Conversations With The Champ: Fighting For One More

Before we agreed to post the series "Conversations With The Champ", I agreed to let Frank Torres write the occasional blog.

In my mind, I thought he wanted to write simply because he felt I would not do a good job of telling his side of the story. 

To my surprise, his first blog was nothing like that.

It was nothing like that at all ...

Enjoy ...

"Fighting For One More" - By Francis Torres (The Champ)

We all get lost along the roads of life, and (I apologize for sounding cliché but ...) at eighteen I was pretty damn lost. I had thought the world would give me everything and more, yet I was standing in the crowd of my friends’ all-star game being drowned, not in the sounds of the fans or the helmets crashing, but in anger and self-pity.

It was then that I saw Coach Mahoney. A week prior to this, I had been kicked off the Advanced Training program for not showing up, for not being accountable. I don’t recall too well what was said, but I think he saw that I was lost.  

Allowing me back into the program, a month later I won the “Toughman Challenge” and off to college I went.       

Now college was another rough one. Getting acclimated to the “big fish, big pond” theory was not working out well for me, and with physical set backs it seemed as if it would only get rougher. Transferring from one school to next, problem after problem, I figured it was time to come home. Packing my car with everything from my baseball bag to my shame, I made my way from West Virginia back to Staten Island.  The eight-hour trip turned into an endless journey, filled with classic 90’s rock and some sad country songs. 

Thoughts rolling around my mind, clanking back and forth like the empty tins rolling around the dashboard. The one happy thing that I had, besides being with my family, was that I would be back in Advanced Training. Again, I do not recall what I said, but I think he saw I was lost and invited me to come train with the guys.

Now there were many personalities that filled Advanced Training, everyone with a different goal. Some trained to make the starting roster on their college team, while others trained to become bigger and stronger. There were cops and military men, guys who worked on Wall Street and guys who walked the gridiron of the NFL. With such a stud filled lineup, I’m still so proud to consider myself one of them. And like any mixture of personalities, egos tend to clash from time to time, something I was well aware of (because I either started or instigated). And although I look back and cringe on some of things said and done, I smile knowing that everything I’ve ever said or done was only in attempt to make the people around me and myself better.

You see, the secret of Advanced Training was the competition. From the moment you pulled up, to the moment you left, it was a constant battle to not only be the best, but to give it all you had. Screams like war cries echo throughout the gym when another guy is about to break a P.R. (personal record). We put aside age, weight and status ... because in that moment we are all in it together, fighting for just one more.

Now I may have not accomplished everything I set out for, in fact I’ve failed more often than I’ve succeeded. But if there is one thing that I have taken away from the countless teachings of George Mahoney and Advanced Training, it is to fight for one more. To break the bar and drive no matter the weight, and for that I am forever thankful. I don’t know if I was the first, but I am surely not the last person Coach Mahoney will help get back on the right path.  

Bags Won't Make Ya Dance

Warning ... the video you are about to see may not be suitable for defensive players and / or Giants fans. The content includes missed tackles, poor pursuit angles, and the Eagles closing out a game with a long run.

Viewer discretion is advised.

As both a Giants fan and a defensive coach for football, it pains me to look at that video. But it had to be done.

All across the nation, coaches are making their athletes worse. Day after day, practice after practice, they are training their guys to run incorrectly.

They do this by making them run over "agility" bags.

Don't pretend like you don't know the drills ...
  • 1 foot in
  • 2 feet in
  • lateral step-overs
You probably know the coaching cues too.
  • "You are stepping over bodies ... "
  • "Get the knees high ... "
Admittedly, I have used both these drills and these cues myself.

But after studying endless hours of film, I had an epiphany.

I realized that THE #1 ELEMENT to being a successful football player is the ability to Change Direction.

A running back must change directions to "juke" a linebacker.

A cornerback must change directions to cover a receiver.

A wide receiver must change directions to go beg the ref for a pass interference call. (Yeah ... I said it. This ain't two-hand touch bro. It's a grown man's game.)

And during these endless hours of film watching, I noticed that the ability to change direction DOES NOT COME FROM BRINGING YOUR KNEES-UP.

Rather, it comes from planting and BRINGING YOUR KNEES FORWARD.

Watch this clip again. See if McCoy brings his knees up or forward during the clip.

You still don't believe me?

Watch this clip of Adrian Peterson. See if he brings his knees-up as he makes his cuts.

"But Coach, I don't use agility bags.  I use 'agility' ladders."

"I should be good."


Wrong ...

Doing agility ladders only makes you good at one thing ... Doing agility ladders.

I am certain that some people would argue that agility ladders will give you "quick feet".

But you don't need quick feet ... you need quick legs.

And you need those quick legs to move forward, not up.

And where do your knees need to go to get those feet over the ladder ...

You guessed it ... Up.

So now that I have told you what NOT to do, I guess it is only fair to tell you what drills TO DO in order to better change directions.

You will notice that in each of these drills, we focus on acceleration (starting), deceleration (stopping), keeping the feet close to the ground, and proper foot placement when planting.

Low Pushes
Low Pushes teach an athlete to start and stop on a dime WITHOUT bringing their knees up.
Notice how the feet barely skim the ground.

As I always tell my athletes, you can't change direction if your feet are in the air.

A key point to note is that the push (start) comes from the inside of the trail foot, as opposed to reaching out with the front foot. Reaching out with the front foot is what can lead to the knee coming up (and probably a pulled groin / hamstring).

Another huge coaching point is that upper body is just as much involved in these movements as your lower body. To do these correctly, you need to throw your trail arm in the direction in wish you wish to move.

Sideways Low Push

Diagonal Low Push

Backward Low Push

Change of Direction Low Push

Box Bounce
The box bounce teaches an athlete to use their feet to plant and cut without taking a stutter step.
The foot placement is emphasized by keeping the leg as straight as possible.

Notice how the athlete "skips a step" at each turn by planting off his outside leg and turning 90 degrees.

Also notice how the person writing this blog is referring to himself in the third person.

Box Run
The box run is the next progression of the box bounce. Instead of using straight legs, we are now able to bend our knees and lower our body.

In order to improve change of direction, you need to incorporate drills that closely mimic what will be happening on the field. I hope it is now evident that bags and ladder drills are not going to cut it.

In the future, I will write another article on how to make the correct change of direction drills even more practical by making them open-ended.

If you don't know what an open-ended drill is, then you'd better stay tuned.