Giving Young Athletes Ownership Over Their Fitness Programs
By Dave Gleason
At times we speak about giving kids ownership over their fitness programs. Self efficacy, self confidence and a vested interest in long term health and wellness are all associated benefits of giving a little control back to the young athletes we coach.
With all of the documented and experiential proof of these advantageous rewards, why do we not allow for coaching in this manner on a more consistent basis? Once more, should we be digging deeper into the possibilities we could examine with our young athletes?
Many coaches may feel uncomfortable with giving up ultimate control of the sessions they run. Giving up control is not the point. The perspective must be that the session we run are theirs…not ours. The kids we serve are the owners of their sessions.
Yes, for the most part, we orchestrate the parameters and boundaries they are allowed to explore movement within. That said, coaches must trust in the fact that the opportunity to explore, discover and learn human movement patterns far outweighs the perceived advantage of the most technical of programs.
As stated, there are several reasons why we should allow for more engagement and decision making from our young athletes. Recently, I took this to the extreme, leaving positive lessons learned by myself, my staff and most importantly by the young athletes we serve.
If cultivating a physical culture in children is important…if physical literacy is lacking in today’s youth and we are charged with positively impacting lives…
Then consider this:
I gave full control of our 10-13 year old classes for one week…to the 10-13 year old young athletes!
We all know how difficult it can be to maintain focus and effort levels during the end of the school year, especially for our younger athletes.
So here is what we did.
Within the parameters of our programming templates our young athletes where asked to name the categories of movements and or activities we operate our classes within. Next they chose appropriate exercises, movements, activities or games within each category.
The individuals in each class were allowed to help each reach answers that were correct in category name and appropriate in activity selection.
The result was an astonishing realization that our young athletes were learning. They are learning how to structure an exercise plan – a life long lesson. Tissue quality, active range of motion, muscle activation, general preparation, systemic strength and game play were all nomenclatures they not only knew – they understood.
My staff and I would ask them, for example, what “systemic strength” means to them and the answers were miraculous and dead accurate.
“It means working the whole body coach. The entire system”.
“It means not to strengthen just one part of our body but to get all the moving parts working together”.
When asked what activities they would suggest for each respective element of training my staff and I were once again amazed.
Not only did they produce suggestions that were befitting the chosen category, some of our young champions remarked correctly that some of the activities could potentially be used for more than one category. Brilliant.
This was a lesson to us that if we truly want to empower our kids, we need to coach as such. Not just on special occasions or during times when traditional programming does not suffice…all the time.
Every session, every moment young athletes has in your program should be memorable, remarkable and exciting.
Start with giving them the ownership they deserve.
Keep changing lives!