[From] what I’ve seen, the number one problem we have with training right now is [the need to] cling to sport-specific training. A lot of coaches may look at me and [say], “What the heck, this guy’s crazy.” That’s the drum everyone has been beating. It gets beaten down to a point that we’re ignoring conventional wisdom of improving athleticism first.
If you improve athleticism, you’re going to build a nice athletic foundation for the athlete to build a successful sport-specific performance parameter. But without the base of athleticism, you really don’t have much. You have a real narrow column. What we see nine out of 10 times is young athletes coming in highly skilled in their sport, [but] they [have a] very narrow base of development—all built around baseball, for example. They wonder why they plateau at age 16, [and that’s] because they really don’t have a broad base of athleticism to build on.
We tell [young athletes] that “Michael Johnson was a great athlete who ran track. Tiger Woods is a great athlete who plays golf. Tony Romo is a great athlete who plays football.” Those are the kind of success stories you need to gravitate toward, and get away from what you’re being sold right now, which is one sport, one training, all built around one thing to maximize [your] possibilities later on in life.
Lance Walker is the director of performance at the Michael Johnson Performance Center in McKinney, Texas.