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Aan tafel met Rett Larson

The year 2017 has seen quite some new faces in the national Dutch Women’s Volleyball team!

Some new girls have been introduced into the mix and of course the new trainer Jamie Morrisson is building a team to reach new levels this year. But there are also some other new faces doing interesting things to get the girls as fit and enthusiastic as possible to allow them to give their best when it really matters, enter Rett Larson!

Rett Larson is the ‘fit’ coach of the Orange team and we have been seeing some fun things happening before and after the matches on the field and in the training sessions; working out with stretchy bands, dancing sessions and throwing frisbee’s in training… Is there logic to the madness? It is time to have a chat with fit coach Rett.

Name: Rett Larson (Garrett Larson)
Place of birth: Richmond (Virginia, USA)
Parents: Helen and Steve
Siblings: Gretchen and Susan
Best things about Holland: Level of directness, the bold honesty. It’s refreshing!
The weather, yes really, I like the weather here.
I like how active Dutch people are; on their bikes, walking, running in parks etc.

Rett, how would you describe your profession?

Well, I am what you would call a strengthening and conditioning coach. My work is not just for professional athletes, it applies for whoever wants to advance in their strength and conditioning.

Did you always know that you wanted to work in this field?

No! I started out studying to become an attorney. Something completely different from what I do now. But I come from a family full of lawyers, so it was a field that I was acquainted with. I got the good advice to start as an intern before going to college. I started as a legal assistance specialized in a computer program the scanned exhibits, like photos or other types of evidence. That program could enlarge and then highlight sections. It sounds old fashioned now, but it was very novel back then and I was one of the people that were good with that program. So, I ended up staying in that job for about five years and not proceeding to law school.

How did you get from that job to this job? It’s so different!

Next to working in a suit, I loved going to the gym. I got into these conditioning boot camp training sessions. Again, now you see boot camp training everywhere, but it was new back then. The two trainers who created that training started out on new ventures and they asked me to take over the training. I loved it! More and more my focus went into training, strength and conditioning and after a good talk with my mum, I concluded that I wanted to keep working in this direction and not pursue a career in law.

Is there a strength and conditioning college? I guess you need certain certificates?

Yes, I got my masters in Exercise Physiology and you then need to get certain certifications. In the USA, the most respected certificate from the National Strength and Conditioning Association is ‘Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist’. I studied hard for that one! It was so interesting though, I loved the textbook that goes into how the body responds to stress. Isn’t it fascinating that you can function in 0 degrees Celsius and in 45 degrees Celsius, your body works in ways to deal with these temperatures. But when your core temperature drops or elevates more than 2 to 4 degrees, you feel horrible! Hypothermia or fever hits you. Figuring out how that works, how the body reacts to change and stress is so fascinating and stimulates me to find out how we can optimally train the body and mind.

Did you keep working as a boot camp trainer?

Well, I guess I got lucky as I could start working with the Indiana Pacers, they are an American professional basketball team based in Indianapolis, Indiana. In the meantime, I was giving some interviews and was writing articles, also for a volleyball magazine. This led me to the position of working with the women’s volleyball team at Marymount University in Washington DC.

What do you think your secret in your way of working is?

Hahaha I don’t think I have any secrets, I just always try to keep it interesting. When you make a training fun, interesting and neurological stimulating, the athlete will not even notice how hard they are training. I guess that’s key. It’s all about getting the muscles warm, focusing on making certain parts more flexible and other parts stronger, while ‘distracting’ the athlete by making the exercises interesting, fun and challenging.
When athletes get bored, feel that training and practice is monotonous, their moral goes down, they feel tired and feel more sore. That is never a good place if you want to get better, stronger and fitter. It also doesn’t help with recovery after training.

Is that why you mix in dancing and throwing frisbees in the training?

Yes! It might look strange to do completely other types of exercises than one would expect with a volleyball training, but why not? The game is very unpredictable, as is everything in life, so I try to make a safe and chaotic training environment that is fun and constructive. What I try to do is always mix up is strength training, speed training and rest. These are three core principles and then you mix in your creativity.

Which sport do you love to play?

Beach volleyball so far! I don’t think I am great at it, but I sure love to play it, it is so much fun. And I like to run, around 3 km is my best distance. I think it’s in my genes, a lot of my family are runners.

Does every national volleyball team have a strength and conditioning coach?

It’s quite normal for teams playing at that level to have such a coach. If not, I think they should!

How is your work going with the Orange girls?

The whole staff and the team have the same mindset: We are process oriented and not necessarily goal oriented. It’s my job to make the girls quicker, with good strength and with a minimum of injuries. Better recovery after training and during tournaments. It’s my goal that the physiotherapist doesn’t need to do any work on the girls. And I feel privileged as the girls were already like Ferrari’s when I came on board to work with them!

It is also important that we look at technology to measure what type of impact training and matches have on their bodies. We are now working with GPS trackers that measure how many jumps the girls make and the height of the jumps. This shows us how much work their bodies are doing, how long they can keep performing at a high level and how much the bodies are getting impacted (think of their knees and ankles). This is especially important when one of the girls is recovering from an injury. If the scores show a drop in performance, we can switch to other training methods to relieve certain joints and muscles. It’s a smarter way of training.

Is there a technological item that you would love to have or have developed?

I would love better ways to train and test agility. You know the training that stimulates quick foot movement but with quick shifts of body weight as well. One of the primary objectives of speed and power training is to enhance the efficiency of the neuromuscular system to produce maximal force quickly. That would be great training for the girls as that is what they do all this time on the volleyball court. There are systems that already exist. With laser beams the athlete has to quickly move to ‘hit’ the area where the laser beam is and then quickly shift to hit the next beam (Fusion Sport). The system then also measures how quick the athlete is. Or maybe we can work on simulation of game situations with the HoloLens. There are so many cool possibilities!

What is your advice for anyone who loves sports and working out – at any level – to advance in their level, stay fit and injury free.
When you want to get better at the sport you are doing, you will probably hit a point where results seem to stagnate. My advice is then: get coaching! It will help you get over that bump and stimulate you a great deal. With the feedback and advice of the coach you can press on. Also, playing, training and working out with people who are further in their training than you also helps, it will motivate you to ‘catch up’. And don’t forget good strength training.

Quick Questions:

Getting up straight away or snoozing?

Up straight away

Netflix movies or binge watching series?

Binge watch series. My favorite is The Westwing

Backpack or suitcase?

Backpack

Jeans or track pants?

Jeans. Track pants are my working clothes!

McDonalds or Burgerking?

Burgerking

Favorite app on your phone?

WeChat; it is the biggest app in China.*
* Rett spends a lot of time in China.

Coffeeshop or Coffeeshop?

Euh, hahaha, the one with coffee

Cat or Dog person?

Cats

Deep sea diving or parachute from a plane?

Deep see diving. I’ve done both, but would love to go deep sea diving again.

Wine or beer?

Beer

One million dollars or 10 years more to live?

Definitely 10 years more to live

Rett, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and experiences with us. It has been great to get a better insight in your work and how you train ‘our’ Orange volleyball girls. We hope you can stay on board with us and enjoy your time here in the Netherlands with this team. Good luck with the team during the European Championships this September!

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