Watching professional athletes today is incredible. Their performances are often breathtaking—some of the shots they make, tackles they break, balls they catch and grand slams they hit seem almost impossible. People pay a lot of money to witness the skills and talent on display at the professional and Olympic levels.
This talent and skill certainly doesn’t develop over night! NO SIR! These talented athletic stars were once the youth we are inspiring and teaching today. Some were naturally more athletic than others, but most worked extra hard to develop the skills and strength needed to perform at such an optimal level.
As parents and coaches we must remember how critical the foundation of athletic performance is at the beginning of any strength and conditioning program. It all starts with teaching kids the fundamental movement skills: running, jumping, catching, throwing and kicking. Once these skills become regular practice, it’s time to progress into developing strength and conditioning. Although exercises can be performed from various positions, most ground-based fitness activities start with the athletic stance. It is the most basic postures we teach every new athlete in the weight room or on the field because it reinforces proper body mechanics and corrects errors in movement skill technique.
The athletic stance may also be referred as “looking like an athlete.” Here are the characteristics of looking like an athlete:
- Have your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Slightly bend your knees with your butt/hips shifted back (small arch in lower back).
- Keep your chest and head upright and tall (chest over knees).
- Shoulders should be back and arms active, but relaxed.
- Keep the feet flat on the ground with weight on the heels.
Looking like an athlete teaches the postural cues that keep an athlete safe when performing exercises such as squats, lateral shuffles, biceps curls and shoulder press. Engraining this stance into a young athletes program will make it second nature during training and performance. Not only will they have better posture to lift safely, but their athletic performance will likely improve, as well. Athletes that have a stronger athletic stance can change direction more quickly, sprint faster, throw longer distances, jump higher and control their balance better because they have developed their foundation and postural strength.
Because there are several steps in mastering the athletic stance, a great place to practice is during warm-up activities and group exercises.
Have the young athletes follow each cue until they finish in perfect athletic stance. Once they learn how this movement should feel, run a drill with them to practice on command.
- Begin by having participants run in place.
- Call out STANCE—they should all immediately get into athletic stance.
- Repeat the running and STANCE drill for at least five to 10 rounds.
Make this an important part of your athletes’ training programs and they are more likely to be the next Olympic champion.
Inspire kids to get active with fun and effective youth training programs!