The fancy term is "propreoception," but the result is enhancing balance and stability in the hip, knee and ankle joints--a very good thing.">
The fancy term is "propreoception," but the result is enhancing balance and stability in the hip, knee and ankle joints--a very good thing.">

Photo report: athletes "play" in sand

When Tide Strength and Conditioning Coach Ben Pollard calls out "Let's go to the sand box!" his athletes know they're in for a rough afternoon. Located on the far end of the practice fields, the sand pit (and its inherently unstable surface) makes simple exercises challenging. <br><br>The fancy term is "propreoception," but the result is enhancing balance and stability in the hip, knee and ankle joints--a very good thing.

Senior guard Marico Portis executes the lateral shuffle movement through the sand. Besides working on agility, strengthening groin muscles and keeping your feet moving, the key is to not cross your feet--do so and an athlete gives up his ability to adjust on the fly--and worse, will often end up on the ground. Offensive linemen like Portis will also punch forward on every step, mimicing their blocking during a game.


Known as "rockets" or "rocket hops," as Coach Pollard likes to call them, the exercise can be performed in the sand or just on grass. Derrick Pope shows good technique at the start, keeping his butt low and reaching down to touch the sand with his hands.


As the picture clearly shows, the key to "rocket hops" is explosion. Displaying good technique, Pope is all power as he explodes forward and upward through the air.


Jarret Johnson (left) and Tyler Watts (right) turn and sprint for home. Note the obvious competition between the two seniors, which is key. Ideally athletes that are evenly matched will be worked together, resulting in maximum effort on every rep.


Sophomore lineman Justin Smiley shows good technique on power skips. Again working on explosion, the exercise also accomplishes what the coaches call "triple extensions," stretching the knee, hip and ankle joints with every jump. The exercise is normally a warmup movement, which can be done in the sand or on grass. But sand creates intentional instability, improving what is called propreoception in the ankle joints.


Donald Clarke (center), Sam Collins (left) and Cornelius Wortham (right) perform simple "hose hops." The photo appears to be slightly out of focus, but it's really the sand kicked up in the air blurring the image. Hopping back and forth over the center line, the key is foot speed. The less time the feet touch the ground, the faster the athlete. Again, the exercise is much more challenging in the sand, as surface instability makes the athletes work that much harder.


Senior wideout Sam Collins demonstrates "speed skating" in the sand. Mimicing the movement of speed skaters on ice, the athletes jump outward and forward from one foot to the next, pausing and balancing on one foot for a moment on each repitition. "Lateral bounding" is the movement, and it strengthens the groin muscles while improving balance especially in the knee and ankle joints. Most injuries occur when the body is stopping and changing directions. Note that the last thing Coach Pollard wants is a smooth surface, as forcing the joints to deal with balance instability is a major part of the movement.


Redshirt freshman Von Ewing (right) and Smiley (left) sprint to the cone after finishing their lateral bag hops. Exploding into a sprint after the hop, the athletes again mimic a football movement. The bag hops in sand are extremely difficult for the bigger athletes--often maddeningly so, because the uncontrolled surface makes balancing incredibly hard work.



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