Traditionally, many children grow up thinking of conditioning activities as a punishment for poor behavior. Late for gym class? 25 push-ups. Talking too much during volleyball practice? 10 laps around the gym.
However, conditioning is an essential method of building muscle strength, flexibility, and overall athlete readiness for an active lifestyle, and coaches and parents should work to remove the negative connotations it can carry.
To help your players understand the importance of conditioning and how it fits into a healthy sports preparation program, include it regularly as part of your practices. If physical fitness is presented as a normal, everyday part of an athlete’s activities at sports practice, there will be no resentment toward it or avoidance of it.
Here are some tips on how to incorporate physical fitness testing as part of your regular practices:
· Inform parents and players at the beginning of the season about your conditioning plan
· Include conditioning in practices regularly and at the same point in practice, such as just after the warm-up
· Measure athlete progress during conditioning by testing their abilities at the beginning of the season, in the middle, and near the end
· Give awards or recognition for athletes making improvements because of conditioning
· Explain the impact that conditioning has on players abilities to perform certain skills and improve their performance
All athletes should come to respect and understand conditioning and its impact on sports performance. If they begin to look at it as a tool to build strength, endurance, and agility on the field, they will come to the exercises with more dedication and enthusiasm.
Physical fitness is comprised of many different components. The following factors affect an athlete’s overall fitness level and ability to play a sport:
· Lung capacity and ability to process adequate oxygen while exercising
· Body mass index, or percentage of body fat
· Muscle flexibility
· Muscle endurance
· Response time
· Proper diet and nutrient intake
A coach’s physical conditioning plan should take into account the basic benchmarks for physical fitness for certain levels and ages. If a coach has unreasonable expectations for their players endurance levels, they will be disappointed with team’s performance at conditioning drills as well as during the actual competition.
However, when coaches understand that all factors of physical fitness develop with time, they are more able to create a plan that takes into account the age and sport of their players to develop the most appropriate plan possible for the skills those players need to develop.
Creating a physical fitness program is also a great way to catch any limiting factors for athletes, such as dangerously high BMI, or body mass index. This factor, which determines the percentage of fat in the body in relation to muscle, is an indicator of other issues that may require a doctor’s care. Another factor, lung capacity can also be determined simply through a physical fitness program.
Though it may seem that some players do not have the endurance that others do, the problem may actually be related to lung capacity and that player’s ability to process oxygen. Exercise-induced asthma, a common condition brought on by rigorous sports participation, affects many athletes but goes unnoticed or misdiagnosed. A simple physical fitness program may bring this condition to light, because if a player is conditioning at the same level as their peers in exercises such as push-ups and sit-ups, they should have a similar level of endurance. If not, something else, such as asthma, may be to blame.