ROPRO Training Systems
ROPRO Medium LogoNotes from the Training Room

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Michael Jones Hosted by Scott R. Jones

NSCA, AFAA Certified Personal Trainer/
Cooper Clinic Bio-Mechanics Specialist

Choosing an Instructor

An Adequate Base of Support

The Natural Swing Principle

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Guest Authors

Training has Changed - By Mike Parker

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Choosing an Instructor

By Scott R. Jones

If you wanted to learn a skill or improve your ability in some area, you may seek out an instructor in that area. This is an extremely important decision because a large amount of your money, and time are now placed in the hands of, in most cases, a stranger. How do you choose the most effective instructor? How many credentials should an instructor have? How important are credentials? How much experience should the instructor have in the activity? How much experience should the instructor have being an instructor? Let us see if my personal experience will help you sort through some of these questions.

Members ask me several times a week, in my gym, about the various trainers and their credentials. This is one of the first questions I would ask if I were seeking out a personal trainer. However, all the trainers have basically the same credentials. Credentials are important. A core of knowledge from which to draw credible information is necessary, but letters behind a name is an extremely small part of becoming a successful trainer/instructor. In my years as a trainer, I have seen many national certifications and even Master's Degrees not able to hold enough clients to pay the bills. Make sure your trainer/instructor has the basic credentials pertaining to their field, but realize this is only the beginning when choosing a high-quality trainer/instructor.

How about experience? How long has the person been a trainer/instructor? Surviving many years as a trainer, instructor or coach definitely demonstrates desire and a certain amount of success by itself. Personal training, as well as other forms of instruction, is inherently dependent upon the trainer for success. The product is the trainer, and everyday that product is tested by several different personalities. Every hour the trainer must use varying people skills in order to be successful with each client. Retaining the client and clients over a period of time demonstrates a successful trainer-client relationship. So, longevity says quite a bit about the trainer's personal skills.

A large aspect of experience that can be confusing is the personal experience of the trainer or instructor. What have they accomplished in their sport of field? In personal training, many clients will purchase sessions from a trainer based solely on that trainer's physique. Let's face it, not many people will seek personal training advice from a person who is flabby and overweight. We want the tall, lean, muscular, attractive trainer. Our thinking is that if he/she can attain that condition then he/she can help me attain that same condition. We all want the world champion in whatever sport we are pursuing to instruct us. However, the best players or performers in the sport do not automatically make the best coaches or instructors in the sport. Do your homework and find the best instructor not the best performer, if they are one in the same fantastic. I will offer some examples of trainer/instructor experience to help make the point. Several months ago a young man, let's call him "Tom", began training at my club. Tom had an incredible physique. He possessed a massively, thick musculature and very lean at the same time. Tom had won many bodybuilding shows and had trained himself for several years. Tom was a college graduate and nationally certified to personal train. Members would constantly look at him in the gym and comment, "Look at that guy's physique, he must really know what he is doing." or " I want to train with Tom so I can get arms like that." Tom was gone five months later because he did not have enough clients to support himself. Tom had excellent genetics and could train himself but was unable to train and motivate individuals on a large scale. This is not an isolated case either. A fair amount of experience and success in the sport personally did not translate into success as a trainer. The opposite of Tom's scenario is true in this better-known example. This person had no major college playing experience, no professional playing experience and not even professional head coaching experience when he was handed the reigns to a professional football team. In 1988, he retired from NFL coaching with six division titles and three Super Bowl championships. He was named coach of the decade (1980's) and inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. This person is Bill Walsh, former head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. He accomplished these feats without even participating at the level in which he coached. The world of sports is loaded with successful coaches who have no playing experience at the highest levels of their respective sports. Red Auerbach, nine NBA championships. John Madden, highest winning percentage of any NFL coach, all-time, upon his retirement and the list goes on.

The assumption that a quality trainer/instructor must have a high level of playing experience in the sport, which they are instructing, is absurd. Some trainers/instructors have not even participated in the sport in which they have become the best in the world. Bela Karolyi's career as a female gymnast was brief and unheralded, yet he went on to coach more young women to gold medals than anyone in the world and is the most sought after instructor in his sport. In all seriousness, I hope these examples help shed some light on the importance of experience. Remember that playing a sport and coaching a sport require different abilities and success at one in no way translates to success in the other.

What about results? Are they present and concurrent with the client's goals? The ultimate goal of the trainer or instructor is either, to improve conditioning and physique, or improve the effectiveness in a skill, to the satisfaction of the client. Trainers who do not show their clients results had better tell a good story because that will be the only thing between that client and a free hour. As a client, you have to be sure that the results you achieve match your goals. For example, let's say you hire a strength coach in order to train you for weight loss. After twelve weeks, you are lifting more weight but your bodyfat has remained the same. There are results present, but they do not agree with your initial goal. Be specific with your trainer or instructor about your goals. Say for instance, you hire a trainer to lose weight. You do not tell this trainer that you expect to lose forty pounds in four weeks as you have seen in a television ad. At the end of four weeks, you have lost eight pounds of pure bodyfat. You do not understand why your trainer is ecstatic with, what you think is, a total lack of progress. Eight pounds of bodyfat lost in four weeks is an excellent, healthy rate of weight reduction. Your disappointment could have been avoided, if the specific goals had been communicated in the beginning.

The single most important characteristic of a successful personal trainer or instructor is the ability to instruct. Instruction is the process of teaching and communicating knowledge. Communicating knowledge means information is sent by the trainer/instructor and received by the client. You must be able to understand and be motivated by your trainer/instructor. Years of accomplishment in the sport, years of experience and years of knowledge accumulated by the trainer/instructor will mean nothing if you as the client cannot understand what he/she is telling you. The successful trainer/instructor also pays attention to what you are telling him/her. A successful trainer/instructor is a good listener.

Now let us see if we can choose an effective trainer/instructor. He/she should possess at least the basic credentials. Experience is needed in the form of actually being a trainer/instructor. After a certain length of time, progress should be made towards your initial goal. Finally, the trainer/instructor has to be a good communicator.

In the end, a small amount of trial and error may be required on your part. However, if you follow the above criteria the decision will be much easier. Good hunting.

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An Adequate Base of Support

By Scott R. Jones

In my 20 years of being involved with athletics, one aspect has been constant or transcended all the sports. That aspect is the need of an adequate base. An adequate base is defined differently according to the activity. In football, the player with the more solid base can usually hold his ground when push comes to shove.

In golf, a balanced base is a must if you are going to keep the ball on the course.

In martial arts, a wide base is necessary to keep one from being thrown around the room.

In the area of Sports Sciences, the term "base" is short for "base of support." Base of support is the entire area formed by the points at which the body is in contact with the ground, floor or sport apparatus.

Just like the football player's cleats in the ground, or the gymnast's hand on the mat during a handstand, the roper's base of support is formed by his contact with the saddle and stirrups. The gluteals, medial sides of the legs and bottom of the feet make up the base on which the roper operates.

Relatively, the larger the base of support, the more stable the athlete will be. It then follows that if the roper has a more stable base of support, he can perform a greater variety of body motions and still maintain balance or dynamic equilibrium.

Increased balance offers an increased possibility for success because without balance it is extremely difficult to be accurate. You will realize this if you attempt to shoot a target, with a pistol, on one foot, atop a rolling skate board. The one foot doesn't offer much of a base of support and, therefore, balance is a constant concern, making accuracy almost impossible.

Roping is also a sport of seconds. Increased balance also means faster times. Besides accuracy, time is also lost when an athlete performs compensating movements to re-establish the base of support.

Balance requires our center of gravity to be directly above our base of support. Center of gravity can be thought of as the point on or about which an object would balance most perfectly.

Frictional forces also play a huge role in dynamic equilibrium or balance while in motion. When a roper loses his balance, the roper counts on contacts to the saddle and stirrups, and the frictional forces between these contacts, to create torque to counteract any torque due to gravity pulling the roper off balance.

If basketball were played on an ice rink, there would be no quick moves or changing of directions because there would be no friction between the player's feet and the ice on which to base such an action.

We now know that our center of gravity must be directly over our stable base of support so we can remain balanced.

So what happens when team ropers attempt to rope in today's conventional saddles? When a roper stands in the saddle to chase a steer, he is fighting three main forces:

First of all, in conventionalsaddles, the base of support is not centered under the rider. This sends a force diagonally backward which makes it difficult for the roper to place his center of gravity over his base of support. Therefore, he must displace this force by leaning forward, which produces stress on the erector spinae and other muscles of the lower back. Contraction of the abdominals to keep the rider forward is also involved.

Secondly, the acceleration of the horse sends the roper backward. Again, in conventional saddles the abdominals, lower back and leg muscles work vigorously to keep the roper forward as the horse accelerates. An example of this motion is the extreme forward lean of a sprinter as he comes out of the blocks, where he is almost horizontal with the ground to overcome the force of acceleration.

Finally, gravity is always present and pulling the roper down into the saddle. These three forces combine to force the roper back and down, creating an arduous task for the team roper attempting to remain forward and upright.

If there are two places where the general population lacks muscu

lar conditioning, they are the abdominals and the lower back. The rigors of team roping can exploit and injure these areas.

David Jones has addressed these problems by creating a technically more efficient saddle.

The muscular strain on the lower back, abdominals and legs is lessened. This reduction in energy expenditure can be beneficial in roping. The risk of injury to these areas, arising from over-exertion, is reduced.

Most important is the fact that this new base of support gives the roper better balance. Improved balance affords the roper an opportunity to perform a variety of body motions with greater accuracy.

Team roping without accuracy becomes horse and steer drag racing, not much fun to watch. A more efficient base of support system gives the roper a better chance to remain balanced when his horse accelerates, decelerates or changes direction.

Remember this: The more stable our base of support, the easier we can perform other body motions and still maintain balance.

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The Natural Swing Principle

By Scott R. Jones

The Swing

The human body will accomplish a task the most efficient way it can, and because of genetics arid varying coordination and muscular attributes, the most efficient way will differ for some people. Kareem Abdul Jabbar became the most prolific scorer in NBA history with a shot that no one else even used. Lee Trevino has been in the top five money winners the last five years with a swing that, as a whole, would be difficult to emulate. How is it that two of the most successful men in their respective sports can excel with characteristics unlike their counterparts? These men HAVE TAKEN THE FUNDAMENTAL MOTIONS OF THEIR SPORT AND ADAPTED THEM TO THEIR BODY TYPES. The focus here is on the precise, repetitious, perfect practice to control the basic physics of the laws of motion of the projected object and the muscle control to project the object within the laws of motion. The basic tasks must be accomplished BEFORE variations can be interpreted in the muscle control process. Kareem went from the hook and made the shot-release higher above his head to adjust and take advantage of his long limbs. This "sky hook" put him in the Hall of Fame. Lee Trevino over the years has adapted his swing to be more efficient per his body type. He is not only successful but when the money is on the line and the adrenalin is pumping it is usually his opponent pulling out their wallets on the 18th green. He has taken the fundamentals which you must master and then adapted to make the most effective swing. I cannot emphasize enough how widespread this principle is. The Weider Instinctive Training principle is based on this fact. Each bodybuilder must tailor his workout to his needs and particular muscle growth requirements. The whole existence of Bruce Lee is based on this principle. He drew from boxing, fencing, kick-boxing, weight training and many other facets to arrive at his own lineage of karate called, "Jeet Kune Do." However, all of these men first mastered the fundamentals and how did they do that?


What do we get from practice? Practice provides us with repetitions of our desired movement. Repetition in turn results in motor improvement. Motor improvement means we are performing the movement with greater speed, less errors or both! The greater the smoothness and effective coordination of the participating limbs, the less mental and physical effort. With the roper's swing being "automatic", he has time in a pressure situation to adjust to other variables in time so as not to make an error. With roping times getting faster, the misses should not increase. In fact, with greater proficiency, catches should increase or stay the same with decreasing times. I claim the reason they don't is because ropers are not getting the constant perfect practice they need.

Through perfect practice a roper can close the motor loop which encompasses his swing. Just like a cow path through a grassy pasture, his swing can become worn or ingrained until it is almost automatic. The motor loop starts with a decision in the brain and is then fired through the spinal cord to the participating muscles. Through repetition we train the correct muscles when and where to move. Enough repetitions can bring about the development of inhibitors. Inhibitors help prevent other actions which are counter productive to our desired movement. The swing in team roping must be invariable and constant, ??? hours a week. This is 468 hours a year of random practice. Now get on Slick- Stick for 1 hour, 5 times a week, for a total of 260 hours a year. We have increased your practice sessions while cutting your practice time in half!! Additionally we have at least tripled your repetitions which are essential for closing that motor loop. Let's say you want over 200 hours of free time a year to work on your horse, spend time with your family or relax, then how efficient is the practice you are getting? For all the time spent, have you established a constant automatic swing? Practicing on the ground is wasted time and may be counterproductive. The decreased angle of the release to practicing on the ground causes different muscle fibers to fire. Beside the fact that by roping on the ground you are not involving a third of the muscles taxed while actually roping. More specifically you are ingraining a motor loop which involves different muscle fibers and a completely different visual situation. It's like shooting on an 8 foot basketball goal for practice. Specificity of training has been in every sports science discussion for years. The closer you can emulate the actual performance conditions in practice, the more successful your performance outcome. Baseball and golf both require a swing but any one will tell you the bad habits are difficult to overcome when a baseball player tries to hit a golf ball correctly. He has ingrained different weight shift and different muscle fibers so it is very difficult to overcome those factors. He must repetitively tax the correct muscles and muscle fibers just to overcome his already established baseball swing. First a roper needs the constant specific repetitions on Slick-Stick to make even a minor adjustment.
Q: Can my swing be automatic?
A: Definitely! Why does a change-up pitch work in baseball? The batter spends thousands of hours ingraining his perfect swing. Thousands of hours produces a smooth, "automatic," and complete motor loop, not a motor loop or swing that stops half way. The batter sees the pitch approaching and initiates the swing motor loop, however, the pitch is approaching at a much slower speed. The neuromuscular sequence has begun and the muscles have been trained to fire until the task is complete. This makes cessation of the swing very difficult and the change-up pitch successful. Relate this to team roping. Through repetitive specific practice, one can ingrain his swing so that it takes up very little of his mental capacity, thus leaving more to concentrate on the changing variables (Steer, Horse, etc.)

This becomes more crucial in a pressure situation. Adrenaline is a hormone that stimulates the nervous system, the very system that fires the muscles to help us complete our movement. Adrenaline causes increased blood flow to muscles, quicker reaction time, and greater contractile strength of the muscle. Under these influences an incorrect swing may be magnified. Random practice gives different looks but is not as efficient in helping someone ingrain a specific and reliable swing. If you start by randomly roping steers then you might have to correct bad habits incurred in the process of just attempting to catch that next steer. Practice needs to be devoted to perfecting a swing that will withstand the influence of nerves, pressure, adrenaline and fatigue. If your goal is to become more competitive in your sport then this specific isolation practice is a must. You do not play eighteen holes of golf over and over and over in order to truly become a competitive golfer. You swing your 9-iron and 5-iron and driver etc.,etc., over and over in order to perfect your entire game.

The swing of a team roper is delicate. The shoulder is the most flexible joint in the body. It is also unstable because of the ball-and-socket design. This delicate joint and its muscles must be trained correctly to achieve the desired results.

Being the most flexible, there are more possibilities in the range of motion and thus greater possibilities of where our loop will go. The Slick-Stick specific practice will train the muscles and you for the correct swing.

After the fundamentals have been ingrained you can move on and adjust for your own personal swing if need be.

Once the correct swing and your needs meet, they combine to make your own "perfect" swing.

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Training has Changed

By Mike Parker

Mike Parker coached college football for 19 years, starting in 1964 for the undefeated, national champion University of Arkansas Razorbacks. He then moved on to the Quantico Marine football team, Southern Methodist University (SMU), the University of Southern Mississippi, the University of Wyoming and, finally, the University of Texas.

At the University of Texas, Coach Parker coached an All-American every year for nine years. In addition to achieving All-American status, three of his athletes were awarded the "Outland" and "Lombardi" trophies, which are the highest national awards given to a lineman.

"Luck is when preparation meets with opportunity" is a quote from Coach Darrell Royal that epitomizes the teams that he produced during the 20 years he coached at the University of Texas. Coach Royal's teams won three national championships, the last in 1969, which, not insignificantly, is the last national championship football team produced at the University of Texas.

The point is that Coach Royal believed in the proper preparation ­ practice was an essential part of the winning tradition he established at UT.

Of course, "perfect practice" is what is so important to any athlete, whether he's a football player or a team roper. If an athlete is practicing his skills incorrectly, he is only getting better at doing the skills incorrectly.

Winning or being a champion demands the best skills and techniques that an athlete can produce in the heat of battle. Practice allows the athlete an opportunity to gain confidence in his ability to perform under simulated game or event conditions.

Practice means repetition ­ repeating skills and techniques over and over under controlled, accurate situations until those techniques and skills become an automatic reflex.

Champions don't think about what they are doing during the heat of a contest, they do what they have learned to do in practice.

Think about it, all of the major sports and sports stars work out and practice year around now - not just during their sport's season.

The fact is that even the professional athletes still make mistakes and miscues, even though they work out and practice all year round, usually is due more to lack of concentration and conditioning than to practice.

Attitude, discipline, confidence and confidence-conditioning are the by-products of practice and the keys to success in any athletic event.

David Jones has created the "Perfect Practice" opportunity with the ROPRO Training Systems. Using the Slick-Stick allows the athlete the opportunity to practice his skills that best simulate the real event in the arena.

The perfection of the basic fundamentals of all sports are similar. Proper position, correct angle, a fearless and informed regard for personal safety and extreme confidence are basic ingredients of all champions, regardless of the sport.

Champions are not produced in weeks or months; normally it takes years of correct practice. The first step is to incorporate the best instructors and, of course, the best equipment available.

I compare the ROPRO Training Systems equipment to weight training 30 years ago.

When I played football in the early 60s, only one team had a weight training program: LSU. The belief and philosophy was that weights and training with them would make the athlete too tight. 30 years later, weight training is the bedrock of every athletic program in the country.

The Slick-Stick and the ROPRO Training System just may be the bedrock of all team roping systems in the future!!

Good Luck and Good Roping!

-Mike Parker

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