Head Games ...the key to successful athletic performance

 

How do we give our child or the players on our team an edge in developing their skills?  What is the latest technique, gadget or drill that can help them improve their performance?  Whatever it is, we will find it, buy it, use it…

 

 

When researching resources for improving youth baseball and softball skills we find oodles of drills on YouTube, tons of devices that surely will make the difference.  We often forget that the most fundamental things can be the most important aspects of improving performance.

 

 

What would you guess to be the single constant in all successful athletic actions?  I am suggesting that control of the head, while not the first thing that comes to mind, is an absolute must.

 

 

 

 

Watch elite athletes and you will see that they have minimal unnecessary head movement.  While their bodies are gyrating, and moving all over the place doing unbelievable feats, all the while they have great head control.  

 

 

You may have watched athletes or an athletic person move and you would say to yourself, “I don’t know what it is, but I can ‘just tell’ that person is a good athlete”.  The thing that gave you that sense was their head control.

 

 

Head Straight - Hudson.jpg

In order to be precise in an athletic movement, and precision is an absolute must when attempting to throw a pitch across a 17” wide plate or to hit a round ball with a round bat squarely, head control is a factor that must be part of the equation for success.

 

 

 

 

Faulty Tendencies

When swinging a bat, or swinging in any sport, the youth athlete often is thinking of what is going to happen, what the result will be.  The eagerness to ‘see what happens’ takes them away from a focus on the required action needed to get the desired result. 

 

When throwing the ball, or making a throwing action in other sports, the tendency of the youth athlete is to ‘pull’ with their shoulders and head in an effort to generate power, rather than ‘drive’ with their legs.  (Most youth athletes are unaware that most energy and effort in their throwing action comes from their legs.) 

 

Simple fact: when the head moves, the body follows; then the head stays in place the body has a good chance of directing its actions towards the what an athlete is trying to achieve….in our case, make an accurate swing to contacting the ball or making an accurate throw.

 

The youth athlete (and the pro athlete at times), in the midst of the action, moves their head toward where the result will take place.  This movement of the head takes their body off line of where

 

 

C’mon, Give Me Something That Will Really Make a Difference

There is a lot of good instruction information out there, there are some good solid drills and even some of the devices on the market can play a productive role in helping a youth athlete succeed.  However, much of these helpful resources are limited in their capacity to help a youth athlete if they have fundamental flaws in their movements.   Too much head movement is one of the most common flaws kids have.

 

 

 

Correcting this issue starts with awareness; we must point out to kids that they successful athletes have masterful control of their heads.  In this article, there are plenty of picture to show the kids.   Next, when working with the kids in a practice setting, we adults want to be very disciplined in our feedback regarding head movement.  Not only do we want to point out when the young athlete makes unnecessary head movement, but we also want to praise them when they do a good job of head control….we humans enjoy a little praise every now and then.

 

I am not big into ‘sayings’ but one that I feel says it all, in a very succinct way, with regard to teaching skills to youth athletes, “If you aren’t coaching, you are allowing”.  ….think that through a bit; I find it, as a coach, a very impactful statement.

 

 

Finally, as mentors to children working to improve their physical skills we must not forget that making adjustments in body movements doesn’t happen instantly.  It is a process that requires days, weeks and sometimes months. 

 

Remain patient and encouraging while our athletes make adjustments in their actions and work towards developing good habits and discipline.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------