With the recent Tokyo Olympics still fresh in everyone’s minds, sports have made a resurgence as one of the most talked-about topics once again. And whether their countries won medals or not, it is safe to say that traveling to a foreign land was both the highlight of the athletes’ experiences and the biggest problem that they faced.
Almost all the gold medalists were ones that already boasted international experience. But what have international experiences got to do with winning? If you’re curious as to what the relationship between traveling and athletic performance is, then you came to the right place.
Here’s how traveling can improve athletic performance:
TRAINING YOUR BRAIN
1. Traveling leads to global understanding
Athletes who travel get golden opportunities. By going to different places with different cultures, they get to see many techniques that they can study and find ways to beat or incorporate in their own styles.
Archery training in Korea might lead to finding out the secret to their 25 out of 42 gold medals in Archery since the 1972 Munich Olympics. Going to Brazil might help in understanding why they are at the top of both men’s and women’s volleyball in terms of Olympic points. Knowing how to deal with opponents is necessary to win. And going to the source of the knowledge is always the best way to learn.
Traveling also leads to more experiences that can be beneficial for honing leadership skills. Staying in affordable hostels with teammates is good for building team chemistry. Having the chance to be with people from different countries strengthen communication and comprehension skills that in turn would have an impact on the way one understands the opponents.
2. Traveling avoids complacency
One of the most difficult challenges great athletes face is fighting complacency. When one is already good at what one’s doing, it gets easier to slack off. Knowing that winning is inevitable all the time lessens hunger for growth.
When athletes travel, they get to meet experts and fellow practitioners around the world. This gives them a chance to be in an environment that can challenge them. This is especially good for top performers. Staying in a place where they are the best can only cause them to be complacent and rusty. Seeing and playing against other greats boost the drive to get better.
TRAINING YOUR BODY
1. Traveling is good for muscle memory expansion
As stated above, staying and competing in the same place over and over creates complacency. This is not only for the mind. Once an athlete’s body does the same thing over and over again, the movements become muscle memory. And though this can be good in terms of speeding up decision time and performing well under extreme pressure, sometimes it can also be the cause of defeat.
When athletes who are so used to being the tallest or the fastest encounter people who are above them in that area, their muscle memory might betray them. It’s safe to assume that everyone understands how people from different countries have different body builds. Traveling and competing against people with different physical attributes can improve athletes’ reflexes.
A 6’7 Asian basketball player can be the tallest among his peers. But playing with 7-foot westerners might uncover certain factors that could improve the Asian player’s performance. His weight, speed, and even vertical (jump height) can improve, making him a force of nature when he returns to the country.
The same can be seen in the difference between the Euro League and the National Basketball Association. In the NBA, players tend to rely more on their physicality while European players are more reliant on their skills. This isn’t exclusive to the leagues though, since their players are shadowed by everyone who plays the game. Having the experience to play in the two major leagues or even just playing streetball with their fans might improve how one’s body reacts to the differences.
2. Traveling leads to having advantages in disadvantageous situations
It is common knowledge that traveling before and after competitions also leads to problems. Jet lag, extreme weather changes, and dehydration are just some of them. And when the uneasiness of playing in an unfamiliar area gets taken into account as well, then surely, most people would dislike doing this. But this is the exact reason why the American basketball team has been dominating the Olympics for decades.
Since they are used to traveling to different states for their games, it makes the experience easier for them. While others are experiencing setbacks for the first time, they are already focused on training. Their bodies have grown accustomed to such changes that it has become somewhat normal to them. And this leads to consistently better performance and eventually, wins.