There is no question that the ability to perform well during a game is often dependent on the skills a player develops through practice and repetition. However, what is often overlooked is that these skills are also based on other more fundamental abilities that are developed away from the playing field. These fundamentals govern the ability of a player to perform a skill well or to perform the same skill repeatedly throughout an entire game.
The diagram above shows the foundations for physical development. Without a good aerobic conditioning base, it is difficult to adequately develop the other areas. Each layer builds the necessary physical abilities to improve performance at the next level. Good physical conditioning is a foundation for everything else and becomes more important as a player gets older. Playing ability improves as players improve their physical abilities at each level of the conditioning diagram.
Aerobic conditioning is the body’s ability to convert oxygen into energy. As muscles work, they get energy from two sources: foods and oxygen. The more efficiently a body can use oxygen, the quicker it recovers from hard work. Performed for at least twenty minutes and three times a week, the following activities improve aerobic conditioning:
- Walking quickly
- Ice skating
- Roller skating
Anaerobic conditioning is the body’s ability to work very hard for short periods of time. A sprint down the ice, a run to first base or a breakaway in soccer, all test a player’s anaerobic conditioning. The longer players can go hard before feeling exhausted, the better their anaerobic conditioning. It is tougher to develop good anaerobic abilities because the only way to do so is by exercising harder and longer with high intensity and high speed exercises. The following exercises improve anaerobic conditioning:
Strength, Quickness and Agility Conditioning
- Foot racing
- Skating full speed down the length of the ice
Most doctors agree that children under the age of ten should not weight train. However, exercise that builds stamina such as running and resistance training provides a good way to exercise muscles without risking injury.
Resistance training is using the body like a weight set. Common resistance type exercises that help build strength are:
- Leg lifts
To build quickness, look at exercises that involve rapid feet movement. Good ways to build quickness include:
- Skipping rope
Agility is the ability to start, stop and change direction quickly. Agility is built by moving the feet quickly in a variety of movements such as quick turns and cuts. Agility can be increased by:
Helping Kids Build their Foundations
- Obstacle courses
- Zig-zag running
- Side shuffles
Kids are exposed to a great deal of aerobic and anaerobic conditioning during normal play and sports activities. One of the best ways to build on their physical abilities is to encourage a variety of sports activities. Avoiding specialization in a particular sport until high school is often the best way to develop a top athlete because it helps kids build a conditioning foundation that is so essential for top level performance at older ages.
Structured exercise is seldom fun, so it is important that kids get as much “fun” exercise as possible disguised as things they want to do such as playing sports with friends. The more parents encourage a fun approach to developing these foundations early, the longer and better their child will play.