Life has a way of sneaking up on you. Now I’m closing in on 50 and I’ve had to change a few ways of looking at things just to stay competitive. One of my uncles told me that the men in this family really start to notice age at around 45 years old. From what I’ve seen and heard 45 seems to be where most of us start experiencing new things. Sudden awareness of aches and pains caused by accidents from our wilder days, a longer recovery time if we damage something now, and statistically, a loss of skill.For the whole group of pro players, it’s an average of one throw decline (10 rating points) every five years after the age of 40. Be more deliberate, in planning and executing, to avoid being a statistic.
First, decide how much time you are willing to spend getting into, or staying in shape. Staying healthy and fit is the most important thing you can do to remain competitive and one of the best things you can do for yourself in general. The less time you can spare, the more you need to focus on specific traits which need improvement. Try and set up a regular schedule of exercise and be faithful to it. Pay special attention to those body parts and characteristics which get hit hardest by age. A few points to watch here include maintaining flexibility to avoid injuries, and working all of your body, including the often neglected lower body. Negotiating the course and being comfortable and relaxed in different throwing stances requires overall general fitness, and players often focus on the upper body too much. Staying in shape to play competitively requires dedication, and is the single biggest factor in continued success.
I know you’ve heard it before, but there is NO substitute for actual practice. Throwing different shots repetitively in practice will ensure getting it right during competition. If you foresee needing trick shots during play, practice them along with your regular menu. Once again, age means that we suffer reduced strength and flexibility, so maintain the muscles for special shots or risk losing them and or courting injury if you force the issue. Work towards shots which rely on timing and accuracy rather than trying to extend the length of your throws. My favorite flaw is practicing too hard just before a tourney. Don’t expect to rebound from overdoing a practice as fast as you used to.
The next thing to work on, is playing to the only strength you have which improves with age, your experience. Focus on playing a smarter game. Work to avoid common strategy mistakes during play. These mistakes include:
- Getting out of position for the next throw, by attempting a low percentage shot. Some of your power and flexibility will degrade with age, making it harder to throw from “off balance” stances.
- Following other players throws, rather than playing your own game. You know the throws which will get you to the basket by now. Rely on the shots you’ve been practicing.
- Being unprepared for unusual conditions, temperature variations(extreme heat or cold), precipitation and tricky footing. Dressing appropriately becomes more important, because environmental conditions have a larger effect as we age.
All players can improve their game by avoiding these mistakes, but it becomes even more important to play smart, when relying on the physical is less of an option. Last but not least, allow more time to warm up before any physical activity. Injuries caused by not warming up become more common as we age. This in turn is worse because of the increased time it takes to heal. It is really easy to step out of the car and throw a friendly game without warming up, even though we know better. Get unlucky and step in a hole or just twist wrong, and you might be done playing for a much longer time. Be deliberate and set a pattern in practice, play, and for competition, which will keep you healthy and in the game.