Have you ever wondered why an athlete like Tom Brady is able to play for so many years at a high level in a contact sport? What about the soon to be Hall of Famer, Tim Duncan.
There's a long list of athletes that played or continue to compete in their respective sports well beyond their prime. How is this possible?
Sure, staying in great physical shape by working out and adhering to a strict diet is part of it, but there's a key factor that contributes to this ongoing success: Sport IQ.
As Father Time catches up with these athletes, pure physical ability is not enough to maintain a high level of efficiency. After all, every year there are younger, stronger, faster and more athletic players entering into these leagues.
What sets these individuals apart is their knowledge of the game and how to play with limited abilities.
Sport IQ is more than just being an intelligent person, it's about playing the game in an intelligent manner. Avoiding unnecessary contact, quick decision making and adjusting to the competition are just a few of the ways in which seasoned athletes stay consistently at the top of their game.
For example, a quarterback drops back for a third and long but no receiver is open. They could choose to run for the first down knowing that the percentages of rushing for a first are slim to none. They decide to throw the ball away to maintain field position and avoid taking a sack or fumble or throwing an interception or taking a devastating hit. It's not an exciting decision, but it's an intelligent one.
Another example would be if a running back turns the corner on a sweep and is surrounded by three defenders. Although he can lower his shoulder and try to run through all three defenders, it is not likely he will gain much more yardage. Sure, if it was towards the end of the game and the situation required brute force, then no one would blame the back for fighting for every inch in the field. However, under normal circumstances, the ball carrier could just protect the ball and brace for contact moving forward. Those extra hits add up over the duration of the game and in that players' career.
Coaches and trainers that teach their athletes how to become students of the sport equip players with the tools needed to be successful in the long run. Going over game situations and strategies give players more options to succeed. This knowledge of the game becomes crucial as an athlete's physical ability starts to fade. It also helps players avoid injury with a smarter way to play the game.
Playing smarter does not mean one cannot play hard. It just means that you are aware of what is necessary to be successful each play and that you take calculated risks that put you in the best possible position to be successful.
Athletes should learn the game and not just how to play a sport. That is how the veterans remain relevant against their younger, more athletic counterparts.
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