Are You Missing the Key to Athletic Performance?

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 If you are an athlete, parent of an athlete, or coach of youth sports you need to pay attention to this post.  To put it simply, you are missing the point.  Youth sports are slowly becoming more specialized with more and more hours being put into training to build the best athletes possible.  Unfortunately, too many times we guide our children or athletes like we are Sandra Bullock in Birdbox.  We fail to see the glaring problems that can be right in front of us because we are too busy putting too much emphasis on the wrong things. 

I have heard this from coach after coach at higher levels of play that too many kids have a missing link between their sport skills and elite performance.  The missing link is most athletes do not know how to use their bodies.  These higher-level coaches complain they must take time out of their programs in order to teach skills athletes should have mastered early in their athletic careers.  For many athletes, their natural talent can take them to where they can play at elite levels, but in order to LAST and PROGRESS in sport, they must learn to move.  Learning to move can fill in the gaps in athletic performance and set your athletes up for success. 

There are three ways to help progress your athlete’s movement literacy.  By laying the foundation with these steps, you are setting the stage for success and longevity in sport and through life.  Below are my Three Foundations of good movement. 

Know Your Weaknesses….Get Screened

Movement screening is a great tool to see where individuals need work.  The most well-known movement screen is the Functional Movement Screen (FMS).  A test such as this can show an athlete if he/she has the mobility and control in order to do most athletic type movements.  The test puts athletes through multiple movements to see where their weak links may be.  Once identified, it allows the athlete to know what needs to be improved for better movement literacy.  This test cannot prevent injury and improving on a test will not improve performance.  What the screen will do is open your eyes to how to guide the training of individual athletes. 

Master the Basics

This is simple, every athlete should know how to squat, jump, change direction, and maintain an athletic position.  It is surprising how many athletes cannot perform these basic tasks correctly.  Too often, we allow naturally gifted athletes to have a pass on these skills, but by doing so we are doing more harm than good.  In all the movements listed the knees should be over the feet/ ankles and the torso should be upright with any forward bending coming from the hips not the back. 

Incorporate Good Movement Into Training

I have watched many practices where athletes go through the motion of training without focusing on the right way to move.  For example, I watched some kids doing a warm-up where they were doing walking lunges for about 10 meters.  With every rep, most of the athletes allowed their knees to collapse inward instead of keeping them over their ankles.  The same athletes repeated the same movement mistakes when they were running and changing direction.  As a parent or coach, it is your responsibility to call out bad movement patterns when you see them.  Make the functional warm-up your time to help the athletes learn the right way to move.  The more athletes practice good movement patterns, the more the patterns become a normal way of moving. 

The exciting part about mastering the foundations of movement is when your athletes put time into getting the basics right, performance can go higher than imagined.  In mastered movement patterns athletes are less likely to be injured, can produce more power, and move through space faster.  Don’t Birdbox your athlete’s training, open your eyes and work on the basics to see the difference good movement can make. 

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