Learning to watch the Olympics

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When I was a boy, my dad was the first person who taught me how to watch sports in a different way.

We were at a New York Knicks basketball game. My young eyes were always trained on the ball and where it was moving on the floor. My dad proposed that I "try watching what all the players who don't have the ball are doing."

It was at this moment that I developed a much greater appreciation for watching sports and the subtleties that occur during a contest.

This year's Olympics serve as the perfect environment for developing new appreciation for sports and areas of movement you normally wouldn't see. One example is women's team handball. While women's team handball might not be a sport that is ever televised here in the U.S., I got the chance to watch an awesome match between Norway and France.

I was captivated on several fronts, including how small the ball was, how hard players threw it to one another without dropping it, the unbelievable reactions of the goal keepers and, much like basketball, how extremely physical it was. A physical battle raged as players without the ball on offense, had to break free of the players who held them from getting inside the semi-circular wall of defense. It was a combination of basketball, soccer, water polo and without a doubt, hockey!

The most important part of appreciating any sport are the subtleties. Learning to train your eyes on a specific part of a sport -- such as what the athletes are doing with their hands, body, positioning, pace, direction and strategy -- play a significant role in what you learn and how to watch sports in the future. Try to isolate the mechanics of the athletes in men's and women's fencing. Notice that in addition to their incredible hand speed, the balance they must have moving both forward and backward.

As it relates to water polo, one only needs to watch an underwater camera view to learn that what's going on below the surface will add this event to your list of "contact sports."

All sports require superior footwork, and the world's best tennis players epitomize this fact. Watch how quickly they recover to the center of the tennis court after being moved out of position to prepare for the next shot. You can also focus on what their opponent is doing in anticipation of where the ball will be hit.

The Olympics are the international showcase of some sports that are televised in the U.S. (and many parts of the world) once every four years. Learn to isolate specific parts of all sports to increase your knowledge and appreciation of the countless skills these athletes possess. Listen to what they say, observe mechanics, muscles used, heights ascended, and teamwork required for success. Sometimes watching what's happening "away from the ball" is just as captivating as who scores.

Bill Victor is the owner of Victor Fitness System Professional Fitness Trainers, Flashpoint Athletic Speed & Agility Specialists, and Performance Nutrition Consultants. He can be reached at victorfitsystems@gmail.com and online at http://theflashpoint.org and http://VictorFitnessSystems.com.