By Eric Salley
We all know that physical activity is good for everyone! Elevating our heart rate has proven benefits both mentally and physically. Mentally, when we are active, our bodies release endorphins that help us reduce anxiety, depression, and stress as well as improve sleep and increase our self-esteem! Physically, when we are active, we begin to build and strengthen our muscles, and our most important muscle is our heart! When our hearts are strong, we have more energy, lower blood pressure, and reduce our risk of diabetes and other diseases.
Because everyone needs physical activity, it’s important to view everyone as an athlete. An athlete is someone who moves in response to an external stimulus. For example, an elderly individual grocery shopping needs to be able to navigate the store in response to what is happening around them, just as much as Ronaldo or Messi need to move around the pitch in response to what is happening around them. We are all athletes!
A strength and conditioning routine helps us learn correct movement skills in response to what is going on around us. So, how can we as coaches help encourage a strength and conditioning routine for our athletes with intellectual and physical disabilities at home, with access to little or even no equipment? There are three principles we need to remember when promoting a strength and conditioning routine for our athletes:
- Keep it fun
- Keep it simple
- Keep it safe
Keep it fun:
Soccer is fun, so training for soccer should be fun too! By making the exercises we choose fun, our athletes want to keep doing them. Include games and challenges throughout the session to help engage the mind and promote maximum participation.
Keep it simple:
Simplicity during this time is incredibly important. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel, we need to stay active and positive! Activities that are easy to do, with little equipment, could make all the different in getting everyone involved.
Keep it safe:
Most importantly, we want activities that are safe. While we can’t be with our athletes, we want to make sure we are putting them in the best situation to continue development and growth.
One of the best ways I have found to create a fun, simple, and safe routine is through the use of obstacle courses. An obstacle course provides a flexible way to engage our athletes with little or no equipment needed. The different movements help keep the activity fun, and the ability to mix and match lots of exercises makes this activity a go to. Remember, you know your athletes best, so choose safe activities that will challenge but also engage them!
Here are just a few examples of exercises you can include in your obstacle course at home. You can also include a ball in many of these exercises to incorporate proper technique.
- Hop scotch
- 2 feet at the same time
- 1 foot only
- Agility ladder (if you don’t have one you can draw one with chalk)
- Line jumps
- Forward and backward
- Side to side
- Line walks (see video below and be creative!)
- Running around cones/shoes/objects
- Bear crawls (see video)
- Crab walks
- Push ups
- Farmer carry (carry milk jugs or water battles from one place to another)
- Dribble course
- Pass to a partner, do an activity, and then receive it back
- Juggling station
These are just a few ideas. There are countless options available, and don’t be afraid to let your athletes choose! They will enjoy thinking up fun things to do, and it will create a sense of ownership while they complete the course.
Below is a video showing an obstacle course drawn with chalk. Activities are:
- 10 box hop scotch
- Straight line walk
- Bear crawl (big circles for feet, small circles for hands)
- Straight line walk
- Looped walk
- DANCE PARTY!
- Dotted line walk (encouraging balance by elongating the gait)
- Bear Crawl
- 4 box hop scotch
Remember, maintaining physical activity is important for our health. We all need the ability to move in response to our surroundings, which means we are all athletes! Keep your routines fun, simple and safe and don’t be afraid to get creative. We can continue to grow and invest in our athletes no matter where we are!