By Todd Durkin
Too often, athletes use strength, speed and flexibility training to optimize only their physical performance, and forget to focus on developing their mental capability and acuity. So that my athletes' brains are as tired as their bodies by the end of a session, I include reaction drills like the Card Toss to teach them to push through mental fatigue until that last second rolls off the clock.
In athletic stance, face partner standing two to four yards away and holding a deck of cards. Your partner begins the drill by tossing cards toward you, one at a time. Catch as many cards as possible for a preset number of throws. Set a goal for catches before each set. For example, aim to catch 12 of 20 cards thrown.
Benefits: Improves reaction time, especially when you're fatigued; keeps mind and body moving quickly; builds mental sharpness, which allows you to maintain top speed and agility late in the game.
Coaching Point: Running your feet between throws increases the conditioning aspect of the drill and teaches you to react on the fly.
Level I: Use both hands to catch cards.
Level II: Use only one hand to catch cards. Perform 10 attempts with the right hand, then switch.
Level III*: Have partner quiz you as he tosses the cards. Questions can relate to anything: training methods, music, sports, school subjects, general knowledge. For example, "What's your favorite play to run?" or "What color is your kitchen?"
*Level III forces you to think about something unrelated to the skill being performed, which improves left-brain functioning.
Todd Durkin, MA, CSCS, NCTMB, is a strength and conditioning coach and personal trainer to Reggie Bush, LaDainian Tomlinson and other NFL stars. He owns Fitness Quest 10 & Todd Durkin Enterprises [San Diego, Calif.]. He has a new seven DVD set on improving athletic performance, which includes drills just like this one. You can learn more about Todd and his work at www.ToddDurkin.com.
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