Speed�s Friend or Foe?
Ever wonder what effect gravity has on our body�s ability to produce maximum speed? Since gravity is a universal force that is always upon us it must be considered in regard to how it affects human movement.
First let�s look at how gravity affects human movement in general: Gravity actually causes the body to move by its constant pull on the body�s Center of Mass (also referred to as the Center of Gravity). The Earth�s gravitational force always pulls at a body�s Center Of Mass (COM), whether it is the human body, a bowling ball, a car, etc. The human body moves when the COM shifts away from the intersection point of three cardinal planes (Frontal, Sagittal, Transverse) of the body. This shift causes torque to be produced about the joints thus causing the body to move (locomotion).
When we are considering dynamic movement such as sprinting we can either use gravity to our advantage or fight against it. This becomes extremely important when we need to accelerate and decelerate! For maximum acceleration we need to shift the upper-body forward with as significant of a lean as possible. This will cause the COM to shift forward and away from the body. Since gravity always pulls at an object�s COM when body mass is manipulated in this manner gravity will pull the body forward and assist us. A great example of this is when sprinters come out of the blocks and are in a �drive phase� posture. A sprinter will not remain in this posture over the course of the sprint because once inertia is overcome this is not a mechanically efficient position to be in � which I won�t get into here but perhaps in a different article on body mass and inertia. If the same sprinter is in an upright body position and the body�s COM is close to the body then gravity is pulling the body straight down and working against the sprinter. This is a very common mistake that junior athletes make when trying to get a good jump and produce maximum speed as quickly as possible.
How pronounced should the forward upper-body lean be? Answer: As pronounced as possible without losing balance. As with all sports movement there is a �point of diminishing returns� with regard to moving body segment mass at which body control and balance are adversely affected. When sprinting we want to manipulate body mass and maximize range of motion about the hips and shoulders without adversely affecting performance.
**The position of the head plays a significant role in upper-body lean. The head is actually a major balance factor. For maximum upper-body lean the head should be DOWN. Very important to note here that by the head being down we do not want the chin tucked tightly to the chest, but rather the head should be down and FORWARD. For proper down position of the head the athlete should see the ground 3 or 4 yards ahead of him, not directly under him. With the head in the proper position the COM is extended slightly further and this small extension can make a difference.
In summary, throughout the course of a sprint the athlete should maintain a forward lean of the upper-body, which will allow for greater top speed while reducing the energy expenditure required to perform the sprint. The shorter the sprint the more pronounced the forward lean should remain. (Clearly there are significant physiological factors at play in producing top sprint speed that are not covered in this article).
Karl L. Frank, M.A.
Owner and developer of SPEEDOLOGY�
the science of sport-specific speed and performance.
The contents of this article are � Copyright 2007 by Applied Movement Science, Inc. and may not be reprinted or re-transmitted in whole or in part without the express written consent of AMS, Inc.
The FOUR keys to success:
REMEMBER, MOST OF YOU WILL GO ON TO BECOME A PROFESSIONAL IN SOMETHING OTHER THAN SPORTS. FOCUS ON YOUR EDUCATION FIRST.
Grades are key - Believe it or not, the first thing coaches ask for when they are looking for a prospective athlete is GPA. It is really important to keep your grades up if you want a coach to seriously consider you.
Think about what you want to study - Choosing the right college is a difficult proposition. Obviously looking for a school that has a sports program and coach that is a match for you is a priority but you need to spend at least as much time, if not more, researching the academic program related to the field of study you are interested in. If you are not happy there you won't be happy overall.
Don't forget about the social makeup of potential colleges - Take time to visit the college, talk to the admissions office and get a tour, talk to alumni, and do anything you can to get a feel for everyday life on campus. Just like academic programs, if you aren't happy with the social aspects of the college you won't be happy overall.
Understand FAFSA - Understanding the FAFSA grant program is vitally important. This can make or break whether you can afford to go to a particular college or not. It also has a bearing on how much the coach has to "spend" in scholarship money on you. If he has to spend less on you than another athlete of equal talent you have a big leg up.
Want it? Apply for it - It's like the lottery; if you don't play you can't win.
Know the Jargon - There are a number of acronyms to keep track of, FAFSA, SAR, EFC, and COA to name a few.
- FAFSA - Free application for Federal Student Aid
- SAR - Student Aid Report
- EFC - Expected Family Contribution
- COA - Cost of Attendance
Choose Smart. Match and get more. - Pay attention to how much your target colleges will match. It is very possible that you could end up paying more out of pocket expenses to go to a $12,000 per year state college than you would pay to go to a $30,000 private college.
Manage your EFC - Expected Family Contribution is calculated using a very complicated formula. It is not simply based on how much money your family makes. Be sure you understand what investments and assets will be counted against you at the time you submit your request.
Finish first / start early - Apply and commit before other contestants show up. Technically, awards can not be made until January 1 of your senior year but you can apply before then so that you are at the top of the pile when they start their process. The longer you wait, the less money will be available.
Your Athletic Experience
Join a travel team - The best athletes usually play outside of their High School team on travel teams and sports clubs. This gives you greater exposure to other athletes outside of your geographic league boundaries and shows coaches that you are serious about your sport. Many college coaches look to these organizations for the top talent.
Off season conditioning - Stay active and in shape all year round. That is the only way to condition your body to be the best it can possibly be. However good you think you are, there are other athletes out there that have just as much talent and only the ones who are always pushing themselves make it to the very top.
Pay attention to the roster - Are there a lot of seniors graduating from the team the year you want to join or is the team made up of mostly younger players? The more open slots there are going to be the less the competitive pressure.
Preparation - "Be prepared" is not just a Boy Scout motto, it is what is going to get you chosen.
- Start early
- Gather information about yourself. Game film, stats, references, transcripts, etc.
- Prepare a prospectus letter or athletic resume for college coaches.
- Register with the NCAA clearinghouse. This makes you an eligible prospect.
Know the rules - There are certain time that colleges can and can't look at you.
- Understand when colleges are looking and make yourself visible.
- Know your sports recruiting timetables - MAXIMIZE your exposure.
College Recruiting Timetables
- Coaches have certain times of the year that they can actively recruit players. Generally not when you are playing for your High School team.
- Coaches can only start email contact at the start of your junior year. No phone contact is allowed until after July 1st of the athletes' junior year.
- Understand that until you speak directly with the coach or recruiting coordinator at the college and have a signed letter of intent... Keep your options open!
- Register with the NCAA clearinghouse. This makes you an eligible prospect.
Take control - Be proactive. It is a myth that a college scout is going to come to one of your games, see you play and offer you a scholarship. You need to find out who the coach is and as much about him or her that you can and then contact them. Let them know you are interested and want to meet with them. Be sure you are prepared to talk intelligently about your stats, academics and other important information about yourself.
Make yourself visible - SportsWorx eScout matching system allows coaches to set up a program that searches for athletes based on certain criteria. If your online profile is a match they are notified. This expands your exposure well beyond traditional geographic constraints.