What is Balance and Coordination?
Sports Definition: balance is the ability to stay upright or stay in control of body movement, and coordination is the ability to move two or more body parts under control, smoothly and efficiently.
There are two types of balance: static and dynamic. Static balance is maintaining equilibrium when stationary, while dynamic balance is maintaining equilibrium when moving. We use our eyes, ears and ‘body sense’ to help retain our balance. Coordination is a complex skill that requires not only good balance, but good levels of other fitness components such strength and agility. Balance and coordination can be improved through practice and training within specific sports.
Who Needs Balance and Coordination?
Balance and Coordination is one of the main fitness components, a factor for success in many sports. In certain sports, such as gymnastics and surfing, balance is one of the most important physical attributes. Good coordination is also vital for sports involving hitting objects. In many other sports, including team sports, good balance and coordination is an important part of skill development and the overall fitness profile. A vote of the top sports requiring coordination has hitting sports such as baseball, tennis and squash ranked highest. See also another list ranking sports in which balance is important.
Dynamic Balance for Sports
Dynamic balance is one of the greatest physical predictors of athletic success (athletic power would be the other). Static balance, which can be maintained with minimal movement, should be distinguished from dynamic balance.
Your ability to maintain a center of gravity over a constantly changing base of support is critical to success and is the essence of dynamic balance. Postural strength and control is also necessary to achieve dynamic balance.
You should participate in exercises that progressively challenge her or his dynamic balance and postural control. Exercises that require use of different surfaces (firm to unstable) will work to accomplish this. One-armed and one-legged exercises also work well. Experts don’t always agree on the specific balance exercises to be performed, but research proves that changes in both sensory and motor systems influence balance performance.
Balance exercises should be specific to the sport in which the athlete competes to increase the chances of success and minimize the risk of injury. For example, football and soccer players often compete with cleated shoes on grass surfaces or with flat shoes on artificial surfaces.
Balance training is a key area of practice for the athlete, when we think of balance we usually perceive of standing on 1 leg, although this can be used as a test for balance, in sport we are looking to perform many different actions under dynamic control such as running, jumping and agility moves, for example trying to turn to lose a player in football, landing after jumping to receive a netball, reaching for a shot in badminton, or running over uneven ground. Of course in these situations dynamic balance to some extent only forms part of the overall picture as we do need to develop other skills such as strength, power, flexibility and the ability to control force production and reduction or deceleration.
We now see both kids and adults who have difficulty with running, twisting and turning, controlling a landing from a jump, or coordinating movements. Playing a sport on top of these weakened abilities, will reduce performance and possibly go to some way to causing injury.
Balance is a dynamic process where our aim is to control the center of gravity over our base of support. Balance can be affected at all levels of difficulty and abilities, in sport we look for stability of movement where stability is a measure of the level at which one can retain their own balance while adjusting to factors that disturb balance. The components of balance that need to be trained and integrated include stability, kinesthetic awareness, proprioception, focus, concentration and the ability to shift balance in a controlled manor.
Developing the skill of balancing and therefore moving better for your sport is best done with feet on the floor at first rather than using an unstable surface such as a wobble or balance board which may help some sports better than others where they are often used for surfers and in rehabilitation for ankle sprains. Exercises and drills such as lunges, improving mobility for hips, dynamic movement skills, cone drills can help increase balance ability in your sport.
Why is balance and coordination important?
Age appropriate balance and coordination allows a person to be involved in the participation of sport with a reasonable amount of success as it will aid fluid body movement for physical skill performance (e.g. walking a balance beam or playing football). The involvement in sport is helpful in maintaining self-regulation for daily tasks as well as developing a social network and achieving a sense of belonging in a community or social setting. Furthermore children will be able to maintain appropriate and controlled body movement during task performance which reduces the energy required and minimises fatigue.
With good balance and coordination there is less likelihood of injury as a child will have appropriate postural responses as (and when) needed (e.g. putting hands out to protect yourself when you fall). The physical attributes of balance and coordination also allow for appropriate posture for table top tasks and subsequent success at fine motor tasks.
In football dynamic balance is very important. Players need this because they are moving and adjusting body position constantly when looking for scoring opportunities in the penalty box or trying to mark an opponent closely. Good balance will help players to keep their shots on target, and to reach and play difficult volley strikes with accuracy – it will also help to maintain possession when a defender tries to push you of the ball
Having good balance will give you a subtle edge on the football field—one that could make all the difference in that critical moment where your team really needs you to come through.
If, say, you’re dribbling up the field and an opponent bumps into you, you’ll need to be able to shift your body weight appropriately so that you don’t lose control of the soccer ball. Think of the balance players like Maradona or Messi or women’s soccer star Alex Morgan possess. They are all strong on the ball and don’t let players knock them off the ball easily, even when they’re dribbling at speed.
The key to maintaining balance is to understand that your body is always moving.
Body is constantly transferring energy all over the place, in addition to reacting against external forces such as gravity.
Therefore, keeping balance is to maintain a center of balance by focusing this transfer of energy to work for you, not against you.
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