Motor Learning and Youth Coaching

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Feb 02
Image of soccer athlete kicking ball

Soccer requires both power and accuracy.

Motor Learning and Development was one of my favorite classes in college. It was a tough one with a lot of memorizing stuff. I liked the labs though. And one of the things that stuck with me is how we learn power first and then accuracy.

In almost any youth sport, there are skills that require both accuracy and power.

Soccer: Kicking the ball far vs kicking the ball in the goal.

Football: Throwing the ball for distance vs throwing the ball to the receiver.

Swimming: Pull as strong as possible or just focus on technique.

Baseball: Throwing for power or throwing for a strike.

Whatever the sport, coaches have to make decisions on what to focus on. Motor Learning shows us that there is one clear winner on which to focus first:

Power.

Its not even close. If a child develops power first, they can learn accuracy. If they learn to be accurate, they will not develop the power.

This can make it tough if the success of your team depends on sharp, precise passing or control. Like most teams do.

So what you should you do?

After a warm-up, I would work on the motion for power and distance and not worry about how on target the kids are.

image of kid throwing a ball

Develop power before accuracy.

And even though form for most movements is critical, I think for the muscles to develop the power they need, emphasize just doing it as fast and as hard as possible.

Then at the end of practice spend some time working on the accuracy.

One nice thing about this tactic is that kids love going hard. And if they aren’t under any pressure to make precise throws then its even more fun.

I did this with my JV water polo team this year and was very happy with the results. As a rule, most of my players can’t throw. And when they are in 9 feet of water and seconds from drowning, they throw even worse.

We spent 10 minutes every day throwing a polo ball on land as far as we could. Then when they were in the water, we would start off with ten minutes of throwing for distance across the pool. After that, we would go into passing and shooting drills.

I felt that once we started the throwing on the ball on land it carried over better than anything else we had done in the water.

Give it a try, Coaches. Let me know what you think.

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