More On Athleticism
Brett Klika C.S.C.S.
Cliff Harski just posted an article on what constitutes athleticism. It’s a great summation of what true athleticism is. If you are proficient at a particular kinesthetic event I would call you an athlete of that event. However, just because you can juggle while running on a tight rope, it doesn’t make you athletic.
Think of the ancient origins of what constituted athleticism. The original physical proficiencies that got any attention were hunting and fighting. If you could do either, you were celebrated and usually found your way to the top of the social hierarchy. Recreational sport developed from hunting and fighting in order to celebrate the cool stuff about these survival skills without the whole killing thing.
In order to be good at hunting and fighting, you had to have more than just one physical ability. You had to be able to react and apply the proper magnitude and direction of a variety of movements at the proper time. If you had a limited skill set, you would have limited effectiveness during hunting or battle.
That’s not to say something like being able to run a long way without stopping wouldn’t have an important role, but you probably wouldn’t be the region’s most prolific warrior. Remember, the inaugural “marathon” ended in the single participant dying from too much running.
An “athletic” individual in historical terms is a master of the kinesthetic no matter the demand. This being said, I think that athleticism is a difficult thing to train. I would argue that it is fairly innate. Training reactivity and selective skill execution is a matter of thousands of hours of purposeful tactical practice. Becoming elite at it requires a genetically gifted specimen who also possesses the mental fortitude to focus and persevere. In other words, they give a damn.
The better biological capacity (speed, strength, endurance, etc.) the individual has, the more optimally they can adapt external demands (reactivity, balance, tactical strategy). To properly train for athleticism, improve biological capacity by getting faster, stronger, and more powerful. Do this by doing the learning to apply the right dose of training intensity at the right time.
Learn how to adjust to external demands (reaction, varied force application, etc.) by doing activities that require you to do so. In that regard, you will get a lot more out of a 30 minute game of basketball than you will standing on a Bosu juggling fire. Not that balance work doesn’t have a place in training, it’s just that if you want to be athletic, pick up your spear, dawn your loincloth, and do what athletic people do.
The downfall of being “athletic” is that you’ll be good at a lot of things, but possibly never great at one thing. For example, the fastest guys in the NFL would be laughed off the track in an international track meet and Lebron James probably couldn’t do the Olympic opening height in the high jump.
It’s a combination of those who can do a lot of athletic things and those who can do one thing to the edge of human capacity that make sports interesting. I’m looking forward to watching and cheering for both in London!
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Brett Klika C.S.C.S., Director of Athletics at Fitness Quest 10, is a world renowned human performance specialist, motivational speaker, author, and educator. In his 14 year career, Brett has accrued more than 20,000 hours of training with youth, athletes, executives, and every day people. He uses this knowledge and experience to motivate individuals and audiences around the world through his writing, speaking, DVD’s, and personal correspondence.