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  • Jamie Morgan

The Coach's Stance

It’s 1983, Bob Miller still hasn’t given up on his sweet 1970s ‘stache. He stands tall at 5’10” (5’9”?), sporting striped tube socks pulled up to his knees, maroon coaches shorts with wide elastic band to contain his collared shirt (tucked in, of course), whistle, and maroon mesh trucker’s hat. The St. Elizabeth/St. Roberts Cougars uniforms were a depressing combo of maroon and white. His softball cleats dig into the field a little wider than shoulder width apart, arms crossed in front and resting on the bottom of his rib cage, abdomen pressed forward, all of his weight in his heels, resulting in the picture perfect coach’s stance. He is mostly likely cheering on his favorite daughter playing whatever sport was in season. Pretty sure my sister only uses the internet to shop Amazon and probably won’t ever see this, so I’m staking claim on fave daughter status.

While a good majority of the population has never stood on the sidelines ruling over a group of athletes in his/her life, I see the coach’s stance quite often. Some refer to this particular posture as the swayback, which is similar, but not quite the same thing. Check the pics here for the difference. Both show the pelvis pressed forward in comparison to the rib cage, but the swayback muscle guy rights his head to line it up vertically with the pelvis. The skeleton guy has no head or neck for that matter. Typically, the coach just leaves his head back while admiring how hard his team has worked this season. Both of these postures put a lot of pressure on the thoracolumbar junction at T12-L1, which is fancy talk for the where the bottom of the rib cage meets the low back. This increased pressure over facilitates the back muscles in that area and pushes the rib cage out or flares the ribs. Coincidentally, the ribs flare in a military stance and with the graceful position of a ballerina’s spine. When the ribs flare, it is much more challenging to activate the abdominal muscles to support the spine and stack your skeleton effectively. You’ll hear/read that “good” standing posture, when observed from the side, shows ear lobes over the center of the shoulder, lined up with the center of the rib cage, bisecting the midline of the hip and knee with that vertical line continuing down just in front of the ankle.

Those words are all nice to reference when there is a mirror nearby or a glass window to give a little self check every once in while. My poor brain can only remember about three things. That list above is way too long. Try pressing the pelvis back a little, then bring a little more weight through the ball of your feet (55-65% of your body weight should be at the base of the toes, the rest in the heel). You should feel your abs kick in a little bit without exerting any effort. Since you lined up your rib cage over your pelvis, the abdominal muscles can activate with ease. You might also feel like you are pitched forward, peering over a cliff. You are pitched forward, you just shifted your pelvis back. Way back in the day, when humans were attacked by bears or other wild animals, our bodies had to be ready to take off at any moment. When your weight is in the balls of your feet similar to the sprinter in the starting blocks or a baseball player leading off at first, it's ready to go. Question: why do softball players start behind the base? I have never understood this. As a former softball player who stole second almost every time I got on base (thanks for speed genes, Dad), I always took off with my the outside of my left foot against the base, mimicking the baseball player's take off. What's with the hop skip over the base? Somebody please email me an explanation I'm surprised more don't trip over the bag. Reel it back in, Jamie. Getting back to the posture discussion....The need for fleeing is less prevalent in 2015 unless you are trying to hide from a former PT patient whose name you can't remember in between aisles at Target. This never happens to me, only stories from other PTs.

This week classes are taking a look at the classical Pilates exercise: The Shoulder Bridge, which prompted this little rant. Give it a click to read more. The Shoulder Bridge can actually promote rib flare, no bueno. Try the modified, contemporary version of an articulated bridge (see video) to gain control over the ribs and loosen up those hyperactive back muscles at the bottom of the rib cage. Other exercises from the list that help line up that rib cage and open up that thoracolumbar junction are spine stretch forward, rolling like a ball or rolling back, single straight leg stretch/single leg stretch and rollover, to name a few. Other Pilates-inspired exercises recommended to free up the back of the rib cage are pike to plank, lying on balls, using a foam roller and pelvic tilts with a breath into the back.

While my dad may have intimidated the opposing second grade soccer team, he was putting unnecessary strain/stress to his poor little spine. I couldn’t find a picture of Bob Miller in the coach’s stance. His coaching days pre-date the digital camera. I did however catch a certain Pilates instructor in her natural habitat sporting this very posture. Weight back in the heels, rib cage pushed slightly forward. This is not terrible, but it's the difference of my back tightening up and fatiguing when standing for a prolonded period of time.

I looked for a picture of Gary Pinkel sporting the coach's stance. There were many with his arms crossed, but he was cut off at the waist. I found this one taken by Eric Francis at the Nebraska game in 2010 in Lincoln. Gary does a pretty good job of lining up his rib cage over his pelvis here. Either he's cold or maybe his visor helps pulls his head forward to stack up his spine efficiently. I might have to ammend the title to 'coach's stance-unless he/she wears visor' after more research on coaches who wear visors vs. hats.


skeleton pic found on

the swayback posture muscle picture at

GP picture found on Zimbio through a google search, Eric Francis/Getty Images

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