Sports are the most fun when we play our best. When we give it our all and get competitive, sports take on a whole new dimension. Sure, it’s fun to play casual pick-up games but there’s nothing like the intensity of real competition.
If you’re playing to win, you have to play hard. There’s nothing wrong with playing hard but you have to make sure you’re doing it right. Going full speed requires preparation and practice.
Learning to Fall
It might seem counterintuitive to practice something like falling. After all, there’s hardly ever a time in any sport when an athlete falls on purpose. But there’s at least one time when it does happen. So Let’s start there.
In basketball, a defender can set a charge to draw an offensive foul. Setting a charge requires the defensive player to get his feet set in front of the offensive player and let the player run into him. Referees typically do not call an offensive foul unless the defender falls to the ground. So in order to sell the foul and get the call, the defender probably needs to fall.
Anybody call fall, right? Yes, that’s true but there are ways to do it that keep you safe. For instance, when you take a charge, you want to bend your knees and fall backwards onto your butt, pushing with your heels, so you slide a bit on the court. This decreases the impact and can protect your back and tailbone.
End Up on the Ground
You may not fall on purpose in every sport but you can end up on the ground playing anything. Let’s take another example: sliding in baseball. Every player who wants to stretch a single into a double needs to know how to slide. It looks easy when the pros do it but sliding is an art.
Most of the time, players slide feet-first. This is much safer than sliding head-first. In a feet-first slide, the player tucks one leg under the other. Usually the left leg is tucked under the right. So the right leg is outstretched fully with the left bent at roughly a 90-degree angle underneath.
Many players have a tendency to put down the left hand to brace themselves. While this seems logical it’s not a great idea. When a player goes into a slide, he exerts a lot of force. So putting your hand on the ground can put stress on your wrist and you may end up with an injury. So do your best to keep you hands up.
Going Full Speed
It’s important to know how to fall in sports but it’s also important to match the level of competition. If everyone else around you is playing hard, you better be giving it your all as well. Injuries can happen when a player isn’t going full speed.
But going full speed is not just a physical thing, it’s mental as well. Staying safe in sports is all about keeping your head in the game and this requires a great deal of focus. You may be able to space out during your average pick-up game, but not in the heat of intense competition.
This is where the old adage, “practice like you play” comes in. If you aren’t used to turning up the heat in practice, you may not be ready to do it during games. And it could be dangerous if you’re playing a team where everyone is focused and playing hard the entire time.
Staying safe while playing sports takes practice but there’s nothing more important for an athlete who wants to have a long career.