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CERSOSIMO: Program shows well-practiced basics continue to pay dividends

In competitive sports, anything an athlete can do to get an edge on the opponent is necessary.

Many times, athletes look to get faster and stronger rather than surveying their overall fitness. And perhaps the most important thing, before diving into enhancement workouts, is injury prevention.

Athletes in Mitchell and the surrounding area are benefiting from working with a movement analysis system known as Dartfish, combined with the Functional Movement System, which was put together through the help of Avera Queen of Peace Hospital. Eager young athletes have worked with Thomas Gulledge, the Mitchell Recreation Center’s fitness coordinator, to get ahead of the game through this program.

FMS exercises identify asymmetries and limitations of an athlete. The seven exercises test flexibility, balance and strength. This program, along with the Dartfish, which slows down the exercise using two cameras connected to a laptop to review the intricacies of a person’s movement, can benefit athletes by showing them what basics they need to work on.

A perfect score is a 21 and a participant receives a one, two or three in each exercise based on how well it is performed. Exercises range from body squats to lunges to flexibility reaches, and the goal is to get as high of a score as possible without having any asymmetries from left to right or front to back.

Gulledge said it’s common to see athletes with a dominant and a weaker side, which is what he’s helping to equalize. Many times, athletes breeze through the basic fundamentals of movements, leaving them much more prone to injury later on.

“People have run these tests on NFL players in the draft combine, and at the beginning of the testing, the average is 11.9,” Gulledge said. “These movements are so simple for them, but we’re trying to get back to a point from basics to a complex movement pattern and not get hurt.”

Every six weeks the participant is retested after doing regular exercises to strengthen weak spots. These exercises are combined with a training program an athlete is already doing.

“We want to look at where the holes are, the gaps are at and fill them in to make sure these are complete athletes,” Gulledge said, adding many athletes are expected by their coaches to continue the sport-specific workouts.

The importance of taking this test is to ensure injury prevention by making sure the body is balanced. In getting the body as balanced as possible, an athlete is apt to improve at a quicker speed.

Imagine if an athlete going on to the college level could have the flexibility, strength and balance, along with their skill set, before joining a new program. The athlete will be ahead of the game and be able to focus on going forward rather than beginning with basics.

Many collegiate programs don’t want to have to worry about basics. They want to take players with talent and the skill sets they have and plunge right into enhancement workouts.

After watching three gymnasts take the test two weeks ago, it’s clear that gymnastics is well suited to this test but can also benefit from it.

The best score tested locally leading up to Dec. 30 was a 15, so the three Mitchell High School gymnasts and one former gymnast had a challenge ahead. Two of the girls scored a 15 and the other a 13, which is still two points above the 11-point average of Gulledge’s 52 participants.

In doing the test myself, after participating in minimal physical activity for seven months, we found my basics were well taught during my gymnastics career. There were still challenging parts, of course, but my body didn’t forget what was drilled into it day after day when I was younger. So for now, the challenge lies at a new bar: my score of 17.

Never stop working the basics, because it pays off for years to come in general health and fitness. And for those wanting to continue their athletic careers at the college level, commit to improving your basic movement patterns early and often.

It’s the athlete’s responsibility to get trained correctly before joining a program at the next level. This is just one way to start.