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How to Avoid a Busted Bracket During March Madness

March Madness is a basketball fan’s favorite time of year. Flair for the dramatic paired with passionate fans and determined underdogs creates an exciting sports atmosphere that is hard to match. Cooper Fitness Center Basketball Pro Coleman Crawford has experienced the ups and downs of March Madness as a coach and offers advice for putting together a winning bracket for the conclusion of college basketball season.

Building a bracket is always more fun when friendly competition is involved. Invite family, friends and coworkers to join a bracket pool and decide on a prize for the eventual winner. Set aside some time to make picks together once the tournament teams are announced.

When it’s time to make your picks, do your research first. Try to learn a little bit about each team in the tournament and recognize their strengths and weaknesses. When observing and evaluating each team, keep an eye on the players’ fundamentals. Ball control, passing and shooting skills, which we begin teaching at a young age in Cooper Fitness Center basketball programs, are just as important at the college level as they are for beginners. No matter each player’s athleticism or advanced skills, success within the game of basketball always goes back to the fundamentals.

Next, take your favorite teams into account. Who do you want to cheer for, and why? If your alma mater or family’s favorite team is in the tournament, don’t be afraid to add them to your bracket and see how far they can make it. You want to make sure to have fun and embrace your favorite team!

Although it’s tempting to pick all of the top seeded teams, Coleman recommends picking one or two teams with a seed of 10 or higher. Everyone loves a Cinderella story during March Madness, so take a risk on an underdog that could cause an upset and bust other brackets.

If you use a website or app to make your bracket, it’s important to understand the scoring system. You earn points for each game won by the teams you pick, and you lose points for each game lost by the teams you pick. Using a website or app to track your bracket makes it easy – the program will add and subtract points automatically at the end of each game. The number of points you have at the end of the tournament determines how well you do within your bracket pool.

Finally, don’t overthink it! Creating a bracket for March Madness is a fun way to follow college basketball, even if you haven’t been keeping up with the entire season. The talent on display is exciting to watch and is a great reminder that college athletes were once kids who worked hard to learn and hone their game, much like the children and teenagers who come to basketball camp at Cooper Fitness Center.

Enjoy the madness this spring, and best of luck to your bracket. Follow along with Coleman’s picks here and don’t forget to let us know how your picks performed.

ColemanMarchMadnessBracket2017

For more information about Cooper Fitness Center Basketball Programs for both youth and adults, visit cooperfitnesscenter.com/ProZone.

How to Prepare for a Tennis Tournament

February 1, 2017 Leave a comment

Tennis is one of the few sports you can start at any age and play competitively. Training with a goal in mind, such as competing in match play or a tournament, can be a great motivating factor to improve your skills on the court and overall fitness.

Tournaments and leagues are separated by age division and/or skill level, which allows people to meet others on their same level of experience. If you’re planning on adding a dose of competition to your tennis routine, signing up to play in a tournament can be an exciting opportunity. Cooper Fitness Center Tennis Pro Corey Noel offers his top 10 tips for preparing to compete in a tennis tournament:

  1. Get a good night’s sleep. Follow your regular bedtime routine, and make sure to get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep to be well-rested and at the top of your game.
  2. Eat and hydrate properly 24-48 hours before the tournament. Stick to your healthy diet and use food as fuel for your body. Follow the recommended hydration guidelines and make sure to bring your water bottle to the tournament.
  3. Focus on conditioning and match practice in the week leading up to a tournament. There’s less of a need to focus on technique.
  4. Identify your goals and strategies before the tournament begins.
  5. Have all your necessary equipment in top shape (rackets freshly strung, court shoes broken in, etc.). Make sure to bring the proper clothing and accessories – layers if it’s chilly and a hat and sunglasses if it’s sunny. An extra pair of socks can come in handy, too. Pack sunscreen, water and healthy snacks for fuel.
  6. Stretch before and after each match to keep yourself loose and to help your muscles recover.
  7. Know your limitations. A tournament can test your physical and mental acuity; recognize where your breaking point is and don’t go past it.
  8. Pick the right division for your skill level. If you’re playing with a partner, make sure you work well together and have practiced together before the tournament.
  9. It’s just tennis! Don’t get overwhelmed by the fact that you’re playing in a tournament. Concentrate on using the skills you’ve developed and try to play your best.
  10. Have fun!

Tennis programs at Cooper Fitness Center are open to the public. Visit cooperfitnesscenter.com to learn more.

Self-Defense as Prevention for All Ages

Prevention isn’t just about taking care of your health and fitness. It’s also about being aware of your surroundings and keeping yourself safe from harm. When it comes to facing bullies and defending against the elements, self-defense is the number one form of prevention. Cooper Fitness Center Martial Arts Pro Mike Proctor explains the importance of learning self-defense at any age.

Mental and Physical Aspects of Self-Defense

Mike notes that most self-defense is mental and emotional, and includes having a plan and being aware of your surroundings at all times. You should have a plan for everything–a house fire, car breakdown on the highway or just walking to your car from the shopping mall. “I tell my students that martial arts are 90 percent mental and emotional, and 10 percent physical,” says Mike.

According to Mike, the physical techniques of self-defense are relatively simple compared to preparing mentally. “We are taught to never make a scene and to not hurt people,” explains Mike. “That makes it hard to go against your instincts when you’re put in a tough situation where self-defense is needed.” Mentally, it’s key to know when you are the most vulnerable; physically, you must know how to defend yourself against various situations.

Who Needs Self-Defense?

Self-defense can and should be practiced by all ages, both male and female. The self-defense course you take should aim at your particular demographic and your physical abilities. Though self-defense is important for everyone, Mike points out the following populations who could benefit most from learning self-defense:

  • Adults and children with special needs: those with special needs, including hearing loss, vision impairment, Down syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis and others, are more likely to be victims of bullying or physical harm because they are more vulnerable targets.
  • College students: college-age young adults, especially females, are at the most vulnerable time of their lives. Being on campus can create a feeling of security, but this is often an illusion.
  • Females of all ages: Mike notes that situations calling for self-defense most often occur to women, no matter the age.

Bullying

Bullying isn’t just something that happens on the schoolyard anymore, and kids aren’t the only victims. Bullying can occur within romantic relationships, between coworkers, online and in various other situations. “When it comes to bullying, it’s important to focus on your attitude and action–what your response will be,” says Mike. As a society, we have a responsibility to recognize bullying (whether it is happening to us or another person) and act to stop it. Learning self-defense can give children and adults the confidence to stand up to a bully should they encounter one and know when to ask for help from others.

How Martial Arts Can Prepare You

Training in martial arts can give you a sense of empowerment that you can do something to protect yourself or others if you are ever put in a situation when it’s needed. Mike recommends treating self-defense courses the same way you would treat CPR certification–take a course about every two years to stay up-to-date and to practice your skills. The skills should become reflexes in order to be most effective. “Taking courses every two years can remind you that danger can occur at any time,” explains Mike. “You can fall into a false sense of security when you’re not practicing often enough, and self-defense courses are a way to always stay on your toes and be aware of the problems you may face in the world.”

Remember that self-defense isn’t a one-size-fits-all mentality. You must be aware of your own vulnerabilities and understand how to combat them. Keeping yourself safe is of utmost importance, and self-defense is the best preventive tool available.

For more information about martial arts programs at Cooper Fitness Center, visit cooperfitnesscenter.com/ProZone.

NBA-Level Experience Drives Coach Coleman Crawford

November 11, 2016 Leave a comment

Coleman Crawford and basketball go way back. He started at a young age and worked his way to the college level (he still holds University of North Alabama career scoring and rebounding averages records). Following college, he put his basketball skills and IQ to work on the sidelines as a coach. He began at the college level – including four NCAA teams – then moved to international opportunities and the NBA Developmental League before settling in as Cooper Fitness Center’s Basketball Pro. His coaching experience eclipses 40 years and continues to this day.

As the NBA season kicks off, we asked Coleman a few questions about his coaching experience and his tips for growing as a basketball player.

Who was your favorite NBA team growing up?

“I didn’t necessarily have a favorite team, but instead had favorite players. I enjoyed following the Milwaukee Bucks because Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played for them, and I eventually pulled for the Lakers when he moved to L.A. I enjoyed following the careers of my favorite players.”

What did you gain from coaching in the NBA Developmental League?

“Coaching in the D-League was a big change from collegiate coaching. Coaching college athletes involves guiding them with their grades and off-the-court behavior on top of their basketball skills. In the NBA D-League, it was purely coaching and total focus on the game. I was able to build the team needed to win, and the players were solely focused on making it to the next level–the NBA. We won a championship when I coached in the D-League and six of the players went on to play in the NBA, which was exciting and rewarding.”

What is your favorite coaching memory?

“When I coached at Florida State, we beat Duke, who was the number one seed at the time. It was incredible! I also loved being able to coach my son at Tulsa and Florida State.”

What do you like most about coaching youth versus coaching adults?

“My favorite group to coach is, surprisingly, the 5-7 year olds. They are new to the sport, have no bad habits and have no fear. I see so much improvement and growth throughout the time I work with them, and I love introducing them to basketball. Coaching adults is enjoyable because they are usually very focused on improving one or two areas of their game, whether it is shooting, ball control or defense. They are open to learning new things and growing as players.”

Who do you think will win the NBA Finals this year?

“I’m currently a Cleveland Cavaliers fan because Lebron James is my favorite player. So I’m hoping for back-to-back championships!”

What skills do you teach your players that NBA players are always working on, too?

“The best NBA players never stray from the basics of the game. They practice the fundamentals constantly in order to master them. They also get into a routine that works for them, which usually consists of working hard and putting in extra practice time. The best players on NBA teams – Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki, Lebron James – are often the hardest working players on the team. Hard work distinguishes average players from elite players. Working on the fundamentals early on, as we do in our basketball camps and programs, can help kids grow and develop into solid players. On top of building physical skills, we also work on the mental aspect of the game.”

What are your top tips for any NBA hopefuls out there?

“Work ethic, skill development and mental prowess all tie together in basketball. The best players work tirelessly to master their skills. Try to always play against the best possible competition, because that challenge will bring out the best in you as a player and will give you an idea as to whether or not you’re improving. Keep working hard and never stop trying to improve and grow.”

For more information about Coleman and basketball programs offered at Cooper Fitness Center, visit cooperfitnesscenter.com/ProZone or call 972.233.4832, ext. 4337.

Off the Court with Tennis Pro Corey Noel

October 14, 2016 Leave a comment

corey-noelCatching Cooper Fitness Center Tennis Pro Corey Noel anywhere outside of the courts can be a challenge, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. With more than 15 years of experience coaching tennis and a variety of tournament championships under his belt, Corey brings expertise and focus on the game to adults and children alike through Cooper Fitness Center’s tennis programs. Get to know Corey on a more personal level:

When were you first introduced to tennis?

I started playing tennis when I was 15 years old, which is a little late to begin. I joined my high school team and loved it! It’s never too late to try a new sport, especially a lifelong sport such as tennis.

What is your favorite memory of playing tennis?

I once played a match in college in which my opponent was very unpleasant and bickered quite a bit. The official eventually came out and gave him an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. We continued playing, and I won. Immediately after the match ended, my opponent was upset about losing and was issued another unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Since our match was over and the rules called for the penalty to be applied to another match, the official gave the penalty to his teammate playing on another court. The teammate then lost his match as well. I like to say I won two matches at once because of the incident!

What is your favorite memory of coaching tennis?

Coaching is challenging. I once had a job of coaching a high school tennis team full of beginners. We had 12 students on the team, and by the time the season ended, eight of them went to the state championship. It was extremely rewarding to see the improvements they made that season as individuals and a team.

Who has been your biggest influence in the world of tennis?

My college coach, Bryan Whitt, helped me develop as a player and later helped me kick off my career as a tennis pro. He has offered me plenty of coaching advice over the years, and still coaches at The University of Texas at Dallas.

Who is your biggest role model?

My dad is my biggest role model, because he is kind and respectful in all circumstances. He fully lives by the rule of treating others as you would want to be treated.

What’s your favorite workout, other than playing tennis?

I love to cycle. I’m usually very competitive when it comes to sports and exercise, but riding a bike is one of the only times I’m able to let go and just enjoy the activity.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment professionally? Personally?

On the personal side, I’m proud of how I paid for my degree myself. I worked all through college and never had to take out a student loan. As a professional, being named Tennis Pro at Cooper has been incredible, and it was also amazing to be selected to sit on the Dallas Professional Tennis Association Board of Directors.

If you could play a match against one tennis celebrity, who would it be?

Andre Agassi. He’s always been my favorite player.

How long have you worked at Cooper?

Three years.

What is your favorite part about working at Cooper?

The people at Cooper are amazing and very friendly. Everyone here is passionate about exercise and self-improvement, which is a culture you would be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.

What would you tell someone who is new to playing tennis and looking to improve their game?

Learning to play tennis is all about commitment and repetition. Get out on the court three or four days a week or as much as possible in order to work on all aspects of the game. It can be tough, but well worth it.

What’s your favorite thing to do in down time when you are not on the courts?

What’s down time?! Just kidding! I like to relax and watch TV or Netflix, and I’ve been traveling more.

If you weren’t coaching tennis, what other profession would you have gotten into?

I actually studied to be a teacher, so I would likely be teaching high school English and coaching tennis at the high school level.

What do you believe you teach/offer besides just technical tennis skills (i.e. confidence, teamwork in doubles play, etc.)?

As a coach, I try to teach problem solving. Tennis is the only major sport in which coaches are not allowed to actually coach during a match, so it’s important to teach my players independence and how to make decisions to improve their game on their own. There’s a lot of psychology that goes behind the game of tennis.

Corey points out that one of the most important things to know about tennis is that it’s a sport anyone can play, no matter of age, gender or experience. This makes it different from most sports, but is what he likes most about it. He says it’s rewarding to see his students grow and pick up new skills quickly, and then enjoy playing tennis as a lifelong sport.

For more information about Corey and the tennis programs at Cooper Fitness Center, visit cooperfitnesscenter.com or call 972.233.4832, ext. 4311.

Fighting Childhood Obesity through Play

 

Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. Unhealthy kids are growing into unhealthy adults, causing a major health care problem in the United States.

When it comes to helping kids form healthy habits, it’s best to start young. Studies have shown that different types of exercise affect a child’s mental capacity in a variety of ways. A simple 20-minute walk can immediately affect a child’s attention, function and academic success. However, the reverse is true for highly structured, rule-based exercise, such as a sport or coordination drills. This type of exercise may be too taxing for children immediately before a test or other activity that requires sustained focus. Instead, higher intensity exercises seem to build a child’s attention span gradually over time. Children who are physically fit perform better in attention tests–even small improvements in fitness lead to noticeable changes in the brain.

Participating in sports or other fitness-driven activities, especially right after the school day, can be a natural and less forced outlet to allow children to build up their attention span while having fun. Cooper Fitness Center’s IGNITE! program combines fitness, sports, movement and games to help improve athletic performance for this purpose. In the long run, children are learning how to focus for future tests and other tasks that require concentration.

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Kids develop athletic skills during Cooper Fitness Center’s IGNITE! program.

Various studies have linked academic performance to overall health and fitness in children. Data taken from students in California show the following relationships between fitness and academics:

  • Higher levels of fitness = increased math testing scores
  • Higher levels of fitness = increased language arts testing scores
  • Healthier lunches = increased math and language arts testing scores
  • Higher levels of fitness = higher school attendance rate
  • Higher levels of fitness = fewer negative school incidents

A study of more than 2.4 million Texas students found that students who are physically fit are more likely to do well on the state’s standardized tests and have higher school attendance. Physically fit students are also less likely to have disciplinary problems. The Cooper Institute developed FitnessGram, the first “student fitness report card,” in an effort to improve school physical education programs and children’s health.

“The impact exercise has on the growing brain is unparalleled,” says Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH, founder and chairman of Cooper Aerobics. “Increased exercise improves cardiovascular health, and that helps the brain function more efficiently and enhances its ability to learn.”

Playing sports such as tennis or basketball can help children improve their attention while also helping them reach a higher level of fitness, which is beneficial to them at both a young age and as they grow into adults.

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Improving skills on the court with Cooper Fitness Center Tennis Pro Corey Noel.

It is recommended that students do at least 60 minutes of vigorous or moderate-intensity physical activity every day, with more than half occurring during regular school hours and the remaining outside of school. Estimates suggest only about half of U.S. children meet this guideline.

Cooper Fitness Center offers various after-school youth programs to help kids get up and moving while boosting their brain power. Learn more about sport-specific programming and other youth programs at cooperyouth.com/dallas.

Cooper Experts at The Perot Museum

November 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Perot-LogoThe Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Downtown Dallas will open to the public tomorrow, Saturday, Dec. 1. Within the museum there will be 11 permanent exhibit halls – ranging from engineering and brain health to sports. And while I am only slightly biased, I am most excited about seeing two of my favorite Cooper Aerobics teammates featured in the Sports Hall.

A few months ago the folks at the Perot Museum contacted us looking for local experts to feature in the Sports Hall. The Sports Hall is more than information on elite athletes; it explores the physics, anatomy and physiology of sports, teaching visitors about the science behind their bodies in motion. To help visitors understand how to get the maximum use out of their body, there will be several interactive “Coaches Corners.”  Two of the coaches you’ll see are Meridan Zerner, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, registered dietitian at Cooper Clinic, and Carla Sottovia, PhD, Director of Fitness and Personal Training Education at Cooper Fitness Center. And while you might not think of Meridan or Carla as “coaches” in the traditional sense, they are definitely two of the best coaches you’ll find when it comes to learning how to live a longer, healthier life.

Here’s a preview of a few things that Meridan and Carla explore in their Coaches’ Corner:

  • As a professional fitness trainer, what resources do you use to help people improve their fitness, and how do you know what works?
  • If you want to be a professional fitness trainer, what type of education is important?
  • What are some of the barriers people face when it comes to exercise, and how can they overcome them?
  • What are some exercises that can improve flexibility, strength, core and power?
  • What benefits will my body experience if I eat a healthier diet for a long time?
  • How can I eat more for my health to make me smarter, leaner, faster and stronger?
  • Is it true that different sports can benefit from different types of diets? What are the differences of eating for different sports?
  • What types of food should endurance athletes eat? How about strength and speed athletes?
  • What do you need to know about sports energy drinks?
  • What are some easy, tasty snacks that will fuel my body?

The bottom line is, you do not have to train like an elite athlete to get the health benefits of exercise.  It’s never too late to make changes to your health, and it’s never too late to feel better.

Are you planning to visit the Perot Museum of Nature and Science? We hope you enjoy Meridan and Carla’s Coaches Corner! Leave a comment below to let us know what you enjoyed most.

This was written by Christine Witzsche former Communications Director at Cooper Aerobics. Christine is no longer with Cooper Aerobics and we wish her all the best with her future endeavors.