Tom is a senior lecturer in Sports Science at the University of Worcester and Head of Performance at Bounce. In the past Tom has worked in professional rugby, professional football and with elite athletes in many endurance sports.

“In the strength and conditioning field, skill development is the hot topic right now. Strength and power have and always will be vital aspects of performance, although skill development is of equal if not more importance.

Typically, young athletes focus on being the biggest and strongest. However, if we look at the most successful and consistent international teams it is evident that size and strength are not always the best route to success or maintaining a less injury-prone squad.  

This is true of many sport. For example, many English rugby teams are accused of focusing too much on developing strength and size with their athletes and not enough on skill development. 

On the international stage we regularly see some of the smaller, albeit most skilled athletes seemingly punching above their bodyweight and out-performing larger opposition. Take rugby players Ben Smith (New Zealand), Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland) or Johnny Wilkinson (England) for example; three of the best players in the world of recent years but relatively small considering modern day standards. Yet during play they appear more powerful than their size would suggest them capable of. Having superior fundamental skill development than other players allows them to skip out of tackles and tackle above their bodyweight.

Have you ever questioned why some players, although smaller than their opposite number, seem to do this week in week out?

This is where skill development comes in. At Bounce we teach a system that incorporates fundamental movement skills alongside strength training. In the past this has been woefully overlooked by many professional setups but it’s a hugely important area for aspiring athletes. Specific movements transferrable across nearly every sport are often taught incorrectly at a young age (sprinting, jumping, rotating, cutting, changing direction, acceleration and decelerating all fall into this category). It is very common to see athletes even at a professional level performing these movements inefficiently and with poor technique. Should these individuals spend more time practicing and enhancing their basic movement skills, their on-field performance could be so much better and also improve their chances of remaining injury-free. At a time where injury rates in contacts sports are at an all-time high this is obviously important.

Every so often a player comes along who has strength, size, power and an amazing level of skill development. Think Jonah Lomu or Sonny Bill Williams. 

It is fairly easy to increase strength and put on size compared to learning proper fundamental movements. These skills are more complicated to teach and take longer to learn than the traditional strength and conditioning of the past hence the importance of teaching them at an early age. Pre-adolescence ideally. It is true that some people are genetically gifted with excellent mechanics and naturally move very well.  These guys are the lucky ones! The rest of us have to work hard to improve our skill development if we want to make better athletes.”

At Bounce we are lucky to have some of the best strength and conditioning staff around to teach the athletes of tomorrow.