Coaches with losing records often look for new ideas. Lewisville Lions head coach Will Mitchell did just that.
Coming off a winless 2018 season, something needed to change.
“After last season, we were looking for some answers, and we had a bunch of injuries, especially soft tissue injuries that we couldn’t always account for,” Mitchell said. “Last year’s group of kids worked hard and gave good effort and were tough, and we still lost half of them to injury and still went 0-10. We took some time and reevaluated some of the things we were doing.”
Mitchell came across something called Reflexive Performance Reset (RPR). That opened his eyes to some alternative ways to prevent injuries and make athletes better.
RPR is a neurological reset that allows a person to shift their body from compensating with pain to being able to reduce pain, increase flexibility and become more resistant to injury, Mitchell said.
“For example, if you hurt your leg, your body will automatically change how you walk,” Mitchell said. “When it does that, another muscle group has to do the job. What we have is a set of exercises, basically, that makes sure every muscle group you have is firing.”
He was so impressed by the concept that he became certified by attending a seminar last January in Tennessee. Mitchell said his team does these drills every day. The regime consists of about a dozen activities and takes about five minutes, Mitchell said.
“The ones who’ve done it couldn’t speak highly enough about it, especially when it came to preventing soft tissue injuries,” Mitchell said. “I feel like it became a game changer for us in terms that it helps us improve athletically.”
Something is working. Lewisville is 2-0 this season, going into this week’s game.
“A lot of it deals with pressure points. You are putting pressure on certain tissues and the reflex action is what is waking up the muscle group,” the coach said. “It’s not like you do this and the kid has this huge increase in strength. It is accumulative. It is a tool. For the most part the kids can do it themselves.”
RPR has been around about six years and started in South Africa, Mitchell said. It originated mostly with track athletes, but quickly spread to other sports.
At the University of South Carolina-Aiken, athletic trainer Brandon Aiken said RPR has been revolutionary in helping the athletes.
“What RPR does for us in most cases, is that it allows the body to do what it is supposed to do in getting the muscles to fire in the correct patterns,” he said. “The biggest thing we see is things become easier for our athletes. Our box jumps become more effortless to do and things like pull-ups become easier to do.”
Aiken said the main thing RPR does is to help with breathing correctly.
“The core to RPR is diaphragmic breathing,” he said. “The breathing pattern is essential. It helps to reduce anxiety and stress.”
Members of the Lewisville football team now swear by RPR.
“It is weird,” said junior John Dorsey. “But I can tell you that, without it, I wouldn’t be a football player.”
Before RPR, Dorsey said he ran a 4.8 second 40-yard dash. Since RPR, he says he has cut tenths of a second off that time. Other teammates, like junior wide receiver Jayden Barnes, agree.
“It helped me immediately,” he said. “The stretches are different than what we used to do. It has helped us in running, and I feel like it has made us an all-around better athlete.”
Mitchell verified the performance of his players.
He said instituting RPR has changed the way they do things. They have gone from lifting weights four days a week to three days, and yet they are stronger.
“The grind is good for mental toughness, but I don’t think that is the best way to make a 15-year-old a better athlete,” he said. “I need to make them better athletes. I need to make them the best athlete they can be. We are just trying to up our athletic potential for these kids. We want to make them as strong and as fast as can be. We worried quite a bit about conditioning, but so far, we have been fine.”
Mitchell isn’t the only local coach to use RPR. Catawba Ridge strength and conditioning coach, Charles Enlow, is also teaching the concept to Copperhead athletes. Enlow said it is a lot easier to teach the drills in a first-year school.
“It will be part of what we do from here on out,” he said. “It has been easier to implement in a year one program.”
Enlow said he was introduced to the drills through the powerlifting community. Being a strength and conditioning coach for Catawba Ridge he said RPR is as much about preventing future injuries as anything. He has taught the drills to several fall sports teams at the school including football, swimming and volleyball.
“As much as it is about performance, it is also about keeping them (the athletes) safe,” he said. “Everyone has bought in. It has really been effective.”