Youth athletic training for sports performance

Youth Athletic Training: 5 Qualities for Preparing the Young Athlete

Throughout our youth athletic training programs, we’ve seen a lot of young athletes are specializing in one sport very early in their playing career. While this does lend itself to higher development in a specific sport skill or skills, only playing one sport does not allow for as much balance in general development and drastically increases risk of injury. As the youth athlete gets older we understand the feeling of needing to specialize in more specific skill development as the recruiting process and competitive nature of sport is happening earlier and earlier. Unfortunately, we see injuries happening earlier and earlier as well. That is certainly multi-factorial, but it’s worthwhile to know how injuries occur in sports (largely through trauma and compensations) in the first place, which we will address.

Within our sports performance and youth athletic training programs, we understand the need to provide balance in the development of our youth athletes through:

  1. Intentional Coaching in the Weightroom
    • Build confidence and culture in a new arena 
    • Detailed feedback on how their bodies should move
    • Focus on technique
    • Start a healthy relationship with exercise and training
  2. Mobility and Injury Prevention Training
    • Teach the athletes how their bodies should be able to move
    • Identify any potential injury risks they may have developed ( expressed as compensation). This happens often when kids specialize in a sport early as their body does the same pattern over and over again. 
    • Implement injury prevention protocols to strengthen the tissues around the joints
    • Make sure their body can move through the ranges they need to be healthy and play their sport to the heights of their potential
  3. Speed and Agility 
    • Teach and drill the fundamentals of sprinting: Acceleration and top end speed 
    • Teach and drill the fundamentals of change of direction/agility: Deceleration mechanics 
    • Drill movements that provide balance to their sport and also increase performance outputs for their positions
  4. Strength Training 
    • Build muscle mass: lighter weights for more reps. Decreases risk of injury 
    • Increase strength through teaching young athletes how to develop higher levels of force: heavier weights less reps and/or isometric exercises
    • Improve conditioning: Allows them to practice their skill at a higher level for a longer period of time
  5. Knowledge and Confidence 
    • Educate and empower our youth athletes to learn more about their bodies not only to improve performance but build a healthy foundational relationship with training 
    • Sports are amazing and provide so much benefit for young athletes but sports are also a wild ride at times through injury, playing time, and losses. A consistent youth athletic training environment gives our athletes confidence and a place where they can focus and work on themselves with a team of people there to support them.

Providing Health and Balance through Youth Athletic Training and Sports Performance

We have all been playing sports or living life and we do something that just hurts. Roll an ankle, tweak your back, land wrong, and the list goes on. The reality is that when these “moments” happen our body has sustained some damage. Our body must start to repair this damage, as this is where “scar tissue” can start to build up. This process causes some level of compensation to occur. The more severe the injury the more severe the compensation can be. Compensations lead to decreases in optimal performance and ultimately injury. Injury, unless handled very intentionally, leads to compensation and around and around we go.

This process of getting “banged up “ for the youth in sports is constant, but typically there is no system in place to ensure these micro situations do not escalate to a higher risk of injury. Our training programs are built with these specific considerations in mind. As long as kids are playing sports, want to be as pain free as possible, and improve performance then participating in a comprehensive sports performance training program is non negotiable. You must continue to tell your body exactly what you want or need it to do.

We understand the demands placed upon our athletes and know how to push performance qualities to enhance their play. It is critical to understand the implications of all training prescriptions. We have evaluated adults who sustained wrist injuries (broken wrist) over 3 decades ago and are now experiencing significant back pain. They seem very unrelated however everything is connected. Let’s make this make some sense to better understand how relevant these small injuries can be over time.

How Time and Lack of Mobility Causes Injury

Time: The wrist was broken and was not rehabbed properly. It was put in a cast for 4-6 weeks and then wished the best of luck and onward they go to do life. The issue is that the wrist cannot function as a wrist and hasn’t for a month and half. Now, the elbow has to do wrist stuff (which doesn’t go well), the shoulder must now act like an elbow (not ideal), and the shoulder blade has to pick up the slack for poor shoulder position which stresses the back and starts to run downstream. Oversimplification, but unless these issues are addressed in real time then these young athletes will grow into pain riddled adults that have a whole body of dysfunction to try and fix.

Lack of/Poor Joint Mobility (dysfunction): It is imperative in youth athletic training to be able to identify where injuries can stem from through receiving an evaluation with a professional strength coach.  Here is an example of how injuries express themself as one thing but actually are just an expression of another joint problem: we had a young athlete who plays baseball and was experiencing elbow pain. This certainly could be from inappropriate progression of throwing, but what we do is assess where this stems from. During the evaluation, when the athlete throws, his shoulder should have rolled forward (Internally rotate) after release, but his did not. He did not have enough access to his shoulder to allow this throwing pattern to happen as it should. The rotation had to go somewhere and found its way downstream to the elbow. So the shoulder didn’t work properly given the demands of his position so his elbow had to act as a shoulder to some degree and the forces going into the elbow exceeded what it was able to withstand. This is one simple example of how this injury occurs. Through his youth athletic training program with us, we treated his shoulder, scapula, and elbow to restore function and strength so he could continue to play his sport. 

Building a Strong Foundation for a Healthy Athletic Future

We cannot stress enough the importance of a comprehensive approach to youth athletic training. Time and again, we see that a small injury or a lack of proper mobility can cascade into larger, more chronic problems as the athlete matures. But the good news? Many of these injuries and compensations are preventable, and the first step starts with awareness. We must shift our focus from merely excelling in sports to excelling in sports safely and with the long-term health of our young athletes in mind.

The world of sports is undeniably competitive. But as we prepare our youth for the rigors of the game, we must remember to prepare their bodies for the journey ahead. By investing in a comprehensive sports performance training program, parents and coaches are not only optimizing the performance of young athletes but are actively reducing their risk of injury and setting them up for a healthy, pain-free future.

So, if you’re a parent, coach, or mentor, prioritize youth athletic training and take the initiative. Engage with professionals who understand the intricate balance between performance and health. Make youth athletic training a non-negotiable part of their sports journey. Let’s work to ensure our youth athletes are not just good at their sport, but are also healthy, strong, and primed for a future free from preventable injuries.

Because in the grand scheme of things, a trophy is just a piece of metal. But the health and well-being of our young athletes? That’s priceless. Don’t wait for an injury to act; start building a robust foundation for them today.

FAQs

Q: Should my youth athletes lift weights?

Absolutely. Youth athletes need to be within a sensible youth athletic training system that helps provide the balance and development they need to stay healthy and strong. The weight room and the field are great arenas to improve yourself, but under the wrong guidance or lack thereof it can also be dangerous. I would highly encourage any parent to ask questions about the philosophy of training that is being implemented from a performance and injury prevention perspective for your youth athlete.

Q: How do I improve my child’s speed and agility?

Every kid is different in terms of what they specifically need to improve speed and agility. Generally speaking, most youth athletes are not strong enough to be fast. For more detailed information on proper Acceleration and Agility training please reference other articles I have dedicated to those qualities.

Q: When should my youth athlete start strength training?

A more detailed post will follow, but our youth athlete training program begins at the age of 10.

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