Is being fit different than being prepared for sports performance?

In short- Yes...

General fitness is a combination of nutritional, physical and psychological well-being. General fitness allows a person to go through their day with little risk of injury or medical ailments.

Being prepared for sports performance is fitness on a whole different level. Not only does the athlete need to ensure they have the appropriate strength, power, endurance and stamina for the sport, but they also must ensure their muscles, joints and ligaments are properly prepared for the range of motion needed for the movements of that particular sport. Without this, athletes encounter sports injuries that could lead to long-term ailments.

Get Up, Get Out, Get Going...

Yes a person can be fit but not be prepared for sports performance.  Fitness means having the ability to perform daily tasks with ease and having a good level of muscular strength and endurance, aerobic capacity and flexibility.  Success in most sports requires specialized forms of fitness and training and skill in that particular sport. For example, to be successful at baseball a person requires above average levels of eye hand coordination, reaction time, speed, agility and a knowledge of the rules of the game. Baseball does not require high levels of aerobic fitness to be successful. On the other hand, to be a successful triathlete requires high levels of aerobic fitness but relatively low levels of eye hand coordination and reaction time. Both athletes are very successful at their sport but have much different levels of “fitness."  

Physical conditioning is an important part of sports performance, but there are many other factors that go into being prepared for specific sporting events. I've seen many healthy specimens with intimidating physiques on the basketball court who were surprisingly uncoordinated and could hardly dribble a ball. A fit individual may be a novice to a sport so they may have a hard time competing against more experienced athletes.

Familiarity with a specific sport, body size, speed, strength, skill level, strategy, motivation, coaching, and technique all play a role in superior sports performance.

Mental preparation is also another important component of sports preparation. We've all seen superior athletes and teams who have been upset by underdogs who were more focused and prepared. Athletes understand the importance of being fit and conditioned, but there are many other factors that contribute to optimal sports performance.

Being fit is very important to overall health.  However, when looking at sports performance the goals tend to be more specific and the level of training higher.  Just by being fit does not necessarily mean that one is ready for sports. It really depends on the demands of the sport and if you have trained for those demands.  You have to keep in mind the goals of the sport, how often you compete and the level of competition.  How you train will depend on if you are in season, off season or preseason.  Sports performance training may be the next course of action after defining goals.  Sports performance training will minimize the risk of injury and prepare your body for the physical demands of each sport.
Paul Winsper
Sports Medicine

Being "fit" is a very general term that can include one, multiple, or the entire spectrum of health benefits that can come as a result of continuous exercise. We use the term "fit" to describe well-rounded, balanced development and optimization of our physical and mental attributes. Sports performance is viewed as an extension and specification of improved health and fitness for an athletic goal. Sports performance training takes our level of fitness and improves a specific (sometimes specialized) area to attain a desired outcome in a predetermined endeavor. If your goal is to increase performance for a specific function of a sport or improve certain aspects of your day to day functionality, sports performance training is an integral part of the process. Optimal results in sports performance training are generated when we initiate the process with a higher level of fitness. Otherwise, results can be limited in most cases and will almost certainly become apparent in cumulative stress and injury over the long term.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.