For 99% of athletes, there will come a day when you move up to a higher level of play and find yourself struggling more than you used to.
You may feel a step slow, or the game strategy is a bit over your head. Perhaps injuries begin to mount up, or you're getting pushed around by more physical players.
Whatever the reason, for most of you that day is coming.
And when it arrives, will you be prepared to overcome the challenge?
To put yourself in the greatest position to succeed at the next level of your sport, you need to be honest with yourself about what you most need to work on most, your limiting factor, and begin hammering away at improving that today.
Nothing can get in the way of this development if you want to succeed. Saying you're 'too busy' is an excuse that covers up the fact that you simply aren't prioritizing this enough.
Your limiting factor could be a sport skill issue, a sport tactics issue, or it could be physical development-related.
I cannot speak to the first two categories, but for athletes in all sports these are the most common physical development limiting factors, and how they'll impact your game.
LACK OF OVERALL STRENGTH
Athletes in all sports must be strong enough to hold their own against the most aggressive and physically developed players. You don't necessarily need to be the strongest player to succeed, it just can't be a weakness so glaring that you can be pushed around and easily taken out of your comfort zone.
Bring this up to at least an average skill for the next level of your sport, and you take away a key advantage for opponents who are less skilled than you are.
POOR CORE STABILITY
An inability to resist forces pushing on you from opponents, momentum, and gravity is likely due to poor core stability.
Fixing this issue can have a dramatic effect on your performance. It may lead to making you play stronger, faster, and with better endurance while at the same time lowering your injury risk.
No other physical development area can have a greater positive impact on your game than fixing a weak core.
UNSTABLE HIPS, SHOULDERS & ANKLES
Going right with that would be poor control at the ankle, hip or shoulder joint. The hip and ankle instability increase the risk for injuries not just there, but also for the knees. And shoulder instability very obviously can lead to more shoulder problems.
Beyond pain, instability in any of these joints can lead to poor mechanics in your sport skills. Fixing them might be the missing link you need to improve your jumping, throwing, kicking, shooting...any skill relevant to your specific sport.
Tight hamstrings, calves, quads, and upper back muscles can all lead to limited range of motion in your movement skills. And when your range is limited, the amount of power you can produce when sprinting, jumping, throwing and in all other athletic movements decreases.
Remember that foam rolling and other similar tools are not a replacement for actual stretching, which lengthens the muscle fibers and gets to the root of the problem.
Imagine if simple stretching could make you faster and lower your injury risk? It's so easy to do, it just takes discipline and a little knowledge on which stretches are best for you.
GROUND REACTION TIME
Fast athletes are quick to get off the ground with each stride, whereas slow ones are sluggish in their foot contacts.
Developing rigid, shock absorbing strength to your lower body, often through plyometric exercises that can be as simple as jump roping, helps to make you play quicker in tight spaces, and faster over longer distances.
HIP POWER & COORDINATION
Explosive athletic movements always start with strong and powerful hip muscles. This is why so many successful athletes can squat, deadlift and Olympic Lift impressive amounts of weight.
But going one step further, athletic movements are rarely expressed with both feet driving directly into the ground at the same time.
So yeah, you might have great weight room numbers but still have a weakness here if you can't translate that to SINGLE LEG hip power, and develop the coordination to quickly transfer that power from one leg to the other repeatedly.
This requires some more advanced lifts and plyometrics, along with some simple coordination drills like skipping.
Build this skill properly, and you'll have scouts and coaches at the next level begging you to play for them.
With a mindset that you can improve anything, that no challenge you face today is permanent if you're willing to take control of the situation, and you can get ahead of the challenges that await you in the future.
The greatest players are always hungry to find new ways to improve.
Find yours and act on it to reach your ultimate goals.