Athletic Evolution

Ask the Expert: Dr Tony Moreno (Eastern Michigan University)

Tony Moreno PhD is a Professor of Kinesiology in the School of Health Promotion and Human Performance at Eastern Michigan University where he teaches courses in biomechanics and sport performance enhancement. Since 2000, Dr. Moreno has created and provided coaching education materials for the Michigan (US) High School Athletic Association in the areas of sport medicine, strength and conditioning, and athlete development.  In addition, he has consulted and provided coaching education materials for US Lacrosse and USA Hockey. He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and a USA Weightlifting Sport Performance Coach. In addition to his academic position, he is also president and coach for the East Lansing (MI) Youth Lacrosse Organization .

  1. What has led you into youth sport?

My interest in youth sport started my first semester of doctoral studies at Michigan State University. My area of emphasis at MSU was biomechanics and I was enrolled in a course titled “Growth and Maturation” taught by Professor Robert Malina. I was immediately fascinated with the consideration of late/early maturation and the variability of anthropometry on mechanical factors for sport performance and injury. When I initially was accepted to the MSU doctoral program I was interested in concussion and head impact, however this course completely changed my academic and research vision.

2) What has been your biggest influence in your practice in youth sport?

Professor Malina was obviously a great influence and although I enjoyed my educational experience at MSU, my biggest regret was not becoming more engaged in a variety of his research projects. I did have the opportunity to take several classes with him however. I must add that looking back my experience at MSU, I was extremely fortunate. After my first year I received the opportunity to work on several other projects in what is now called the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports. Within that space and among offices and hallways I had the opportunity to listen to many conversations regarding youth sport, research projects, dissertation proposals, defenses, etc. In addition, at the time I had two talented and ambitious colleagues that were advisees of Robert Malina who are at the forefront of most everything in youth sport today in 2019. Not many people can say they were in a fantasy football league with Sean Cumming and Joe Eisenmann. Both of them have been incredibly influential and motivate me to this day.

3) What is your particular area of interest?

Coming from a biomechanics background I want to know how things work and what we can do to improve sport performance and become more resilient to injury.  My dissertation was centered about ACL injury mechanism and prevention. As a result I became fascinated with the influence of the nervous system, skeletal anthropology, and motor control on movement. All of this piled on top of various engineering courses and my discovery of Nikolai Berstein’s essays from “On Dexterity and Development” in the late 1990’s completely altered my educational landscape. I guess I’m interested in many things, but when it comes down to it I guess structure and function are at the forefront of my mind.

4) How do you think this particular area applies to youth athletes? 

When it comes to enhancing movement performance or determining an injury mechanism you must understand how structures function and/or how they fail. In biomechanics we measure the mechanical outputs that are dictated by the neuro-physiological inputs and the limits of various musculo-skeletal properties. As a result this information becomes a vital component of coach education, in particular those working with young athletes so that youth sport coaches, athletic administrators, physical educators, sport medicine practitioners, recreational leaders, and the thousands of parent volunteers have a better understanding how to coordinate and implement best practice.

5) What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?

Before my doctoral studies I worked at a high-end athletic club in Los Angeles, CA. One of the members gave me a book titled Think And Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. He said read it once all the way through, and then read it again but highlight and makes notes on those things that strike you as important or stand out in your mind. Then he said after you read it a second time follow it the best you can. I did and must say it helped me realize that to become “rich” in happiness you must follow your passion. Ambition, Passion, and Purpose. The only APP you’ll ever need to succeed.

6) What advice would you give to coaches working with youth athletes? 

First, never stop learning. You don’t have all the answers and you never will. Surround yourself with those people or resources that will help compensate for your weaknesses. Second, the development of the youth athlete is a process, not fast food. Be patient and realize that as a youth coach your job will not be easy because of the variability in resources and physical/emotional maturation. Last, make sure you, like the kids, have fun. If it’s not fun why are you doing this?

7) Can you recommend any particular resources for youth sport coaches?

Here are some quick and easy links for info at the fingertips:

https://www.uslacrosse.org/athlete-development (US Lacrosse)

https://www.admkids.com/ (USA Hockey)

https://www.nsca.com/about-us/position-statements/youth-training-and-long-term-athletic-development/ (NSCA)

https://www.facebook.com/groups/NSCA.YouthSIG/ (NSCA LTAD SIG FB page)

8) Where can people find out more about you and your work? (Social media links, websites etc.)

I’m on Twitter @TMoreno40SL now and then, and below are a couple of links from US Lacrosse and a podcast from John O’Sullivan’s Changing the Game project with Joe Eisenmann and Rick Howard (West Chester University). The past year the three of us have been on a tour of sorts promoting the long term athletic development/physical literacy agenda and trying to make an impact on a national scale to have schools and organizations understand and embrace to concepts. More from us in the near future.

https://www.uslacrosse.org/author/tony-moreno

Thanks to Tony for his time and expertise!

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