Sporting variety is vital as athletes develop

Word reached this column earlier this week that the Western Warriors basketball team had added yet more silverware to their growing collection. The recently crowned Lonleitros League champions were crowned Top 4 Cup champions in Edgeworthstown recently following impressive wins over Mayo Masters and Longford Torpedoes.

  This is of course just the latest basketball success in this neck of the woods following Castlerea Community School’s All-Ireland heroics a few months ago. The game is clearly developing in the region and it’s fantastic to see so much local success in this global sport. The emergence of different sports is also important for young athletes, who have the opportunity to try as many as possible, particularly as they’re developing. Hand-eye coordination, footwork, agility can be developed in many different ways and it’s amazing to see how certain sports seem to complement each other.

  By only playing one sport the body becomes used to the same mechanics and therefore agility tends to suffer – older soccer players complaining about tight hamstrings for example.

  Therefore, it’s great to see athletes like Jenny Higgins (Western Warriors and Roscommon football) and Sean Purcell (Boyle Celtic and Roscommon) crossing over into different codes. It goes to show that it is possible to play a variety of sports; particularly once care is taken with developing bodies. The trick is to find balance between each sport and that’s where organisations such as the GAA, FAI, RDYSL and IRFU come in. It’s important that young athletes aren’t over-trained and therefore a proper, structured plan should be put in place for fixtures.

  Working abroad as a coach has opened my eyes to the potential benefits to be had from working with athletes who play both basketball and soccer, for example. Not only are these athletes quicker off the mark, they’re more agile and have better balance too. Movement is key and the more varied this movement is, the better it will be for young, developing athletes.