By Alex Slezak – M.Ed, YFS, YSAS, HSSCS
Let me begin by posing a question for you to ponder aimed at the core of your coaching philosophy. Is training young athletes to get bigger, faster, and stronger a sports science or an art form? Do you believe the science, research or training methods are most important? Or do you believe that the art of coaching and working with youth is more important than any science or training methods?
I have spent the past 9 years of my life training youth of all ages and athletic backgrounds in my physical education classes or through my tennis business. I would venture to say that I have spent on average at least 30 hours each week over the past 9 years directly involved in coaching youth in some way shape or form. That is 14,040+ hours of coaching and counting. I believe that gives me some credentials in giving my opinion on this topic.
I firmly believe without a shadow of a doubt that you have to thoroughly grasp the content knowledge of how to properly training youth. You have to fully understand motor development, anatomy, strength, conditioning, mobility, flexibility, soft tissue work, power, speed, agility, and so on. Then you have all the methods of training like kettlebells, bands, free-weights, body weight, suspension trainers, etc. There is just no way around it you have to fully understand the science of sport and athletic skill development or you are just randomly selecting exercises in hopes of getting results.
On the other hand ultimately you can have all the knowledge and understanding in the world but none of it matters unless you can convey that information to the youth you are working with in a way that resonates with and inspires them. Not just so that a child understands what they are doing in their training but in a way that inspires and ignites them to be the best athlete and person they can be. Each young person we come in contact with is unique and the art of coaching lies in bridging unique relationships with your athletes so you can share your knowledge, motivate, and inspire.
Youth fitness training, in my humble opinion, is both a sport science and an art form. The best coaches in the industry get it. They understand the science behind the methods to their madness while at the same time are able to move their kids from simply being compliant, to committed, and ultimately over time to becoming passionate about their training. Our job is much more than simply getting youth more athletic prowess. Our job is about motivating and inspiring very impressionable youth to challenge themselves to become the best athletes and people they can be.
The IYCA clearly understands this unique balance between sport science and the art of coaching. In all of their courses they provide cutting edge research, methods, and information for coaches looking to get better. The real genius of the IYCA is that they do not mandate that there is only one correct way to apply their methods. They realize that coaching is an art form, each child and coach is unique, and something that cannot be captured purely by science and data. Albert Einstein said “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” The IYCA provides the knowledge and concepts while at the same time empowering the individual coach to be their own person, let their personality shine through, and take ownership of their work. You would be wise to invest in yourself by picking up any one of the many certifications or courses the IYCA offers. Even after 14,040 hours of direct coaching I am still improving at the art of coaching and adding to the depth of my content knowledge.