Balance And Stability
A true athlete develops his entire body to compete with the very best in his sport. He trains both his mind and body to reach his goals. His mind should be able to handle the pressure and stress that are involved in his competitive sport. He must be emotionally fit to compete in his sport; otherwise, he’ll lose or fair far below his expectations. His body should also be able to act and react in the right manner. The mental, emotional and physical aspects of his game must all come together as one.
Whether an athlete is a catcher in baseball, a center in basketball, or a quick-running lineman in American football, he must perfectly develop all his faculties to achieve an above average level of balance and stability in his sport. Athletes should pay more attention to balance and stability because these factors are extremely critical in the success of their goals. The terms balance and stability may seem to have the same meaning, but they don’t (Carr, 2007, p. 89). These terms however, are very much related to each other. Balance and stability don’t always go together.
Depending on the sport, an athlete may have more balance and less stability or none at all and vice versa. Both of these factors are necessary in almost all physical sports though because athletes have to constantly move their bodies while staying on the ground. Balance is a person’s ability to get rid of forces that ruin the evenness or equilibrium of things. Almost all people have balance to some degree. Young and old people use balance to stay on their feet while they’re walking, running or hopping. Balance is also used in other movements, such as when a person tiptoes or dances a complex routine.
Maintaining one’s balance gets harder as the person encounters obstacles in his path. For example, a running back maintains excellent balance while he pierces the defense of the opposing team. In basketball, a point guard also displays above average balancing skills as he dribbles the ball around players guarding the basket (Carr, 2007, p. 89). There are many levels of balance. Not all people have the same level of balance. Athletes typically have greater balance than normal people because they arduously train to improve it. The concept of balance has been used in various sports for a very long period of time.
As Sprunt (2000) and others noted, the term off-balance is also widely used in different types of sports. Thus, a basketball player may be said to have been caught off-balance if he loses his footing as he scrambles for the ball. Generally, it is not good to lose your balance in any kind of sport (Sprunt, 2000, p. 63). Balance itself is related to another important factor in executing movement: stability. Stability is the ability to maintain a person’s balance while encountering things that ruin that balance. To put it another way, stability is how balanced a person is.
Different athletes have different tactics that increase the level of their stability as they encounter forces that may be going against them. According to Foran, athletes typically face gravity, air resistance and friction when performing in sports (Foran, 2001, p. 119). For this reason, some athletes train hard to raise their stability to the level of being as steady as a rock. Sports shows typically have play by play slow-motions that showcase moving stability by players of different sports. For instance, stability is clearly shown on highlights of football plays.
A football player displays excellent balance when he reaches out for the ball whizzing through the air. He jumps high using a single leg and lands gracefully on the same leg. However, that excellent balance may be disrupted by a rampaging opponent that slams into him as he’s floating above the ground or standing on one leg. After the dust clears, you’ll usually see the other player down on the ground because he traded stability for balance. Compare the previous example of a 300 pound lineman with his body arched and his center of gravity positioned low.
This athlete can receive the hammering force of a 400 pound lineman, pushing him to get out of the way. The athlete does not drop to his knees, spread-eagle on the ground because his stability is way off the charts. If the lineman is really stable, he may even have the ability to push back his opponent or ram his way through the defense, sending him crawling on the ground. In this case, his opponent is the one that lacks stability and so he pays dearly for it (Foran, 2001, p. 119). Also, stability may be harder to maintain if forces are coming from many different directions.
A lineman may be able to defend against the opponent directly in front of him, but he may not fare as easily if the opponent comes from his left, right or back. It’s still possible to hold a great level of stability however, if the athlete’s position is correct and if he has the right body to counter massive objects that’s coming at him from different directions. Almost all kinds of physical sports showcase balance and stability. Sports like baseball and basketball are no different because athletes continuously move their bodies in these sports.
As Thompson and Baldwin (2007) observed, athletes in these sports and others must do various drills to improve their balance. They must train their core muscle groups to have the excellent level of balance and stability that their sports require (Thompson and Baldwin, 2007, p. 369). In baseball, balance and stability are shown in the role of the catcher who tries to catch baseballs sent flying by the pitcher. In basketball, balance and stability are exemplified by huge, tall centers or post players that play near the basket.
It is important to note that these sports are played very differently but both of them require superb balance and stability nonetheless. First, the baseball catcher has to have great physical attributes such as fast feet and hands, mighty arms and excellent balance and stability. He spends much of his time on the baseball field crouching and anticipating the ball that the pitcher will throw. His weight is distributed on his heels. He bends his knees so that his upper leg is parallel to the ground. You’ll also notice that his backside is positioned close to his heels.
His back must not curve and shoulder blades must be positioned a little bit backward to give him more stability. To further increase stability, he must hold his head up high and he must hold out his glove. This unique crouching position is supported by the baseball catcher’s amazing balance and stability (Thompson and Baldwin, 2007, p. 369). The baseball player in the previous example shows linearity in his balance and stability. Remember that balance is a person’s ability to get rid of forces that ruin the evenness or equilibrium of things.
Compare this to stability which refers to the level at which a person can maintain his balance while encountering things that may ruin it. Simply put, linear stability occurs when you are able to resist an object that tries to move you. In the previous example, the catcher’s stability is put to the test when tries to stop a ball that’s flying toward him at 80 or 90 mph (Thompson and Baldwin, 2007, p. 369). Stability that is based on linear movement is influenced by the mass of the moving object that carries force and the object that tries to stop that force.
The moving object here is the ball that flies toward the pitcher and may end up in the catcher’s resisting hands. For many catchers, reaching the optimal stability that is based on linear movement is very easy. Baseball is a tough sport because it requires players to have great balance and stability while maintaining focus on the ball that’s flying toward them. The catcher in the previous example must train hard to be able to block bad pitches and throw out runners who attempt to steal bases. In some cases, the catcher may have to abandon his crouching position to block a bad pitch.
This move trades stability for balance to catch the ball. The crouching position shows the three most important principles of a stable body (Mull, 2005, p. 174). First, the catcher increases his stability by broadening his base. The resulting position is that the catcher’s feet are wide apart and firmly on the ground. Second, the baseball catcher centralizes his line of gravity by straightening his back and holding his head up high. Third, he crouches with his knees bent to lower his center of gravity, further adding to the stability of his whole body.
When all of these positions are combined, the catcher comes up with a stable crouching position that allows him to easily move his whole body when catching a flying ball even when it is outside the normal zone. Stability is also based on an athlete’s capability to move his line of gravity forward, anticipating a fast-approaching force. This type of movement may unbalance him for a short duration of time, but the force of the approaching object might restore him to his previous balance. This is not the case though for a baseball catcher who blocks bad pitches.
Even though the ball flies fast toward the catcher, its mass is still little compared to other balls. The catcher then puts his line of gravity directly in front of the approaching ball but quickly restores his balance. He also usually drops to his knees to bring down his center of gravity and increase his stability. Balance and stability can also take each other’s place in baseball. For example, balance and stability are reversed when a runner steals a base and is challenged by a catcher. The catcher positions his line of gravity directly in front of the fast-approaching force to throw the runner out.
Another skill of a baseball catcher is throwing the ball to the base, which consists of applying force rather than resisting it. The catcher tends to rise to keep his line of gravity in the center and avoid falling down before throwing the ball. His weight is transferred to the back of his foot as he moves his body backward to throw the ball. There are also cases where the player who throws the ball temporarily moves his center of gravity outside the area where support is strongest. As the ball is thrown, the center of gravity moves from the back of the support area to the center and then to the front.
The dynamics of balance and stability can also be seen in the sport of basketball. There was a time when post players were players that are massive and tall. This allowed them to block offensive players that run to the basket. Today, however, post players are not that huge anymore and they have better footwork. They are faster and more agile, so they can keep up with quick short players that have many tricks to drive to the basket. While post players of the past and today are different, they both still use the principles of balance and stability when playing their game.
A post player or a center receives huge forces when guarding the basket. This is a prime example of static stability in the face of opposing forces (Moran and McGlynn, 1997, p. 56). Post players from the opposing team constantly push and pull him to get him out of the way. Mass is important in being a post player to have enough balance and stability to withstand those vicious offensive moves. The more massive a player is, the greater is his stability. For example, Shaquille O’Neal or Shaq was extremely successful because of his extraordinary mass. There was a time when basketball experts claimed he weighed around 380 lbs.
90 percent of that weight consists of muscle tissue and other nonfat tissue. Because of O’Neal’s great mass, other players find it very difficult to break his defense. Offense under the basket is also easy because his defenders just seem to bounce off him. His level of stability is excellent, which makes him an almost perfect post player. The perfect post player though, is not the perfect basketball player. In fact, a player who has a great mass often finds it difficult to change his direction when moving. In this case, quickness and agility are sacrificed for stability and balance.
This is similar to a rampaging sumo wrestler that gets easily thrown out of the ring when his quick opponent steps to one side. Post players though, typically play within a very short distance from the basket, so their weakness in terms of quickness and agility is hard to exploit. New centers or post players like Yao Ming have less mass but are quicker and more agile. They are less stable because of their small base, but they can change direction quickly, which is useful in guarding against fast players that drive to the basket. Tall players however, may have lesser balance than shorter players because their center of gravity is very high.
You’ll notice that short players are very balanced even when they are dribbling around a number of defenders because their center of gravity is nearer to the ground. Having a wide base is extremely important in being a post player (Chandler and Brown, 2008, p. 87). For this reason, many post players spend long hours in the gym to build their body and widen their base. If a post player’s base is not wide enough, he’ll find it harder to stop offensive attacks coming directly at him from the opposing team. Blocking a player with a small base is easy if the post player’s base is large.
Another important factor in being a good post player is the center of gravity. It’s always best to lower a player’s center of gravity to increase his balance and stability. The reason why post players play with knees bent is that they have to widen their base and lower their center of gravity. It’s not always best to widen the base and lower your center of gravity though, as the post player will be sacrificing his height. This makes him vulnerable to high-jumping players from the opposing team who can always drive to the basket and jump high against the short post player.
A post player may also move his base forward to face the opposing force. Moving the line of gravity forward stabilizes the post player, helping hem to successfully guard the basket. It’s not advisable to move the center of gravity too near the front of his base though, because this might result in the player losing his balance. In conclusion, applying balance and stability when playing different sports is important to athletes for them to achieve their goals. Both athletes and coaches should pay more attention to balance and stability to be more successful in their sports.
Various sports skills should be honed and trained so the athlete becomes more effective. The physical, mental, and emotional aspects of his game must all come together and become one. While other attributes such as agility and speed are also important in executing different sports skills, balance and stability are very basic in almost all kinds of sports. Without balance and stability, an athlete has a higher chance of failing in his chosen sport. He must constantly weigh the pros and cons of developing balance and stability over other attributes.
He may also review the tradeoffs between balance and stability because each one presents their own advantages in a sport. He’ll be more effective in his chosen sport once he perfects his balance and stability. References Carr, G. (2007). Mechanics of Sport: A Practitioner’s Guide. Detroit, MI: Human Kinetics Foran, B. (2001). High-performance Sports Conditioning: Modern Training for Ultimate Athletic Development. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. Sprunt, K. , Kerwin, D. , & Fowler, N. (2000). An Introduction to Sports Mechanics: A Home
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