Why Adaptability Is The Secret To Elite Athletic Performance

Wayne Gretzky, Mia Hamm, Barry Sanders, and many other all-time great athletes seemed to possess a sixth sense out on their respective playing fields.
We think of their electrifying abilities as an innate skill that only a select few will ever have, something the rest of us can only dream of.
Maybe it is, or maybe it simply requires a different approach to athletic development.
And that approach can be summed up nicely by this ancient quote:
"No man stands in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man." - Heraclitus
The idea that we are constantly changing, as is the environment around us, is central to developing incredible playmaking abilities.
Let me explain.
In sport, no two moments are ever exactly the same. Opponents and teammates are in different places, as are the sequence of events leading up to that moment.
In practices and training, when we as coaches try to script exact responses for our athletes to execute, we are missing the fact that we have no way of knowing what opportunities will present themselves at any moment of a game.
By teaching kids to play robotically, we are stunting the #1 skill they need to become great playmakers.
And that is the ability to use their vision to identify and exploit opportunities to succeed.
Watch video of any elite playmaker and you'll notice that they are always looking ahead to where they play is going next, almost as if they live 2-3 seconds into the future.
Any kid can develop this skill in the right training environment.
Soccer academies in Brazil are a perfect example, as their creative development methods produced some of the best playmakers in their sport for decades.
This type of training has become a staple of our Speed School sessions. It requires three things to be effective:
  • Great focus from all our participants, because you can't pick up on the opportunities your environment presents when your mind drifts in and out.
  • Drills that require athletes to find a solution that isn't obvious. Think tag and evasion drills as opposed to agility ladder and cone patterns.
  • A constantly changing environment. Rules, spacing, opponents and more present new challenges on nearly every repetition, requiring you to always seek new ways to succeed.
Coaches in any sport can create environments that do the same.
Simply by creating environments where kids have to react to what they see in a variety of settings, they'll become better at reading the subtle cues that allow them to anticipate better.
The end result is they'll improve their ability to make more "WOW" plays in the future.
I'm sure you can imagine how valuable that would be for a kid who wants to become more successful in their sport.

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