Coordination & Movement Skill Development
The Key To Long-Term Athletic Success
Once again, it is important to mention that coordination development is a process that encompasses years of exposure, and is based on DIVERSITY and VERSATILITY. Young athletes cannot be pigeonholed into sport specific stimulus at a young age and expected to vault into the ranks of elite athletics. As the motto of my company says, ‘You Can’t Become a Champion Until You Become An Athlete’.
Furthermore, it is important to understand that coordination-based exercises must be introduced during the preadolescent ages. Adolescence is not an appropriate time during which to begin elements of coordination training. As strength, speed, height and body mass change significantly during these years, it is much more prudent to reinforce already known movements, rather than teach new ones. Herein lies the art and understanding of developing a young athlete. Coaches, trainers and parents must accept the fact that developing a healthy and successful athlete is a journey or process that encompasses several varying degrees of stimulus, all of which build on top of the other.
Coordination training for example, is introduced during the pre-adolescent ages while nervous system plasticity is high and movement habits have not yet been ingrained as permanent. The scope of coordination training changes during the adolescent ages, during which physical growth alters the young athlete’s previously mastered movement habits. At this time, refinement of movement should take precedent over learning new movement-based skills. In post-adolescence, coordination training can once again be taken to new heights.
One point to consider about coordination is that genetic pre-disposition plays a significant role. Less coordinated children will likely never exhibit the tendencies of naturally coordinated children regardless of training. That is not to say that improvements cannot be made, however – quite the opposite.
Here are three basic principals of coordination training –
1.Start young – coordination improves as a result of learning and mastering new movements. Start young athletes off early with coordination-based exercises that challenge their abilities (within reason). The more coordination a young athlete has, the more ability he or she will display at any perspective sport.
2.Challenge young athletes on an individual and appropriate level – Some youngsters have good balance while others display good rhythm. The key to successful coaching is to undercover what elements of coordination each athlete requires, and develop drills/exercises that most suitably target the weaknesses.
3.Change exercises frequently – young athletes learn quickly in most cases. Be sure to challenge them physically and intellectually with new exercises often.
The following list provides some basic exercises that you can use with your young athletes to help develop elements of coordination –
·Multi-directional forms of running, jumping and skipping
·Single leg balancing games
·Mirror games (mirroring each other’s movements)
·Known exercises starting or finishing in new positions (start sprints from belly or one knee; end with hands up or on all fours)
·Opposite arm circles (right hand circles forward, left backwards)
·Simultaneous arm and leg circles
·Jump in place with 180 or 360 turns while in flight
·Balance exercises on a low balance beam
·Cross step-over running or carioca
·Somersault to balance (somersault to standing one legged balance)
·Skipping A, B and C’s
·Obstacle running (place hurdles directly on floor and have athlete run over them)
Remember, coordination includes elements of balance, spatial orientation, rhythm and various other traits. This list reflects exercises to improve several of those elements.
Brian J. Grasso
Developing Coordination - Part Two
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