"Slow cooking" your athlete for success (Part 1/2)
As a kid I could always tell when my mom would microwave last nights leftovers. She never told me but I could always tell. The meat, the potatoes..just tasted...different. Not different in a good way either.
I talk to parents and coaches all the time who want to take short-cuts and rush the development of athletes. They want to "microwave" the athlete.
However, If you walked into the Olympic Oval at the UofC and asked any of the international speed skating coaches how to make my kid skate faster, they will look you squarely in the eye and say, "Learn the technique, skate often, and get strong and be patient".
Yet for every athlete and parent that follows this advice there are a hundred that don't. The most common belief is that if you just practice your sports skills (dribbling, shooting, setting, hitting, fielding etc.) enough and you'll be a great athlete.
Unfortunately, that's just not how great athletes are developed.
Take a look at who dominates most youth sports - its usually the fastest, strongest kids. Because they're faster and stronger, they are almost always more coordinated which makes learning sports skills much much easier. Sometimes kids with amazing skill rise up at an early age, only to be over taken by stronger, faster kids down the road. My father often commented during the snowy Sundays of my youth watching the NFL how there was "no substitution for speed". Rarely in any sport do you see the weak, slow athlete rise to the top. However, We don't need to take a look at the NFL for examples of this, just watch high school sports. Faster, more explosive kids are almost always dominating kids who have good skills but just can't use them because their too slow
Talk to just about any coach, and they'll tell you that faster, more explosive athletes dominate sports and have a much higher athletic ceiling. There is plenty of research supporting this concept, and just about every national governing body (i.e. US Hockey, US Lacrosse, etc.) is trying to implement long-term athlete development systems that don't focus exclusively on sports skills. Unfortunately here in Canada we are behind the curve in this area. The American governing bodies know that the better all around athletes end up enjoying sports more and eventually out-perform those who focus exclusively on skill, but our microwave mentality often gets in the way of the process.
So the question is...what do you do about it?
The answer depends on your athletics age of development. In Part two we will discuss Youth under the age of 8, 8-11, 11-14 and 14+.