by Rich Monetti
On every playground, soccer field or baseball diamond, we see children who lag well behind in the key physical skills required to become a good athlete. Derek Jeter was probably never one of those kids, but the distinct skills which separate him from his peers, are part of several building blocks that a proper sports trainer can utilize to assist children compete on the playground.
In alluding to the all-star shortstop’s sport’s IQ, Nick Serio of Kombine Sports in Mt. Kisco says, “Derek Jeter is in the right place at the right time–all the time.”
As Kombine’s director of Sports Performance and Youth Development, Serio understands the elements needed to improve every child’s ability. So by providing baseball “smarts” to place your sports-challenged athlete in the right spot for a game-saving backup, confidence rises and the rest of her game progresses.
According to Serio, whereas ongoing conversations about game situations may provide a kick-start for one child, increasing strength and endurance may be the catalyst for another. “Becoming strong enough to hit the cutoff player or being able to always get back on defense,” he says, “builds a foundation for future success.”
Of course, there is no ceiling for instilling confidence. Tapping into and honing existing strengths lets children maximize their game-day ability. For instance, a good trainer understands that increasing speed first requires the proper form before such an improvement translates into enhanced performance on the field.
“We’ll practice sports-like actions,” he says, like reading the nuances of a pitcher to know when to steal a base or learning how to slide.
Encompassed within all these x-factors, a trainer should also be attentive to improving coordination, which to some may seem like an impediment which cannot be overcome. “There’s no such thing as a kid who cannot be an athlete,” Serio says.
Proprioception, which gives a sense of relative position of neighboring body parts, is a key component to coordination and can be improved through balance and stability work. In turn, as the physical hurdles fall, a trainer can bring hand-eye coordination and other factors to align into one working system.
Still, finding a sport that best suits the abilities of a particular child can take time–especially if it is one not within the confines of “traditional” games. “Allow them to explore other sports,” he says, “and once they become comfortable with something,” he adds, “encourage them through and through.”
In the long, medium and short term,” Mr. Serio says, “have the child set realistic goals.” It sounds like a winning prescription for success.
Rich Monetti lives in Somers and works in the after school program at Mt. Kisco Childcare.