Developing Athleticism 101

As coaches, one of the best things we are afforded is the ability to have conversations with individuals who are on a path to improvement, and then partake in that process alongside them. Over the past several years, it's been noticeable that there is a lot of confusion on how to improve performance for sport, regardless of what that sport is.

There are two main components of improving your performance on the field, court, turf, or whatever surface you compete on: skill and athleticism.

While often the drive from coaches is to place a high emphasis on skill development, we must understand that learning skills is tied to athletic ability. The more general athleticism an athlete possesses, the greater amount of skill they can acquire for their sport. To break it down further, athleticism is the physical abilities of an individual that are expressed through sport skills.

Here at Parisi Speed School, we pride ourselves in being professionals in the development of athleticism. But what makes up athleticism? While individuals tend to debate these topics, it can be broken down into five attributes: Speed, Agility, Power, Balance, and Stamina/Endurance. And understanding how to build athleticism is tied to understanding these qualities.

The interesting aspect of all of these qualities, is that they are linked together an act as part of some odd mathematical formula. Speed is a powerful quality, and power is a combination of strength and ability to accelerate. Agility is byproduct of power and balance. And then stamina is the ability to display these things repeatedly (also note that this does not equate to being "in shape").

With all of these qualities being intertwined with each other, it is important to raise all of them simultaneously. This means that while someone may have a goal of sprinting faster, they must develop power, which requires strength to do so. Since sprinting is a display of power, and being powerful leads to developing more power ability, then sprinting at maximal effort will help one jump higher.

Now, this may seem like it goes against common sense because to jump higher one must focus on jumping, but it important to understand that training qualities are brought about by changes in biomechanical efficiency (how well the body moves) and muscle fiber type (shifting to fast twitch). Improvement in one domain can lead to improvements in another.

It also stands to reason that with developing athletes such as kids between the ages of 8-16, basically everything makes them stronger, and getting stronger also makes them faster. This is due to a lack of history of structured efforts to improve in either of those domains. That means when they sprint, their muscle fibers increase in efficiency which leads to strength gains. When they lift weights they will ultimately get faster. The only difference between the two approaches is that strength is a secondary benefit from sprinting, and speed is the secondary benefit of strength training (hence why we do both in our classes).

Crawling is another great example of something that can improve multiple attributes. While it looks childish or almost ridiculous in some senses, it can be used as a great method for improving balance, coordination, and strength. While it is often placed in a warmup or a strength segment of a training session, it can have huge benefits to multiple domains.

These are just a few examples, and for brevity's sake we'll keep it limited to those, but it gives us insight into how developing athleticism works. The other key piece of which is the thought process and planning of training to manage the improvements in multiple domains without burning out an athlete or having them over-train.

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