Friday with the Doc: Dr. Yessis asks “Is it athleticism or just excellent play?”

Is it athleticism or just excellent play?

A trendy buzzword today is athleticism.  It is bandied about mainly by commentators whenever an athlete performs or executes a skill well.  For example, in football if a receiver leaps up high and catches the ball he demonstrates athleticism.  If a running back eludes a defender with a good cutting action he demonstrates athleticism.  If a player is exceptionally fast on a fast break in basketball he demonstrates athleticism.

If you watched any of the basketball games in the NCAA tournament would you say that some of the players exemplified athleticism or that they were excellent players who did exceptionally well? Some of the  best games that I witnessed in the tournament showed very aggressive play with each player constantly in motion and executing just about all of  skills involved in basketball on a very high level.

When you hear of players exhibiting athleticism, you’re given the impression that they executed some outstanding skill that is typically not seen in the game.  This is really a misnomer.  This is what we should expect and see of all players if they are to be considered high-level or elite.  It is certainly what I would expect of the basketball teams that make it to the round of 16 and especially so in the round of eight and four. 

The only exceptions to this would be if the team had only one or two players who are so good that they are able to carry the rest of the team.  This may work for a while but it should never carry over into the last two rounds unless the opponents are much weaker.

Because we typically see so few players exhibiting outstanding all-around play and execution of the game skills, we have come to believe that the players who do this are truly exceptional and very “athletic”.  But if players were trained effectively as they should be to be to play in a national tournament, we should expect such play from the players.  This also applies to collegiate football and baseball.

In other words, athleticism should not stand out like a sore thumb.  It should be commonplace.  However, because so few players are capable of very high-level execution of the basic skills we can’t help but notice when we see such outstanding execution of basic skills.  In professional football, basketball and baseball, players are rewarded handsomely when they are able to do this.

Lately however, it seems that mediocrity is taking the place of high-level performance.  When there is one iota of greater or more successful execution of the game skills, players are rewarded in the belief that this is what is considered to be high-level or that the player is now demonstrating great “athleticism”.

The bottom line – we are not developing the full potential of the players and accepting mediocrity as being high-level.  All high-level and elite players should be able to demonstrate high-level execution of the game skills.  It should be considered normal, not exceptional.  The truly exceptional athlete will stand out in his even higher level of execution of the main game skills.  This is when games will get truly exciting!

For more information, read “Build a Better Athlete” and “Sports: Is It All B.S.?”

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