How to get better in sports

Practice doesn’t explain why the best athletes are so good. Here’s what does.

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I was a horrible lacrosse player in high school: bad at catching the ball, slow, and not very aggressive.

Yet I’d spend hours at a handball wall with my stick: throwing, catching, repeating. I played on winter leagues, and woke up early for 6 am pickup games. Freshman and sophomore years, I made it onto the junior varsity team — a miracle.

By 11th grade, it was time to try out for varsity lacrosse. This is when my history teacher — the varsity coach — pulled me aside and suggested I shouldn’t bother. I’d probably be cut, he said (adding that I was getting very good grades).

For me, practice did not make perfect. Lo and behold, I now have scientific validation.

A meta-analysis in Perspectives in Psychological Science looked at 33 studies on the relationship between deliberate practice and athletic achievement and found that practice just doesn’t matter that much.

More precisely, the analysis found, practice can account for 18 percent of the difference in athletic success. Put another way, if we compare batting averages between two baseball players, the amount of time the players spent in the batting cage would only account for 18 percent of the reason one player’s average is better than the other.

Even more simply: Some people are just better at sports than others, and the difference cannot be made up by practice alone. There was a reason I lagged behind my peers on the lacrosse field. They probably had a natural advantage on me.

“One important thing — that’s easy to misunderstand— is that this is looking at variance across people, not within an individual,” Brooke Macnamara, the lead author of the Perspectives paper, tells me. “So if a person practices, they will get better. Almost across the board, practice should improve one’s performance.”

But it also means that for the same amount of practice, some will end up being better at sports than others. “Essentially, learning rates vary,” Macnamara says. “Some people improve very quickly with less practice, while others require much more practice.”

The analysis found this 18 percent figure is roughly true no matter what type of sport is being played. Practice accounts for the same difference in performance in bowling as it does field hockey, two completely different activities.

Practice also explains fewer differences in ability the further an athlete ascends into higher levels of play. Which suggests “deliberate practice loses its predictive power beyond a certain level of skill,” the study reports. The analysis also found that the age when athletes started their sports didn’t change this figure much either.

So what, then, explains the remaining 82 percent?

Here’s where we should note a limitation of studying practice: Researchers typically ask athletes to recall their schedules and practice hours, and memories can be faulty.

But Macnamara doesn’t think better measurements of practice would make that 18 percent figure leap up to near 100.

“There’s probably not one huge contributor that’s accounting for everything else,” she says.

Instead, there’s likely a whole constellation of factors — some of which are genetic or biological in nature — that explain why some people are better athletes than others. They include:

  • Personality and perseverance
  • Propensity to get injured
  • Propensity to choke under pressure
  • Individual differences in maximum oxygen uptake
  • Differences in how we acquire muscle mass
  • Coordination
  • Height
  • Enjoyment of competition

“We have so many factors within a person that can contribute to [athletic performance] — different genes, different cognitive abilities, different physical attributes,” she says. “All of those things are important and interact with each other. Which is why it is so hard to pin down what predicts performance.”

Overall, she says the finding is a strike against the popular “10,000 hour rule,” which implies anyone can become master at an activity if they were to just devote the time to it. The research in sports, and in other activities such as music, games, and education, just doesn’t back that hypothesis up.

On the other hand, it’s not like these findings are an excuse not to try.

“Eighteen percent is big,” Macnamara says. “We’re trying to argue against these ideas that it’s so important it accounts for nearly everything.” Practice matters, but it’s unlikely to bridge the gap between inborn superstars and your average, or perhaps clumsy, kid.

For the athletically un-inclined, like myself, it’s a bit of a relief. It’s okay if you can’t make up the difference with practice, or if you’re just a “slow learner” when it comes to sports. It’s also okay to just enjoy being on a team, trying hard but knowing you’ll unlikely be the best.

Growing up, my dad was on a quest to find “my sport” — the activity I’d finally master. Lacrosse was the closest we came. But it was mostly a parade of failures. Baseball: Throw a ball at me and I’ll be more likely to bruise than catch it. Soccer: I was much too slow. Basketball: All of the above. Tennis: I was cut from the middle school team.

I’m not a well-coordinated person, and that’s just fine.

These days I stick to activities that don’t involve hand-eye coordination: hiking, biking, running, skiing. I love physical activity. Life’s just too short to spend it on activities you’re horrible at.

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How to get better in sports

One of the most important skills I’ve learned as a professional mountain biker is how to learn. Why? Because I used to be bad at it, and now I’m not. In order to grow as an athlete, progress in a career, or build a successful relationship, learning to learn is as important as any particular fact or skill you pick up along the way.

In the past, my learning process was a certified disaster. If I didn’t pick something up in the first session, I immediately assumed I would never figure it out. I was hampered by a series of (mostly imaginary) limitations — “I don’t hit drops”, “I suck at riding wet roots”, “I’m not strong” — and I would frequently melt down after a bad workout or skill sessions.

It took a while, but I slowly developed a process for learning new skills that was actually effective — in fact, far more effective than I ever would have imagined in my previous headspace. I’ve learned to corner my bike properly, to hit large drops, to slackline, and most recently, to FINALLY do a pull-up. The best part is that this process works for bike skills, and pretty much everything else.

Step One: Start where you are, not where you think you should be.

This was a big one for me. For the first two years I raced mountain bikes I was hampered by feeling I was constantly playing catch up with racers who were ahead of me in every way (I’m not going to lie, I still feel like that way occasionally). This meant anytime I went to practice my jumping skills, my point of reference would always be that massive drop so-and-so hit and posted a picture of on Instagram. (Social media can be evil in this regard). With a reference point so far from where I was at that time, I was setting myself up to fail. There was literally no way to succeed.

Lofty goals are great, but not if they drive you nuts, and not if they’re based on what someone else is doing. To truly learn something, you have to accept your starting point, even if it is far from your end goal. Can’t do a push-up? Start on your knees. Can’t run a mile? Run for one minute, walk for two, and then repeat. Can’t ride a drop on your mountain bike? Start by popping off a curb. It is smarter and more courageous to swallow your ego and start small than to fall for the “go big, or go home” trap.

As the wise philosopher Drake once said, “Started at the bottom, NOW WE HERE.”

Step Two: Develop a growth mindset and ditch your limits.

I’ve written about growth mindset and the importance of replacing negative phrases with positive ones. All those “I can’t” statements are unhelpful, and untrue. If you believe you can change, you can. If you believe you can improve, you can. Serious physical or health limitations aside, our minds are almost always our biggest limiting factor. Given enough time, patience, and direction, you will be able to do things you now see as impossible.

Step Three: Practice. Practice. Practice. Patience. Patience. Patience.

We’ve all heard of the 10,000-hour rule and a million renditions of “practice makes perfect.” And yet, many people – including me – have an inner narrative that goes something like this: “It’s not that I’m not willing to put in the practice, it’s that I don’t get it. I’m not making any progress, I’m just making the same mistake over and over again.

The truth is, incremental improvement is sometimes hard to see, and sometimes you have to fail for days on end before it clicks and your body and mind start working together. If you want to learn something new, do it every day, but not for too long. For skills work in sports, for instance, you want to attempt or repeat the skill several times, but not for so long that you become too fatigued or frustrated to make additional progress. I find 15 to 30 minutes per day of working on a new skill is ideal, as I don’t get too tired and frustrated to feel positive about the session when I’m done. Be honest, how many times in your life have you practiced the same skill every day for a week? For a month? If the answer is never, you aren’t fully tapping into your potential to learn.

Step Four: Get to know your learning process.

I find I go through a pretty similar cycle every time I try to learn a new skill. The first few sessions are great. I start to see improvement as I pick off the low hanging fruit and grasp the theory of the skill. Then, once I understand the theory, I expect myself to immediately be able to execute it. After all, I can see myself doing it in my head, I understand what I’m supposed to be doing, so why is it so hard?

This phase is the hardest and it can go on for days, weeks, or even months. It can be frustrating and infuriating. I usually hit a point where I get angry and want to give up. And then, just when I’ve relegated myself to never being able to do it, something clicks. Now that I’ve gone through this cycle a few times I can recognize the signs, and while I still get frustrated, I embrace it as part of the process. I now know I have to push through a lot of rough practice sessions to get where I’m trying to go.

If you are struggling with a new skill or process, examine whether the way you’re trying to learn it has been a successful learning process for you in the past. If the answer is no, then see if there’s a way to address this new skill or process that fits your preferred learning style.

Step Five: Seek expert advice and be open to it.

Many people are willing to seek expert advice, but far fewer are ready to take advantage of it. Being truly open to advice isn’t possible until you’ve embraced Steps One – Four. For example, if you refuse to accept your starting point, you probably won’t like the advice you get. Coaches have an uncanny ability to see through your BS and discern your actual ability level. Unless you’ve accepted where you are, you might chafe at being told to work on your core strength instead of doing heavy deadlifts. (Everyone hates planks. Yet, nearly everyone needs to do more of them.). Likewise, if you have a lot of self-imposed limits, you will drive your coach up the wall with “I can’t” statements. And if you don’t practice, you’re wasting everyone’s time. However, once you master the first four steps you will find yourself more open to expert advice, which helps you make more significant changes and make greater progress.

Syd Schulz is a professional mountain bike racer, focusing on enduro events. She is also a writer, blogger and lifestyle athlete. Currently based in Taos, NM, she grew up in Ohio and started riding bikes as a kid in the rolling foothills of the Appalachian mountains. Over the past three years, she has raced her bike on four different continents and traveled all over the United States in a dirt-bag van (see the van profiled in Outside Magazine here!). Her blog focuses on inspirational content and stories of her own personal development. Her goal is to inspire others to tackle their biggest hurdles in life (and on the bike).

How to get better in sports

Matt’s primary role at Dynamic Strength and Conditioning is to make sure that our coaches and clients are consistently improving, all while operatin.

Matt’s primary role at Dynamic Strength and Conditioning is to make sure that our coaches and clients are consistently improving, all while operatin.

Our Winter Youth Performance Camps (ages 10-13 and 14+) start December 9th!

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There is one skill, regardless of sport, that sets certain athletes above the rest.

That skill is SPEED!

Think of speed as how fast an athlete can get from point A to point B.

It determines how quickly a soccer or basketball player can get to the ball.

It determines whether or not a lacrosse or football player can accelerate past a defender.

It separates which hockey player will get to the puck first or if the baseball player will be safe at first on a close play.

Possessing great speed gives an athlete such an advantage on the field, court, or ice and coaches of all levels are in search of it.

Some athletes are naturally gifted in this area, where many need more work at it.

The good news is, speed can be DRASTICALLY improved with the right training.

You see, speed really comes down to a couple key components that we focus on at DSC.

Strength

Explosiveness

Yes, to be fast what you really need is to be strong and explosive.

Speed is about how much force you can produce into the ground, in the shortest amount of time possible.

This is why our Athletic Development Training focuses on getting our athletes strong (strength exercises) and explosive (jumping and sprinting exercises).

It is NOT just about moving your feet quickly, you need to be STRONG to push into the ground, overcome inertia, and get yourself moving in the right direction.

And the research agrees.

The Journal of Applied Physiology found that “faster top running speeds are achieved with greater ground forces, not more rapid leg movements.”

When it comes to sprinting, think Sir Isaac Newton and his Third Law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

It is our push into the ground with our feet that determines how fast we are going to move. The stronger we are, the harder we can push.

The harder we push, and the faster we push, the faster we go!

World class sprinters and some of the fastest athletes in the world have incredibly strong lower-bodies.

This strength allows them to drive into the ground with extreme amounts of force to drive themselves forward when they sprint.

This is why most young athletes do not possess high-levels of speed. They just aren’t quite mature or strong enough.

They also struggle to understand the concept of pushing themselves to where the want to go, not just moving fast.

This is why getting stronger pays huge dividends in improving their speed.

Today, we’re taking you through exactly how to be a faster athlete, so you can dominate on the field court, or ice.

Let’s get into it!

Step 1| Complete this warm-up

Did you know the key to improving your speed starts with a proper warm-up?

And the research agrees here too. The better your warm-up is and the more specific it is to sprinting, the better your body will be prepared to sprint.

Your body will be warmed up. Your sprint mechanics will be in tune. Your body will have the required mobility to get into the right positions to display your true speed (muscle and joint stiffness reduces ability to sprint). And your muscles will be more primed to aid in your sprinting efforts.

Before every game, practice, or training session, complete the 10 minute warm-up below.

Step 2| Dedicate time to training (strength and explosiveness)

The BIGGEST mistake we see youth athletes make is not dedicating time out of the year to work on their strength and conditioning.

This is a problem for a few reasons.

The first is the rise in athletic injuries due to overuse. In fact, youth injuries have increased 7x over the past 10 years. More alarming is the fact that over half of these injuries are due to overuse.

The good news is that overuse injuries, with the right awareness and action, are very avoidable.

Dedicating time to working on your performance in the gym is first going to give your shoulder time to heal if you’re a baseball player, or your knee time to rest if you’re a soccer player.

It will also give you time to focus on getting the right areas strong (like the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that support your joints) and getting the right areas more flexible.

When you’re constantly competing with game after game you never give your body time to heal and work on the areas that need to be addressed. Chronic fatigue sets in and you actually become slower.

When it comes to improving your speed, getting yourself on a balanced strength and conditioning program is the most important thing you can do.

Without dedicating time to getting stronger, more explosive, and more flexible, you only rely on your athletic genes.

Spending time in the gym allows you to push your body to change to be a better athlete.

As you will see below, it allows you to cut faster, jump higher, sprint faster, hit or kick the ball further, fatigue less quickly, and drastically increase your defense against injury.

Research by British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) has found that graduates who participated in sports at university earn on average 18% more than their non-sporting counterparts.

If you want to know exactly what benefits sport at university can bring, or just need help articulating what exactly your hours of training have brought to your CV, then fear not; we’ve picked out some of the skills that give the active among us an edge.

Table of contents

How to get better in sports

1. Team work

‘There’s no I in team’. It’s the most used term in the sporting skills index, and yet the reasons for this are well earned. A boat will only race at its fastest when all rowers move in one rhythm, whilst a goal scored in football is thanks to the varying skillset of the team.

Learning to work with others and appreciating how different talents can contribute to one goal is essential in every workplace and industry.

2. Leadership

From captain of your team to a captain of industry, developing leadership skills in sport is crucial to any future employment, whether you’re in charge or not.

Making tough decisions about the team list or the workforce; developing the ability to inspire, motivate and lead your colleagues; these are skills that are always in demand.

Want to know how develop leadership skills? Learn how with this insightful module from Bright Network Academy.

3. Time management

Any university athlete who still wanted to achieve their desired academic grade will know the importance of time management.

Juggling daily training sessions with the demands of lectures, seminars and coursework (as well as maintaining a social life!) act as essential practice for maintaining a work- life balance in the ‘real world’.

4. Competition & sportsmanship

Wanting to win goes hand in hand with accepting defeat and there is no better teacher. A drive for success is sought by every employer, and found in all athletes. However, learning to accept loss is a much tougher lesson, but can be much more valuable.

Whether that teaches you to brush off rejection or learn from your mistakes is your call, but sooner or later most of us will face that in the workplace.

5. Handling pressure

It’s all about adrenalin! From preparing for the big game to standing on the start line of the final race, coping with high-pressure situations is a natural occurrence in sport.

Whilst not all careers are high stress, companies always value an individual capable of coping when times get tough; whether that be staying calm in an interview or meeting a short deadline.

6. Management & responsibility

Sports clubs don’t run themselves. Securing new equipment, raising funds and maintaining club numbers are just some of the tasks required of committee members; providing a brilliant environment to develop and practise managerial skills and learn how to get things done before leaving university.

7. Commitment

Last but not least, no medal is won without dedication, early starts and personal sacrifice. It’s that grit, determination and focus given by all university athletes to their sport that is valued so highly by employers.

So what are you waiting for! The research from BUCS also found that 94% of employers agreed to a clear link between employability and university sport participation.

Don’t be afraid to emphasise your sporting triumphs, and enjoy the benefits. University is one of the few places where such a large and diverse range of opportunities is available. So whilst you may not have been the sportiest at school, why not give a new something new a try?

There are many skills you can be working on during the application process and throughout your career. Develop your core career skills with Bright Network Academy and stay ahead when applying for jobs and navigating the world of work.

Sports are a great way to have fun while staying fit. Sports also teach important life lessons like:

  • working as a team
  • learning how to be a good sport
  • overcoming challenges
  • controlling emotions
  • taking pride in accomplishments

But it’s not always easy to keep it together when it feels like winning is everything. Having a healthy attitude about sports and learning to deal with the stress that comes with competing can help you perform your best.

Check Stress Levels

Competing always leads to some stress. And that can be good — a little stress helps the body face a challenge. But too much stress can take the fun out of a sport and make it hard to perform. Besides competing, other things can make athletes feel stressed out, such as:

  • too much pressure from parents or coaches to win
  • having too much on the schedule
  • not wanting to play the sport

If you think there might be too much stress around competing, talk to your parents and coach. Making some changes can help, such as:

  • Change your focus from winning to putting in the best effort and having a positive attitude.
  • Take a look at your schedule. If you have too much going on, think about limiting practice time or only doing one sport or activity per season.
  • If you don’t want to play the sport anymore, talk to your parents about your feelings and make a decision together.

Ways to Deal With Stress in Sports

There will always be some stress in sports, so it’s important to know how to deal with it. Trying different ways during practice helps you know what will work best for you during competition.

  • Deep breathing: Take a deep breath and hold it in for about 5 seconds, then release it slowly. Repeat five times.
  • Muscle relaxation: Contract (flex) a group of muscles tightly. Keep them flexed for about 5 seconds, then release. Repeat the exercise five times, then move to a different muscle group.
  • Going to a happy place: Picture a peaceful place or event. Imagine stress flowing away from the body.
  • Visualizing success: Imagine completing a pass, making a shot, or scoring a goal.
  • Mindfulness: Focus on the present instead of worrying about the future or the past.
  • Having a routine: Focus on the routine to keep stress in control.
  • Thinking positively and developing positive self-talk: Say “I learn from my mistakes,” “I’m in control of my feelings,” “I can make this goal!” to help keep the negative thoughts away.

To keep stress levels down when you aren’t competing:

  • Eat well and get enough sleep, especially before games.
  • Do something fun and relaxing. Take a break from competing and go for a walk, ride a bike, see a movie, or hang out with friends.
  • Remember, no one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes in sports — it’s part of the game. Be quick to forgive mistakes and move on.

Sports are about staying active, feeling proud, developing as a player, and making friends. Above all, whether you play on the varsity team or at a weekend pick-up game, the point is to have fun. By keeping that as the priority, you can learn to handle the stress that is a natural part of competition.

Specialising in strength and conditioning, sports science and rehabilitation, we’re the elite sporting destination for the industry’s best sport and performance equipment.

Working out is often a great way to de-stress at the end of the day and a good way to keep your immune system in tip-top shape.

We always strive to be at the cutting edge of product development and supply, working with leading Sport Science brands.

From initial performance facility design to the installation and ongoing after-care support, we’ll be there for every step of your journey.

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GENESIS is the origin of coming into or being something. Let us meet you where you are at and let us help you achieve your true potential.

Parents…if you have a young athlete you have undoubtedly been in this situation…you recognize your athlete needs or wants to get stronger, faster or healthier. Then you look at the schedule and try to find the available small windows where the athlete can get some physical training. The windows are usually 3-6 weeks…maybe up to 8 weeks if you are lucky.

Some speed or strength coaches may get excited and tell you parents what you want to hear because they just want your athlete in their gym. I don’t blame them…that’s business. However, I want to let you know physical preparation and performance enhancement are dedicated, long term programs.

I recently had a parent want to get their athlete some work before she left for college. The small window we had to work was going to be 3 weeks. I politely asked the father what he was wanting and expecting in that time frame. The response was “get stronger and improve vertical”. Every athlete wants that! Even better if I can get it in just 3 weeks!

When we get athletes in there are a couple general things we want to accomplish…improve movement quality and get stronger. Sounds awesome right?

Problem is we don’t usually put in the time it takes to make these changes. It takes approximately 6-8 weeks for true strength adaptations to occur. You may get some improvement before that but it may just be you becoming more efficient at the exercises.

Also, if your movement needs improved or changed you need to get so many good reps in the new pattern for it to replace the old patterns.

Bob Knight has a great quote…”Everyone wants to win. Not everyone wants to do what it takes to win.”

Here are some clichés…

  • Rome wasn’t built in a day
  • You don’t graduate school in one year
  • It’s a marathon not a sprint

I think we all get this point in conversation. Actually walking the walk is a different story. Let’s be patient. Let’s put in the necessary work. Let’s get real results that stick.

How to get better in sports

Juggling after-school sport and school work is a constant battle. Some (especially parents) may feel that you simply can’t do both. But what if you could convince your parents that playing sport actually improves your learning? Research from Aberdeen University has found that playing sport just might improve your performance in maths.

Sport and school work – mutually exclusive?

“Mutually exclusive” is a phrase you’ll hear a lot, especially in STEM. The term is used to describe two events that can’t happen at the same time. For example, when you toss a coin, you can’t get heads or tails at the same time, can you? They are mutually exclusive.

How to get better in sports

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With that in mind, consider the following question: are after-school sports and school work mutually exclusive? Many parents would say yes! They feel that when it comes to getting good grades, something has to give. And that ‘thing’ is usually sport.

What are parents worried about?

Of course, on the surface, parents have every reason to be worried. In the US, for example, as highlighted in an article by the Harvard Political Review, 7.7 million American high school students played sports in 2011-2012: “While sports participation has risen, American educational rankings in comparison to other countries across the world have troublingly continued to plummet.”

The article also explained, “In the 2012 Summer Olympics, the US walked away with more gold medals than any other country. Yet Americans accept not first but 31 st in global math education, 23 rd in global science education, and 14 th in reading when compared to […] global competitors.”

But is sport really responsible for falling grades?

The article in the Harvard Political Review highlighted, however, that although there seems to be correlation between increasing participation in sports and falling academic performance, we can’t say for a certainty that playing sport is the cause. In fact, there are benefits to be had for those playing sport, as long as balance is maintained.

“Contrary to cultural undercurrents, sports participation and academic success are not mutually exclusive,” the article stated. To the contrary, skills gained through sports can be incredibly valuable in other areas of life. Some research has even suggested that juggling the two can benefit both academic and sporting performance.

Sports skills enhance performance in maths

Recent research from Aberdeen University in the UK has suggested that the coordination in skills developed through sports could have a positive impact on learning maths.

For the study, 309 primary school children aged between 4 and 11 played a computer game that required them to hit targets of different sizes, moving from left to right at different speeds across the screen (using a simulation meant all the children could do the same test). Researchers concluded that primary school students who were good at hitting objects were up to 15% better at maths.

Time to convince your parents

As we have discussed, sport is not academic kryptonite; it can be very beneficial. In addition to the benefits to emotional and physical health, the recent research out of Aberdeen University hints at academic benefits, too.

So, no, sport and school work are not mutually exclusive. Now it’s time to convince your parents!

As a catalyst for a positive youth sports culture in all communities across the U.S., we provide research-based training and resources for coaches, parents, athletes, and leaders to improve culture and ensure a positive youth development experience for ALL kids through sports.

As a catalyst for a positive youth sports culture in all communities across the U.S., we provide research-based training and resources for coaches, parents, athletes, and leaders to improve culture and ensure a positive youth development experience for ALL kids through sports.

How to get better in sports

All youth can benefit from a positive, inclusive sports culture that develops social and emotional skills, molds character, and prepares them for competition and life. PCA is providing parents, coaches, athletes, and leaders with the resources to help create a more inclusive experience for ALL athletes.

All youth can benefit from a positive, inclusive sports culture that develops social and emotional skills, molds character, and prepares them for competition and life. PCA is providing parents, coaches, athletes, and leaders with the resources to help create a more inclusive experience for ALL athletes.

By CHENG SI | China Daily | Updated: 2022-03-10 10:27
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How to get better in sportsThe National Aquatics Centre, aka the Ice Cube, is quickly adapted to the needs of Winter Paralympic Games participants following the completion of the Winter Olympics late last month. Organizers say the barrier-free facilities at these venues will continue to benefit persons with disabilities well beyond the Games. [Photo/Xinhua]

Disabled people now have easier access to sporting events thanks to government efforts to improve barrier-free facilities in the past few years and people’s increasing acceptance of those with disabilities.

A report released this month by the China Disabled Persons’ Federation and Social Sciences Academic Press said that by the end of 2020, the nation had channeled around 19.6 billion yuan ($3.1 billion) into building 2,318 comprehensive facilities where people with disabilities can get services such as guidance on rehabilitation, hearing and speech training, and sports and entertainment.

The disabled also have more places for exercise because of campaigns launched since 2011. The report said that by the end of 2020, there were 13,313 exercise locations built for the disabled.

“Letting people with disabilities join sporting events is not only a medical way to promote their physical recovery, but an encouragement for them to pursue social rights,” said Wen An, one of the authors of the report from Xi’an Technological University. “Disabled people can also enjoy sports and get happiness, honors and passion from exercise and sports.”

He said that the public is increasingly accepting of disabled people joining sports.

“The disabled can join any of the sports events with their abilities and interests like other people, and even bravely compete in some games,” Wen said.

“They may have problems in some physical functions like hearing or visual impairment, but they are healthy in other physical aspects like ordinary people.”

More disabled people have participated in cultural and sports events in the past few years. A white book released by the State Council Information Office on March 3 showed that 23.9 percent of the 85 million disabled people in China took part in sports events last year, up from 6.8 percent in 2015.

The nation also trained about 125,000 instructors by 2020 to give professional guidance to the disabled in exercise and sports.

“We do have the wish and desire to get out of our homes to exercise despite having physical disabilities,” said Wang Yadong, secretary-general of Hangzhou’s association for those with limb disabilities, who lost his right leg in a work accident in 1996. “The biggest problem is the mental burden as we are self-conscious due to physical problems.”

He said that he got his hopes up in 2002 when Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province, was recruiting athletes for the disabled games. He then took part in many sports, including swimming and a wheelchair marathon.

“A marathon is one of the sporting events that we disabled can join with ordinary people,” he said. “I’ve encouraged many of my peers to join and we get encouragement and respect from the public. Sport lifts our psychological burdens and we can embrace life bravely.”

Organized, well-structured youth sports and on-going physical activities can provide many benefits for children and adolescents. Positive experiences that sports and an active lifestyle bring play an important role in a young person’s life.

How to get better in sports

At University of Missouri Health Care, our adolescent medicine team encourages all children to participate in sports or other regular physical activity. Physical exercise is good for the mind, body and spirit. Team sports help teach adolescents accountability, dedication, leadership and other skills.

Many athletes do better academically

Playing a sport requires a lot of time and energy. Some people may think this would distract student-athletes from schoolwork. However, the opposite is true. Sports require memorization, repetition and learning — skillsets that are directly relevant to class work. Also, the determination and goal-setting skills a sport requires can be transferred to the classroom.

Sports teach teamwork and problem-solving skills

Fighting for a common goal with a group of players and coaches teaches you how to build teamwork and effectively communicate to solve problems. This experience is helpful when encountering problems at work or at home.

Physical health benefits of sports

Clearly, sports can help you reach your fitness goals and maintain a healthy weight. However, they also encourage healthy decision-making such as not smoking and not drinking. Sports also have hidden health benefits such as lowering the chance of osteoporosis or breast cancer later in life.

Sports boost self-esteem

Watching your hard work pay off and achieving your goals develops self-confidence. Achieving a sport or fitness goal encourages you to achieve other goals you set. This is a rewarding and exciting learning process.

Reduce pressure and stress with sports

Exercising is a natural way to loosen up and let go of stress. You can also make new friends who can be there for you as a support system. When you feel under pressure or stressed, call up a teammate, head to the gym to talk and play it out.

There are three generally accepted styles of coaching in sports: autocratic, democratic and holistic. Each style has its benefits and drawbacks, and it’s important to understand all three. For each coach, establishing a personal coaching style will require a firm grasp of their own natural tendencies, and it generally involves incorporating elements that work from each of the three major coaching styles.

History of Coaching Study

The three styles of coaching are based on leadership studies conducted in the 1930s by Kurt Lewin, a German-American social psychologist and pioneer in the psychological study of group dynamics. His work focused on studying the effects on group cohesion of each of the three types of leadership he identified. 1

Each style has been proven effective in its own right, but it’s important to understand the characteristics of each and how they are suitable for different teams, players and contexts. Understanding each style and being able to adapt your use to given contexts is known as situational leadership and is one of the keys to good coaching. 2

Autocratic Coaching

Autocratic coaching can best be summed up by the phrase “My way or the highway.” Autocratic coaches make decisions with little to no input from the player or players. The coach articulates a vision for what needs to be accomplished by the players, and the players are expected to perform. Autocratic coaching is win-focused and typically features inflexible training structures.

This style of coaching works better in team sports than individual sports, and there is some evidence that gender plays into how well autocratic coaching is accepted. For instance, studies indicate that female teams respond well to autocratic coaching from a male coach, but less well to the same style from a female coach. It’s also a style generally preferred by older players than younger players, as older players may have the discernment to understand why they’re being asked to perform certain tasks at certain times. 3 And while youth players may require an autocratic approach for raw skill development, it may be damaging in the long-term for younger players to have no input in their training progress, as they may fail to develop a sense of autonomy in their training which could impact their attitudes toward sports moving forward. 4

Democratic Coaching

Democratic coaching is exactly what it sounds like. Coaches facilitate decision making and goal setting with input from their athletes instead of dictating to them. This style of coaching is athlete-centered, and the athletes shape their own objectives under a framework outlined by the coach. Democratic coaches give a lot of autonomy to players and teams, who are active collaborators in their own development and direction.

This style is well-suited to individual sports, like tennis or track and field events, where individual athletes have to take a lot of control over their training style. Younger players up to age 14 tend to prefer a democratic coaching style, and studies indicate that this style helps early and young adolescents to develop a sense of their own control over training and prepares them for more autocratic coaching later in life. 3

Holistic Coaching

Also known as “laissez-faire” coaching, this style of coaching is founded on the theory that a happy team naturally becomes a successful team. Very little is offered in terms of structured training or positive feedback. Instead, the holistic coach works to create an environment where players feel comfortable exploring and pursuing skills development on their own time and in their own way. The coach does not act as a central authority, and instead allows the team to set their own agenda. 5

This style is best suited to mature players, who have already developed the creativity and self-awareness to be self-guided. For the coach, holistic coaching involves a lot of relationship building and the commitment to each player as a whole athlete and person. While this requires some extra work, it can pay dividends for experienced teams with the maturity to handle this “hands-off” style of coaching. 6

Which Style Is Right?

For most coaches, simply choosing one style isn’t an option. Few leaders fall purely into one style of coaching, and personal experience and philosophy shape approaches to coaching as well. The skills of coaching are the same skills that inform leadership in professional, academic or military settings and can be organized around a few key principles. A team should finish a season as better players and people than they were at the start of the season. A coach should learn to recognize the difference between effort and results, and between physical and mental mistakes. A coach should model fairness and good sportsmanship consistently, and should maintain clear lines of communication, even if that communication is one-sided. 7

Coaching can sometimes feel like trying to push a cloud through a doorway: If you push too hard, the cloud dissipates, but if you don’t push hard enough, you lose control of the direction you’re moving. Ultimately, the key to good coaching lies in the enthusiasm for sport and coaching exemplified by the coach. At the base of this is a personal philosophy that takes into account the three styles of coaching, your own personal experiences and your particular worldview. 8

Interested in finding your way into a career in the sport industry? Take a look at the online Master’s in Sport Management* program from the University of Kansas. Our industry-leading faculty and experiential curriculum, enhanced by our uniquely rich sports history, can help carry you beyond the pitch, field or court, and into a new self-made future.

Sports helps an individual much more than in the physical aspects alone. It builds character, teaches and develops strategic thinking, analytical thinking, leadership skills, goal setting and risk taking, just to name a few.

Introduction

Today, I am going to speak on psychology and sports. By sports my reference is not on creating champions but as a means to developing a:

Positive attitude towards life and its struggles.

Shaping one’s personality and character.

We are all well aware of the fact that participating in sports/physical activity develops the five components of fitness, namely: strength, speed, skill, stamina and flexibility.

We all remember April 2 nd 2011, here in Mumbai, when we won the Cricket World Cup. On my way back from the Wankhede Stadium, there were wild celebrations all over Mumbai, across the streets all the way up to Vashi, Navi Mumbai; and I am sure the celebrations were equally ecstatic across the country. Unifying all, across lines of age, religion, caste, socio-economic status, educational qualifications, position held in society.

Well, that is the effect of sports. ‘Healthy Mind In a healthy Body’, and ‘Healthy Body in a Healthy Mind’. Both these statements are 100% true.

Sports is exercise/physical activity with fun, ‘masti’.

Sports is exercise/physical activity with an objective and definite aim.

Sports is exercise/physical activity with a purpose to overcome adversities and win.

Playing sports helps release pressure and tension in a healthy and controlled way.

Sports improves sleep patterns and levels of anxiety.

Sports develops motor skills and mind/body connection.

Sports staves off depression.

Sports reduces the risk of many physical diseases.

Sports in Psychology and Life, and Psychology in Sports

I will divide my further talk into two parts:

Sports in psychology and life.

Psychology in sports.

Sports in psychology and life

Sports is a learning experience. Of all who take up sports only one may eventually become a champion, but definitely all will be winners. Sports has helped me and the principles of sports continue to help me through difficult times.

Sports help students study better, improves concentration, problem solving, memory. Sports teaches one to develop the following:

Team spirit: Working towards a common goal as a member of a team, selflessly, personal interests notwithstanding.

Leadership skills: Lead different people from all walks of life towards a common goal/objective. A good leader is one who leads others on to leadership.

Fairplay: Though winning is important, losing is not a disgrace. Being generous and graceful in victory as well as defeat. Have respect for the vanquished.

Never give up: Sports teaches you to never give up. ‘Success is just round the bend’, being persistent, nothing is impossible. You never know how close you are to success when you give up.

Great leveller: Sport is a great leveller – you lose 1-day only to bounce back the next. No loss is permanent. Even a loss teaches you how not to do something, or how it could be done better. No setback is permanent, never should one lose hope.

Focus: Sport teaches you to focus on the present. Past is irrelevant, and future, who knows?

Strengths and abilities: Sport teaches you to focus on your strengths and abilities, not on your opponents’ strengths and capabilities.

Process and result: Sport teaches you that the process is more important than the result. If the process is right, success will soon ensue. According to Basketball Coach John Wooden:

Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.

Planning: Sport teaches you to plan ahead, see through the consequences of your act. You need to quickly assess the situation, adjust, adapt and act accordingly. Being flexible and not carry a fixed mindset.

Earnestness and sincerity: Sport teaches you not to take any situation lightly or display casualness, and that every situation should be handled with earnestness and sincerity.

Observation and analysis: Sports improves your observatory powers and analytical skills.

Now, to the second half of my talk.

Psychology in sports

This section includes important aspects of psychology in sports which I shall present as points:

Positive attitude: It is often said a game is won or lost in the locker room before the start of the match. Having a positive attitude goes a long way in determining the eventual outcome of the game between closely matched participants.

Respect for the opponent is necessary but do not let this overwhelm you. Respecting their abilities, giving your best always, and no casualness in approach even when comfortably placed. Remember on a given day anything and everything is possible.

‘Killer instinct’ is necessary at all times (within the framework of fairplay). By this, you are giving due respect to your opponent and acknowledging the fact that he/she is as good as you, and the slightest slackness shown by you will allow your opponent to claw back and the outcome of the game may easily be reversed.

Never give up attitude: As mentioned in section above, however hopeless the situation may seem, success is just around the corner. No match is won till the last ball is bowled. Play to your strength, give it your best, enjoy the game, you have nothing to lose. Loss is not the end, there is no shame, disrespect, humiliation, provided you have given your best.

Fear of losing will increase your anxiety and cause distress and hence leading to poor performance and undesirable results.

Use stress as a motivating factor to raise your performance to optimum levels especially in crucial/crunch games.

Never bother about consequences, give it your best shot always, enjoy the game.

An integral part of professional sports (we suppose) is financial gain, so it’s not surprising to hear that researchers are always looking into how one can enhance performance and optimize recovery. Conveniently, the results of this research can often apply to more than just elite athletes. We can all learn to recover better and faster, no pro contract required.

So what is done by elite athletes to enhance performance? The obvious answer, of course, is training—and more training. But with training comes the potential for stressing the body, most often the muscles and sinews, not to mention the mind, which can limit the body’s ability to train at all. So it makes sense that enhancing the recovery needed to aid in even more training would be a win-win situation.

But what might enhancing recovery involve? Sports such as soccer, football and tennis have recognized that post-exercise fatigue is multifactorial and includes dehydration, glycogen depletion, muscle damage and mental fatigue. Tackling these might include physical treatments such as light exercise or “warming down”, stretching and hydration, but it will always include rest and, by extension, sleep. Sleep has many potential functions. Perhaps some time ago sleep helped to keep us out of harm’s way when it was dark and conserve energy when finding food would be difficult, but much more probably, sleep allows the brain time to consolidate what is learned that day, and allows the body time to repair itself, to recover from the effects of the wear and tear of the day. So, if ordinary activities lead to the need for sleep, the activity levels of an athlete—or just you or I exercising—must make sleep even more fundamentally important for recovery.

Exercise itself is an accepted strategy to improve an insomniac’s sleep because increasing the core body temperature is a drive to sleep. Given that information, athletes may already have an increased propensity to sleep, which will aid in their recovery. So how can that sleep be even better? Mindfulness is one way to do this, with studies showing it can lead to improvements in sleep quality. Meditation has also been shown to reduce the perception of pain, so again a win-win situation, while blood lactate concentration after exercise (a measure of the body’s efficient use of energy stores) is significantly reduced in regular meditators indicating that exercise stress is lessened.

Improved athletic performance is a holy grail, exemplified in the Rio 2016 Olympics, where structured training allowing athletes, aided by better sleep, to peak at exactly the right time. So exercise to your heart’s delight, but don’t forget the recovery. This piece was produced in partnership with Nike Training Club. To get started on your fitness journey, download the NTC app here.

Carina Hagarty shares her experiences of studying a Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Sciences (Honours) at The University of Queensland.

What’s the most unexpected thing you’ve learnt while studying exercise and sports sciences at UQ?

I had a few unexpected experiences while studying that turned out to be extremely rewarding. For example, I did not think that I would have the opportunity to work with younger children. However, part of my practical experience was helping children having trouble with basic movement skills such as walking and running. I also did not expect the program to go into detail about sports injuries, nutrition, or psychology.

What’s it really like to study exercise and sports sciences?

It is a challenging but extremely interesting program if you have a love for sport, are an athlete – or both! I think it is much more stimulating that people expect it to be, as it requires a sound knowledge of the human body, both physical and psychological, as well as an understanding of sports and then specific aspects of the sport you are working with at the time. There are lots of clinical practical elements that can be difficult to master if there isn’t enough time put into them, but it all becomes worth it when proper practicum hours come around.

“I personally also appreciate how the field encourages looking at an athlete as a whole human and highlights the importance of working around relevant external factors. It makes work so much more fluid and more challenging, as you’re presented with something different each day, and that is very rewarding.”

What drew you to study exercise and sports sciences?

I’ve been involved in sport pretty much my entire life – what started with swimming lessons and dance classes in my toddler years evolved into elite gymnastics in my childhood. Eventually, trampoline stole my heart. Studying sports science allows me to stay within the sports sector in a capacity other than coaching and competing. I also saw it as an opportunity to expand on my experiences more, as well as a chance to combine sports theory with practical performance, which I’ve always been interested in. I also love seeing other people achieve their goals and helping them along the way, so sports science seemed like the best of both worlds.

How to get better in sports

What are the most valuable skills you’ve learnt while studying exercise and sports sciences?

Both for my career and future as well as in general, the most valuable thing I’ve learnt throughout my study has been how to work with people and how to individualise approaches to what could be similar problems. Clinically, I think learning all the practical skills such as strength and conditioning programming and undertaking testing with both the general population and athletes was also super valuable, as well as learning how to collate all the information gathered to assist whoever you’re working with. All of this has been fascinating and very useful in the field.

What does a day in the life of an exercise and sports sciences student look like?

As I am a student-athlete, my schedule probably differs from a typical student’s day.

A usual day for me starts with a trampoline training session or a trip to the gym in the morning, depending on what I have on for the day. I try to schedule as much as I can online, so if I’m not on campus I’ll head home and make a second breakfast while preparing for the classes I have that day. If I’m on campus, I’ll normally have my food with me, and I would head straight from the gym to campus. Then go to whatever class I had, or to the HMNS Student Hub to study until class. After classes, I will go straight to work, before finishing the day with a trampoline training session, have some dinner and then spend a little bit of time unwinding before bed at 11pm.

How to get better in sports

The UQ Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Sciences covers a wide range of sportslucky we have so many world-class sporting facilities.

What have you learned about yourself since you started your studies at UQ?

How much I procrastinate. I didn’t realise how much I put off until it came to exam time in first semester of first year. I was shocked when I realised how much I had to catch up on because I didn’t absorb or revise the information or would tell myself I had plenty of time. I also didn’t realise that I could engage so well with people. I’m a massive introvert and usually don’t like approaching or talking to people I don’t know, so this was a skill I was able to develop as I went through the program.

How have your teachers had a positive impact on your studies?

All my teachers have had a positive impact on my studies, whether through assistance with content or piquing my interest with certain topics, but particularly in the clinical subjects I’ve undertaken. They’re always willing to share the knowledge they have, whether it is directly related to the topic or not, and provide tricks and tips that make the content easier to remember and perform, which can assist greatly during exams and practicum.

Where do you want to go or what do you want to do in your exercise and sports sciences career?

I would love to work with a high-performance athlete population, whether in a team or individual sport. My practicums have been in football and I’m really enjoying exploring a sport I’ve never had experience with. However, my passion will always be for gymnastics. If I were to get an opportunity in that sport, I’d snatch it up in a heartbeat.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learnt that hasn’t been part of your coursework?

How diverse each athlete can be, especially when they’re all a part of a team. It’s so interesting to see how vastly different athletes can fit so well onto a team when they’re playing sport – especially when they’re playing to their strengths. It’s also been remarkable to see (separately from my own training and sport) how outside factors can affect the performance of an athlete. In addition to this, how training, and even competition, may need to be altered with those factors in mind to allow the athlete to perform to the best of their ability.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to study exercise and sports sciences at UQ?

I think the Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Sciences program can be extremely rewarding.

UQ has some of the best facilities, teachers and connections within the industry, which can really assist with your learning. It also ensures you’ll have the opportunity to build upon the skills you need to succeed as a professional within the space. They have connections with so many different places you’ll get to pick from as a practicum site, which allows you to work with great people in so many different spaces. So put some thought into what sports you are most passionate about and seek out practical experience that aligns.

Almost any part of the body can be injured, including the muscles, bones, joints and connective tissues (tendons and ligaments). The ankles and knees are particularly prone to injury.

What to do if you have an injury

If you’ve injured yourself, you may have immediate pain, tenderness, swelling, bruising, and restricted movement or stiffness in the affected area. Sometimes, these symptoms may only be noticeable several hours after exercising or playing sports.

Stop exercising if you feel pain, regardless of whether your injury happened suddenly or you’ve had the pain for a while. Continuing to exercise while injured may cause further damage and slow your recovery.

If you have a minor injury, you do not usually need to see a doctor and can look after yourself at home. However, you may want to visit a GP, local minor injuries unit or NHS walk-in centre for advice if your symptoms do not get better over time. Find your nearest walk-in centre or minor injuries unit.

If you have a severe injury, such as a broken bone, dislocation or severe head injury, go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department as soon as possible.

Treating a sports injury

You can usually treat common minor injuries yourself by:

  • resting the affected part of the body for the first 48 to 72 hours to prevent further damage
  • regularly applying an ice pack to the affected area during the first 48 to 72 hours to reduce swelling
  • using painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, to relieve pain

If your symptoms are severe or do not improve within a few days or weeks, a GP may be able to refer you for specialist treatment and support, such as physiotherapy.

Waiting lists for NHS treatment can be long and some people choose to pay for private treatment. Most private physiotherapists accept direct self-referrals.

Serious injuries will occasionally require a procedure or operation to align misplaced bones, fix broken bones, or repair torn ligaments.

Depending on the type of injury, it can take a few weeks or months to make a full recovery. While recovering, it’s important not to do too much too soon – aim to increase your level of activity gradually over time.

Preventing sports injuries

You can reduce your risk of getting injured by:

  • warming up properly before exercise – read more about how to warm up before exercise and how to stretch after exercising
  • not pushing your body beyond your current fitness level
  • using the right equipment – for example, wearing running shoes for running, shin guards for football, and a gum shield for rugby
  • receiving coaching to learn correct techniques

When starting a new sport or activity, get advice and training from a qualified fitness trainer or sports coach.

Summertime is here, so you’ve got no more excuses for not going outside to get some physical activity. Outdoor activity is a great way to put the fun into fitness — but it requires paying special attention to hydration.

When it’s warm, your body perspires more to help you cool down. And depending on the temperature, humidity, and the nature of your activity, you might not even realize how much you are perspiring.

Don’t rely on thirst alone to tell you how much you need to drink. To keep those muscles working and avoid fatigue; it’s extremely important to drink plenty of liquids before, during, and after the activity.

Drink Up — Before, During and After

A good guideline to use when preparing for an outdoor workout, whether it’s walking, running, biking, or tennis, is to drink about two cups of fluid two hours before the activity. That helps make sure you are well-hydrated before you ever go outdoors.

Then, during the activity, try to drink 4-6 ounces every 15-20 minutes to keep your muscles well-hydrated. If you are planning an hour-long walk or gym workout, fill a water bottle with about 16 ounces (2 cups) and take it with you.

Last, drink up after you’re finished with your exercise. If you really want to be precise, weigh yourself before you start exercising and again when you are finished. For each pound of water weight you lose, drink 20 ounces of fluid.

Which Liquids Are Best?

For most outdoor activities, good old-fashioned tap water does the trick. If your activity lasts an hour or more, either fruit juice diluted with water or a sports drink will provide carbohydrates for energy plus minerals to replace lost electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium) in your sweat. Learn what electrolytes do, as well as which foods have the highest content.

Sports drinks like Gatorade, Powerade, and All Sport can give you a needed energy boost during your activity. They are designed to rapidly replace fluids and to increase the sugar (glucose) circulating in your blood.

Read the label to determine which sports drink that is best for you. Ideally, it will provide around 14 grams of carbohydrates, 28 mg of potassium, and 100 mg of sodium per 8-ounce serving. The drink’s carbohydrates should come from glucose, sucrose, and/or fructose — all of which are easily and quickly absorbed. It shouldn’t be carbonated, as the bubbles can lead to an upset stomach.

Most sports beverages are well-diluted and contain relatively few calories. If the flavor of a sports drink helps you drink up and maintain hydration, by all means enjoy. If you’re worried about the added calories, try diluting your sports drink with water or pouring it into a thermos packed with ice.

What About Fitness and Designer Waters?

“Fitness waters” such as Propel are lightly flavored and have added vitamins and minerals. The additional nutrients are meant to supplement a healthy diet — not replace losses from exercise.

Fitness waters fall somewhere between the sports drinks and plain water. They contain fewer calories and electrolytes than sports drinks, but offer more taste than plain water. The choice is yours: once again, if drinking these beverages helps you stay hydrated, go for it.

Bottled water has catapulted to the top of the beverage industry, with sales of $8.3 billion in 2003. One of the fastest-growing segments of that market is designer waters.

These “super-waters” are advertised as being enhanced with everything from vitamins, oxygen and glucose, to alleged fat-burning minerals. Keep in mind that the FDA does not require proof of this kind of claim. So think of these products as designer waters that serve the primary purpose of hydration and little more. Don’t be fooled by the claims that some can promote weight loss!

Beyond Hydration

Fluids are vital to help your muscles function throughout your activity — but so is your blood sugar. You need to eat a light meal or snack of at least 100 calories about an hour or so before your activity. The nutrients from the snack will help you perform better and keep hunger from interfering with your activity.

The best snacks combine healthy carbohydrates, protein, and a small amount of fat. Fruit, yogurt, nuts, and granola bars are all good examples. Read “Recipe Doctor” Elaine Magee’s article on snack bars for more options for fueling your workout.