By THOMAS HUKAHU
HAVE you seen someone performing as an athlete and realised how promising s/he is?
Then, when s/he takes on an opponent and you notice that the opponent makes him or her look like an amateur.
Have you observed such a case?
Do you know why your subject performed poorly against an opponent?
The answer lies in this: S/he may not have been sufficiently conditioned to face opponents.
The word “conditioning” is now used a lot in sports but the general concept is the same as was the case for tens of thousands of years. People who do not perform well in competitions can attribute their failures or mediocre performance to a lack of good conditioning.
Do you realise that that aspect is important in other aspects of life, as in academic learning?
Poor conditioning disallows promising talents from getting to the top and getting top prizes in what they maybe naturally good at.
(You may have realised that I am now starting a new series of articles on my favourite education stories. That is, stories, theories and concepts that have to do with what learners and their teachers or coaches achieved as well as initiatives started by leaders around the world in educating people in the hope of developing their society, nation or the world.)
What is conditioning?
Let us first look at the word itself.
In an Ezine article, Clinton Boucheix asks the question: What does it really mean to have “conditioning”?
And he says: “There are those that are ripped from strength conditioning, marathon runners have to go through a type of stamina conditioning and then there is the conditioning that is necessary for fighters and martial artists.
“Conditioning can come off as this hardcore concept of hard work and training to build your body up so it can perform or endure what the sport demands of it.
“And it’s true.”
However, he said that “the other half of conditioning is more about the discipline, the standard and the values that you adopt”.
That is, great conditioning is the result of adopting habits, standards and values that slowly over time change and transform the conditions of the body.
(It is good to note that physical condition usually has multiple components, including power, strength, speed, balance, agility, coordination and endurance.)
Lack of conditioning in football
When I look back over my short life, I am aware of the importance of conditioning in determining whether I perform well or poorly in different aspects of my life.
Let me share with your two small stories.
When I entered university to study science in my first year, I joined an on-campus football (soccer) team that was put together by some of my seniors from national high school.
Two of my seniors then played for the University Football Club in Port Moresby and would take us down at times to train with them. (University was one of the top clubs in the nation at that time.)
In one of those sessions, the coach of the club asked me to join them for a practice run the day after. He must have noticed some of the skills I possessed as someone who could play as a back or as a midfielder, positions I have played since I participated in schoolboys soccer in Port Moresby at the age of 12.
The next afternoon, I picked up my boots after a science practical laboratory session and headed to the field to join the University men for training.
The training was tough for me, an 18-year-old student, and someone who was studying a very challenging course. That practice session took a lot of energy out of me. (Actually, I should say – it drained me.)
When I returned to my studies that night, I could not complete my laboratory report and had to do a rush job early the next day to hand it in.
That night’s experience made me realise that if I went for another training session with the club, I could possibly lag behind in my studies – which was something that I did not want to do.
So, I kindly told the coach the next time I saw him that I could not join the club for another practice run.
Looking at that experience years later made me realise that I was not conditioned to keep up with the demanding exercises that were normal for University players, some of whom were then our nation’s representative players.
Sure, I could play football, yet the level of football that those representative players were used to was a bit advanced for me.
It demanded more strength and stamina, something that I did not develop as such by just playing on-campus football.
Conditioned in maths
Here is another story.
When I was in Grade 12, I had a mathematics teacher who demanded that I spend one hour every day in the subject. (She, an Indian mother, has sadly left us for the other life. She passed on only a few years after teaching me.)
She was a taskmaster and ensured that some of us got to perfect the habit of handling mathematics with more respect and care. (Not everyone did what she urged us to do. But for those of us who took on her cues and changed our study habits saw better results with each term in the subject.)
Years later, I realised that she had “successfully conditioned” some of us to handle mathematics at the higher level with ease and without any sense of anxiety.
Her tireless effort had disciplined us to perform superbly for years ahead, to say the least.
The teacher had done a good job in conditioning us.
Use conditioning in your training
Whether you are a teacher, coach or parent, you can learn from this article and apply conditioning to bring out the best in student, player or child.
Do note that conditioning can also be taken to be grooming, as in preparing someone to perform well in his or her tasks in the future.
You should realise that the exercises in conditioning are going to be tough but your student, player or child will perform superbly if s/he is conditioned well.
Remember, conditioning is not just exercise. It is also cultivating better habits in the hope of reaping better results.
Explain that to your student, player or child.
If someone had explained the need for conditioning to me when I was a football player at 18, then maybe I would have strategised better to keep up with the hard training that I was not used to.
Tips for the teacher, coach or parent
All professional sportsmen and women know the importance of conditioning.
Think about Kylian Mbappé, the French teen striker who helped Les Bleus (The Blues), their men’s national team, win the Fifa World Cup in 2018.
He as well as others started by being conditioned at an early age.
He was noticed as a superb footballer at the age of six and he was conditioned or groomed to be a professional football player.
The years of training and grooming have paid off, not only for him but for other professional sportsmen and women too.
My tip for you, if you are in the business of teaching a child, coaching a player or parenting one.
The earlier you start, the better.
Don’t wait until they are teens. Start as soon as they can walk.
Finally, note that sports is not the only aspect of life that we need to apply conditioning.
We can apply that to academics as well, as in me learning maths, or even mastering a form of art.
Part of our teaching must be done with a desire to condition those who we teach to be ready for the next level – not just performing superbly at the level that they are at.
In other words, teach, coach or parent the young ones with the future in mind.
A good job done now will reap a good harvest in the future.
Tips for the learner
If you want to raise your level of performance in sports or academics, it is time you try some conditioning techniques.
Remember what I said about my teacher helping me become a better student with her suggestion?
Your teacher and coach can help you with suggestions, however if you do not take them on, you cannot be competitive at a higher level of competition.
Conditioning demands time and effort and going over routines and techniques that we may not naturally want or are used to. However, if raising the level of your performance is priority number one, then you have to submit yourself to the tasks that will make you become better.
Conditioning may also demand that you change your habits or ways of doing things.
If you are just having 30-minute practice sessions, it is time to increase that time to one hour or more.
It will be tough, but it will pay off.
Physicist Albert Einstein was known to have said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
If you are not getting better results in what you do, it is time to change the way you do things. Try some conditioning tactics to get better results.
You can apply this to raise your level in performance in anything you are interested in – sports, academics or musical performance.
• Next week: Ivan Pavlov and classical conditioning. Thomas Hukahu is a freelance writer.