We regularly see it in sports at all levels, from the pee-wees to the pros.

We regularly see it in sports at all levels, from the pee-wees to the pros. I'm talking about coaches who teach their players theproperway to play sports, whether it's pitching a baseball, kicking a soccer ball, or rolling a bowling ball down the alley. But it doesn't stop there - athletes are regularly shown therightway to field, catch, throw, run, hit, tackle, block, skate, shoot, and every other sport skill there is to perform. This all begs the million-dollar question:

Is there a proper, or right, way to perform a sport skill?

Of course, there is no argument that there are some basics to learn with every sport, but after that, do some coaches go too far based on their own assumption that they know the right way to do things? And by doing so, does their coaching sometimes actuallyhindera kid's athletic development?

Case study: Baseball

Since it's summer, lets take baseball for an example. Millions of kids will soon be taught the proper way to pitch, hit, and field, and they will be instructed in many cases as though there is only one right way of doing things. What's interesting, though, is if you watch a college or professional baseball game on television you will see that each player has his own way of pitching, hitting, and fielding,and rarely do any two players do it close to thesame way.

This week on sandlots across the country you will see baseball coaches showing all the kids on the team the "best" way to grip and swing a bat, even though that one way of doing things may not be the best way for kids of differing heights, weights, stances, balancing abilities, and coordination. The same is true for pitchers, who are routinely shown the same, generic template of motions they are to carry out before delivering a pitch.

Interestingly, even though kids are usually taught to do things the same way, something fascinating occurs as they develop their abilities: They develop their own unique ways of doing things that are most comfortable and proficient with respect to their individuality. The end result? Pitchers who use unorthodox windups (sometimes ending with side-arm or submarine deliveries), and hitters who hold the bat in a variety of ways, and hit from various different hitting positions.

Should coaches stop teaching their way, and instead work to each kid's strengths?

Would coaches be better served to ditch the generic teachings and instead work toward developing approaches that are directly tied to a kid's unique strengths, talents, and abilities? Of course, some coaches take this approach already, but should more coaches follow? Ironically, when you factor in that most youth coaches only have a minimal amount of time playing the sport they are coaching, the "right" way they have been teaching might actually be wrong anyway.

Rarely do we see athletes mimic one another with respect to the way they compete, prompting a re-evaluation if teaching in generic ways makes the most sense? While it might be a good move helping very young kids learn the basics of catching and throwing, should coaches quickly move from that method to a more unique approach uniquely suited to each kid? If the end goal is for athletes to play with comfort and confidence, it might behoove coaches to find the happy-medium to includes the coach's instructionwiththe athlete's natural tendencies.


Dr. Chris Stankovich is a graduate of The Ohio State University and the founder of Advanced Human Performance Systems, an athletic counseling and human performance enhancement center.

For more information visit his website:www.drstankovich.com