Kids come in all shapes, sizes, and personalities.
Some make huge progress in their sports over time, but others do not.
Many have the drive to succeed but get frustrated over time because they don’t see progress in their performance.
Unfortunately, becoming what we refer to as a ‘Complete Athlete’ has many facets. It’s not as easy as everyone going out and taking a few more shots or doing a few more pushups to reach the top.
But if there is an overall formula for excelling in athletics over time, it would be this:
STEP 1 – Honestly assess what your strengths and weaknesses are as an athlete/teammate
STEP 2 – Work diligently do shore up all of your weaknesses
STEP 3 – Continue to work on growing your strengths, especially those that will allow you to achieve high levels of success in your specific sport or activity.
No one can do Steps 2 & 3 for you, but to complete the first step you’ll need to know all the variables that come together to create the Complete Athlete.
So here is your comprehensive checklist, broken down by category, of all the attributes you’ll need to become elite in almost any sport.
The more glamorous category of physical skills typically advanced through training.
STRENGTH –Just about every sport these days emphasizes getting stronger more than ever before. Why? Because strength leads to being faster and more powerful, plus it will help you play a more physical game.
POWER – Explosive bursts are what sports are all about – kicking, throwing, shooting in stick sports, and many other movements require a potent combination of speed and strength.
SPEED – The faster players and teams cover more ground and make more plays. This is the most coveted skill by scouts and coaches, although it is important to remember it is still just one of many pieces of the puzzle.
AGILITY – Cutting skills, often going hand in hand with speed but has more technical parts to it than simply sprinting. Not to mention you can add defensive footwork skills like shuffling, crossover runs, and backpedals here too.
BALANCE/COORDINATION – An underlying group of skills that is best described as being ‘athletic’ in your movements. Balance and coordination are key factors in helping you make jaw-dropping moves while also keeping you injury resistant.
SPORT SPECIFIC CONDITIONING – You need to be in good enough shape to play a complete game consistently throughout the season. This varies widely by sport, as a soccer player needs more continuous conditioning compared to the stop and start sports like baseball and softball.
The actual skills you need to express your athleticism.
GENERAL – Running, skipping, jumping, throwing, catching, kicking, spinning and all the other fundamental movement skills. This wide range of general skills is best developed by age 13.
SPORT SPECIFIC – The skills you’ll need to put your 10,000 hours of practice in to as you get older. It could be chipping if you’re a golfer, taking slap shots for hockey, or free throws for basketball. There are too many to list here.
Does it really matter how good you are if you’re always hurt?
(Likely the most neglected category in sports right now at all levels.)
MOBILITY – Can your arms, legs, and upper torso move through full ranges of motion? If not you may be susceptible to deceleration injuries as you become more powerful, as your body has less time to ‘brake’ before coming to a complete stop.
TISSUE QUALITY – Muscles and other connective tissue lose their elasticity due to intense exercise, which can come from workouts or the demands of in-season game/practice schedules. Any type of soft-tissue massage, typically from a foam roller or massage specialist, allows joints to continue to move through full ranges of motion and receive the vital nutrients they need to regenerate.
STABILITY – Sometimes you need to be able to resist motion in order to avoid moving too far. Particularly through your midsection, lower legs and shoulders, creating maximum stability without sacrificing mobility will lower your injury risk.
SYMMETRY – Other than having a previous injury, the greatest predictor of your future injury risk is an imbalance of strength and/or flexibility from one side of your body to the other. Imbalances are trainable when workouts are designed properly.
MENTAL PROFILE (definitions from Jeremy Boone’s Athlete Mindset course)
The intangible category that is impossible to improve unless you are willing to confront your weaknesses.
SELF CONFIDENCE – Do you believe in yourself and your ability to achieve your goals?
FOCUS – How well do you maintain concentration on the details of the task at hand?
COMPETITIVE FIRE – Is your desire to succeed greater than your fear of failure?
SELF DISCIPLINE – How well do you adhere to a practice and training routine to control your behavior and desires in order to achieve your goals?
SELF MOTIVATION – What is the quality of your present desire to improve?
COACHABILITY – How well do you take instruction from those who can help you raise your game?
GAME INTELLIGENCE – How well do you understand the tactical aspects of your sport, and position?
MENTAL TOUGHNESS – Do you have the ability to cope with the present in order to accomplish your future objectives?
TEAM PLAYER – Do you put the team’s needs ahead of your own when necessary?
PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY – How well do you face up to and address your personal strengths & weaknesses?
Often times the hardest to change, but can be adapted to better fit your sport and position.
HEIGHT – Other than nutrition factors in your younger years, this is pretty much out of your control. But it should match the demands of your sport. If you’re 7’ tall your odds of excelling in basketball are much better than in gymnastics.
WEIGHT – Through proper eating and training you can gain or lose weight to match the needs of your sport and position. However, some of this is genetically determined…not everyone can become an NFL lineman.
BODY COMPOSITION – Going hand in hand with weight is the ratio of muscle to fat that you carry, and is also adaptable based on nutrition and training. Most roles in sports, but not all, require you to be lean in order maintain your speed and conditioning.
Do you see where your strengths for your sport & position lie?
These are the things that are fueling your current athletic success, but for now they should not be the primary focus of your training and development time.
Can you identify 3 to 6 areas from this list where improvement would raise your game?
Be honest and face up to those needs.
Then go out and start working on them!