Movement patterns – specific to individual sports – are something we can all recognize as we watch our favorite teams play. However, as fans, we are quick to point out how the players we watch are aggressive, competitive, and disciplined but not very often do we take the time to respect how athletes move.
From an athlete’s perspective, mastering movement is what will give you your identity as an athlete. This is especially true, dependent on your position and choice of sport. It would be within reason to witness a professional football player looking completely hapless while swinging a baseball bat. Now, it’s not being suggested that football players are bad athletes. What is being stated is that every sport has certain movement patterns that are hard to learn and will take years of coordination to master.
Between the ages of 7-14 is the most crucial for learning coordination for different movements in sports. In most sports, athletes can perform well when it comes to things like running. It’s something that all athletes will encounter during their sport, but sports-specific movements – like swinging a bat or throwing a ball, hammer, javelin or football take a high degree of coordinated movements.
Watching soccer players handle a soccer ball with their feet is underappreciated until you try it yourself. The coordination that is required to be agile enough to run, stop and control a ball with your feet is hard enough. Then add an opponent trying to take it from you and you’ll see the perplexity.
Younger athletes who learn to manage the fundamentals associated with good coordination (balance, rhythm, spatial awareness, reaction, etc), are far better off than athletes who have not tapped into this kind of exercise stimulation until advanced ages. The ability to optimally develop coordination ends before athletes enter their college years.
Young athletes should be free to explore all sports to help develop different coordination movement patterns that will help them be much more diverse and versatile.
As strength, speed, height, and body mass change significantly over the years, it is advantageous to reinforce already known movements rather than teach new ones.
Starting athletes young in sports and exposing them to many different coordination patterns will be an important aspect of any robust training program. Good coaches will integrate crucial elements of coordination, developing drills/exercises that most suitably target the athletes’ weaknesses and opportunities. Find a coach that has experience with facilitating challenging, ever-changing coordination drills – these coaches can help athletes develop a foundation for purposeful athletic movement.