Perfection in Sport

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In sport, often you hear about athletes perfecting their performance. In hockey it could be a wrist shot or a tennis player’s backhand.  Each athlete concentrates on subtle changes that help them get maybe a quarter of a percent better.  Rarely do you hear or read about athletes starting over and rebuilding their technique.  

A good example of reconstructing their performance is Tiger Woods.  This past weekend was the US Open and a lot of the commentary was on his new stroke which, didn’t bring him a victory but has him playing better golf and more importantly, staying injury free.

Another athlete, Michael Phelps was at the top of his sport when he decided to redefine his stroke technique. With 10 gold medals at the 2008 Olympics why bother changing a successful motor pattern?

With the divorce rate so high, you would think starting over would be easy. Unfortunately years or even decades of repeated movements are ingrained in our neuromuscular systems that make change very difficult.  Further, most of us will settle for a mediocre amount of success because we fear that change may extinguish our current skill set.  Plus, where do we start? 

Like Woods, injury prevention would be key area of attention.  For example, runners who have constant hamstring problems may require more strengthening exercises to their glute muscles.  Next, if you began with success and are now falling behind, maybe it’s time to refocus on areas of weakness.  Or, if you need a new challenge, redefining your technique could invigorate your passion for the sport even more.

Focusing on long term development instead of brief success should be the aim for any athlete.  Technical changes in muscle memory take time but can be remodelled.  Injury prevention is the most suitable place to begin as this allows you to continue playing your sport. 

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