Fast Twitch vs. Slow Twitch

April 23, 2008

One of my favorite baseball players of all time is former Baltimore Orioles third baseman Brooks Robinson. I loved him on defense. He wasn’t fast, but had lightning reflexes which made him perfect as a third baseman because his first step and reaction time was explosive when the ball was hit. His diving stops are legendary.

Track runners know the terms “fast twitch” and “slow twitch”. Some runners are born with a built in extra gear that they can hold in reserve until the final lap before kicking in the after burners. Other runners don’t have that gear. They’re slow twitch and their strategy has to be to wear the other runners down by keeping on a constant high pressure throughout the race so they can be far enough ahead of the fast twitch guys to win. That’s playing to your strength.

Somewhere growing up the slow twitch runners had to find that out and more than likely it was a coach who watched them closely and didn’t harp on their faults, but taught them to make the best of the gifts and talent they had.

As a coach you’ll have some fast twitch athletes and some slow twitch athletes and the challenge for you is to recognize the difference and get the most from all of them. Brooks Robinson was probably a slow twitch athlete and wouldn’t have been a great shortstop, but at third base he became a Hall of Famer. Maybe you have a slow twitch athlete who you’ve been trying to coach like a fast twitch athlete.