10 Jan Exercises to Increase a Youth Athlete’s Academics and Focus
I’m on a quick lunch break and I’m about to dive into one of the most complex topics in the world. In 30 minutes.
No, not economics of healthcare.
No, not chromatic scale music theory.
No, not hip torque angles.
No, not the mental state of Trump’s hairdresser.
A much more layered topic: the neuroscience of physical activity.
Before you have a panic attack, let me comfort you that I will simplify this topic as much as possible and provide easy, actionable steps.
You see, the more I grow into my career, the more I realize what I’m doing extends far, far beyond the physical benefits of training. The mental component, to that end, is much more powerful and paramount for youth athletes.
To paint a picture, if you’re a school teacher, ever wonder why your students return to science class sluggish, and unable to process information on the blackboard? Yeah. The lack of recess and free play outside could be the problem.
Or, if you’re a youth sports coach, ever wonder why your players are lazy in warm-ups and can’t nail down a tactical formation drill? Yeah. The increase in video game usage beforehand could be the problem.
Or, if you’r a parent, ever wonder why your kids procrastinate their homework and prioritize winning Fornite? Yeah. The sedentary lifestyle you teach them could be the problem.
So here’s your solution: inspire movement. But not just any movement. Cross-body movement.
The brain works in magical ways, and one of them being, movement allows it to rebuild neural networks, process new tasks and skills, and connect its logical and creative sides for optimal performance in school, sports, and life. In fact, I write about this a ton in my Total Youth Soccer Fitness Program.
But also, if you read the book Smart Moves, it dives into how this happens on a neural level. There’s loads of research and practical case studies as well. I highly recommend every youth coach, parent, and trainer reads it.
If this lights a fire under your butt more: my parents got me this for Christmas and I finished it in 48 hours. That’s a challenge.
Anyway, how can movement improve an athlete’s academics and focus? And what types of movement should they be doing?
Looking to the integral function of the brain, it’s important to perform movements that connect the left and right hemispheres, mainly with cross-body movements.
The more the hemispheres perform an integrative dance together, the more a human will optimally perform any task.
As an example, Messi may be known as a “creative, right brain” player, but in order for him to execute his spontaneous skills, he also has to tap into his left brain for foot-eye coordination and technique.
Here are four movements you can do daily that will allow the brain hemispheres to work in conjunction with one another:
1. Standing Cross Crawl
2. Dead Bug Cross Crawl
3. Plank Cross Crawl
4. Crawling Cross Crawl
I’d argue these movements should be done daily to activate the left and right hemispheres of the brain the most. In fact, wake up with these to start your day, or have your athletes do them before a training session.
Because sometimes, the basics blossom into something spectacular.
And you know what? I was able to write this piece in 30 minutes because I performed Cross Crawls beforehand.