Not All Sports Are Different

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Sydney Williams August 5, 2021 Founders Corner

We once heard from a ski coach how the strength and conditioning director at one university designed the same program for the ice hockey team as for the downhill ski racing team.

Our friend highlighted how similar the two sports are not just in power and speed, but in endurance. Each one requires roughly 60 seconds of intense exertion, about the time a line skates in hockey and a race lasts in skiing.

That got us thinking. How different are sports?

Let’s say you play basketball. Do you approach a competition any differently than someone who plays tennis? How differently does a runner train than a lacrosse player?

Athletes who play a sport that competes a few days a week will approach a competition differently than athletes who compete less often. The stakes aren’t the same. Those differences, nevertheless, quickly fall away in championship competitions. Intensity levels rise just as high.

How you train for and play a sport certainly vary. All sports require a base skill level, some far greater than others. You can’t just put on a pair of skates and expect to keep up in hockey, or strap on skis and win an event.

Even running can take years to perfect. You need time to build your aerobic base and fine tune all that goes into your stride: leg kick, hip rotation, etc.

Repetitive movement may seem easy, but doing it at maximum heart rate makes it extremely difficult. Consider the thousands of hours Olympic swimmers invest in their sport over their careers.

Common Threads

However, even among sport-specific skills, common threads exist. Take balance. An offensive lineman in football has to keep a low center of gravity for power and stability. The same physics apply to rowing. A lower center of gravity stabilizes the boat and translates into greater power through the drive.

It’s no different for other sports. An equestrian rider uses core muscles to push the center of gravity down into the horse. A softball player like a golfer produces a more effective swing if the athlete can rotate across a stable gravitational center.

Racing sports such as skiing, running, rowing, and swimming require intensive conditioning. Coaches often measure fitness in recovery times. They keep track of heart rate, blood lactate and oxygen intake.

Athletes in these sports have to achieve a basic level of fitness. As novices and early in their careers, they can win on conditioning. But as they advance, skill (or technique) begins to play a bigger role.

Fitness also matters in game-based sports but in an inverse relationship to racing sports. Whereas skill often factors more in base levels of competition, fitness gains in importance as competition levels advance.

A soccer team that’s better conditioned than its opponent creates more scoring opportunities. The same holds true for squash, field hockey and rugby.

Exceptions exist, of course. Sailing, for example, follows a skill-versus-fitness pathway that matches game-based sports.

We designed Stride to accommodate all sports. We allow for differences but, at the same time, lean on common threads.

Coaches create practices by selecting from a menu of modules. A module is a practice segment, for example the warm-up period, play installation, game simulation, intervals, etc. We vary modules by sport.

Game-based sports share modules, although modules won’t all be exactly alike. Racing sports likewise share modules.

Finally, once you get past technical differences in how sports are played, you realize that each sport is the same in the extent to which communication, goals and accountability play a part.

A team that optimizes all three factors together exceeds expectations.

This is exactly what Stride helps to accomplish.


Sydney is Stride’s Founder.