Most of movement awareness activities can be addressed daily as part of structured warm-up. Structured in the sense that the thought and planning should be put into the sequence and timing of the activities, not the step-by-step orchestration or choreographing of the movement. The later would defeat the purpose. The goal is to create an environment where the athlete can cultivate as rich a repertoire of motor skills to draw upon as a foundation for specific sport skill. “Rigorously defining proper form and the use of mechanical stabilization and anti cheating aids excessively constrain athletes exploration and problem solving movements, and bear little resemblance to what occurs in athletic performance.” (Ives and Shelley p182)
- Body Awareness– this consists of an awareness of the whole body and the relationship to its parts. A key to body awareness is awareness of center. The relationship of hips to feet (base of support) and hips to shoulders as well as eye to hand and eye to foot coordination. Crucial to all movement and an integral part of body awareness is opposition. In gait it is the arms swinging in opposition to the legs. It is not something we should have to think about, but it is something we can train and take advantage of.Spatial Awareness- this is awareness of the position(s) our body occupies in space. It is a sense of where you are in your environment. On the court or on the field it is sensing where you are in relation to the other people around you, even though they may not be in your direct sight. It is also a sense of where you are in tumbling, falling, and acrobatic skills that allows you to control your body.
- Rhythmic Awareness– our fundamental rhythm is the heart beat, all our bodily rhythms are derived from that. Sport movements are rhythmic in nature. This is highly related to music and dance. Movement is just a series of synchronous and asynchronous rhythms linked together.
- Directional Awareness– this has two components: laterality and directionality. Laterality is awareness of both sides of the body. Directionality is a sense of where we are going, forward, back, right, left, up and down. Effectively being able to move in all directions is a prerequisite for effective skill development.
- Vestibular Awareness– this is the information based on feedback from the vestibular apparatus located in the inner ear that provides information about the body’s relationship to gravity. It is closely related to balance and body awareness. The vestibular sense provides two key inputs: the position of the head in relation to the ground and the direction of movement in space. Todd summarizes the physiology quite well: “However the result is accomplished, the fact is well established that the otoliths and semicircular canals are the seat of impressions of position and direction of motion in space; and they are combined in the brain with the kinesthetic sensations of movement, weight pressure, and relative position, coming from other parts of the body, to give us our minute-to-minute information as to the movements of our limbs, neck and trunk, where we are at any given moment, and how we can get somewhere else.” (Todd, page 28)
- Visual Awareness– vision is a dominant factor in motor skill. Some experts have estimated that as high as 80% of all information we perceive is derived from visual feedback. Vision is closely tied to spatial awareness. It is the sense that modulates or regulates the other senses. This is a quality that is very trainable. It is also a quality that if taken away by simply closing the eyes can be used to heighten awareness.
- Temporal Awareness– this is a sense of timing. This awareness is crucial for performance where there are time constraints or a sense of pace is required.
- Auditory Awareness– this is the ability to discriminate, interpret, and associate auditory stimuli. For smooth efficient movement auditory awareness must be highly developed. Hearing allows us to get feedback as to the rhythm of movements. Something as simple as the sound of a foot strike in running is tremendous feedback to both the coach and the athlete.
- Tactile Awareness– This is a sense of feel and touch. There is a tendency to think of this as only the hands, but feel and touch with the feet is also very important. The whole body is a giant sense organ, so try to get away from thinking of tactile awareness as the exclusive domain of the hands.
Ultimately, what links this into a complete functional program is proprioception. Proprioception is awareness of joint position derived from feedback in the sense receptors in the joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. It is a highly trainable quality. It is almost too simple. We must strive to constantly change proprioceptive demand throughout the training program. In fact this variable should be manipulated more frequently than change in exercise mode or change of exercise because it adapts so rapidly.
Ives, Jeffrey C. and Shelley, Greg A. “Psychophysics in Functional Strength and Training: Review and Implementation Framework.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Vol. 17 #1 pp 177 -186
Todd, Mabel E. The Thinking Body. Princeton Book Company Publishers. Highston, NJ. 1937