Many parents dream of watching their young athlete develop into Olympic competitors and elite-level professionals. In today’s high demanding society, it’s easy for parents to gravitate towards more intense training, sport specific strength coaches, and overall too many practices and games for their kids. Additionally, the demand for an athletic scholarship is growing more and more, causing youth athletes to specialize in one sport as early as 8 years old. The truth is that only a tiny percentage of kids advance to the collegiate level to play sports, and training too hard and/or too early has severe consequences:

  • High training volumes contradict academic performance
  • Early athletics reduces growth of social skills
  • Specializing in a single sport correlates to high injury risk and dropout

Kids have enough stress to deal with already.

youth sport specializationWhen paired with the high academic load and psychological development of middle school and high-school athletes, excessive training volumes contribute to chronic stress. As young athletes pour more and more energy into practices before or after school, less and less energy will go into homework and in-class participation. I remember during my high-school baseball days having mandatory weightlifting 3 days each week at 6:00 A.M. Let me tell you that on those days first period was a blur because for one, I wasn’t getting enough sleep and two, our coach designed the workout based on our performance on the field (we were never that good). But, we lifted a lot of weights and we were getting stronger, right?

Spending excessive time practicing and competing for athletics potentially suppresses sociological development and minimizes kids’ social skills. Sure, team sports are great for developing socially acceptable behavior, but when parents and kids sacrifice time training for a single sport, or worse a one-person sport, consequences occur. This exposure to a limited group of people for extended periods of time can cause social isolation, while youth and adolescents should be benefiting from socially integrating with a variety of peers.

Many studies indicate that increased frequency of competition at younger ages results in a loss of motivation and decreased concentration during games and practice. The leading motive for dropping out of athletic activity is lack of enjoyment. One study on hundreds of youth hockey players noticed that the kids who dropped out of hockey collectively started hockey-specific training at earlier ages, whereas the subjects who continued long-term began playing and practicing much later in life. If we really want what is best for our kids, the following question should be asked:

So why, as parents, would we facilitate that?

Many coaches and parents underestimate and under-appreciate the role of proper training in an athlete’s young life. Coaches get caught up in the “Win now!” attitude versus teaching kids the basics of athletic movement patterns.  Young athletes should not be training as if they are adults. Maturity levels and athletic abilities vary greatly during early to late puberty.   Young athletes should be learning the fundamentals of sport. Training young athletes as adults sets them up for injury and burn out. 

The goal should be to provide opportunities for kids to live a healthy life that involves long-term physical activity. Athletes who participate in many sports have much fewer overuse injuries and remain involved in physical activity longer than those who choose a single sport to specialize at a young age. The knee joints of maturing athletes are especially susceptible to injury. Because of the natural ‘growth spurt’ process, the developing muscles and tendons of the knee are vulnerable to high training demands. More training volume than a natural amount of play for a child could potentially injure their knee, harming their athletic career and lifetime perspective of training.

What you want to see within any youth training program is variety. A diversity of sports and sports-related pick-up games contribute to the overall development of a young athlete. For example, a basketball player benefits from playing some soccer by increasing lateral quickness and balance. In the end, success in future competitive sports will be based on childhood development of agility, reaction time, and kinesthetic awareness. All of these skill sets can be enhanced with a programs of drills but also simply by playing. Additionally, ensuring that kids are having fun during physical conditioning programs is key to lifelong health and physical activity.

Some of the greatest athletes in history played a variety of sports, including The Great One, Wayne Gretzky. He couldn’t wait for the hockey season to end so he could play warmer weather sports such as baseball, lacrosse, basketball, and even track and field.

Need more proof? A few years ago Urban Meyer posted about how he mainly recruits multi-sport athletes from high school for his football program. Apparently Clemson also follows this model as well. Both head coaches realize the benefits of what multi-sport athletes bring to their overall athletic development and to their respective programs. If a diversified athletic background is good enough for them to recruit, isn’t it good enough for our kids?

At the fundamental level, learning proper technique in speed, agility, and strength, teaches body awareness and core control. This provides kids with the ability to run fluidly, change directions, make explosive movements, and absorb force safely. Speed starts with strength. It is imperative that young athletes learn how to do strength training properly. Improved strength allows athletes to produce more force into the ground which results in greater speed production.

Introducing our Youth Speed, Agility, and Strength Class

With the development of the young athlete in mind, Precision Fitness is proud to announce our SPEED-AGILITY-STRENGTH TRAINING Class for athletes ages 9-16. Following the phases of the long-term athletic development model above, Precision Fitness maximizes sessions to create strong, fast, and efficient youth athletes while addressing their cognitive and physical development.

The goal of the SPEED-AGILITY-STRENGTH TRAINING is to provide a planned, diversified, and organized plan to young, ground-based athletes. Methods used at Precision Fitness are research-based, age-specific, safe, and hands-on. Becoming a quicker athlete begins with first getting stronger.  The youth spring session offered at Precision Fitness is a training program designed to improve athletes’ performance while preventing injuries, and to give kids a chance to have fun while they’re getting stronger!

Our training focus is targeted towards the development of agility, reaction skills, speed, and muscle strength; all of which enhance overall athletic ability. Our SPEED-AGILITY-STRENGTH TRAINING sessions do not, however, specialize on a single sport or incorporate training that is specific to one sport. For example, we don’t train our youth athletes specifically for a 40-yard dash time or repeatedly make basketball players do box jumps to improve their vertical. Your athlete most likely practices their sport more than enough. We instead incorporate strength and power into our training system that will benefit a basketball player’s jump height, but also help a rugby player escape a tackle and a tennis player to change direction more quickly.

Led by Christian Sears, a certified strength and conditioning coach and member of the National High School Strength and Conditioning Association, the SPEED-AGILITY-STRENGTH TRAINING protocol includes the following:

AGILITY DRILLS

STRENGTH TRAINING

CONDITIONING

PLYOMETRICS

SPRINT TECHNIQUE (first step quickness, acceleration)

INTERVAL TRAINING

MOBILITY AND FLEXIBILITY

FOOTWORK DRILLS (change of direction, foot speed)

JOINT STABILITY

INJURY PREVENTION

Coach Christian Sears has over 10 years of experience in the field of strength and conditioning while working with middle school and high-school students that participate in over 20 different sports. Christian and staff understand the neuromuscular process of long-term athletic development.

The blueprint we have created for the youth spring session is for aspiring athletes of all sports. It is an approach to physical activity and development for children and adolescents that encourages lifelong activity and long-term participation in sports. The mission at Precision Fitness is to ensure safe progressions of proper movement, physical awareness, motor skills, and fundamental muscular strength. 

If you are interested in having your young athlete learn the basic components of movement, learning the skills that can make them more successful in whatever their chosen sport, then click the image below and join Coach Christian today.

authored by kenny palmer

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