Balance is one of those “oh yeah- I should throw some balance activities in some time” components to athletic development. Honestly, it should be the main staple of a youth training program.
Train for Balance
Balance falls under many areas like, coordination, stability, body awareness, proprioceptive awareness, etc. Balance affects the a fore mentioned and the a fore mentioned affects balance. Training for greater balance at a young age is just another brick in the huge foundation youngsters should be getting early in life. The bigger the foundation the potential for a higher peak is greater.
Each and every day I have my athletes perform balance exercises. There are many different ways to incorporate balance, but each day I try to challenge my athletes to figure out how their body is moving.
Here are some random notes about what I am looking for:
- When the athletes used the ankle, knee, hip, and back correctly in the landing position their balance is always better. My job is to get them in that position all the time.
- The higher and cushionier the soles of their sneakers are the less balance they exhibit. I like to get them with a flatter shoe or go barefoot.
- The body follows the head. When the athletes drop their heads and eyes away from the horizon, then they are off balance more.
- I want to see a full foot contact with most of the weight toward the ball of the foot. Athletes that are way up on the ball of their foot have a lesser stable ankle and foot.
- Athletes don’t balance as well when they jump, leap, or hop laterally, but much of the court and field sports demand tons of lateral landing and plating so I train them laterally with balance.
- Athletes don’t balance as well when they are pushed while they are in the air. I have them perform agitated jumps, leaps and hops where they get a little shove in many directions and have to land on balance.
- When athletes have an overly pronated (rolled in) foot they tend not to land well in a balance position. I work hard on trying to strength the foot and ankles of the athletes’ but sometimes inserts are needed.
- Athletes need to learn to balance when they catch an object (m-ball), jump and spin and the air, or change speeds, therefore I like to have them be challenged with catching while balancing, jumping, leaping, or hopping and spinning in the air. I also like them to be forced to move forward and have to stop quickly while doing some jump, leap, or hop drill and hold balance.
The main object to remember is an athlete can eventually get better at balancing but if the approach and technique isn’t proper, then they are getting good at something bad.
What you should be doing is fix the instability and mobility issues, create local and global strength (feet/ankle/hip/spin and core), improve body awareness and then balance can be done with proper posture. Most of the athletes I train improve their balance as they become stronger, gain mobility in the joints which allows them to be in a good postural stance, and learn to use their feet properly.
Have fun choosing lots of different exercises but never forget to make each athlete do the balancing exercise correctly.
P.S. – Check out Low Box Training for Athletes. Here you will see dynamic balancing exercises in action.