What Can Team Sport Athletes Learn from Sprinters?

STACK Expert Lee Boyce teaches three lessons that team sport athletes can learn from sprinters.

I ran track as a sprinter in high school and was a long jumper in college.

Out of high school, it was a real tossup as to which sport I'd focus on at the next level. Basketball programs were interested in having me work with them, since I showed skills in the sport; but I tended to gravitate toward track & field. I think that reflected my personality, and such decisions likely have a lot to do with personality on a subjective basis. One can look at two sports and notice plenty of differences—and they'd be right. But I'm going to note the similarities between being a track athlete and a basketball player (or any team-sport athlete, for that matter.) The truth is, athletes who play team sports can learn a lot from sprinters.

Lesson 1: Sprinters Train for Strength

At no point in my track career did I ever prioritize weight training for anything other than muscular strength and power. Even if the coaching of individual movements was imperfect, over the years my coaches always made sure the athletes in my group were performing Squats, Lunges, Cleans and even Snatches.

More coaches need to realize that increased strength should not just be sensitive to the demands of the sport in question. Getting stronger positively affects all sports, and it should be treated that way. Develop a foundation of strength around which your other skills and capacities are based.

Lesson 2: Sprinters are Self-Accountable for Failure

This doesn't mean you should get down on yourself if your team loses a game. What it does mean is that your mindset as part of a team should be put in perspective. When a sprinter loses a race, the only person he has to blame is himself, and he can usually identify the part of the race where he dropped the ball.

In a team sport it's easy to blame someone else for not doing his or her part, but that doesn't help anyone.

Being self-aware that you gave everything you could and tried your hardest is the first step toward a proper mindset on the field. Losses will be much easier to handle if everyone on the team shares this mindset. It's also a way to spread positive energy and work on personal shortcomings in a productive way. In other words, you shouldn't worry about what your teammate is doing wrong. That's between your teammate and the coach. You have enough on your plate knowing what your job is when it's game time.

Lesson 3: Sprinters Learn Biomechanics

Every sport (especially contact sports) require physical harmony as a prerequisite to good performance. Having the proper parabola on a jump shot in basketball due to a well-timed release, creating the proper angle off the line of scrimmage for a stable block on the O-Line, or taking the perfect baseball swing to crush a home run all depend on the right biomechanics.

Understanding your body is the first key to improving your personal performance in sports. I've always believed sprinters and gymnasts have the most direct application of their sport presenting a direct battle against physics. Getting from point A to point B as fast as possible is a test of minimizing resistance, maximizing velocity and developing as much power as possible. It's wise to think about this when you play your sport. Raw talent can get you to stand out in school, but it could be exposed as poor technique when you take things to the next level. The ability to identify areas of your technique that need improvement—even if it requires a professional coach or trainer—is worth the time and investment.

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