THE ATHLETE FIT SYSTEM
Our system is a continuous work in progress. Constantly challenging theories, evaluating strategies and looking to connect aspects of training with on-field performance has led us in a unique and interesting direction over the last three decades.
We are not a strength training company, but we do lift. We are not a speed training company, but we do teach acceleration mechanics. We are not a skill training company, but we do train with a ball when its necessary. The truth is, our system is built on the premise that all of these are essential, but the integration and connection between them is where the magic happens.
Impactful speed of play requires a confident understanding of the game, your role, your abilities, and the tactical objective. It requires you to move efficiently, think clearly, and trust your technical skill. Most of this should be developed in practice with your team. However...
The closer you look at team practice sessions, the more you see the gaps. Practices are typically tactical, team oriented with limited individual reps to improve specific aspects of your game. But if a player lacks the knowledge, skill or ability to perform their role at the level required, they lose confidence.
Our objective is to provide a training environment that builds confidence and athleticism through high repetition, individualized training on specific aspects that improve speed of play. And in my experience, this requires a deliberate focus on integration of skill, speed, fitness and power, developed within the context of how it will be applied on the field.
WHAT IS ATHLETICISM
This is a concept we discuss often with our staff interns and those interviewing for a job. And one thing always holds true…it leads to a very interesting discussion on what exactly is…Athleticism.
Most people can’t define it, and the most common answer is usually, “I just know it when I see it.” So I ask, “If you can’t define it, how can you develop it? How do you know what you’re looking for? How will you know where to focus your attention?”
I have learned, that everyone has a slightly different definition of athleticism. And their answer to the question is most likely based on their experiences, their interests and their own sport or training style.
Some answers seem to be more skewed towards physical fitness, others towards sport skill, and some towards force producing muscle qualities. And while all of these are factors that can enhance athleticism, they don’t come close to covering what I would consider the essential elements of athleticism.
So what’s my definition?
I feel that athleticism can be defined as:
Having optimal control and coordination of the body as it moves at high speeds, reacting and maneuvering through a dynamic environment, while successfully executing technical sport skills aligned with a specific tactical objective.
So is a golfer athletic? They have control and coordination of the body, moving at high speeds, performing a technical skill, etc. But they lack a critical piece of my definition…reacting and maneuvering through a dynamic (ever changing) environment. And I know a lot of really good golfers who would not consider themselves “athletic.”
Is running athletic? Same answer, often lacking “high speed maneuverability in a changing environment” and “technical sport skill” etc.
Sure a runner or golfer could be athletic, but it is not necessarily a requirement of their sport. Excelling at these sports, require high levels of technical skill, coordination, endurance or practice…but simply excelling at a sport, does not make you athletic unless the sport itself requires all definable qualities.
Here is what I consider to be the hierarchy of essential components of athleticism…
- Body control and coordination at high speeds
- Reactive maneuverability, agility
- Timing, precision and instinctive execution of sport skills in dynamic environments
- Calm, quick, optimal decision making, aligned with tactical objectives
A superior athlete would be able to perform a skill, reacting quickly and efficiently, at high speeds, in a dynamic environment while also making the most optimal decision, with perfect timing, on rhythm, as they out maneuver an opponent.
Basically, making the difficult task look easy and effortless.
So would a snowboarder be an athlete. In my opinion…yes. Even though they are not reacting to another person, they are maneuvering through changing conditions, new courses, performing highly technical skills at high speeds, making decisions quickly while controlling their body against the environment.
So where does strength and power come in?
If you have developed all the existing qualities of an athlete, and you get stronger in ways that allow you to move more explosively, strength may help you become more athletic. But this depends on how you use it. Getting stronger in the weight room only works if it accentuates your ability to control your body as you maneuver, react or separate from an opponent. If the type of strength you are developing doesn’t help these criteria, then it’s probably not contributing directly to you athletic development.
So where does skill come in?
Skill is entirely dependent upon the sport. Some skills transfer from sport to sport more efficiently than others, but skill is a a primary criteria. If you move well, but lack the confident efficiency in performing the skill, you would not be perceived as athletic within the context of that sport. The higher the level of sport participation, the more important skill acquisition becomes. For younger, or lower level players, where skill is not expected to be fully developed, spectators might see athletic potential independent of the skill. But as players age, and higher levels of sport skill becomes an expected part of the formula, a players athleticism will be judged by their ability to perform skills with precision at high levels of speed.
So where does speed come in?
Speed is also relative to the sport. Some sports require more speed than others. Like skill, the higher the level of competition, the more necessary it becomes. But speed is also a bit of a poorly defined term. I feel that athletic speeds is more than just straight line running. There is a decision making speed component, a reactive speed component and a maneuverability at speed component. It’s not about developing fast 40’s (although it’s defiantly valuable), it’s about being able maneuver at the highest speed in which you can still control your body in your environment relative to the tactical objective.
This is just my opinion. And I am always looking to debate this topic. There are many examples that might challenge my opinion, and I would welcome them. However, the important takeaway from this is that you need to be able to explain and justify your own definition. Otherwise, how will you know how to define and develop athleticism…and don’t say I’ll know it when I see it.
AGES 4-7 - THE FOUNDATION
Athleticism is not an inborn talent, it is developed through rigorous training and attention to detail. Sure, some athletes have more genetic potential, but if left unchallenged they won’t reach the level they could have.
At an early age, typically 4-7 years old, the windows for athletic development are wide open.
If the young person is exposed and challenged to a wide variety of motor skills and movement tasks they will most likely be in front of the curve.
The key is challenge…
At this age the body will learn more rapidly through errors. Falling, stumbling, finding balance, etc. will send cues to the brain that something needs to change. Guiding athletes through these errors and letting them figure out effective movement strategies are key.
Exposure to a wide variety is also important…
To be athletic, we need to be able to adjust and react efficient to dynamic environments. We need to be exposed to problems and find movement related solutions in a rapid manner. Setting up obstacle courses, letting children find their own creative ways to navigate the course quickly and efficiently is a great foundational piece.
The essential skills that must be explored at this age would be, running, jumping, climbing, throwing, kicking, hoping, tumbling, avoiding, chasing, catching, etc.
Teaching these skills at this age should be performed in a “Guided Discovery” format. Not being critical of HOW they do it, but encouraging them to explore and then guiding their understanding of efficiency without limiting their creative mindset.
Ages 8-13 - Growth Stage
Between the ages of 8 and 13, these young developing athletes are ready for a more technical approach to sport skill. Using their athletic movement skill base, they begin to refine the sport related motor skills of throwing, catching, striking, volleying, kicking, etc. As well as the movement related motor skills of sprinting, jumping and changing directions.
Training becomes a bit more structured, but exposure to different ways of doing things is still critical.
It's important to allow athletes at this age to explore variations, but also to provide immediate feedback with questions. Opening their eyes to variations that might be more efficient or optimal under specific conditions.
It's in this stage where the athletes begin to separate themselves from the sport participants.
Ages 14-18 - Refinement Stage
Between the ages of 14 and 18 some young athletes begin to separate themselves from others. These are not typically the ones that were born with some innate talent or genetic gift (although it’s helpful), but rather those that have found an interest in their endeavors. If exposure to many sports has broadened their foundational ability, then finding the most interesting sport that fits their mindset and their ability is the key to success in this stage.
Ages 18-28 (peaking stage)
Between the ages of 18-28 the athlete is approaching their performance peak. This is the age where the muscles are most powerful and speed potential is at its highest. This is the stage of focused refinement.
Between the ages of 28-35 the athlete is still competitive, but usually on the back end of the peak. Performance begins to decline, but instead of relaying on power and speed, they now use strategy and tactical experience to guide their play.
It starts with deeper dive into all trainable aspects of athleticism, and breaking them down into what is most relevant to success on the field.
FACTORS OF ATHLETICISM - SPEED OF PLAY
To avoid a long list, I thought I would lump the trainable factors into key categories. But keep in mind, these factors are interconnected and cannot be fully developed in isolation if we want to reach our potential.
Below are the categories, click on each to learn more about how we integrate and develop them.
We teach skill from an athletic perspective with a singular focus...repositioning the body around the ball to create an athletic and tactical advantage. This requires a blend of:
- athletic balance and coordination, quick repositioning footwork (agility)
- muscular endurance (rhythmic efficiency under fatigue)
- touch control, confidence to reposition the ball to create an advantage
- reactive, proprioception to adjust to situations, vision, seeing opportunities
- automated simple patterns blended into unique combinations, creative problem solving
Power, from an athletic perspective, is a combination of movement synchronization, strength and speed. Our athletic power system can be broken down into the 5 'P's' of Performance:
- Positions: getting athletes into key biomechanical positions to optimize potential
- Patterns: rhythmic coordination as we move in and out of key positions
- Power: increase the load or speed in which they move through these patterns
- Precision: seeking precise, efficient, automated movement skill as it relates to speed
- Perspective: discussions with our athletes on how and where they would use this skill
ATHLETIC ENDURANCE (GAMESPEED)
In sport we need a strong aerobic base of fitness, but more importantly we need to be able to repeat our speed, with good technique, focus and precision late in games. To achieve this goal, we look to develop a broader base of endurance:
- Aerobic Base (capacity to focus, and perform efficiently for longer bouts)
- Muscular Endurance (ability to train through fatigue)
- Repeated Speed (strong, powerful bursts with more rapid recovery)
- Maximum Speed (automated patterns, performed powerfully and efficiently)
ATHLETIC SENSORY (VISION) TRAINING
The ultimate cognition sports vision training. Enables you to train the mind and body together to create a unique edge for athletes to perform at a higher level, more consistently, and with better decision making.
EQUIPMENT (FACILITY SET UP)
Our facility has changed over the years, and we have worked closely with equipment manufacturers and engineers to help design the most optimal equipment to enhance our performance training environment. Our facility features:
- Woodway Curve Treadmills and FTG's
- Cybex Arc Trainers
- Move Factor X Medicine Balls
- Swift Contact Mats
- Boxes and Stairs
- Enhanced Kick Platforms
- Free Weights
- TRX Bands
- Heart Rate Monitors