Stability, when referring to athleticism, is the ability to maintain control throughout a movement and to return to the original position when abruptly displaced. This involves a combination of both balance and coordination. While often mistaken for interchangeable terms, balance and coordination are actually two different actions that work together to create a fluid, stable movement.
Balance – maintaining an equal distribution of weight
The most common testing used to determine if a person is well balanced is a stork stance or a BESS test. This is when the athlete is asked to stand on one foot and hold that position for a particular length of time and is advanced through asking the athlete to close his or her eyes, throw/catch a ball, or complete another task that is meant to distract him or her from the overall task of balancing. If the athlete is unable to maintain this position, it is determined that he or she has poor balance and needs to work to improve said balance.
I always tell my athletes that while they can come up with a number of excuses why they ‘didn’t have time’ to do X, Y and Z when it comes to training, I will never buy into their excuses that they didn’t have time to work on balance. My response back is that you brush your teeth at least twice a day, hopefully for the dentist recommended minimum of 2 minutes, you can balance on your right leg for the first minute and your left leg for the second. Or you balance on your left leg in the morning and your right leg at night; however you want to break it up. It is quite possibly the easiest component of athleticism to improve on your own.
Coordination – Harmonious combination of function and parts
This means that an athlete’s body is able to create movement patterns that flow and are not interrupted unless acted on by an outside force. For instance a quarterback who is throwing a football does so from the ground up. The movement begins at the feet and flows all of the way up through his fingertips upon release. The movement is sequenced so that one movement rolls over seamlessly into the next to develop the strength and power needed through what is called the kinetic chain.
In younger, less experienced quarterbacks, you may often see a break-up of the movement or a segmentation that deters from the coordination and flow. This limits the distance the QB is able to throw and negatively impacts his accuracy. Improvement of coordination takes time, planning, and effort. It is not always a fun task as athletes are often asked to step away from the competitive mindset of needing to do everything quick and explosive, but rather to slow things down and focus on where the movement is coming from and how to adjust body angles to elicit improvements. The correct mixture of improving joint angles, muscular strength in deficient areas, and body awareness throughout movement helps to improve coordination.
While separate concepts, having poor balance or poor coordination will negatively impact the other as they need to function together as one unit. If someone has poor balance, it is essentially the ‘outside force’ that can hinder coordinated movements necessary for performance. Inversely, if a person is unable to appropriately utilize and activate his or her kinetic chain movements then muscle groups are firing out of order, leading to the individual to become unbalanced. All of this leads to him or her being unable to maintain control throughout a movement and become unstable. The reasons for inability to properly coordinate muscular activation and movement or maintain balance stem from immobility at the joints, inflexibility of the muscles, and insufficient intrinsic strengthening of the stabilizing muscles.