Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Change it Up (Speed, Style of Play)

   If you’re fortunate, you possess physical qualities that help you excel playing sports. Strength, speed, quickness or hand/eye coordination may alone enable you to dominate your opponents.

But to succeed in sports, especially at higher levels, most athletes will benefit from mixing up their style of play, changing speeds, and otherwise employing variations of technique that confuse their opponent.

Consider a baseball pitcher who possesses an outstanding fastball. At lower levels, this pitcher can dominate opposing batters. But at higher levels, the hitters are better. They have quicker bat speed and know how to begin their swing earlier. A pitcher who can only pitch one way, in this case using a fastball, will find less success. Now consider another pitcher who not only throws a good fastball, but also complements this pitch with a curveball or change-up. Batters who face this other pitcher don’t know what to expect. They can’t “sit” on the fastball. And with confusion and hesitation, the pitcher gains an advantage.

Changing Speed to Gain Separation

This principle applies in many other situations. Although you may not have exceptional foot speed, changing speeds will often enable you to gain separation from your opponent. Your opponent may not react well to your changes in speed.

The best receivers in football use this ability to their advantage. They don’t always run their routes at full speed. Instead, they may slow down at a point in the route, and then apply a burst of speed to fool their opponent. Players in virtually every team sport can change speeds to deceive their opponent and gain separation.

More Ways to Confuse Your Opponent

There are still other ways to mix it up. A baseball pitcher not only can benefit from a change in speed and style (e.g., fastball vs. curveball), but also can change the location of the pitch. First pitching high and inside, and then low and outside, is a sequence of pitches that is more likely to catch the batter off-guard then two pitches to the same location.

Think of your own sport and how you can mix things up. There are opportunities to do so in every sport. Here are a few more examples:

  • Much like a baseball pitcher, a tennis player wants to regularly change the type of serve (flat, kick, slice), its location, and speed. During a rally, an accomplished tennis player will sometimes change the rhythm of the rally by hitting a slice shot instead of one with topspin—possibly resulting in a return dumped into the net by an opponent who mishandles the sudden change in spin.

  • If you’re defending a basketball player located on the low post who is “backing you down,” meet those pushes with equal push-back—but then let up briefly so your opponent loses a little balance. Constantly change your defensive position to make it harder for your opponent to adapt. First play behind your opponent, then quickly move to the side and in front, possibly confusing the guard trying to make an entry pass.

For Some, Stick to Your Strengths

Finally, there are some players who do best by maximizing their dominant, exceptional quality. Their formula for success is to maximize their strengths. Adding other techniques, ones that are poorly executed, only seems to diminish their success. Although talented in one area, they are not so in others.

But for most players (either those with average abilities or ones who want to play at the highest levels) the ability to change styles, speed, and tactics will add value to their game. In the long run, you will likely find greater success by having more than one golf club in your bag.

Copyright © 2012 Jeffrey S. Rhoads. All Rights Reserved

If you enjoyed this article, you may like my book:
The Joy of Youth Sports: Creating the best youth sports experience for your child (Amazon $8.95)
(Kindle Edition $2.99)

Copyright 2009-2012 Jeffrey S. Rhoads; All Rights Reserved


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