Secrets to Building a Better Athlete with Wallrest
Meet Brett Jacobs
Brett Jacobs knows soccer. He’s competed in the United States and abroad, developed players around the world, trained coaches at every level, and managed youth clubs to new heights. In his coaching trophy case are two National Championships and an MLS Cup. Plus, a bevy of other feats, including the globe’s highest coaching license and the distinction of having become the first American coach for London’s Wimbledon Football Club.
Most recently, in November 2017, Jacobs was named the technical consultant and scouting liaison for Europa Point Football Club, a stepping stone organization for players in La Liga, the premier Spanish soccer league. At present, the club’s entire first squad is under the age of 20, and he’s being charged to grow them.
Which is all to say, like we said before, Brett Jacobs knows soccer.
He also knows the Wallrest – the world’s best performance poncho for athletes, teams, fans, and outdoor enthusiasts.
Life Without Wallrest
Bring up the Wallrest to Jacobs, and his mind instantly goes to youth sports. As you might imagine, the 46-year-old Jacobs doesn’t know what’s it like to race off the soccer field as a young player and slide under an ultra-cozy, weather-impenetrable Wallrest weather system. But he does remember, vividly, what it’s like to live without one.
Back in 1981 during the annual Thanksgiving tournament of St. Louis, Missouri, where Jacobs grew up, Jacobs had the not-at-all-rare pleasure of ice-cold late-November temperatures and a rock-solid playing field – the outfield of a baseball field, actually – that looked a whole lot like cow pasture.
“I remember the ball being kicked and just bouncing all over the place. The ground was totally frozen,” he laughs. When halftime was finally called, a dozen 8-year-olds bolted for the bench to fight over the sole cover available: someone’s grandmother’s moth-eaten blanket. “It wasn’t warm, and it definitely wasn’t big enough for all of us.”
He wishes he’d had a Wallrest.
Rain, Rain, Go Away
Fast-forward to today. Jacobs, having made his way across world to his new post in Gilbralter, Spain, has just wrapped up his tenure as technical director for the Washington Timbers Football Club, headquartered in a rain-beaten corner of Vancouver, Washington, (the “other” Vancouver, locals say, not to be mixed up with their Canadian counterpart of the same name). He’s also just wrapped up his second year as head coach for the Clark College men’s soccer program, whose campus sit along the southern Vancouver, in Clark Country, Washington, just a few miles from the Columbia River (more water), and across it, the mecca of Portland Timbers soccer (and more rain still).
When you’ve played, lived, and coached for years on end in an array of mostly cold, damp, even bone-chilling places (Colorado, Michigan, and Massachusetts, to name a few), you learn a little about what it takes to keep the weather at bay.
In the Pacific Northwest, the weather is equal part wind and, you guessed it, rain, with mud oozing up from nearly every grass field for miles and just short bouts of glorious sun breaking through the clouds around during the non-summer months. Here, the Wallrest offers unparalleled protection: it’s waterproof yet breathable, windproof but insulated, functional and adaptive – able to be connected to other Wallrests for added individuals. In a place like the Pacific Northwest, the Wallrest a player, a fan, and a coach’s is very best defense against the weather, hands down.
But for Jacobs, the Wallrest isn’t just about weather protection. It’s about enhancing the athlete’s experience of the game. And here’s where things get serious.
Warmth = Focus = Player Development
Talking about the weather – okay, about anything – to Jacobs is sure to bring about his coaching perspective, which rules just about every aspect of his life these days.
Just ask his wife, Jennifer. She recently let on that their bedroom wall is graced by a huge dry-erase surface for capturing his late-night training ideas and out-of-nowhere epiphanies. “He even coaches in his sleep,” she says. “Which means he’s always making notes, no matter what the hour.”
The reason weather and coaching go hand in hand for Jacobs, is because for him, developing a player has everything to do with deepening a player’s understanding of the game. None of which, he stresses, can happen if that player is cold, wet, and worrying about heading back into the action.
Jacobs’ goal is to teach players how to think about the game more. “This is really important,” he stresses, speaking for the world of coaches as a whole. “We want players to understand what soccer is. They have to understand WHO is involved on the field at a certain time, WHERE something is happening (whether attacking or defending), WHY something is happening (are we scoring goals or giving them up and why?), and WHO is involved in that process. I can’t say it enough – a lot of thinking really has to go on to improve an individual’s level of play.”
And the fact of the matter is, when a player is freezing cold, soaking wet, or thrashed by wind, no matter their age, players simply cannot think at the level they need to.
A Team Essential
Take the very youngest of the youth development levels. Jacobs’ son and his U8 team are a perfect example. With a focus on technique and strategy, the team – along with seven others in his age bracket – play small-sided games cordoned off with cones, the mini playing areas smooshed up against one another on all sides.
In so many of the matches they played during the past fall, Jacobs recalls, “The wind was blowing sideways. There was no way to get out of it, and a pop-up canopy tent, even if you could have fit one on the cram-packed field, would neither have withstood the gales nor sheltered the players from the wind.”
It’s a scene right out of the memory banks of Steve Storlie, who first conceived the Wallrest after a runaway canopy almost took out several players on his daughter’s soccer team, having taken flight and torn down the field.
Jacobs, however, has the present-day advantage of toting around 2-3 Wallrests to every game. “My U8 players would pop their heads into the Wallrest, peer over my 4-by-4 tactics board, and we’d have a conversation. They were warm, they could focus. That’s how you teach kids how to play.”
The ingenuity of the Wallrest design makes it possible for up to four individuals to realize full weather-protection, each while maintaining control of their own hood and zipper and having access to an interior kangaroo-like pouch for hand warming. Players can sit, stand, stretch, or change jerseys – it’s big enough for tons of tasks, even alongside one another. And because the seams are sealed tight, nothing from the outside is getting in.
Simply put, for Jacobs, the Wallrest is a vital piece of team equipment.
A Word about Wiggling
If you’re thinking that a swarm of bodies zipped up in a Wallrest would create an all-out squirmfest, Jacobs attests just the opposite: “At halftime or during the height of game action, players on the sideline cannot be fidgeting around. They need to be guided and to learn in that moment. When players come together under the Wallrest, they’re warm, and that actually reduces fidgeting. It reduces fidgeting because they’re focusing.”
What was typically happening at nearby fields, he says, was quite a different story. On any given weekend, most other team’s players were shivering, even dashing off to their parents’ cars. “The kids who just came off the field were okay – for about 30 seconds – and then they were frozen again. Plus, the coach was having to figure out if Johnny had come back from his car ride yet. Without the Wallrest, halftime is chaos.”
The Wallrest concept is literally a game changer for Jacobs and his players. He calls the act of using one (or three) an “experience,” for it changes how athletes experience the game. Beyond mental focus, he says, the Wallrest contributes to injury prevention and allows for “activation” – a massive word in sports these days, he explains.
Technically stated, activation is the idea that every person has an ideal activation level, or a point at which they’re primed to perform to their highest potential. Not only does a decrease in anxiety boost activation, so does a comfortable, consistent body temperature, research suggests. Injuries, too, stay away when muscles aren’t forced to twist, turn, and burn without adequate preparation.
In the United States, youth soccer abides by the notion that every player on a team should get playing time. That means that, especially in the recreational ranks, players are not typically camped out on the bench for long stretches of time; they will likely be called into play at moment’s notice. For that reason, Jacobs stresses, every player needs to be ready, all game long. A few quick sprints down the sideline just doesn’t cut it. “Unless they maintain that body temperature on the bench, it doesn’t matter.”
Even at the highest levels of play, you just don’t know what type of situation will require a sub, he adds. “Sometimes you have someone warm up, and something changes, and that sub will have to sit back down. Whether you’re the coach or the player, you just don’t know. Being ready is always a must.”
“Activation is preparation, period. It’s essential. And for it to happen, a warm core body temp is essential. The Wallrest makes that possible.”
A Clubhouse for All
Across the world, many – if not most – top competitive soccer (that is, football) clubs don’t even require non-starters to warm up before a game. That said, most international clubs have things like team clubhouses, canteens, and classrooms, where the players not only keep warm but also bond as a team.
He sees a future in the United States where players have the amenities, too. But, until then, he regards the Wallrest as a mini locker room for the entire team. “Players absolutely love the Wallrest. They get under it the first chance they get.”
At its heart, Jacobs expresses, the Wallrest keeps the player warm, and they’re getting that heat from their teammates. “That’s really cool. You’re in there together, and you don’t even know that you’re keeping each other warm,” he says. “The shared body heat of the Wallrest inadvertently lends to teambuilding and togetherness for players, and that can only add to their experience of the game, of the team, of life. The Wallrest is their clubhouse, it’s their time together, just like a locker room is for the pros.”
Ready for Anything
Now that Jacobs has headed to Gibraltar, will the Wallrest go by the wayside? we asked. Not a chance, he said. After a few soaking-wet walks on the Oregon coast with his wife, Jacobs knows for sure that the Wallrest can be used on the field and off. The multifunctional Wallrest transforms into a sunshade, a waterproof beach throw, a tarp, a changing station, you name it. Throw in the Jacobs’ water-loving yellow lab, and it even becomes a moisture-wicking dog towel.
Beyond its adaptability, Jacobs loves that as a coach, fan, player, spectator, or regular joe, putting on the Wallrest doesn’t mean dressing any differently underneath. With typical rain jackets, and especially in the case of canopies, the wind, rain, sleet, snow, or cold is bound to get you one way or another. The result is having to strip down and get changed before moving onto the next activity. “With the Wallrest, it’s on, it’s off, and you’re ready to go.”
And for us, like Brett Jacobs, being ready is what the Wallrest is all about.
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