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May 28

Importance of Rhythm Training

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If you think about it… everything we do has a rhythm or ‘beat’… our heart, the way we talk, walk, run, or generally move! Yet, we hardly point this out to our athletes. The ability to dictate and control the specific rhythm of any given skill, we call it ‘correct timing’ and pacing, is the difference between a truly great performance, the good or the average one. I played the Cello in the school orchestra during my teen years. Heaven forbid, following the black lines on the bottom of the pool in training, I often practiced my Mozart Concertos… never mind, that I forgot my lap count and had to repeat it… Coach was mad! I must say that my Breaststroke really did follow Mozart or Vivaldi!

Rhythm should be developed during early skill learning because it plays a significant role in the ability to change direction and move extremities with ease (limbs) in synchronized or opposite action. Rhythm training should be a critical component in coaching but is frequently neglected, under-taught, or lacks constant reinforcement, which makes them robotic (machine-like), lacking the necessary movement ‘flow.’ When I teach, every skill has a specific count: 1, 2, 3, 4 or 1-8, 1-16 or 1-32 for skills performed in longer series.

One way to teach rhythm is to incorporate Ballet-type movements into the daily programs. These exercises are modified from classical ballet but are performed to set counts and, of course, music. Using a popular ‘beat’ is a powerful mood enhancer and relaxation mode, and becomes a great motivational, and/or visualization tool. The approach works especially for younger athletes because they really like to move to music! It makes it ‘FUN-ner’, as one youngster told me recently!

 

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