2009 Program News

9/22/09: Spotlight- Ernesto Selva

El salvador: track and field

ESToo often, coaches push athletes to train in only one sport. They are told the only way to succeed is focus all their time and effort into one endeavor and train in one sport year-round.

Dr. Avery Faigenbaum of the College of New Jersey disagrees with this approach. A health and exercise science professor with a Master’s in applied anatomy and physiology, Faigenbum recently presented to the ICECP participants that training in multiple sports helps the body heal, prevents overuse injuries and develops the athlete more wholly.

This is a lesson that Ernesto Selva is already applying and, in the coming months, will implement decidedly more.

Selva is the sprints, hurdles and jumps coach for both the national youth and national junior teams in his native El Salvador. Even before coming to ICECP, he recognized the importance of training in multiple sports. That is why he routinely takes his track and field athletes through jiu-jitsu workouts. He said he will usually do a jiu-jitsu-based workout once a week.

And the results may speak for themselves. Athletes coached by Selva hold every national record in El Salvador for the long jump, triple jump and high jump in both male and female divisions at both youth- and junior-level competition. He also coached the short hurdles national record holder, as well as athletes who set Central American records in the high and long jump events.

Selva’s personal athletic experience led him to try the cross-training tactic.

“I practiced jiu-jitsu when I was younger,” Selva said. “When I got in to track and field, I noticed I had a different range of motion and better coordination than the others. I gained that from my base training in jiu-jitsu.”

He has the athletic resume to back it up, too. Selva was a Central American pole vaulting champion and a six-time national champion in the long jump, triple jump and pole vault. The combination of his personal success and observation, the trial with his current athletes and Dr. Faigenbaum’s presentation led Selva to pursue an intriguing ICECP project.

“My project involves cross training in yoga, judo and jiu-jitsu to increase hip mobility in sprinting, hurdling and jumping athletes,” Selva said.

Yoga is intended to develop muscle elasticity, while judo and jiu-jitsu will help develop coordination and control of the body.

The project will involve formalizing and expanding on the practice he has in place. Selva plans to measure hip flexibility, evaluate range of movement and observe general coordination in his athletes to establish a baseline. Next, he will systematically implement yoga, judo and jiu-jitsu training exercises and actions into his program.

After a period of time, he will reevaluate the athletes against the baseline and identify changes in range of motion and coordination.

“I’m not a scientist, but I see something there. If you take training that develops common muscles and actions, it must have an impact,” Selva said.

He said that doing different and varied sports forces the body to physically develop in a more complete way. The body is more prepared for competition and muscular knowledge is increased.

“I want to provide different conditions,” Selva said. The tactic seeks to strengthen the hard-to train muscles in track and field to increase mobility, fitness and coordination.

It also will strengthen common muscles used in both activities to improve performance.

“I noticed a connection in positions between jiu-jitsu and track and field [when I was competing],” Selva said. However different the sports seem, there are common positions and actions that can be used in cross-training.

While the training tactic already seems to be beneficial, it will take more trial and analysis to ascertain the causal relationship and potential maximum benefits. Selva’s project will provide this critical data and possibly launch a new training method for sprinters, hurdlers and jumpers.

In the meantime, he will use the unorthodox training style to develop his teams and reach towards his coaching goals.

“My dream is to coach a world or Olympic medalist,” he said. In the short term, he wants to help send his athletes to the junior Olympics.
He also wants his athletes to continue improving on national records and help them get athletic scholarships to American universities.

Time will tell if Selva has struck gold with his training method. This certainly could be a situation where different is better