Developing Athletic Skill vs Conditioning



Over the past 2 years of working here at Athletic Revolution South Shore I have had the opportunity to work with hundreds of young athletes ages 6-18 yrs old. Through these experiences I have learned a lot about how to connect with our athletes regardless of age or skill level and assist them in mastering skills that will help them outside of our facility.

My focus today is going to be discussing the difference between Developing Athletic Skill and Conditioning. Through my personal experiences as an athlete I remember having days at practice being sent through endless cone drills with no instruction other than “Faster!!!” Unfortunately, still today I see online and hear from parents and athletes how they still get run ragged through the ladder and/or cone drills hoping to have an impact on their speed and agility before the next game. I’m here to say this approach is outdated and has been proven to have limited, to no impact on young athletes skill level. Making this approach more conditioned based than skill based.

The ability to learn and master a skill so that it can be used at game speed takes time and does not happen overnight. At Athletic Revolution we understand that mastering any given skill takes time and must be broken down to its simplest form before we can build on it. Build a foundation and set yourself up for success. Through these ideals we tell our athletes “you need to be a disaster before you become a master” or “Skill it, Drill it, Thrill it, Kill it” Making it understood early on that these skills may take time and all we can do is give our best effort and we will get better each and every day.

Ring of Fire 1

The big difference between athletic skill and conditioning is simply work to rest ratio and coaching. I personally love to use Skill it, Drill it, Thrill it and Kill it with our athletes and here is why! When teaching a new skill the first thing we do as coaches is ask ourselves what is our goal? Pick a Skill –  Force Production, Change of Direction, Acceleration or Deceleration Etc…Break it down to its simplest form and develop progressions to lead them towards the ultimate goal.

For example working on deceleration or change of direction my first step would be see if they have a solid athletic stance, aka are they in a position ready for action. From there I may work on static repeats using cues like “step out of box” teaching them to get low, load one leg and be prepared for the next move “Skill it”. Dont over do it!!! Work on it for 10-15 minutes with breaks to discuss what happened and how we can make it better (Art of Coaching). Don’t be afraid to work on the first stage for a few classes before taking next step, building a foundation is key “Drill it”.

Through this process we have  Skilled it and started to Drill it at its simplest form. As I progress the skill it becomes dynamic and continues to develop to reactive as well as make it fun with a mental challenge thrown in. Make sure as each phase is passed, you take the time to “Skill it” and “Drill it” teaching your athletes, as well as giving them the time to work on each phase with proper work to rest ratio before jumping ahead to the next phase.

One of our keys to success is allowing our athletes to tear it up with games at the end of our sessions because it is fun but more importantly we can see our athletes in action. “Thrilling it” seeing if they have transferred any of the skills from class to the game. In this scenario one of our favorite and most well known games is Tag and its many variations. This gives the coaches a chance to look at acceleration, deceleration, change of direction and much more. Through game play it makes it fun for the kids as well as gives you the opportunity to evaluate your athletes to see if they are ready to take it to the next phase. Its great if they can do it through cones with coaching but the skill needs to transfer to the game without coaching.

We have “skilled it” or learned a part of a skill, “Drilled it” by putting it to use over time making it better as we go, “thrilled it” by putting the skill to use at full speed through game play, and most important “Killing it” as they add the skill to their bag of trick and transfer it to life outside our facility and bust it out whenever needed, giving them the competitive advantage we are all striving to give our young athletes!

To sum it all up…using equipment like jump ropes, ladders and cones can be great tools for assisting your athletes with conditioning and skill development, but there needs to be a reason behind it and structure as to why you are doing whatever skill or drill you are doing. Make sure that you have figured out an effective work to rest ratio that allows your athletes to recover between sets showing the difference between conditioning and skill. Also make sure you have done your research, make sure you understand how to teach, cue, breakdown or build up skills before trying to teach them to your athletes. Overall, conditioning and athletic skill development are both important parts of any athlete’s training but make sure you identify your true purpose behind your training allowing for the best possible results.

“Train Smart Not Hard”

Coach Josh

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