Mind and body work in sync

The Citizen (KZN) - - Sport -

It was a real spe­cial treat to be at the Roger Fed­erer and Raphael Nadal “Match in Africa” char­ity event in Cape Town last week­end, where by the way, a world record of 51 954 at­ten­dees for a ten­nis match was set. To put this in con­text, the venues stag­ing the big­gest matches at the Grand Slam tour­na­ments house “only” be­tween 16 000 and 23 000 spec­ta­tors.

Fed­erer is 38 years old and in any sport­ing terms that is quite an age to still be play­ing and still be win­ning ti­tles at the high­est level, but one must ask the ques­tion: How is this even pos­si­ble that he is com­pet­ing at his age and at a level that few can com­pete?

Any­one in their mid-30’s will tes­tify to the fact that it is harder to get out of bed in the morn­ing af­ter a hard train­ing ses­sion and it takes twice as long to re­cover on all lev­els than in one’s 20s. Re­cov­er­ing faster has a mas­sive ad­van­tage in com­pet­ing against other play­ers. The faster your re­cov­ery, the harder you can push at the next train­ing ses­sion and then the eas­ier it be­comes to re­peat.

Watch­ing Fed­erer an­swer ques­tions dur­ing his in­ter­views, I no­ticed that he and Nadal are in­cred­i­bly lean to a point that soc­cer play­ers are even big­ger in size than they are. Their bod­ies are ripped and can gen­er­ate in­cred­i­ble amounts of power with pre­ci­sion. When you start look­ing a lit­tle closer then a trend be­gins to emerge.

In rugby you see the same pat­tern and the sport de­mands that you have the strength, size and power ca­pac­ity to tackle, get tack­led and sur­vive the bat­tle grounds.

You don’t see too many bulky “rugby type” soc­cer play­ers run­ning around at pro level ei­ther be­cause of the vast amount of dis­tance at high in­ten­sity they must cover.

Would Fed­erer make a great rugby player if he had good skillsets? The opin­ion would be that he could be av­er­age, but he would not have the right pack­age com­bi­na­tion to play at a high level. Fed­erer, at his age, has the pack­age and a tac­ti­cal mind that al­lows him to play ten­nis at the high­est level.

I of­ten get asked: “what sports should my child play based on his cur­rent size, height and weight?” Don’t be fooled by peo­ple pre­dict­ing if your son or daugh­ter will make it one day or what sport they will ex­cel in. There are just too many vari­ables that play a role in an ath­lete be­com­ing suc­cess­ful.

What you can work on is what ge­netic your fam­ily has now and what your grand­par­ents had and also their grand­par­ents. If your fam­ily is 5ft 4in on av­er­age, don’t ex­pect to be a 7 ft gi­ant in your bas­ket­ball team. You might be slightly above av­er­age for your fam­ily’s height, but you are still go­ing to be too short.

Your frame links are also party to your ge­net­ics. There are al­ways ex­cep­tions to the rule, but if you look at a fam­ily of Kenyan marathon run­ners, more than likely most of their frames will be the same, lean and ef­fi­cient. It is not to say you will never be­come a great wing in rugby but rather say­ing that you need to choose sports that bet­ter fit your pro­file.

In sports which are bet­ter suited to your frame, you will find a child per­forms bet­ter at it nat­u­rally be­cause their frame­work sup­ports the out­come. If you asked a body­builder to run a marathon, more than likely they fall apart af­ter a few kilo­me­tres. Their frame is not suited for a marathon nor is it suited to play rugby. They are too big and true ath­letes are able to use their mass ef­fi­ciently for their sport.

Rather al­low your child to ex­pe­ri­ence all sports from very young but first start off with the ones they would nat­u­rally ex­cel in bet­ter. Don’t deny them op­por­tu­ni­ties in other sports be­cause you think they might not be good at it or too small for it. Tal­ent comes in all shapes and sizes and just maybe they are the miss­ing link to the puz­zle for their team.

Also don’t spe­cialise too early in any sport since this will guar­an­tee you in­juries later in the years. Dif­fer­ent sports help bal­ance ath­letes both men­tally and phys­i­cally. When you get past the pu­berty phase then you can start think­ing of spe­cial­is­ing.

Fed­erer men­tioned that he no longer plays ta­ble ten­nis or sports that will af­fect his health and well­ness in ten­nis. He purely fo­cuses on things that will make him bet­ter. He went on to say, that when he re­tires then he will con­tinue to do all the things he has put on the shelf.

Age is just a num­ber, if you look af­ter your body as well as Fed­erer does and even Chris­tiano Ron­aldo for that mat­ter, your body will treat you right back. Abuse your body and un­der­stand that your body will tor­ment you with in­juries and poor per­for­mances.

Pic­tures: Gallo Im­ages

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