What separates athletes from their competitors is the word itself, separation — gaining it on the offensive side, or taking it away on the defensive side (There are exceptions of course, one being the contest of offensive linemen and defensive linemen in football where the inverse is true). Speed, strength, and power are great ways to create separation in sports. However, speed, strength, and power all have genetic ceilings.
“Although speed can be improved, it is inaccurate to suggest that everyone has the capacity to become a sprint champion,” explained the NSCA’s Ian Jeffreys. This is not to imply those aforementioned characteristics of athleticism should not be sought out to improve/maximize in the realm of athletic performance training. But one should consider other ways for the athletic “have-nots” to gain ground, or an advantage on the athletic “haves.”
Developing skills within the sport is the obvious course of action, and the most effective — Larry Bird sure didn’t become one of the greatest basketball players ever because of his speed, strength, and power. In the realm of athletic performance training however, body control is a key attribute that will allow an athlete to create separation, even if their level of speed, strength, and power is not significant among competitors.
The term body control is not universally defined with regards to its athletic application. It also has no tangible measurement like speed, strength, and power does. For the purpose of identifying how to train it, let’s define it as the ability to coordinate the use of force according to the demand of the sport. For example, a basketball player driving to the rim must apply force to get by the defender, but they must also coordinate that force in order to maintain the skill and control to finish the basket without causing a charge.
Again, speed, strength, and power are all crucial for an athlete to develop, and it’s an essential part of any quality performance training program. An athlete being able to control their speed, strength, and power though is what will increase their chances of winning the separation battle with their opponent. Along with speed, strength, and power, body control needs to be a focal point in the performance training of an athlete.