Balance & Stabilization Training Zone!

Enhancing Athletic Coordination

by David Weck

Most aspects of athletic training are best developed in the company of others. The greatest gains are most often realized when a good coach guides you and fellow teammates are there to push and challenge you. This is true for getting bigger, faster, and stronger. It is also true for getting more agile, more flexible, and more powerful.

But there are certain athletic qualities that can only really be developed alone, on your own time, away from the rest of the pack. And it is often these athletic qualities, the ones you must gain on your own, that can give you the edge and make you a genuine contributor, not just a participant.

Some of these "less tangible" athletic qualities are hand-eye coordination, reflexes, reaction time, spatial awareness, ambidexterity, and balance – call them "athletic coordination". While you can't help but train these skills to some degree during other forms of training, they are difficult to enhance in a meaningful way within the boundaries of even the most solid strength and conditioning programs. The truth is your coach simply doesn't have the necessary time to devote to the enhancement of your athletic coordination skills. If you want to be the best athlete you can be, you must acquire the larger portion of these skills on your own!

One of the worst mistakes an athlete can make is believing that these kinds of skills are inborn, and therefore, not trainable. Even if they don't come easily to you at first, with diligent training you can make significant improvements.

We've all heard the term "use it or lose it". In human physiology, these words are the absolute truth. The fact is our brain and nervous system are constantly engaged in a process of recalibration. Scientists use the term "neuroplasticity" to describe the incredible adaptability of the human brain. Neuroplasticity describes the brain's amazing ability to remap and reorganize neural pathways based on new and different experiences.

A great example of this was an experiment in which a group of scientists wore special glasses that flipped everything they saw upside down. They wore these glasses all day, everyday for an extended time. At first everything was, well, upside down and very awkward. But then something really interesting happened. With enough exposure to this "new" situation, their vision flipped back to normal – right side up – even though they still wore the glasses. Their brains and eyes literally recalibrated to this new situation.

Your athletic coordination skills work the same way. The body, brain, and nervous system will respond to what you expose them to. Just like the edge of a knife stays sharp only when you routinely sharpen it, your body stays tuned through proper use. But unlike the knife blade, there is no limit to how sharp you can make yourself. Keep working the right way and you can keep improving. It all boils down to how much you want it and how hard you're willing to work.

The greatest athletes – with great being defined by their performance, not just their potential – are the ones willing to go the extra mile and do what is necessary to be the best they can be. To put the time in where it is necessary, in the training room, at practice, and at home.

David Weck is the inventor of the well-known and highly respected BOSU Balance Trainer – a device used around the world by novice to professional and world-class level athletes from virtually every sport to improve balance, core stability, and proprioception.