Balance training is a key area of practice for the athlete, when we think of balance we usually perceive of standing on 1 leg, although this can be used as a test for balance, in sport we are looking to perform many different actions under dynamic control such as running, jumping and agility moves, for example trying to turn to lose a player in soccer, landing after jumping to receive a netball, reaching for a shot in badminton, or running over uneven ground. In these situations dynamic balance to some extent only forms part of the overall picture as we do need to develop other skills such as strength, power, flexibility and the ability to control force production and reduction or deceleration.
We now see both kids and adults who have difficulty with running, twisting and turning, controlling a landing from a jump, or coordinating movements. Playing a sport with these weakened abilities, may reduce performance and possibly be a contributing factor for injury.
Balance is a dynamic process where the aim is to control our centre of gravity over our base of support. Balance can be affected at all levels of difficulty and abilities, in sport we look for stability of movement where stability is a measure of the level at which one is able to maintain balance while adjusting to factors that disturb balance. The components of balance that need to be trained and integrated include stability, kinaesthetic awareness, proprioception, the vestibular system, focus, concentration and the ability to shift balance in a controlled manor.
Developing the skill of balancing and therefore moving better for your sport is best done with feet on the floor at first rather than using an unstable surface such as a wobble or balance board which may help some sports better than others. They are often used for surfers and in rehabilitation for ankle sprains. Exercises and drills such as lunges, improving mobility for hips, dynamic movement skills, cone drills can help increase balance ability in your sport.