March Madness is fast approaching, and the nation's eyes are on the top college stars.
Whether they're crashing the boards or playing one-on-one, there's no doubt about it - these kids have game.
Having honed their athletic skills with years of practice, they're ready for the “Big Dance.”
But what makes a top player?
Is it natural athletic ability? Dedication to the game? The backing of a top athletic program?
"There are many factors that go into making a star player," explains Joe Kolb, NATA certified athletic trainer and author of Get Fit Now for High School Basketball (Hatherleigh Press, $15.95).
"But one thing you'll find that these players all have in common is the good skills background that they had coming into their college game.
Proper training at the high school level not only gave them the moves that have made them stars, but also gave them the strength and agility that keep them injury-free."
Kolb offers these tips for teens that have an eye on making it to the “Final Four” in coming years:
Train smart to prevent injury
Some people argue that conditioning at the high school level is unnecessary, or even dangerous. This is simply not true.
Conditioning-weight training, especially, is not only safe, but has also been found to contribute to the strength of bones, ligaments and tendons.
Making sure your body is strong means you'll avoid injuries that can take you out of the game permanently.
Lifting weights improve speed
Another popular myth is that the added bulk from weight training will slow a player down. Not true!
Strong muscles are needed to propel the body through space.
The stronger the muscles, the greater the force you can exert to move the body.
Remember your mental game
An athlete will not reach his or her full potential unless the mind is trained as well as the body.
Mental imagery, which blends what the athlete has observed, been taught, and should do in a given situation, has been used with great success by athletes at all levels.
By focusing on, say, the movements needed to sink a foul shot, a player can train his or hersubconscious mind to execute the skill when it is physically required.
Eat smart even on the road
For many busy high school athletes, fast food is an attractive meal option.
It's quick and filling-perfect for a teen trying to balance homework, practice, and a busy social schedule.
But because proper nutrition is essential to good performance, players should try to limit the amount of fast food they eat.
Packing fruits, vegetables or pretzels for a quick snack on the go is a great alternative to a fatty burger and fries.