WATCHING SPORTS ON TV, many times you find yourself commenting on the athleticism of a player. Michael Jordan seemed to float in the air, Barry Sanders ran effortlessly cutting, dodging and evading tacklers; examples can be drawn from every sport. Understanding, quantifying, and, most importantly, training these obvious athletic qualities is critical for developing athletes who want to see success at higher levels of competition. Too often, people make the mistake of trying to over-train the areas of sports execution and overlook the more important part of training, which is the development of the athlete.

Especially as an athlete matures and continues to practice and play his/her sport, the limiting factor in performance and the ability to move up in play level is not the ability to play the sport, it’s how athletically he/she plays it. Very often, athletes are trying to make the next big club or travel team, or are being evaluated by coaches to move to collegiate levels. The single biggest barrier inhibiting athletes from moving up in level of competition is the speed of play, which taxes the athletic ability of the individual.

What is the simple solution, sought by athletes of all ages and abilities, to this problem? You need to train to be a better all-around athlete.

Today’s world of sports specialization at young ages has resulted in kids becoming very good at sports at a young age, and the competition levels in these sports rising rapidly. The drawback to this specialization is that athletes often develop problems in areas of athleticism in which their sport does not train properly, or creates an imbalance. College scouts will look at a potential prospect on film and 99 times out of 100 the comments from them aren’t: “They can’t hit, or field, or catch.” The comments usually are: “They need to improve their speed, their footwork, their agility or flexibility.”

The good news is that all of these athletic traits can be improved through training. The bad news is that they need to be trained and often re-trained in order to make a difference – and this means there needs to be a commitment on the part of the athlete to change these performance variables.

That commitment may take time away from regular sports training, but the investment in improving these factors is priceless. You must prioritize your training based on your needs. If you need to get faster, then going to hitting and pitching lessons 4 days a week isn’t going to help. If you need to learn how to cut better and control your body, going to the weight room 10 hours per week is not the answer.

It’s time to face facts: most athletes need to improve skills in running and jumping, the most basic athletic abilities, and these improvements will only come from training in a sports performance program that understands how to properly train athletes and addresses the needs of the complete athlete.