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Body Awareness and Building Athleticism…Training for Success

by Joe Napoli, NTCA- Tri State Region (NY, NJ, PA) Chairman

During my many years of coaching athletes in various sports I have come to the conclusion that the majority of athletes do not know how their bodies work or more importantly should feel like when in motion. Balance, core strength and body awareness are the most overlooked areas when building a solid training program. It’s alarming how many throwers never learn how to train properly. Many think just by picking up an implement and taking throw after throw is the answer to increasing distance. As coaches we know that the act of just throwing does not adequately challenge the physical requirements necessary to elevate them to a higher level. Not learning proper techniques will only lead to injury, boredom, burnout and possibly an end to a promising athletic future. How do we expect throwers to pick up implements, some heavy I might add, and throw them as far as they can when they do not even know how they should be feeling?

Athletes involved in a well planned conditioning program are at a distinct advantage in reaching their full athletic potential. So by establishing a strong foundation of sound training principles it will give athletes a better chance of obtaining higher levels of athletic performance. It will also improve their self esteem and confidence and decrease the potential for injuries. We need to make training fun and have a purpose. We need to teach our athletes proper techniques and let them know its ok to make mistakes as long as they learn from them. We need to build core strength and start teaching them what it takes to become athletic.

The focus of any program should be to educate the athlete while building athleticism. There is a story I always use with my kids. When we are born we first sit up and crawl, then we eventually establish some type of balance so we stand up and walk and finally when our bodies are perfectly in tune and we have great confidence we run. This sums up perfectly the proper procedure in training for success.

The following should be incorporated into any sound training program:

Fitness Testing:
It should be the main part of any training program. In fact it should be the foundation on which a successful training program is built. Athletes need to learn the importance of challenging themselves through a variety of different tests. Testing should be performed at least every three months. (Ex. SLJ, SVJ, STJ, 3-Hop, 4-Hop, 30M, Sit & Reach, Med ball throws- Front, Back, Overhead, Squat, PC, Snatch, Incline, Bench etc…)

Between each testing phase you should have your athletes work on balance and stability, flexibility, core strength, SAQ, power, strength, and plyo-metrics. Fitness testing should be done again after twelve weeks in order to identify an athlete’s strengths and weaknesses. This will enable them to see the progress they have made and to set goals for themselves in their future.

The ultimate goal of this program is to teach the athlete the importance of body awareness and how it relates to them in improving their throws. Remember to always keep your athletes motivated and have fun.