You down with GPP? Yeah you know me! If you are reading this blog in the hopes that this is an ode to Naughty by Nature, you will sadly be disappointed. My apologies! This is an article about an important step in the athletic developmental process but first, let me tell you a story...
A few years I set off on a journey to Syracuse to visit friends and watch a basketball game. As I was approaching the turnpike, I made a poor decision and ended up heading in the wrong direction. I checked the GPS to see where I could get back on track and unfortunately the next turn around wouldn't occur for about 30 miles. This left me with a few options. I could call my friends and tell them I would be late or start speeding and try to make up for lost time. So what did I decide to do? You guessed it, I put the pedal to the metal! After cruising for about an hour and with the University roughly 40 miles away, I glanced in my rear-view mirror and saw the flashing lights approaching my vehicle. I was getting pulled over! The mistake that I made early in the journey resulted in me rushing to reach a destination without thinking about the risk. Because of this, I was put into check by a New York State Trooper.
There is an old saying that goes something like a step in the wrong direction at the beginning of a journey takes you hundreds of miles away from your goal. This statement could not be more true in regards to physical fitness! Often times, coaches and parents want their child on the fast track to success. The groundwork is often ignored. Eventually, this lack of foundation and being on the fast track will back fire on them. They will be put into check just like I was put into check by that state trooper. The only difference is that these kids will not get a speeding ticket. These kids will receive overuse injuries, premature peaking, or a general lack of interest in physical fitness that may result in quitting. In an age where two-thirds of the population is overweight or obese, these are things we need to avoid!
So one may ask what is the best way to build a foundation? With General Physical Preparation (GPP) of course! If I had to sum up GPP into one sentence it would be this: lots of physical qualities performed at a low level. Think about gym class back in the day. There was running, stretching, obstacle courses, a variety of games, and challenges like the Presidential Fitness test. The goal of all this was to be a generalist. As a student, you would learn general endurance, general strength, general joint mobility, general coordination, and general psychological preparedness. If you couldn't pick up on it, the key word in all of this is the word GENERAL! There is no specialization during this period of time. It is all about expanding your bag of tricks so that when the day comes, and you need to enhance a skill, you have a great amount of tricks in that bag to pull from.
Once understood, the question then morphs into, how do I apply this idea to my child or the athletes that I coach? To me, this GPP phase is best served in those during the pre-pubescent years. During this time there are a variety of exercises and activities one can perform to build the foundation. Remember, think about the gym classes of yesteryear. These classes included things like running, jumping, pushups, monkey bars, and so on (If you want to see my Top 10 GPP exercises for young kids, click here). When you begin to develop these skills, it is important to remember one thing: In regards to athletic success, it is better to be late than early. Don't rush and speed up development. If you move too fast, you will be put into check. Take the long road, stay on the desired path, and continue to hone your skills over the years. This is a mindset that can make you a champion on and off the athletic fields!
P.S. If you want more information regarding this topic, I recorded a 40 minute podcast breaking down all aspects of GPP. You can watch it here: GPP on Youtube or listen to the audio by clicking here: GPP on Stitcher. Lastly, podcast is also available on Apple and Google platforms!