ATHLETIC BALANCE (AND PERSPECTIVE)

Steve Myrland   

 “One should seek good balance in motion and not in stillness.”
Bruce Lee  (“THE TAO OF JEET KUNE DO”)
 
“In an environment of artificial instability, the  
human body will create artificial stability.”
Gary Gray PT (in conversation)
 
If you have ever spent an extended period of time aboard a sailboat, you will have first-hand knowledge of an interesting and telling phenomenon:  When, after many hours on the water, you disembark and set your feet on terra-firma once more, you find your inner gyroscope is now a bit . . . off . . . when it comes to standing on something that does not move.  Your central nervous system has, in fact, adjusted (beautifully!) to a world in constant (and often unpredictable) motion.  You will experience much the same thing if you spend time running on a treadmill.  Once you switch the machine off, you face some moments of awkward re-adjustment to a (relatively) stable world.   
 
These examples suggest something more than the simple fact that the human animal is a marvelously adaptive creature.  I believe they should also cause us to question the “proprioceptively-enriched” environments we seek to create for athletes in the hope of making them “functionally” better-balanced creatures.   
 
It has been suggested by many that the balance progression begins with solid ground training, and then moves from one unstable surface to another (each slightly less stable than its predecessor), and so on until…………?  We have been introduced to all manner of interesting “de-stabilizing” products from balance-boards, to closed-cell foam rollers, to inflated pillows, physio-balls and more.  The makers of these products (as well as many respected colleagues) would have us believe that these items can help athletes solve their balance deficiencies and make them better performers.
 
I disagree.  The question we must ask ourselves as coaches is:  Are we training athletes to compete; or are we training them to perform circus-tricks?  Watching someone balance one-legged atop a large inflated plastic ball while juggling meat-cleavers and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is certainly a compelling spectacle, but, I will argue, it has little to do with creating a better tennis player, javelin thrower, bicycle racer, or gymnast. The “toys” may be intriguing; but the emphasis on them for performance and injury prevention / rehabilitation is, I believe, misplaced.   
 
As we see in the central nervous system’s adaptation to the “ground” as represented by a sailboat, the human body will always try to adjust to an unstable environment.  But it is significant that we do not (generally) have to run fast, jump high, or throw accurately and far while sailing.  I am persuaded that balance training requiring an athlete to “attach” to a single spot (or a few spots) and deal with instability in the absence of sport-specific movement and skill execution may produce measurable results; but not the results we need.
 
Consider, instead, a balance progression paradigm that begins with static balance and goes quickly to dynamic balance predicated (simply) on variations of the gait-cycle. You stand; you step; you bound; you hop; you turn; you run; you run faster; you stop quickly; you change directions; you move—and in all three planes.  Perhaps you change venues by learning to perform on grass; sand; gentle inclines, etc.; but the progression must go toward more movement (speed, amplitude and efficiency); not more toys.
 
If I’m wrong, we should all plan to take our athletes to sea and only return when they can do high-wire bounds in a force-nine gale.
 
Why Athletes Should Avoid The Bars (An intemperate look at barbell-centric training)

Perhaps the most persistent blunder athletes and coaches make in training to compete is regularly mistaking “strength” for “athleticism,” so let’s clear this up right away:  Athleticism—the ability to express one’s physical self with optimal speed, agility, strength, balance, suppleness, stamina and grace while avoiding injury—is the goal.  Strength, as you will note by re-reading the sentence, above, is a single element of the collective term:  athleticism.  You cannot be athletic without being strong; but you can be strong without being athletic.

Download PDF

Read more...
 
NATURE, NUTURE & KNEES

Steve Myrland

Much has been said and written about the epidemic of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears in female athletes. The New York Times has offered several articles relating to this topic in the past year. Link to  NYTimes The Uneven Playing Field and NYTimes New Leaps in Research on Injuries. Initially, explanations for the disparity in the number of these injuries in males and females often centered on a few aspects of female-specific physiology.

Download PDF

Read more...
 
ATHLETIC BALANCE (AND PERSPECTIVE)

Steve Myrland

If you have ever spent an extended period of time aboard a sailboat, you will have firsthand knowledge of an interesting and telling phenomenon: When, after many hours on the water, you disembark and set your feet on terra-firma once more, you find your inner gyroscope is now a bit . . . off . . . when it comes to standing on something that does not move. Your central nervous system has, in fact, adjusted (beautifully!) to a world in constant (and often unpredictable) motion. You will experience much the same thing if you spend time running on a treadmill. Once you switch the machine off, you face some moments of awkward re-adjustment to a (relatively) stable world.

Download PDF

Read more...
 
OBSTACLES TO EXCELLENCE

Steve Myrland / Vern Gambetta

We do not coach in a vacuum. At the same time we are striving for athletic excellence, we are (always) contending with obstacles resulting from our contemporary (and changing) social order. And while advances in technology may cause the stock market to move, they, generally, have the opposite effect on people.

Download PDF

Read more...
 
Guru-ism And The Decline Of Coaching

Steve Myrland

Marshall McLuhan got it right, commenting on our collective gullibility. Truth is a relative ommodity. For example: the woman next door suggests to you over the fence one day hat we all ought to learn to live in peace. You nod, edge away and head back inside ondering how you managed to get saddled with such an oddball for a neighbor. But of ourse: If she has a Nobel Prize . . . you will be quoting her at every opportunity. “And did I mention we’re neighbors?” you will add with pride.

Download PDF

Read more...
 

A confident, young,Train To Play athlete.

 

ABC Agility Ladder footwork drills