Developing a path to become a better athlete can be a challenging, and sometimes a rather overwhelming feat. The road to success varies greatly with every athlete, and is dependant on age, gender, the sport you are competing in, as well as host of other factors. While making a long-term athletic development plan is important, using readily implemented strategies to help improve or maintain your performance in the short-term can have a profound impact on your overall athletic development; especially for young athletes who’s motor skills, strength, and body awareness are continuously being challenged and rewired.
Whether you compete on the ice, a field, court, pool, or any other setting, the strategies that I have outlined in this post will help every athlete improve performance. So let’s dive right into it.
1. Goal Setting
I’m sure you’ve heard of it before—probably more times than you can count—but goal setting is critical to an athlete’s short and long-term athletic development. The nice thing about goal setting is that it can be relatively easy to do. All you need to get started is have a vision of what you want to accomplish.
That said, things have a tendency to get a bit tough when you get to the part where you have to map out exactly how you’re going to achieve your goals. But don’t let the fact that it’s hard to get to you, as this is the stage where all of your progress happens. Think about it like this: without a clear set of goals and a detailed route of how you’re going to achieve those goals, you’re really not making any progress. To quote Mr. Albert Einstein, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” So rewrite your path and get closer to your athletic goals by plotting a course, then put in the work to get there.
Check out this link to learn how to write a clear set of goals you’ll be able to stick with.
2. Personalized Programming
Once you have a clear set of goals, it’s time to get person with your programming. As an athlete, being on a custom strength building program should be a key component of your training. How strong you are directly influences your performance. To put it simply, your strength matters, and if you’re not on a well-written program your progress will plateau.
Your training program must be structured, progressive, and efficient if you are to see results. If you’re sticking to a routine that’s familiar, you’re not going to get anywhere fast. Although working off of a strength training blueprint can be effective, having a custom program tailored directly to you, your goals, and the demands of your sport(s) is hugely beneficial.
For some athletes, particularly youth, this means seeking help to identify your weak links, and how they can be fixed. If you don’t know what you’re doing or where to start, seek out a coach who does and invest in yourself.
Bottomline: If you want to improve your performance, you need to get on a strength training program.
3. The Mobility and Flexibility Balance
Mobility and flexibility are terms that you might already be familiar with that are sometimes used interchangeably. To un-muddy the waters I’ll start by explaining the difference between these two terms. In short, mobility refers to how well a joint moves, while flexibility refers to a length of a muscle or group of muscles. Using your ankle as an example, let me put both terms into perspective: the muscles running past your ankle may be flexible, but that doesn’t mean that your ankle has good mobility. In fact, the joint could have restricted mobility for other reasons, like structural limitations.
The take home point here is that while the extent a muscle lengthens (flexibility) is important, your muscles can also affect how a joint moves (mobility).
For young developing athletes—especially those who play multiple sports at once—having a good balance of mobility and flexibility not only affects joint health, but also performance and the risk of injury. Think of your body as a chain of links— referred to as the kinetic chain—connecting from your feet to your head. If there is a kink anywhere along the chain, it can throw off the rest of the links; which overtime can lead to the development of compensatory patterns, eventually causing movement dysfunction or injury.
Okay so how is this related to improving performance? In most sports where the body has to bend, hinge, squat, lunge, rotate, plant, push off, jump, crouch, bound, throw, run, etc. your mobility plays a role in how well you are able to perform during that action. Cutting to the meat, the better your mobility, the better suited you will be to execute any movement; which will ultimately allow you to train and perform on a higher level.
The key message here is that your training should consist of methods to help improve your mobility and flexibility. A perfect example of what your training regime should include is a thorough and effective warm up routine that includes foam rolling and dynamic stretching. Not only does warming up provide you with the potential to improve your performance, it’s also shown to significantly reduce your risk of injury; which I think we can both agree is equally important.
Check out this link and learn how to warm up effectively.
That brings us to a close on this post, but stay tuned for my next one when I outline 3 more tactics that will help you improve your athletic performance.
Okay now go outside and enjoy this awesome weather!
PS – If you have any questions about any of the points that I have outlined within this post, or are interested in starting a training program that will help you improve your performance please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org