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Change your game by becoming the athlete you want to be.

I'm going to be completely honest with you from a coach's standpoint. When I am looking at players, I tend to favor athletes that are bigger, stronger, and faster at first. Those attributes are much tougher to teach than sport-specific skills. Any good coach can teach a player to swing a bat or shoot a basketball but even the best coaches can't teach a kid to grow to 6'5 no matter how hard we try! While many of these traits are innate, there are things one can do to make themselves more athletic, stand out to coaches , and take their game to the Next Level.

Know how to use your body. When working with young athletes and even athletes at the high school level, I noticed that most of "unathletic" players didn't know how to use their bodies. It's not that the were slow, couldn't move laterally, or had "credit card" hops (they jump only high enough to slide a credit card under them), these kids hadn't learned how to run fast, move laterally, or jump high. Those are skills that can be improved with an understanding of how the body works. When a child is slow or doesn't move laterally well, I look at what part of their foot they push off from and their stance. Does their heel make a lot of contact with the ground or do they push off on their toes. Good athletes' heels rarely make contact with the ground during explosive movements. Also, what is their stance during these movements? Does your child typically stand up straight or are they in a low, athletic stance before they make a play? Being in a low, athletic stance can drastically improve reaction time by deleting unnecessary movement.

Stretch and strengthen your hip extensors and hip flexors.

The hip extensors and the hip flexors are the strongest muscle groups within the lower extremity. The extensors are the primary movers, by acceleration, of the body’s center of gravity. The prime movers of the hips are also responsible for generating the most force during sprinting, lateral movement , and jumping. Studies by Ralph Mann, an former sprinter who earned his Ph. D. in biomechanics, stated that the forward propulsion and generation of power in sprinting comes from the proximal musculature of the pelvis. ( What this all means, is that the stronger and more flexible one's hip extensions are the more force they will be able to generate, making them faster, stronger, and less prone to injury. While I do not recommend weight lifting for younger athletes, stretching the hip extensors and flexors regularly, much more often than just when one warms up for playing sports, can have a big effect on an athlete's movement. Check out this great video by GMB Fitness on how to stretch you hip flexors and extensors.

Stay fit and practice. If you want to become faster or jump higher, you have to practice running and jumping. Training those muscle groups will strengthen them and make them perform better. If you want to become a better pitcher, you have to practice throwing the ball. If you want to become quicker, you have to practice the movements you want to do at game speed. Muscle memory will help with one's reaction time and over time, one should begin to realize how the body moves and how to teak certain things to achieve better results. Also, making sure that you are fit and not carrying around excess weight reduces the amount of force a body must provide to achieve a desired result.

At Next Level, we have partnered with Titan Sports Performance in Santa Barbara to provide young athletes with an unparalleled experience during camp. TSP will be conducting speed training and coordinating a "Combine Experience" for athletes to test their athletic limits. This information and data will give campers the opportunity to learn what their strengths and weaknesses are while teaching them ways to improve and take their games to the Next Level. Join us for a camp experience unlike any other. Also, in honor of Mother's Day this week, save $40 when you sign up using the promo code "MomsRock." This offer expires 5/15/2017.



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