What Do You Need to Be a Good Athlete?
By Robb Rogers, MS, CSCS, MSCC
In today’s world of athletic competition there are four areas in which all athletes must demonstrate some mastery in order to excel on the diamond, field, court, track, or ice. These areas are common to all sports regardless of gender, age or position.
You must be able to bend, rotate and extend. This is essential for all ground-based sports. You must be able to bend (flex) your hips, knees and ankles in order to safely reduce force and decelerate under control. Because there is a direct relationship between the ability to reduce force and produce force, the more efficient you are at absorbing force, the better you will be at producing force. You must also be able to rotate and move in diagonal patterns as you absorb force in order to activate the stretch-shortening cycle and generate maximal power when running, jumping and throwing.
You must be able to accelerate, sprint, jump and change direction. Success in every sport is dependent upon the ability to quickly accelerate your body and/or an implement. The ability to accelerate quickly and sprint efficiently are essential skills that separate the average athletes from the elite. Not every athlete is fast, but every athlete can become faster. This is a key foundational concept on which to base the training program as the athlete begins to prepare for competition. The ability to jump goes along with this foundational concept. Sprinting is nothing more than jumping from foot to foot. The better an athlete is able to land and jump (notice the order – land and jump) the better the athlete is able to accelerate and sprint. However, this is not sufficient in total. The athlete must be able to change direction with as much power and speed as he/she can possibly control. The ability to change direction is of little use if an athlete is unable to control his/her body through the deceleration and re-acceleration phase which brings us to our next foundational concept.
You must possess high levels of core strength, stability and work capacity. The core connects the base of support and power generated by the lower body to the upper body which expresses the power though the body itself or into the hands and the corresponding implement. Core strength is more than just sit-ups. Core strength is front, sides and back throughout the upper leg, hip, butt, back and ab region. Imagine the body in an extended position up on the toes with the arms, hands and fingers extended overhead in an upright “diving” position. Now imagine a bull’s eye superimposed over the body with the center at the hips and radiating rings moving outward to the fingers and toes. More training time should be focused on the center of the bull’s eye and less and less as the rings that radiate outward. Stability is a key to this entire region as well as for each joint. Strength and power are not very useful if the core is unstable. To borrow an analogy from Michael Boyle, imagine firing cannon from a canoe. As the cannon is fired, the canoe will move backwards with a great deal of force, thus negating much of the power that should be imparted into the cannonball. Increased stability helps to prevent injury, assists in increased performance and makes skill execution more efficient thereby delaying fatigue. Work capacity is a key concept to consider when devising a training program. Work Capacity is defined as the ability to perform a skill or movement at a high level of competency, and recover sufficiently in the allotted time in order to perform the skill or movement again in as many work bouts as the competition or practice demands. This concept is applicable regardless of the sport, skill or movement. Volleyball athletes must be able to jump and squat. Baseball players must be able to run, jump, change direction and slide. Soccer athletes must be able to run, sprint and change direction.
You must possess high levels of sport/position specific fitness, technical skill and tactical knowledge. This domain is usually addressed by the sport coach during practice sessions. Sport- and position-specific fitness is usually developed by participating in practice sessions and competitive games. As an athlete gains knowledge and experience, the game will slow down, the stresses will become more manageable and the ability to perform at an increasingly higher level should become apparent. Technical skill in performing the duties and executing the skill demands of the position and sport will improve with focused, practiced, quality repetitions. Tactical knowledge will improve as an athlete begins to internalize the philosophy of the offense and defensive game plans and apply the skills and tactics needed to enhance individual and team success.
Robb Rogers, MS, CSCS, MSCC is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Texas A&M Kingsville. To see other publications by Coach Rogers, go to: http://coachrobbrogers.com/
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