrates.
No. 25: Cut your toe nails a little lower than normal.
No. 26: Make arrangements to have some alone time after the race when you get home (especially if you have kids). Block off 3-4 hours to nap and start the recovery process.
No. 26.2: Before the race starts take a few deep breaths and know that you have prepared yourself to have a great run. Realize that you are doing something pretty amazing and you should be proud that you have made it to the starting line!
Good luck to all the runners! Have a great race!
“Union strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller is also a featured panelist in the Sports Doc blog: http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/sportsdoc on Philly.com. For best practices along with additional health and fitness tips, check out: Philly.com/Health www.philly.com/philly/health
Have you ever been to a high school game, whether it was on a field or on a court, and watched an athlete run past the rest of the players and make them all look like they were standing still? If you are a parent or a coach of a field or court athlete I am sure that you have witnessed a few athletes make it look easy when it comes to running. The ability to accelerate and change direction is one of the most sought after traits that all athletes (male and female) are looking for. Millions of dollars are spent every year by parents trying to have their son or daughter “improve their first step” and become faster. As a coach I have stopped counting how many times I have had parents tell me that they want me to help them improve their child’s “first step."
In all due respect, I understand what they are talking about however, speed development goes way beyond improving their first step.
In this article, I would like to share some tips that I have been able to learn over the past several years by some of the top coaches when it comes to speed and power development for both court and field athletes. Charlie Francis is considered by many as one of the best coaches in the world when it comes to developing athletes for improvements in their speed and power. Although he spent the majority of his time training track and field athletes I believe his philosophy on training can have a profound effect on high school athletes looking to improve their overall speed and acceleration. In his book, The Charlie Francis Training System, he states the following “sprint training should underline the initial and long term development of virtually every athlete. The truly great team players are able to accelerate explosively both in defensive and offensive maneuvers."
If you were to have a conversation with a track and field coach as well as a football coach you would get several opinions on how to develop speed. The great thing about coaching is that everyone has their own philosophy and ways to train their athletes. For the purpose of this article I am going to focus on the court and field athlete. Below are some of the key points that I feel must be addressed if your goal is to develop the following:
- Linear speed
- Transitional speed
- The ability to decelerate and accelerate
Tip No. 1 What is your starting point?
In a perfect world every high school athlete would first have an assessment or screen from a qualified coach. The reason this is important is before you start a training program you should establish a baseline to know where you are and where you want to go. I would recommend that you seek out the advice of someone who can perform the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) or Postural Restoration Institute (PRI) assessment on you so that you can determine what exercises may cause problems down the road and provide a road map for your success.
Tip No. 2 Develop your aerobic system
When most athletes or coaches hear aerobic system they think of skinny marathon runners logging 40-50 miles a week. As a coach, I don’t want my high school athletes pounding the pavement in an effort to “build their base”. If you have ever read anything from Joel Jamieson (www.8weeksout.com) he recommends that instead of running for 30-60 minutes, athletes incorporate some circuit training into their off-season program to build the overall capacity and strength of their heart. The best way to do this is to wear a heart rate monitor and stay in the 120-150 bpm (beat per minute) range. By doing this early in the off-season athlete’s will have a better chance to perform “repeat sprints” during their season. As I stated earlier, I am not talking about track and field but rather the ability for an athlete to perform multiple sprints during a game. Here is an example of one type of circuit you could do with your athletes (Note, make sure they have perfect form when lifting weights and jumping):
Tip No. 3 Master body weight strength
When you sprint you have to be able to demonstrate good posture (i.e. relaxed shoulders, high hips, and proper hip extension). The majority of high school athletes that I work with do not have the proper strength to hold themselves in an upright posture. Here are a few exercises that they must master before heading over to the squat rack.
Tip No. 4 Hit the weights
When done properly, strength training can have a dramatic effect on your speed and your ability to change direction. One of the key factors in speed development is the ability to put force into the ground. One of the best ways to do this is by implementing a total body strength training program that teaches safe and effective progressions. In my opinion strength training is underrated when it comes to developing an explosive athlete. Charlie Francis defines agility as “a form of special strength in combination of body awareness." Here are a few exercises that I would include in a speed training program.
Tip No. 5 Implement transitional speed and power exercises
Court and field athletes hardly ever run in a straight line. They must learn how to stop, change direction and accelerate. Keep the volume of these movements low but the intensity high. Here are a few examples.
- Lateral crossover continous and sprint
- Backpedal to forward sprint
- Box jumps
- Skate hop w/ bounce and sprint
Note that one of my favorite speed training exercises is hill sprints. Keep it simple when doing hills. Find a good hill and sprint up for 20-30 seconds and then walk back slow. Repeat for 8-20 reps depending on how you feel for that particular day.
Tip No. 6 Don’t confuse speed training with conditioning
This is a common mistake among coaches. I admit that I have made this mistake in the past. So many coaches say that they want to make their athlete’s faster, however, instead of working on short bursts of speed they think by doing gassers their kids will get faster. There is a time and place various type of conditioning methods however 300 yard shuttle runs is not speed training. In order to develop speed athletes must be alert and fresh. Their CNS (Central Nervous System) must be firing on all cylinders. True speed training will take between 15-20 minutes of work. Also you must allow for a FULL recovery between sets. I would recommend that the volume of running be kept between 400- 500 yds. of speed work. An example could be a workout that looks like this:
- Warm-up and form running drills: 15-20 minutes
- Low level plyometric work: 8-10 minutes w/ full recovery
- Sprints: 3 x 10 yds, 3 x 20 yds, 10 x 30 yd. fly in sprints
- Strength Training work: 30 minutes
- Cool down and go home
Tip No. 7 Adequate flexibility
When it comes to flexibility I am not talking about the ability to sit down and touch your toes. The flexibility that I am interested in involves your ankles, knee, hips and shoulders. A great time to work on mobility is during the warm-up portion of an athlete’s training. Here are two exercises that you can implement today to improve your speed.
The tips and suggestions above are by no means a complete guide to speed training. Several factors go into the ability to run fast, jump high and change direction all while not breaking stride. However if you implement some of the suggestions above and follow the proper progressions I am confident that you will improve your speed on both the field as well as the court. Good luck!
Union strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller is also a featured panelist in the Sports Doc blog http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/sportsdoc on Philly.com. For best practices along with additional health and fitness tips, check out: Philly.com/Health
When it comes to training one of the hardest things for people to decide on is what exercises should they include in their program. For example, if you do a search on the internet for exercises for fat loss you will come across thousands of videos. Some of these coaches may guarantee that if you do their program you will see results over night, while others may stress the importance of starting with the basics and progressing to more advanced exercises. This week I have put together ten exercises that depending on your fitness level you can start today.
I have broken down the exercises into two categories for you to choose from.
Group one is for beginners. It’s very common for people to be confused as to where to start when it comes to strength training. The five beginner exercises that I have included will ensure that you are working on a solid foundation for you to build upon. The key to performing these exercises is to start slow and always focus on proper form. As a coach I always stress the importance of mastering the basics so if you are new to training start with the beginner series.
The second set of exercises (group 2) is geared more towards intermediate lifters. These five exercises are perfect if you have built a solid foundation and have already mastered the five beginner exercises. These exercises can help improve your overall power, endurance, speed, strength and mobility. As I stated above, it’s critical that you use perfect form when performing these exercises and if you experience any pain you should stop immediately.
Before I share these videos in order for you to view each one you must click on the link and you will be taken to a separate webpage. It’s there where you can view each clip. Underneath each exercise I have included a coaching cue that will help you when you perform the exercise. These are the same cues that I give to the athletes that I work with.
Let’s get started!
Five Beginner Exercises
Coaching cue: Maintain a flat back, chin tucked and keep your elbows in.
2. Front plank
Coaching cue: Maintain a flat back, squeeze your glutes and the weight is on your forearms not your elbows.
Coaching cue: Place the PVC so it is in contact with your head, upper back and lower back as you “hinge” at your hips. Do not round your back.
Note: This looks like a simple exercise but most people are unable to do this exercise correctly. If you are able to learn this movement properly this will open up so many opportunities in terms of strength training.
Coaching cue: Drive your knees out, sit your hips back, chest up and chin tucked. Also, brace your abdominals as you lower down and exhale at the top while you squeeze your glutes at the top.
Coaching cue: Drive your heels through the ground as you rise up and squeeze your glutes.
Note: If you have a job where you sit most of the day this should be an exercise that you do daily. This exercise will build a strong foundation for future exercises.
Five Intermediate Exercises
Coaching cue: Lead with your hips and keep your back flat.
Coaching cue: Keep your chin tucked and drive with your legs as you stand up.
Coaching cue: Keep your feet pointed straight ahead and your back flat.
Coaching cue: Push your knees out, brace your abdominals and keep your chest up.
Coaching cue: Hinge at your hips, keep your chin tucked and drive with your hips.
Note: If you are new to kettle bells than start slow wit this one. Instead of 10 reps start with five. This is a lot harder than it looks. Do not let your back round during this movement.
When it comes to training, there are hundreds of exercises to choose from. There are several great coaches who are getting fantastic results with their athletes and clients. The ten exercises should be used as a guideline to help you get started. Remember achieving optimal health is a way of life. Listen to your body and be smart with your training.
Have a question for strength coach Kevin Miller? Leave question in the comments portion below.