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Unlocking Athletic Potential: The Importance of Problem Solving Skills in Sports

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Unlocking Athletic Potential: The Importance of Problem Solving Skills in Sports

As a parent of a youth athlete, it's crucial to understand that problem solving and sports IQ are key factors in achieving success in sports. While natural athletic abilities are great, athletes with higher problem solving and sports IQ are often able to excel over their opponents.

Problem solving is the process of finding solutions to difficult or complex issues, while sports IQ is expertise and judgment in a particular sport. It's essential for young athletes to devote time and attention to becoming experts at what they do, and this can give them a significant edge over their competition.

Athletes like Sam Mitchel and Stuart Dew are great examples of how problem solving and sports IQ can help them succeed in their sport despite not having what we might consider elite athletic abilities when compared to others in their generation. Developing these skills is crucial to becoming more efficient at applying technical abilities in a competitive setting.

As a parent, you can encourage your child to develop problem solving skills by providing them with games and tasks that require significant amount of problem solving in a competitive manner. Simple games like octopus or tag can help kids develop evasive skills and body awareness when dodging an attacker or other players. As they become teenagers, in-game based scenario drills and reactive warm-up games are great ways to develop problem solving and sports IQ.

Exposing your child to situations where they have to make quick decisions frequently is essential in ensuring they make the right decision come game day. Working smarter, not harder, is critical to their success. By always being in the right spot, rather than having to work hard running around the field, your child will experience more success and catch the eye of more scouts.

At Inner Athlete, we incorporate the GOAT drill into our warm-ups to challenge individuals to problem solve and process numerous stimuli while remining in control. The GOAT drill is a multi-layered performance drill which aims to improve stimulus processing whilst controlling your body and eye positioning. The drill involves moving through a set of cones in a figure 8 motion, whilst keeping your eyes focussed ahead of you as you pass a tennis ball around your hips. Over time, the individual will become more efficient at processing these sporadic stimuli, and they'll be able to handle an increasing amount at a faster rate.

We have seen the most success when implementing this drill with our field and team based athletes, as they have a lot of different stimulus to process within their sport. One of our younger soccer players who is a midfielder has mentioned how they feel like they have a lot more time on the ball after incorporating this drill in their warm-up. This resulted in them turning the ball over less and being able to make more attacking passes.

Encouraging your child to develop these skills through games, drills and warm-ups is critical to giving them an edge over their competition and helping them achieve their athletic goals.

For more information on strength and conditioning for youth athletes and increasing your sport performance, check out our website and podcast (also available on Spotify and YouTube).

Matt Hucul
Strength and Conditioning Coach
Inner Athlete - Bayside's premium strength and conditioning coaching for youth athletes

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