Sports Strategy: The Well-Rounded Student-Athlete – Mondays with Matt

Today, I would like to talk to you about a certain method of internal strategy. This concept is the idea of a holistic athletic/activity-based experience.

As kids – and as young adults growing up – many of us take part in many activities. Whether it be multiple school-based activities or playing multiple sports, we condition our bodies in many different ways. Whether you identify as an athlete, a scholar or any other type of worker, this exposure to multiple activities helps hone a well-rounded skill set. This is a strategy. A strategy that we define for ourselves by our decisions in what to participate in. In our modern world, we also have another strategy – specialization. Deciding which path you want to take to better yourself and train yourself is a part of the internal strategy that we have been discussing. What I am hoping that you are starting to see, as a Park and Recreation participant, is that your own internal strategy as to how you approach a game or activity is just as important as the in-game strategy.

Why am I having this deep discussion with you on internal and external strategy that may sound like it should be found in a textbook? Because it is important. From a coaching perspective, it is important to realize that you are managing people. There is a player and there is a coach. In order for both sides to benefit, whether the goal is to have fun and learn in instructional leagues or to achieve team goals at a higher level, both player and coach need to match. Matching and understanding strategies is part of that equation. Likewise, as a player or a team member in any work setting, you are likely part of a team. How do you maximize your ability to help your team? Self-awareness in order to help your team. Proactive and productive internal strategies to help your team strategy.

So, let’s think back to our time growing up. For those of you in elementary school or high school, think of your current environment. You likely take part in many different activities – pick-up games, after school activities. You might be part of the History club, Drama Club or the Debate team. If you are a student-athlete, you may have a sport for the season. Here in Hadley, the traditional path is Soccer, Basketball and Baseball/Softball. There is also Golf, Cheerleading and many others. All of these activities require different skill sets, right? In the modern day, we tend to see specialization and the focus going towards one activity or sport. Yes, there is a benefit to that. But there is also a danger when this is done in youth. Let’s look at baseball. Many pitchers tend to get into this specialization trend. The data is there, you say. That may be. But what is missing is context. What can be missed are unnoticeable things. I am not a pitcher but throwing year-round can lead to where and tear on the arm. You are using your arm the same way all year round. What if we re-examined that a bit. What if you played basketball a bit? Or soccer? You give your arm a rest but develop your legs – very important for a pitcher. While the strategy behind all of these ideas will be for another day, taking part in different activities sustains your mental and physical capabilities while also not overworking one particular area until you are ready to do so at a more advanced stage. At the end of the day, you want to be able to sustain yourself in order to be the best that you can be. As a part thought on this, let me give you this to consider. On job applications, you are asked questions to determine how well-rounded you are and what other activities you take part in that contribute to your ability to do a job. In some scouting and recruiting activities in college athletics, coaches look for “well-rounded players” who played and were exposed to many different athletic skill sets and activities. There is a reason for that. Sports may be built on specialization but the journey to get there should be built on a foundation of well-roundedness. A strategy that internally controlled by the individual themselves.

As I am hoping you can see, your internal strategy – no matter your vocation – defines how well you will be able to perform your team’s overarching external strategy. As a student-athlete, you must be aware of your own abilities and put yourself in the best position possible to be contribute to your team’s strategy. Look at it this way – say your team’s overall ability to perform is a 90/100. That is based on the assumption that all the individuals on that team are performing at an optimal level and have put in the work required to be their best. If anyone is not at that level, does not have the proper internal strategy, then the team suffers and that 90 number falls. You see, internal strategy impacts external strategy. Let’s use a basketball example. If you are a team that uses the fast break to score points, your competitive advantage is your physical condition and your ability to run. If you have 4 out of 10 players who are not trained to run and play that strategy due to factors that could include their own internal strategy, is that fast break team strategy going to work? Not as well as it should.

I hope that you all have enjoyed and learned some things from our talks on internal strategy!

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