Co-ordination is the expression of smooth integrated movement; if you watch an Olympic athlete run they look efficient and seem to use no effort at all in their motion. If you want to improve your sports performance and reduce mechanical stress on the body, work on your coordination.
Coordination though is affected by several different abilities including: balance, spatial orientation, reaction, kinaesthetic differentiation and rhythm. For coordination to be optimised it should be practised from childhood. Developing coordination skills between the ages of 7-14, was found through research, to be a critical time when the window of opportunity presented for the central nervous system appeared to be the most adaptable. Playing a variety of sports, games and improving fundamental movement skills will help improve coordination. Also to note here is that the fundamental movement skills are often neglected and children end up just playing a sport which often highlights a coordination problem but may not improve it. After this period of time you can still improve into adulthood, but the potential to optimally develop coordination reduces. Only playing 1 specific sport can also reduce the optimal development of the coordination system and may sometimes cause burn out of the athlete early on in their career and can be a cause of injury as movement is not potentially developed. Advancement in your sporting career may be slower when playing multiple sports, however it has been reported that being consist with training has led to better results from future competitions.
Exercises to improve coordination must be specific for an individual as some athletes’ may be better at balancing, while others may have better reactions or more body awareness. Coaches must therefore challenge the young athlete with both suitable exercise and its complexity. Appropriate exercises that have been used include: single leg balances, low beam walking, jumps in place, agility training, skipping, catching a ball and juggling and dynamic movement skills. These skills will need to be developed usually in conditioning sessions separate to the sporting environment.
It is important therefore to set aside time in conjunction with the training of sports skills to improve coordinated movement. This will help the athlete express complex movement patterns and explosive power required for greater performance.