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Does Ballet Help Basketball Players?
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Ballet might seem like quite a leap from basketball, with its focus on grace and specific, deliberate movements. But the skills basketball players and ballet dancers use are actually quite similar, and mastering the strength, agility, balance and coordination required in ballet can help basketball players improve their performance. A recent Time Magazine article even featured photos of NCAA players doing ballet.
From jumping across the stage without running into another dancer, to leaping and landing in someone else's arms, coordination is key in ballet. Basketball players have to be similarly agile, navigating a court full of people who are trying to take the ball and block shots, not to mention also avoiding screens. The agility a basketball player learns through ballet can help him move more smoothly and effectively during a game.
Flexibility and Mobility
Ballet requires extraordinary flexibility. Dancers can extend their legs toward their heads, perform splits and seemingly defy the laws of physics. This flexibility isn't just physically beautiful, it's also a feat of strength that can serve basketball players well. Ballet trains players to move in new ways, gaining better control of their muscles. They can easily bend away from players trying to take the ball, and may be able to shoot goals from uncomfortable or unusual positions.
Ballet provides both aerobic exercise and strength training, ensuring strong muscles and excellent cardiovascular fitness which are keys for basketball success. Basketball players frequently have to demonstrate strength -- through shooting, for example -- while engaging in feats of cardiovascular fitness such as running. The jumps and stretches that ballet dancers perform while running or leaping across stage are similar to these movements. The arm and leg motions of ballet, which include extending the arms, rapidly moving, lifting the legs and jumping are similar to feats of strength required in ballet.
Balance is a key element of ballet. Dancers have to quickly move from one challenging position to the next, without tripping, falling down or even making slight variations in their movement pattern. Many of the motions made on the basketball court -- such as running, then stopping and turning to shoot a basket -- require similar balance. The spinning, jumping, stopping and starting motions of ballet can help basketball players develop the balance they need to pivot quickly without losing their balance.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.