This post is by Davis Bates CPT, USAW, BS Exercise Science & Coaching. Davis works with a number of our groups and athletes including our high school girls soccer groups and some of our collegiate players.
In the world of athletic development today there seems to be a heavy emphasis on sport specific “technical” skills. Your technical skills are an extremely important part of whatever sport you play, dribbling, passing, shooting, catching, etc. Without these skills an athlete will struggle to contribute to their team on the field, court, or ice.
But, even if you have a proficient level of technical skills for the level of competition you are playing, there is something even bigger that can hold you back from your ability to contribute to your team and realizing your potential. That is your Physical skills and here is why:
Physical skills allow us to demonstrate our Technical skills. If an athlete is fast, strong, powerful, agile, well-conditioned and injury resistant (i.e. Physical skills) they will be able to demonstrate all of their technical skills they have worked so hard to master. By being a better athlete, the player will be able to create more space from their defender, win more 50/50 balls/pucks, be stronger with the ball/puck, and demand more help from the opponents’ defense opening up scoring chances for other players. Simply put the stronger and faster you are the more chance you will get to affect the game in your favor and contribute to your team.
Physically prepared athletes suffer from fewer injuries allowing them to stay on the field and play more aggressive. It’s been said before that a good injury prevention program is simply a good physical training program. Meaning if an athlete, before and during the season, is working on jumping, running, changing direction with good mechanics, strength training through a full range of motion, and working on mobility, stability, and recovery they will be more prepared for the physical demands put on them throughout a long season. This will allow them to stay healthy and to play pain free. Not only will this keep an athlete on the playing field longer but their time on the field will be much more enjoyable. They will be able to play the game the way they want to play it, without the hesitation caused by a nagging injury or aches and pains. They can have a full throttle, aggressive, first to the ball mentality.
Physical skills allow you to play at your best when it matters most. Most athletes have the ability to be fast and agile early on in the competition but few are well-conditioned and proficient enough to demonstrate the same speed and agility in the final minutes of a game. Athletes who have prepared for their season will find themselves able to play harder, longer into the game, more so than those who have not. Also, the better an athlete’s techniques while, running, jumping, and changing direction the less demand it will require from the body. In other words, and athlete becomes more “fuel efficient” as they become technically efficient, allowing them to have more gas in the tank for when it matters most.
As a coach, imagine your team having all the advantages that come with being a more physically prepared team. Your team will be able to play faster and stronger throughout the duration of the game as well as being able to play more aggressively due to the new found confidence in your athletic ability.
As a player, imagine your best self on the field. What does that look like? Are you a player that is fast and strong on and off the ball? Are able to change direction one step quicker than your opponents?
Are you able to create space for yourself so you can showcase your technical skills? Now imagine your best self becoming a reality. When you bring the physical, technical, tactical and mental skills together, you create the space where your “best self” can begin to emerge.