A great way for an athlete to improve their stamina, balance and coordination is through jump rope training. No matter the sport, an individual with superior agility is a force to be reckoned with.
As a kid I was fascinated watching the great Ozzie Smith, the St. Louis Cardinals' Hall of Famer, perform his acrobatic back flips en route to his shortstop position. I remember this act annoyed some traditionalists, as they believed there was no place for a gymnastics floor routine on a baseball diamond; however, my young friends and I found it very captivating.
While all of kids respected “The Wizard” for his athleticism and showmanship, there was one individual who actually incorporated Ozzie’s act into his own routine. Scott Hayden, the leadoff hitter and shortstop for the Mets in my little league days would emulate Smith’s trademark back flip on the way to his own place in the field.
If the gymnast act was merely a sideshow for an average ballplayer, it wouldn’t have been as impressive. But the fact of the matter was, Hayden was a superior athlete, and his routine was a representation of his mind blowing athletic ability. Aside from the Mets' version of Murderers' Row - Noah Prado, Jeff Vial, Ryan Merryweather, Scott McKinney and Joe Gulden - facing a contortionist like Scott Hayden was incredibly intimidating for a bunch of 11 and 12-year old kids.
“How am I going to hit one past that kid" or "I have to get him out?”
These insecure thoughts were commonplace for many little leaguers playing the Mets back in those days. But, aside from the showmanship and intimidation factor, Ozzie Smith and Scott Hayden both challenged the opposition with stellar defense, the ability to make solid contact in the batter’s box and their base running prowess. All of this can be related to their agility and athleticism - which was second to none.
There is no denying that some individuals are born with more natural athletic ability than others, but more importantly, how does an athlete go about improving those “God-given” talents?
While there are many ways to improve an athlete’s agility, balance and coordination - the jump rope is a convenient and classic exercise for athletes of all ages. For many generations boxers have been utilizing the jump rope to feel lighter on their feet and become more explosive in their movements. There is no reason why athletes in other sports shouldn’t incorporate this exercise into their own training.
Jumping rope is an excellent drill to do every day, multiple times a day. An athlete can bust out a set first thing in the morning, during their lunch break, prior to practice as a warm-up or before bed. The beauty of the jump rope is it's extremely portable and convenient.
Like any strength and conditioning exercise, athletes will find that their ability to jump rope will improve with time and practice. If an athlete can only manage a small number of reps initially, it’s important not to give up and keep grinding. Within no time they will see the improvements in their agility and endurance.
There are so many reasons for athletes to implement this drill into their daily routine. This exercise will strengthen an individual’s legs, work wonders for their cardiovascular system, while improving their coordination, speed and quickness. According to the American Heart Association jumping rope is also a great mind exercise! So whether you’re getting in a quick set on your own or playing double dutch with your little sister, grab life by the jump rope and get going!